Surreal Illusionism

"From a Friend" (1904)

The Surreal Illusionism exhibition at the Finnish Museum of Photography
features nearly 500 photographic postcards that offer a surprising wealth
of pictorial ideas, high artistic quality and photographic allure. Surreal
fantasies, mysterious dreams, role-play, glamorous divas and irony are
running wild in the postcards. All these will transport viewers into the
fascinating, forgotten golden era of industrial photography in the early
20th century and the early history of modern photographic art.

The late 1890s saw the emergence of a number of factories in Europe that
were involved in the creation of a new art form. Photographs were not
printed on the cards, like today, but, instead, real photographs were
produced by using mechanised exposures and development processes. The
production of photographic postcards, also known as "real photo
postcards", became a sizable industry, and the end products were
distributed as far away as South America and Australia. The phenomenon
only lasted for two decades but resulted in millions of photographs.
Today, these cards are coveted collector's items.

From today's perspective, photographic postcards are fascinating
particularly because of the photomontage techniques used. The combination
of images and drawings, and multiple exposure were some of the methods
used in industrial photography a hundred years before "photoshopping".
Because industrial colour photography was yet to be invented, the cards
were coloured by hand. It is the craft that makes these mass-produced
images unique. The synthetic world of colours further increases the
mystery of the images.

The golden age of photographic postcards drew on the urban popular culture
that began to emerge in the early 20th century. The rise of the cinema,
the modern culture of sun-bathing, eroticism, circus and variety shows
inspired the imagery of the cards. Technical innovations, such as the
aeroplane, stimulated the imagination.

The heyday of postcards began to wane after the First World War. The
various innovations, however, lingered on. Artistic ideas such as
synthetic cubism and collage are based on expressive techniques that were
used in the postcards as early as the beginning of the 20th century.

In the 1920s and 1930s, a group of avant-garde artists and poets began to
draw inspiration from dreams, fantasy and the depths of the unconscious.
An art movement known as surrealism emerged. The photographic postcards
presented at the exhibition were "surrealist" before the word was even

The exhibition also includes an installation created specifically by
artist Jouko Korkeasaari for this show.

The curator of the exhibition is art researcher, docent Harri Kalha.
Kalha's book Ihme ja kumma: surrealismia ja silmänlumetta 1900-luvun alun
postikorttitaiteessa (WSOY 2012) serves as a good companion to the

The exhibition is part of the 2013 Helsinki Festival.

Fantasy Card Competition together with Paletti Oy:

Further information on the exhibition:
Chief curator Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger 050 518 7619,
Curator Reetta Haarajoki, +358 50 432

Further information on workshops, guided tours and public program: Head of
education and public programmes Erja Salo, +358 44 2706216,

Exhibition hours Tue–Sun, 11–18 Wed, 11–20. Admission fees 8 / 6 euros,
under-18’s free.
The Finnish Museum of Photography, Cable Factory, Tallberginkatu 1 G,
00180 Helsinki
tel. +358 9 6866 3621 / /