circus Finland performing arts Simo Väisänen



// Simo is based in Mikkeli, Finland. His love of black & white photography started when he was a boy. He also, as our luck would have it, has a long-standing love of the circus. He shared a set of pictures from various shows in Finland, where circus has grown into an active and independent art form.

Simo´s passion for circus started even earlier than his passion for photography. Circus acts are never static so circus photography should show that, says Simo. For example, circus ponies in spot lights running around the dark arena is a tricky task to any photographer. One solution is an old time grainy black and white image. Simo quotes the American photographer Garry Winogrand, who was known for his portrayal of U.S. life and its social issues in the mid-20th century: “We know too much about how photographs look. Or pictures look. It is the easiest thing in the world. It is natural to make those pictures we know. It’s boring, you don’t learn anything that way. You keep making what you know… So I try to deal with things – I’ve worked out my own way, I guess, to contend with that problem of being programmed about knowing too much about pictures.”

“Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”

Harriet Braiker

What draws you to the arts?

We human beings are an odd bunch. We are always seeking love, truth, and beauty. What are love or truth or beauty? I believe these words are undefinable. Art in its many forms is a way of trying to find the answer to these questions. It is an eternal task.

What impresses you most about circus shows?

A circus act is always an illusion. It’s theatre in its purest form. Circus brings us back to our childhood and makes us forget chaos in life – at least for a little while.

In Finland circus has been accepted into the National Inventory of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The biggest touring tented circus in Finland, Sirkus Finlandia, was founded in 1976. The art form of contemporary circus in Finland was fostered by the founding of the Association Cirko – Centre for New Circus in 2002. There are now two educational institutions teaching circus artistry to young people, and Finland has a thriving circus culture with many performers. There are around twenty full-time contemporary circus companies and many independent circus artists, duos, or collectives. Circus arts receive some government support and since 2014 have been included in the law for theatres and orchestras, thus giving the art form official legal recognition.

While circus shows were sadly cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, hopefully 2021 will bring Simo the opportunity to go out and take more stunning performance pictures. We certainly think that Simo´s black and white captures of the special stage light and performance coming together show the magic of Finnish circus culture.

Images may be cropped for layout. Click on the photos to see the original version.

All photos © SIMO VÄISÄNEN

To see more of his photography visit Simo´s Instagram page and web page.