List of publications

Peer-reviewed scientific articles
- Pälviranta, H., Baumann, S., & Athanasiadou, A. (2023). The choreography of violence : A discussion between Harri Palviranta and Stefanie Baumann. PHILOSOPHY OF PHOTOGRAPHY, 14(1), 95-108.

- Pälviranta, Harri (2019). guns.doc. Image-based, text-extended approach to practical shooting. Visual essay in a book Visualization and visual communication. University of Lapland.

- Pälviranta, Harri (2013). Encountering violence-related documentary photography in a gallery context. Photographies, Volume 6, Issue 1: special Helsinki Photomedia issue.

Non-refereed scientific articles
- Muureja todistamassa. Post-dokumentaarisesta todistamisesta ja tummasta turismista / Witnessing the walls. Post-documentary witnessing and dark tourism practices. In a book Likainen valokuva. Kirjoituksia post-dokumentaarisuudesta. Eds. Harri Pälviranta ja Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger (2023). LAB University, UTU Press and The Finnish Museum of Photography. 13–26.

- Photographing border walls – Post-documentary photography as affective dark tourism. In a book Pälviranta, Harri 2022. Wall Tourist. Stockholm: Kult Books.

- Created together. Observations on the interpretations of documentary based artworks. In a book Erävaara, Taina ja Tanskanen, Ilona (eds.) 2009. Välissä. Valokuvat ymmärtämisen välineinä. Turku: Turun Amk ja Valokuvakeskus Peri. Fin. Huomioita dokumentaarisen valokuvataiteen tulkintamekanismeista.

- Reception of photographic art – the communication research perspective. In a book Albrecht, Kristoffer & Pentikäinen, Johanna (eds.) 2008. Kuva ja konteksti / Image and Context. Helsinki: Taideteollinen korkeakoulu. Working papers F33. 16−25. Fin. Valokuvataiteen vastaanotto viestinnällisestä näkökulmasta.

Allen Feldman and cultural anaesthesia. web-magazine Synnyt 1/2007

Scientific books (monographs)
- EXPERIENCING REALITY IN AN ART EXHIBITION. Encountering violence-related documentary photography in a gallery context. Helsinki: Aalto Books ja Musta taide. Doctor of Art thesis. 2012. Written in Finnish: Toden tuntua galleriassa. Väkivaltaa käsittelevän dokumentaarisen valokuvataiteen merkityksellistäminen näyttelykontekstissa.

Publications intended for professional communities
- Likainen valokuva. Kirjoituksia post-dokumentaarisuudesta. Eds. Harri Pälviranta ja Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger. LAB University, UTU Press and The Finnish Museum of Photography. 2023.

Publications intended for the general public
- The Role of Research for an Artist. In a book The Turku School of Fine Arts, Now! Turku: Turku University of Applied Sciences. 2018.

- Photographic gestures towards the self. FotoNoviembre-catalogue. Santa Cruz: TEA, Centro de Fotografia Isla de Tenerife. 2015.

- The impossibility to co-live the war. Text in Sofia Saari’s exhibition catalogue. Rauma Art museum 2006.

- Bite and onwards. Photographic art as a dog chasing its own tail. Exhibition catalogue Concerning the commonplace. Turku: Turun taidemuseon julkaisuja 4/2004. Eds. Mia Tykkyläinen and Harri Pälviranta. 21−31.

- More than 140 photography critiques since year 2000 in daily newspaper Turun Sanomat. Other photography related articles in Taidelehti and RAW Magazine.

- EXPERIENCING REALITY IN AN ART EXHIBITION. Encountering violence-related documentary photography in a gallery context. Helsinki: Aalto Books ja Musta taide. Doctor of Arts thesis. 2012. Written in Finnish. Toden tuntua galleriassa. Väkivaltaa käsittelevän dokumentaarisen valokuvataiteen merkityksellistäminen näyttelykontekstissa.

- Valokuvaväitöskirjat valokuvataiteen viimeistelijöinä. Suomalaiset valokuvataiteesta tehdyt väitöskirjat taidejärjestelmäteorian näkökulmasta. Turku: Turun yliopisto, mediatutkimus. MA Pro gradu Thesis. 2005.

- Paha maisema. Turun taideakatemia, Turun AMK. BFA Thesis. 2000.


