Intimate portraits by Ville Malja of stars of the Finnish music scene are brought together in the Music Museum’s exhibition Singing Icons. The portrayed artists include Ismo Alanko, Mariska, Eino Grön, Anna Eriksson, Vilma Jää and dozens of other famous Finns, as well as important contributors from the margins.

Johnny Cash’s middle finger. Patti Smith’s white shirt with black braces and the jacket over the shoulder. An artist’s whole being can be crystallised in an iconic portrait. A photograph comments on, builds and renews our collective memory. It can be flattering and encouraging or cruel and insensitive. It is a moment frozen in time; a shot that can create or destroy.

Artists’ portraits are usually flattering but the Singing Icons series also casts a critical eye over personalities known by a whole nation. The photographs are more polished than traditional documentary pictures, thereby stepping out of the photojournalistic canon, but the greatest power of this exhibition lies in its sense of presence: Ville Malja has photographed his chosen subjects slowly and zealously.

Ville Malja is an award-winning Helsinki-based photographer. His work conveys presence, authenticity and the beauty of life. Malja began studying photography at the Lahti Institute of Design in 2002. At the same time, he shot to international fame as a musician in the band Lapko, so the studies had to go on a backburner for the duration of touring. Returning to his studies in 2007, Malja graduated and has since then worked as a freelance photographer, while these days also touring the world as the vocalist in the band Moon Shot.