Iiu Susiraja is a Finnish photographer whose controversial self-portraits are meant to strike a chord in the viewer.
She seems to disapprove of the skinny body type portrayed in the social media, showing the viewer another way to look at ‘beauty’.
The first time I saw Susiraja’s work, I was in a Helsinki metro station. A photo on an advertising screen displays a large woman holding a sweet bread in her arms like a child. It left me confused. I stumbled upon some of her photos online and, after doing a little research, I ended up digging the artist’s quirky style.
I don’t know how the majority of people would react. Still, I believe that the artist managed to get across specific trends that are highly valued in our present society full of the blitz and random selfies: to look good and attract others’ attention with beautiful concepts, to be normal and follow the majority, to lose weight, etc.
Looking farther into Susiraja’s work, we get to see more of who she is, more of the ‘truth’ she shamelessly displays in her work.
She likes to photograph herself in her private moments and show the world how these moments look like.
‘I feel privacy very painful. When I have been spoken about my art, I have mentioned words: the documentation of emotions. My art is like playful anarchism with equipment and the rituals of taking back the power.’, Iiu says.
Susiraja’s self-portraits do not merely put her in front of the mirror, but they jeer at today’s values that are stuck on the shallowness.
I don’t mean to take the artist’s side but, just thinking of the present trends of beauty in visual art, makes me shudder. There is an overflow of popular images on the web called ‘artistic .’A beautiful and, most often, skinny woman s the main subject of photographs. The photo sometimes nude and sometimes clothed in dresses we, women, all want to have. These models feel lost in space, barely scratching the surface of their emotional selves.
As an art consumer, I already feel overfed by these limited concepts of beauty.
However, Susiraja could hopefully be one in a handful of other artists who has something necessary to deliver. What is striking about her self-portraits is that she does not rely on models or complicated prompts to express herself. She uses the intimacy of her home, her body parts, her large breasts, feet and hands to pull us into her world. To show us glimpses of an ordinary life, living with what is perceived as ‘abnormal’ body weight.
I can easily connect with her vulnerability and, even though I have never been overweight, I have dealt with body issues and have been through a lot of diets to fit a specific size.
The gang thinks life is great as long as aspects such as status and appearance are starched as narrow and shiny as other networkers, even if only for a picture.
Fitting sizes and trying to please others (boyfriends, girlfriends, work mates, society) through your appearance is self-destructive.
What Susiraja does is to break all these fake concepts of beauty with elegance.
Some teachers believe that her photography brings a new type of aesthetics to Finland but what Susiraja wants is just truth.
In an interview for ‘Dazed’ digital magazine, the artist declares that she wants the images to inspire people to express themselves freely, shunning vanity and general trends.
A photo that made an impression on me lately is entitled ‘Lahja‘ (‘Gift’).
The image shows the subject dressed in a black coat, curled up on the floor, in a fetal position under a small Christmas tree. The Christmas present here is her self, as she was the only one celebrating it at home.
What would a typical viewer think of this image in a society where traditions like Christmas gatherings, gift offering and rabid family celebrations are highly encouraged?
Even though we might laugh at Susiraja’s self-portraits, at the brutal honesty behind her awkward depiction of her large ankles, her dietary preferences, or her hands stuck in black gloves hiding raw fish as if she cannot get enough of her food, we can end up recognizing in her, parts of our vulnerability.
We might start thinking of our fears. The fears of being less than pretty, less than happy, less than catwalk-model-like-slim because we can’t help eating that daily piece of cake.
Author This article was by Steve Anastasiadis. Steve is an amateur painter and the owner of oilpaintingguide.com, a blog dedicated to learning everything about oil