cremation, faceplants and old fries

Dec 4, 2012 | Leave a comment

Do you see the aggressively white, Finnish guy with his face planted in the grass? This park is on the grounds of the crematorium which is always a good spot for catching the last of the sun’s rays during the summer if you aren’t actually being burned to dust inside the building. It’s quiet and nicely landscaped with occasional nudity but mostly from guys having a pee on a tree after drinking Koff beer all day. It’s rare to see a huge American car like this in Finland and equally strange that it’s parked in the half-moon driveway of the crematorium. I didn’t look inside the car but if it’s like most station wagons there are probably old McDonald’s french fries under the seat and sticky Creedence Clearwater Revival cassettes strewn about the interior. 

And this next clip to perpetuate the “All-Finns-Are-Great-Dancers” myth:

black and white and Aalto revisited

Oct 12, 2012 | Leave a comment

This is the first black and white photo that I’ve posted. Not a trend mind you but merely because the colors and light were really off in the original shot and no amount of editing would save them. I love this late-60s Citroën 2CV and it happens to be parked on the same street where Alvar Aalto (see last week’s post) lived. He probably drove something cool like this if he drove at all. Here’s a cool ad for the Deux Chevaux:

escape hatches, italian beauties and simple design

Oct 5, 2012 | Leave a comment

I shot this beautifully restored Fiat 600 on the same street as the previous red Fiat 600. As I was shooting that car, a passerby told me about this bright yellow-gold one. Fantastico! I’ve fallen in love with these Italian beauties and the new Abarth version too:

Just behind the trees on the left is the Design Museum featuring many famous Finnish designers like Alvar Aalto, Ovia Toikka and younger talent like Harri Koskinen. You’ve seen their stuff before but you may not have put the name with their designs. I had a chance to visit Alvar Aalto’s home and office that has been turned into a tourist spot. A great place with tons of light and decorated mostly with furniture designed by Alvar himself. Apparently Aalto wasn’t keen to visitors so he had a secret door built in his library that enabled him to escape to another part of the house. Funny that this place is now full of visitors roaming through the rooms with protective shoe covers as if investigating a crime scene. No crime here though, just a beautiful space that is calming and inspiring.

espionage and proper winter attire

Sep 11, 2012 | Leave a comment

Not sure about the make and model of this Jeep-ish little car parked in the working class district of Kallio and neighborhood of  Siltasaari, Helsinki. Judging by the decal on the side it may have been adequate enough for a surveyor or cartographer of some sort. Siltasaari and nearby Töölö seem to be the prime spots for Cold War-era film locations as well as the rest of Helsinki. Check out this clip from Gorky Park filmed in Helsinki. This jeep/truck thingy was shot in front of the reddish brown apartment building behind Ian Bannen and William Hurt

Also shot in Helsinki was the 1967 Ken Russell film, Billion Dollar Brain, the third installment in the Harry Palmer spy series starring Michael Caine. Caine’s character, Harry Palmer meets a spy on the same frozen Töölö Bay right after he goes shopping at Stockmann for a coat and proper hat.

Here’s the what the bay and house look like today albeit without the snow and seductive double agent.

pull up to the bumper

Aug 28, 2012 | Leave a comment

This mid-80s Citroën CX 25 Prestige was the choice model for chauffeurs because it offered lots of legroom and headroom for large egos including French President Jacques Chirac, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and the leggy chanteuse Grace Jones. Check out Jones’ ad for the Citroën CX. Her hair sorta resembles the CX.


crematoriums, heavy petting and the end of days

Aug 21, 2012 | Leave a comment

An early 90’s Land Rover Defender Tdi parked in front of the Hietaniemen Krematorio chapel in Helsinki. There are two bird sculptures above the door to the chapel. Not sure of the significance but maybe because of the many species that live in the nearby Hietaniemi Cemetery.  Buried there is the famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and his first wife, Aino and second wife, Elissa. Both were architects as well. I’ll talk more about Aalto in a few weeks. Also nearby is the Hietaniemi Beach that was once a landfill and sand storage area. Now it has a reputation for volleyball, nightly parties and heavy petting which we all know can lead to unmentionable goings-on in the cemetery late at night. Click here to see what the gods do to people who desecrate this beach.

taiwanese gangsters and exploding citroëns

Feb 23, 2012 | Leave a comment

This Citroën 2CV or “deux chevaux” always conjures up scenes from French films but I found this utilitarian, wood-grained beauty on the streets of Helsinki. I wonder if this car belongs to former Finnish Citroën rally driver, Ari Vatanen?  Maybe he’s at the kuntosali working out? Speaking of French films, I watched the excellent Diva last night about a young French mail courier who loves the opera and making bootleg tapes. His audio recording becomes mistaken for a tape that would implicate a police chief involved with the mob. It all makes for a very New-Wave thriller complete with an exploding 11-horsepower Citroen Traction Avant 11B and mirror-sunglassed Taiwanese gangsters. The chase scenes are very reminiscent of another film favorite of mine, The French Connection.


michael caine, johann and bears

Jan 3, 2012 | Leave a comment

For my car series I don’t like streets with even the slightest bit of a grade to them but I made an exception here. I couldn’t pass up this late 60’s VW Beetle against that yellow background. Note the optional mudflaps and fender splash guards for protecting the finish from the harsh winter rain and snow.  I noticed that the Finns like to paint their buildings in warm tones to remind them of the sun. It’s a nice touch that you immediately notice walking around the city. I visited Helsinki during their warmer months and loved it but I can’t imagine what its like during the winter with extreme temperature drops and a handful of daylight hours. No wonder bears hibernate. For a look at what Helsinki looks like during the winter  (of 1966-67) check out the Michael Caine film Billion Dollar Brain. Helsinki is also used as the location for many films set during the Cold War-era and doubled for Moscow in Gorky Park.

Finnish Lesson #1: The street signs in Helsinki (and most other signage) can get quite confusing because they display the names in both Finnish and Swedish. One street was marked Johanneksenrinne/Johanneksentie/Johannesvägen. Quite amusing. I’m sure Johann (John) is happy though.