Delivered papers in research conferences and seminars
-Helsinki PhotoMedia 2022, Images among us.
Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki, Finland
March 31, 2022 – April 2, 2022
One Picture Manifesto, with Maija Tammi

-Helsinki PhotoMedia 2012, The circulation of photographic images in terms of discourses, technologies and practices.
Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki, Finland
March 28, 2012 – March 30, 2012
Encountering violence-related documentary photography in gallery context

-Lennart Nielsson conference, Oslo, Norway
6.–8. March 2009
Presentation "Violence and documentary practice", 8.3.2009.

-The Sociology of Culture RN of the ESA and The Sociology of the Arts RN of the ESA Conference Arts, Culture and Public Sphere – Expressive and Instrumental Values in Economic and Sociological Perspectives
IUAV University, Venice, Italy
November 4.–8. 2008
Paper “Created together – Documentary based photographic art as socially formed communication”

-Nordic Network for Visual Studies workshop Visual Narratives
University of Tampere, Finland
22.–25. October 2008
Paper “Photographic art as generically formed communication”

-Nordic Network for Visual studies research workshop Analysing the Visual
University of Tromsø, Norway
10.–13. September 2008
Paper “Created together – Photographic art as socially formed communication”

-ECREA and ICA conference Transforming Audiences – identity | creativity | everyday life
University of Westminster, London, UK
6.–7. September 2007
Paper “Who constitutes the meanings of the artworks? Photographic art as communication.”


Doctor's thesis - summary

Encountering violence-related documentary photographic art in a gallery context

Although a great number of theories exist about meaning making, empirical research on how the actual audience receives and perceives contemporary art is nearly non-existent. Even less is known about the actual meaning making of violencerelated documentary photographic art in an exhibition context.

This study aims at patching up these holes in audience research. Firstly, my focus is on analysing communicated verbal expressions that actual viewers have produced as a reaction to viewing two particular bodies of work that have been exhibited in a gallery context. Secondly, this study contributes to audience research by introducing specific concepts that can be employed when studying meaning making regarding violence-related documentary photographic art.

The study is twofold in character. First of all, it includes vast artistic production. This means that as part of this research project, I myself have produced three different projects, namely Battered (2007), Playing Belfast (2009), and Notes on Finnish Gun Culture (2010). All thematically touch upon issues of violence, whether structural and/or apparent, and the approach is documentary. Battered looks into the physical assaults that take place in public spaces; Playing Belfast discusses children’s relationship to the bygone Northern Ireland conflict, The Troubles; and Notes on Finnish Gun Culture is a four-chapter narrative on various dimensions of gun use and shooting practices. All have been widely exhibited in Finland and internationally. During the research period, in six years pictures from these series have been included in 42 exhibitions in 17 countries.

Secondly, I have conducted a study on the reception given the Battered and Notes on Finnish Gun Culture series. Within this phase, my focus has been on finding out what kinds of meanings viewers give to the artworks from these two series and the extent to which their responses reflect an awareness that the works convey documentary discourse as well as the role that violence plays in the signification process. In line with these responses, an important question was: How do the artist and viewer’s perspectives of the artworks and significations relate to each other? Articulations of viewer interpretations have been gathered through questionnaires (n = 226) and interviews (n = 8) in connection with seven solo shows (five in Finland, one in Denmark and one in Spain).

What it comes to some of the key concepts applied in this study, it needs to be maintained that the term documentary is understood widely and conceptually. Rather than referring to photo-journalistic practices, it first of all preferably connotes an artist’s urge to discuss real-life events and phenomena photographically. Secondly, this study understands documentary to be performative in its character. This is to say that documentary is produced not only from the artist’s position but also from the viewers’ actions. Thirdly, documentary refers to the ontological status of the photograph, and thus the photograph’s propensity to evoke realityladen interpretations. Violence, another central concept used in the study, is conceptualized in relation to the ways that Slavoj Žižek has formulated it − that it is both subjective and objective; and in relation to objective character, it can have symbolic and systemic features. Analytically, the most important tool in this study is Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model. I slightly redefine the model’s basic features by labelling reading positions as complied reading (instead of dominant reading), negotiated reading, and refused reading (instead of oppositional reading) and by adding a fourth decoding position, indifferent reading.

