Tuomo Manninen (Helsinki, Finland, 1962) has been making group portraits since 1995. The images captured with his camera are a cross between documentary photography and dramatisation, he has his subjects posing in perfectly structured compositions to share the awareness that they are perpetuating a moment. The persons Manninen photographs are aware of the act of being photographed and take an active role therein. Their pose facing the camera is that of considering the hierarchy they understand and accept, and their wish to record the occasion. In Manninen’s photographs there is no criticism of this or that reality, nor is such criticism evident on the part of the individuals he photographs. On the contrary: the expressions of his subjects convey professional pride and motivation, together with responsibility and determination in discharging their tasks. In the photographs you feel how the group shapes and creates the identity of each person while at the same time erasing the distinct characteristics of its individual members. This inner tension in the group between Me and We is emphasized in each photograph through Manninen’s artistic method. Manninen positions the persons portrayed among the objects and in the places that join them as group. Through choreographed arrangements of the persons and lighting techniques he makes the surroundings seem almost like the sets of the different scenes on which persons act out their lives: sets which the persons will leave sooner or later to take part in activities that will tie them to other different groups and communities. Through this Manninen shows us that, inspite of its significance, the membership of a particular group can never give an exhaustive characterization of a human being - He shows us that the We of any particular group will leave out an untold ME. In this way the pictures themselves show us that they are fragments of the lives of the individuals portrayed - fragments which can be joined together to form a cross section of life in modern Helsinki or Havana that cuts through the surface of the city. Since starting the series “Me/We” in Kathmandu in 1995, Manninen has photographed groups in Riga, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Lisbon, Hamburg, Odense, Ho Chi Minh City, Tønder, Paris, Havana, Recklinghausen, Johannesburg, Ramallah, Phnom Penh, Svalbard, Yangon and Tehran. Tuomo Manninen’s group portraits have been shown in over 80 solo and group exhibitions around the world, including 49th Biennale di Venezia and Rencontres d’Arles photo festival. Three printed and two e-monographies have been published of the series, along with over 20 various catalogs.
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