Context Conflicts

When I first visited the little town of Porvoo in southern Finland one thing stuck in my mind: why would anyone scrawl graffiti across these wooden houses? It just seemed so out of place. To me, graffiti was a characteristic of the urban environment, suited to the dull concrete walls that encased the citizens of large metropolitan cities. It never occurred to me that some of the local residents might feel the same about their own town as I did about mine. After all, I was the outsider, so what was novel and interesting for me could have been plain, boring and even depressing for someone who had lived in the area their whole life.

Nevertheless, graffiti had its origins in New York, and had been a part of my life since childhood, where I regularly saw it on my walk to school and spread along the train tracks that lead from the bottom of my neighbour’s garden all the way to central London. So there was something strange to me about encountering it in an environment that seemed a million miles away from its birthplace, and from my birthplace where I had grown accustomed to seeing it.

But it wasn’t just graffiti that had spread to Finland, it was Hip Hop culture itself, and my first visit to this quiet and unassuming country revealed that it seemed to be flourishing in its new home. These people hadn’t grown up in the big city with graffiti, rapping and breaking as part of their everyday lives, instead they were recent converts who had adopted a foreign culture that seems unlikely to have ever originated in such a sparsely populated country of lakes, pine trees and socially introverted liquorice eaters.

The following series focuses on graffiti in its unnatural environment, that is, in and around the city of Oulu in northern Finland.

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