Strikes and Gutters, Ups and Downs – Children of Bodom in retrospective photos

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The city of Espoo is internationally known for a lot of things: Aalto University, the home of Rovio Entertainment and many other internationally renowned companies, and the Bodom Lake murders. Yet, in the international metal scene, it is mostly known as the home of the band whose name was inspired by those murders: CHILDREN OF BODOM. Guitarist/vocalist Alexi Laiho maybe have passed away almost 2 years ago, but he certainly has not been forgotten. Since the days of restrictions due to the pandemic are sort of over, there have been a couple of events planned to commemorate him: Espoo Ciné International Film Festival hosted a film evening to honor his memory, the City of Espoo now has a photo exhibition in Espoon Kulttuurikeskus, and in November, the remaining CHILDREN OF BODOM members are opening up Bodom Bar in Espoo. Plenty of things to look forward to for fans, so I decided to head out to Strikes and Gutters, Ups and Downs – Children of Bodom in retrospective photos on a stormy Saturday afternoon.

Having studied art photography and contemporary art in university, I’ve been dying to see more metal-related exhibitions around the country. Sadly, the art scene is mostly focused on other trending topics nowadays and we don’t oftentimes get to enjoy exhibitions focused on metal music and the band experience. The idea behind this exhibition is simple enough… bands tend to build up a great archive of touring photographs taken during the span of their entire careers, this often includes never-before-seen photographs of fun behind-the-scenes moments, where we the fans are not even aware of it happening. That’s precisely what motivated CHILDREN OF BODOM to organize this exhibition.

The exhibition consisted of two stories worth of material, mostly focused on the types of documentary-styled photographs mentioned above, but also included some concert photographs and a couple of promotional images. The focus of the exhibition wasn’t necessarily Alexi Laiho, but it had a strong focus on the band itself and their time together, and that’s precisely the strongest aspect of the entire catalogue. The most interesting photographs of the event were the ones taken by bass player Henkka Seppälä, who traveled with an analogue camera and seemed to have taken a lot of pictures during the touring days. Personally, I felt like these moments were actually the highlight of the exhibition and not the concert photographs and the promotional work that we’ve already seen before. It’s the unique moments that we don’t get to experience as fans that made the exhibition feel truly intimate. The fact that it wasn’t a professional photographer who took these images added to the atmosphere. Despite some of these pictures having a bit of a cute amateur vibe (for instance, there was a photograph of Henkka on a beach that had its focus on a man in the background who seemingly didn’t belong to the band, or for example, the first-of-the-roll landscape photograph), most of them were actually really nicely built up compositionally, and I’d actually be interested in seeing more of Henkka‘s work. One of my favorite works of the exhibition was a photograph of Jaska Raatikainen and Roope Latvala facing each other.

The downside of the exhibition was in its details. Firstly, it felt like for this exhibition, there wasn’t any curator involved. That became apparent in not only the selection of the exhibited work but also in smaller things. For instance, while most photographs were hung next to each other, there was one gallery wall. I’m a huge fan of displaying art in this manner and it’s something I also often do in my own exhibitions, however, some of the works were not exactly on eye level and you had to crouch to actually see them.

Additionally, the descriptions next to the photographs often provided fairly little context to the audience and also lacked a bit of consistency. For instance, not all the photographs had dates mentioned on them, nor did all (concert) locations get listed. The translations from Finnish to English also were a bit different, for instance, translating “unforgettable” to “overwhelming.” Or then, just odd captions that didn’t necessarily say much about the situation depicted (“The rain in Tokyo is warm but wet”).

Despite these minor flaws, I do think this exhibition is overall worthwhile for fans for as long as the show is on. The selected photographs each show a different side of the band and show some of the happiest moments in their career. I would personally like to delve even more into the archive of the band’s travel photos, and I can totally see them presenting those photographs at travel photography festivals (like for instance, Cortona On The Move in Italy). Hopefully, some of these photographs also get a place in the upcoming Bodom Bar and secretly, I hope that Henkka maybe picks up his hobby again.

Strikes and Gutters, Ups and Downs – Children of Bodom in retrospective photos is currently open for visitors in Kulttuurikeskus at Tapiola, Espoo until October 30th, 2022.

Written by Laureline Tilkin