Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen

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Konttinen in 2018

Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen (born 1948) is a Finnish photographer who has worked in Britain since the 1960s.[1]

Life and work[edit]

Konttinen was born in Myllykoski, municipality of Sippola (from 1975 part of the town of Anjalankoski, from 2009 part of the town of Kouvola), Finland in 1948. Konttinen became interested in photography at the age of 12 and was a member of a photography group in a nearby town. Intending to pursue photography as a career, she was apprenticed to a fashion photographer in Helsinki for a year.[2] Konttinen studied photography in London in the 1960s, and cofounded the Amber collective, which moved to the northeast of England in 1969.[3]

From 1969 Konttinen lived in Byker, and for seven years photographed and interviewed the residents of this area of terraced houses until her own house was demolished.[4] She continued to work there for some time afterwards. This resulted in the book Byker,[3] which in David Alan Mellor's words "bore witness to her intimate embeddedness in the locality".[5] In 1980 she became the first photographer since the Cultural Revolution to have her work exhibited by the British Council in China.[5]

Konttinen's next project was a study of girls attending dance schools in North Shields, their mothers, and the schools. The book Step by Step came from this.[3] The book was an influence for the film Billy Elliot.[6]

Three years of photographing the beach between Seaham and Hartlepool resulted in the series "Coal Coast".[7]

Konttinen later returned to Byker and photographed its new residents in colour.[8]


  • Documents of the North East (with Graham Smith, James Cleet, and Robert Carling), Side Gallery, Newcastle, 1977.[9]
  • Photographs from the Beaches (with Markéta Luskačová), Side Gallery, Newcastle, 1978.[9]
  • North Tyneside (with Isabella Jedrzejczyk, Markéta Luskačová and Graham Smith), Side Gallery, Newcastle, 1981.[9]
  • Byker. Side Gallery, Newcastle, 1983.[9]
  • Cedarwood Woman. Side Gallery, Newcastle, 1988.[9]
  • Step by Step. Side Gallery, Newcastle, 1989; touring, 1990, 1992.[9]
  • The Writing in the Sand. Side Gallery, Newcastle, 1991; touring 1993.[9]
  • Dream On (with Steve Conlan and Richard Grassick), Side Gallery, Newcastle, 1992.[9]
  • My Finnish Roots. Side Gallery, Newcastle and touring, 1993, 1994.[9]
  • Quayside (with Graham Smith), Side Gallery, Newcastle and touring, 1993.[9]
  • Writing in the Sand. Side Gallery, Newcastle, 2000.[10]
  • Coalfield Stories (with Dean Chapman, John Davies, Martin Figura, Peter Fryer, Richard Grassick, Sally-Ann Norman, Keth Pattison, Bruce Rae, Chris Steele-Perkins), Side Gallery, Newcastle, 2002–2003.[11]
  • Coal Coast. Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2003.[7]
  • Coalfield Stories (with John Davies and Simon Norfolk), Photofusion, London, 2005–2006.[12]
  • Byker Revisited. Side Gallery, Newcastle, 2009.[13]
  • Byker. L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York, 2013.[14]
  • Step by Step, L. Parker Stephenson Photographs, New York City, 2017.[15]
  • Living Cities (with Kader Attia, Mark Bradford, Julie Mehretu, Boris Mikhailov, Marwan Rechmaoui, and Nil Yalter), Tate Modern, London, 2017. Included 17 photographs by Konttinen.[16]
  • Women by Women exhibition curated by Konttinen as part of Idea of North exhibition, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK, 2018.[17]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  • Byker. London: Jonathan Cape, 1983. ISBN 0-224-02109-5. Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books, 1985. ISBN 0-906427-90-8.
  • Step by Step. Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books, 1989. ISBN 1-85224-059-8.
  • Writing in the Sand: On the Beaches of North East England. Stockport: Dewi Lewis, 2001. ISBN 1-899235-97-3.
    • Écrit dans le sable: sur les plages du Nord-Est de l'Angleterre. Paris: Schultz, 2000. ISBN 91-87370-30-1. (in French)
    • Skrivet i sanden: på sandstränderna i nordöstra England. Stockholm: Schultz Forlag, 2000. ISBN 91-87370-26-3. (in Swedish)
    • Hiekkaan kirjoitettu: Koillis-Englannin rannoilla. Oulu: Kustantamo Pohjoinen, 2000. ISBN 951-749-340-1. (in Finnish)
  • The Coal Coast. Newcastle: Amberside, 2003. ISBN 0-9512058-1-1.
  • Byker Revisited. Newcastle: Northumberland University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-904794-42-4.
  • Thomas Kennedy. Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen. Tate Photography. London: Tate Publishing, 2022. ISBN 978-1849768009.[n 1]


  1. ^ Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen on the publisher's website.


  1. ^ Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen (ed. Andrew Pulver), "Photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen's best shot", The Guardian, 12 August 2009. Accessed 11 November 2016.
  2. ^ David Whetstone, "The fabulous photography of Journal Culture Awards winner Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen", Chronicle Live, 5 May 2016. Accessed 25 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen", Amber Online. Archived by the Wayback Machine on 9 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Byker in Black and White," The New York Times, February 7, 2013
  5. ^ a b David Alan Mellor, No Such Thing as Society: Photography in Britain 1967–1987: From the British Council and the Arts Council Collection (London: Hayward Publishing, 2007; ISBN 978-1-85332-265-5), p.84.
  6. ^ Konttinen, Sirkka-Liisa (2009). Byker Revisited. Northumbria Press. p. vi. ISBN 1904794424.
  7. ^ a b Richard Moss, "Coal Coast: Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen Photos at the Baltic", Accessed 20 February 2010.
  8. ^ "Bringing Color to Newcastle," The New York Times, February 8, 2013
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Side Gallery Exhibitions 1977–1994", Amber Online. Archived by the Wayback Machine on 3 March 2016.
  10. ^ Side Galery: Past exhibitions, Amber Online. Archived by the Wayback Machine on 14 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Coalfield Stories", Amber Online. Archived by the Wayback Machine on 14 May 2008.
  12. ^ "Coalfield Stories" Photofusion, 2005. "Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen – Exhibitions", Both accessed 21 February 2010.
  13. ^ "Byker Revisited", Reinventing the City. Accessed 21 February 2010.
  14. ^ Konttinen at L. Parker Stephenson Photographs (PDF)
  15. ^ "Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen: Step by Step". L. Parker Stephenson Photographs. Accessed 26 April 2017
  16. ^ "Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen: Examine the sometimes intimate record of an inner city community destined for demolition". Tate. Accessed 18 April 2017
  17. ^ "Snapshot: 'Idea of North' at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art". Financial Times. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  18. ^ a b "The Writing in the Sand", Dfgdocs. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  19. ^ "2011 UK Memory of the World Register", United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO.
  20. ^ ICP Photographers Lecture Series