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After the Workout

A study of the people and the space at Töölö Sports Hall

Töölö Sports Hall is one of the most positive and progressive spaces I know, in both a social and cultural sense. Built in the 1930’s for the Olympics, it still attracts hundreds of people each day to participate in a wide range of activities, from badminton, basketball, boxing, cheerleading, dancing, fencing, gymnastics, martial arts, table tennis, volleyball, weight lifting - pretty much whatever physical activity one might choose to do there. It is a place where people can train to a professional level, as well as providing a venue for more casual athletes. The youngest person I photographed was two years old; the oldest was 67. Most are native Finns, but many others have come to Finland for reasons of work, love or to seek refuge. For many of them, the Sports Hall is a place where social and cultural differences are irrelevant; the activity is the common denominator.

In my experience, Finnish society has a strong belief in a social charter; equal rights and community spirit are seen as a fundamental agreement between its people, to be fostered by the state. With social and cultural diversity increasing at such a rapid pace, the need to encourage inclusivity is vital. The fact that facilities such as Töölö Sports Hall exist - and are accessible to so many - shows the progressive role the state plays in providing places for positive social interaction. Personally, as a father, the sight of so many young people enjoying healthy physical activity on a Friday evening in a safe environment makes me happy.

I hope you like the series. Many thanks to the City of Helsinki Sports Department and all the staff for making it so easy for me to set up my 'studio space' on site. Even bigger thanks to everyone who allowed me to take their portrait!

sports hall