London-based photographer Martina Lindqvist spent six months living in a remote part of Finland, often going on long drives past snowy, barren fields to take photographs. She had family roots in a flat, low-lying area on the country's east coast, and she wanted to reconnect with her ancestry. "Spending time there was an attempt to get to know the place where I come from," she said. Raised in Sweden and educated in the UK, Lindqvist was struck by the isolation of the rural region, Ostrobothnia, her family had once inhabited. "Finland is the least densely populated country in Europe, and as such there is a lot of space, but not people to fill it with." In the end, it was the architecture that captivated her most; she shot around 80 abandoned wooden houses, many of them collapsing in on themselves.
The agrarian region's first towns date to the 17th century, and briefly gained prominence by exporting the pine tar used in the ships of that era. Like Lindqvist's family, many of Ostrobothnia's inhabitants have since emigrated to other parts of Finland and Scandinavia, leaving their modest cottages to disintegrate in the unforgiving weather.
"I think the houses come to stand empty because it is no longer as viable to live rurally as it once was," she said. "When the owners of the houses either pass away or move, sometimes there is nobody who can make use of them, and with time passing, they fall into disrepair."
Lindqvist did not have to search hard to find such houses; many of them were scattered along the highway, visible from her car. "I thought it was ironic that they lend an atmosphere to the landscape that suggested a place past its prime, at the same time that I was going there to live," she said.
Her photographs should not be taken as factual representations of Ostrobothnia, however. The artist "emphasized the desolation of the landscape digitally" to better reflect her own perceptions, although the houses themselves have not been altered.
Below, find Lindqvist's "Neighbors" series, which will be on display until Jan. 14 at London's Photographers' Gallery.
All photo by Martina Lindqvist
· Martina Lindqvist [Official site]
· The Forgotten Houses of Finland's Diaspora [Co.Design]
· All Artistry posts [Curbed National]