Helander photographs herself in the landscape of her Sami heritage. Her works display her sense of alienation and displacement, and also a sense of humour, caught between the two cultures of the modern and the traditional as she negotiates the supermarket aisle or the open snows.
Marja Helander was born in Finland and lives and works in Helsinki. After originally training as a painter at the Lahti Institute of Fine Arts from 1988 to 1992, Helander then pursued her interest in photography and graduated from the University of Art and Design in Helsinki in 1999. In 1994 she was one of the ten finalists of the Fotofinlandia competition. Since then she has presented works in solo and group exhibitions both in Finland and abroad, with many shows in Scandinavia, including the Hasselblad Center in Göteborg, BildMuseet in Umeå, Charlottenborg Exhibition Hall in Copengahen, Galleri F15 in Moss, Norway, and in Nuuk, Grönland, and internationally further afield in Canada, The Art Gallery of Hamilton; South Africa, Johannesburg Art Gallery; and Mali, The 7th African Photography Biennial. Helander’s work explores the question of identity with regards to her Sámi background, the Sámi being the indigenous people of Scandinavia. Recent work has focused on landscape in which dark, mysterious views are portrayed without people. These examine the unharmonious darkness inherent in the modern union between nature and mankind
Selected solo shows include: Darkness, at Sámi Museum Siida (2011), Sami Art Center, Karasjok, Norway (2011), and Photographic Gallery Hippolyte, Helsinki (2010); Modern Nomads, Cádiz, Spain (2008); Paradise Lost, Konstens Hus, Luleå, Sweden (2006), and Sami Art Center, Karasjok, Norway (2005); Nomad, Photographic Gallery Hippolyte, Helsinki, Finland, and Northern Photographic Center, Oulu, Finland (2003). Selected group exhibitions include: The Magic of Lapland, Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland (2011); Close Encounters, Winnipeg, Canada (2011); Being a Part, Sami Artist Center, Karasjok, Norway (2009); Katugalleriat V, Helsinki, Finland (2009); Disturbance, Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa (2008); The 7th African Photography Biennial, Bamako, Mali (2007); Forbindelser, Murmansk Region Art Museum, Soviet Union (2007); Rethinking Nordic Colonialism, Nuuk, Greenland (2006).