The study shows that in general, viewers’ decodings are congruent with the artist’s encoding, although not entirely. The great majority of the viewers accepted both the thematic suggestions and the appearance of the artworks. However, some viewers applied negotiated reading when giving meaning to the artworks. They interpreted the pictures in connection to their earlier experiences and opinions regarding the subject matter while being suspicious about some particular features within the pictures. In addition to complied and negotiated readings, a few viewers refused to interpret the artworks in connection to preferred meaning and also expressed indifference towards the artworks. Interestingly, the majority of the viewers who practiced refused reading were in professions in the art field. Following this, it can be maintained that viewers who are familiar and comfortable with the practices and discourses of the art field can more likely interpret the artworks subjectively.

The study also suggests, following the theoretical framing, that the realistic approach and documentary quality of the artworks is not only a choice of approach on the artist’s part, but also an effect that occurs in response to the viewers’ reactions. According to this study, viewers are eager to interpret violence-related documentary photographic art using real-life experiences. Documentary quality guides and frames meaning-making, and this can be said to be based on generic dynamics. Along this line of thought, one could say that a documentary is also produced or reproduced at the time it is being viewed.

In relation to the findings discussed above, it needs to be maintained that also issues of violence decidedly framed and guided the reception and meaning making of the artistic projects. The violence presented in documentary art photography easily became interpreted via real-life experiences and prior knowledge. Exhibiting violence-related documentary photography in galleries and art museums seemed not to diminish the value of documentary expression. In fact, one could say the opposite: the gallery, as an institutional setting, provides viewers with an opportunity to contemplate photographs perhaps more thoroughly than they do when the photographs are in magazines and newspapers.

Violence as a theme also sets up a situation where viewers are willing to generalize. One violent incident presented in a photograph was easily seen to be representative of larger issues of violence and of even larger societal issues. Following this, viewers’ approaches are in line with Susan Sontag’s views that photographs of agony not only remind viewers of the explicit issues presented in the photographs, but also of the existence of a culture of violence in general.

In connection with the theme of violence, it is possible to sift seven distinctive, albeit not alternative, modes of interpreting violence-related documentary artworks in a gallery context. First of all, regarding the Battered series, more than half of the viewers expressed disgust and anxiety when encountering the pictures in the exhibition context. Viewers also showed empathy and pity. In relation to this, a small number of viewers also conveyed a sense of compassion fatigue in their responses.

An interesting aspect of the viewers’ responses, in relation to both series, had to do with the fact that the images of violence seemed both to attract and to repulse them at the same time. Put differently, part of the viewers expressed feeling a sense of fascination in viewing brutalities − they enjoyed seeing something that they are normally forbidden from viewing. However, voyeurism not only existed, but also haunted the viewers. They asked if it is correct and permissible to view pictures of violence.

Following this, the pictures also caused moral dilemmas for the viewers. One-fourth of the viewers made moral judgements, specifically in relation to making portraits of the school shooters and showing them in public. In contrast to this, all of the few Battered viewers who expressed ethical concerns asked about the artist’s moral investment and feelings when he had photographed and exhibited battered people with recognizable faces. In relation to this finding, one can generally maintain that morals and ethics are issues that surface when the viewer encounters images of violence.

It is noteworthy that approximately one-fourth of the viewers mentioned in their responses that the pictures evoked relatively private experiences and memories − the pictures seemed to remind them of something actual, something real from their past. Viewers also recognized gender issues in expressing that the majority of the violence was connected to male behaviour. Viewers also made intertextual references when decoding the artworks.

Finally, the study shows that encountering violence-related documentary photographic art in a gallery context needs to be seen as an event that punctures the gallery walls and time spent in an exhibition. To be precise, in this context this type of expanding means three different matters. Firstly, even though the artworks became actual only in the viewing situation, many of the viewers have a tentative experience of the exhibition already from the press, invitations, press releases or the artist’s website. In this study, more than half of the viewers possessed preliminary information about the pictures. Secondly, expanding means that the viewers also travel in time in their thoughts; when facing documentary photographic artworks, they often practise remembering. In addition to this, viewers connect their actual perceptions to prior experiences and knowledge. Furthermore, experiencing can also stretch towards the future, as the thoughts and feelings that the artworks brought forth may continue even after the exhibition visit. Also, the ways the viewer perceives things in the future can be affected by the exhibition experience. And thirdly, expanding is linked to the social character of the whole meaning making practice. As this study shows, even though the experience of art is always singular, viewers signify the artworks in a congruent manner and similarly to the artist’s premises. In other words, encountering violence-related documentary photographic art in a gallery context can be seen to be a collective routine.