Unknown photographic portraits of Tom of Finland are presented for the first time

“In celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Fotografiska in collaboration with the Tom of Finland Foundation produced The Darkroom, an exciting study in artist Tom of Finland’s (born Touko Laaksonen, 1920 – 1991) life and work process.” – Fotografiska

Tom of Finland, Untitled (Val Martin), 1984, Tom of Finland Permanent Collection

The exhibition, curated by Berndt Arell, consists of photographic portraits used by Tom of Finland as references to his homoerotic work of art.

These photographs were well hidden in the confines of his personal studio, or darkroom. There he secretly photographed his models and then used the photos as material for his drawings. Of course, any leakage of these photos could cost him his freedom. Since we are talking about a period when homosexuality in Finland was considered a criminal offence (until 1971) and was registered as a mental disorder (until 1981).

This small treasure trove of photographs offers a deeper look at how the talented artist created his super-macho men. Each “painted man” brought references and elements from different photographs and different men. Tom of Finland depicted through his drawings masculine, attractive, confident men in highly homoerotic poses.

Tom of Finland, Untitled (Gavin), 1987, Tom of Finland Permanent Collection

These depictions, where men often bear fetishistic elements of leather/rubber subculture and BDSM, are still intriguing today. The artist was mostly concerned with the issue of desire and the right to express it as he wished.

Tom of Finland, Untitled, c.1986, Tom of Finland Permanent Collection

Tom of Finland: The Darkroom is on view at Fotografiska New York from April 30-August 20, 2021.

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