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Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images of Finnish travel landscapes from the premodern journey to the railway era

Abstract

This article investigates representations of the environmental experience related to premodern road and early railway travel in literary descriptions, contrasting them with the aesthetic visions of the early railway in landscape photography. This historical material, from the 1880s to the 1930s, spans the eras before and after the construction of the Savo railway, Eastern Finland. The exploration initially draws from the concept of proximity and the arguments of Finnish geographer J.G. Granö and German cultural historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch, both of whom, within different disciplinary contexts, employ the concept to signify the centrality of spatial nearness, closeness or immediacy to a subject’s experience of the environment and as enabling the production of sensations of actuality, of truly ‘being there’. In this discussion the notion of proximity is used to explore, firstly, the transformation of landscape experience that occurred in the wake of the mobility revolution caused by the construction of the railway in Savo province, eastern Finland, drawing in particular on the writing of Finnish novelist Juhani Aho, whose reminiscences about premodern travel show a world in which spatial immediacy was central to the apprehension of the environment. In particular, Schivelbusch applies the concept of foreground to the changing experience of landscape brought about by the railway. Railway travel largely eradicated sensations borne of immediacy, effectively pictorializing the landscape: surroundings formerly experienced through all of the senses and active participation, were now increasingly encountered as ‘external’ visual impressions; for those who experienced premodern travel, landscape now involved existential distance with a corresponding reduction in the significance of the foreground. The main argument developed in the latter part of the chapter is strongly inspired by Schivelbusch’s claim that one reason for photography’s historical success and miraculous sense of wonder was its ability to re-evoke the foreground eradicated by industrial revolution. It is argued that the special significance of railway landscape photography was – following Schivelbusch – its capability to restore the material closeness of the environment in the field of vision, especially in the case of the foreground, which may evoke a strong, affective sense of environmental closeness, involving an almost tactile and multisensory presence of objects. This is significant, because images thus possess a potential to challenge the limited scope of canonical models of seeing and appreciating the landscape. Yet in the present, these images exhibit a historically unrealized power. Their re-evocations of intimate, close experiences of the past environments may, affectively and performatively, promote important and critical aesthetic sensibilities towards the changing modern everyday landscape.
Distanced visuality, embodied proximity?
Literary and photographic images of Finnish
travel landscapes from the premodern journey
to the railway era
Mikko Itälahti
Overview
-
 
-
 
   -
-



      

          -



       -

  

      -
       -




Mikko Itälahti
82
          -
     
  
-


-
           
-


-
-

            -

-
 

-
 

          -
        

-


        


      
           


       


      -
            
      -
Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 83

 


           -
        -
            

        -
 

 -


-

-

-

 

    -


 

          -

    
 

    -
       -
-

 -
      -



Mikko Itälahti
84
Premodern experience of proximity


 


-
-

Kotipuoleni rautatie

-




-

The slow movement was optimal for impressing upon the mind all of the houses
and the landscape s at the roadside; every bend, up or downhill, bridge, brook, lake,
      
     -
ing on the weather and conditions, or whether the journey was bound to home or
school… Most memorable of the horse-feeding places was the Honkaniemi house
in Lapinlahti, where the winter road went through the yard, coming from the rug-
ged pine heath, past the windmill of the house, whose whistling sails almost al-

-

 -

  

-

  

   
Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 85
 


Embeddedness


     -

  -
  -

-

-


 



   
 
as changed. And yet it is jus t a memory, a turned page in the history of a communi-
-


Landscape
-

   
    
          
-
Mikko Itälahti
86


-



         
            -
     
     
 




Railway and the loss of proximity

  



Mirabeau-tätiRautatie

    

not a single old memory in those new rooms, everything just new. And the train
        

        
-

 
         -


Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 87
But out there
 


Panoramic vision



       


        
  
  
        

 -
  
his -

         
        


The ugliness of landscapes along our railways has become proverbial… But all
this ugliness, dullness and melancholy does not feel like what you would expect,
when the spectator sits in a second-class coach, enjoying a sweet-smelling cigar.
              
   
      -

translated by the author.)




Mikko Itälahti
88

-
-
 
     

Pictorialization of landscape
        
-
          -
         
     -
       
-

            -
 
-


        
       -




-

The general public tends to be more attracted to the unfamiliar and spectacular…
we tend to admire those landscapes which can be made into a nice picture, but

     
eye-catching featur es (Saito 2007: 61).



Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 89
           

-
      -

      

    
             

      -

      
-



     


     
  
           


    
     




-

        
   
  -
      
        
         


Mikko Itälahti
90

-



the experience is surprising and impressive. The tr ain runs on a high embankment

above the broadleaf forest. Anyone who sees it will also pull the sleeve of his or


towards the line, only to disappear in the next instant (Ibid 1909: 85-86, translated
by the author).
-








            -
    

 
-





 
             

      -




Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 91
 Map of the southwestern quar ter of Finland

Mikko Itälahti
92
 Histor ical railway imagery slightly north f rom Kuopio
 Lake Matkus e mbankment 
Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 93
        -
   
      

    

        
         -
     -
 
           
 
           -
   

  -

         
    -
  
  
       
          

   
        
      -

  
    -
 
   -

   
          -
-

-
 
 -
      
Mikko Itälahti
94



    -

 Rock cutt ing at Nuolimäki 
 
Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 95
-

 
 -

     
   
 
-



       
        


          -



 
            
-

-



           -

 

-
-


Mikko Itälahti
96
Proximity in photographs
            
    
   


            -



Thus, the intensive experience of the s ensuous world, terminated by the industrial
revolution, undergoes a resurrection in the new institution of photography. Since
immediacy, close-ups and foreground have been lost in reality, they appear partic-




 
 
 




     
-



  -
    
        
  
     

             
-

Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 97
-

     


-
   -



         


 
-

-





      



 
         -

    

   


    
 
       -


Mikko Itälahti
98
Because of its idyllic nature, one could mistake that apartment for a villa built in
        -

high forest border s the station and the railway so that the passenger t hinks he is in
the gloomiest back woods and not approaching the Savo capital. Our r ailways cross
the heartlands and in v ain the locomotive greets many st ations. But these stations
are seeds sown in the wilderness, through which cultivation will clear its way into
the woods (Inha 1896, translated by the author).




     
-

          -

        

   -

       

Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 99
 



-
          
    
            

 

             

-





-




Mikko Itälahti
100
-
   -

         

        -

-
      
   
-


 

 Kallavesi overpass, new road and sw ing bridge ar rangements,
Päiväranta, Kuopio 
Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 101

to pass through
 A semaphore main signal preceding the Kallavesi sw ing bridge
from the south 
Mikko Itälahti
102

           -

        
      -


  
 -


Conclusion
-
    
      
-
            -
 
-




       -
-
 -
 

      

   -
           -






Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 103





 Pitkälahti transportation l andscape, May 2017, a re-photograph

Acknowledgements
        


References

    -

     

Mikko Itälahti
104
     

        




        -


          
      




-


        
         



  -




   


-


       




Distanced visuality, embodied proximity? Literary and photographic images 105
        



-


   

-



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Article
What is the problem for which landscape is the answer? In this paper, I offer a response to this question, first posed at a meeting of landscape researchers in Brussels in 2011. I argue that the problem can be defined as ontopology, or what I call here homeland thinking, and I propose that a landscape cannot be a homeland. The salience of landscape as a critical term instead involves modes of thinking and feeling that chafe against invocations of homeland as a site of existential inhabitation, as a locus of sentiment and attachment, and a wellspring of identity. The paper explores the connections between ideas of landscape and homeland through discussions of the European Landscape Convention, phenomenology and the term homeland itself. I conclude by arguing that a landscape must be understood as a kind of dislocation or distancing from itself. There are, after all, no original inhabitants.
Article
Pictures—paintings, etchings, photographs, CGI—let us see what is not there. Or, rather, since what pictures depict is not really there, we do not really see the pictorial contents. But we seem to see the depicted things: we “see” them “in” the pictures. One kind of picture—photographs— would seem to have a special capacity to yield this experience of “seeming-to-see.” Over the last couple of decades, the question of what it is to see something in a picture—photographic or otherwise—has been lively discussed. The papers in this thesis are all attempts at contributing to this discussion.Essay I treats the special subjective experience one undergoes in looking at photographs (as opposed to “handmade” images). I argue that this experience is (in part) due to our taking photographs as a certain kind of trace. Along the way, it is also argued that Kendall Walton’s “transparency thesis”—the thought that one literally, actually, sees photographed objects when one sees photographs of them—cannot explain the phenomenology of photography. Behind Walton’s transparency thesis lies a view of photography as an essentially causal medium; it is the merely causal process of photography that, on Walton’s view, makes photographs transparent. In Essay II, I offer an account of the role of causality in photography, and discuss its implications for the possible contents of photographs. Essays III and IV discuss pictorial perception in general. Essay III treats Richard Wollheim’s notion of non-localisation, and (what I call) pictorial perceptual presence, how things, which are strictly speaking not seen in an image, are still part of our apprehension of the picture. Essay IV gives an account of the seeing of states of affairs in pictures, and points to the significance of such seeing.
Kotipuoleni rautatie
  • Juhani Aho
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Lintonen, Kati (2011): "Valokuvallistettu luonto: I.K. Inhan tuotanto luonnon merkityksellistäjänä", Doctoral dissertation, University of Helsinki: Faculty of Arts.
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