Artist Milja Laurila in her studio
Photo: Leena Ylä-Lyly


Milja Laurila (b. 1982 in Helsinki, Finland) graduated with an MA in Photography from Aalto University in Helsinki in 2010.

Laurila uses found photographs as material for her work. She is interested in the relationship between words and images and in the recontextualization of archival scientific photographs and texts. “What will happen to these images when they are detached from their original contexts? Do they forget what they once were proof of?”, Laurila asks. By leaving out the captions, she places the images in a new situation: “I give them a chance to speak for themselves, with a voice of their own”, Laurila explains.

The photographs in old medical books often portray young women without any clothes on. “Even when there would seem to be no apparent medical reason for it.”, Milja Laurila points out. For example, a young woman suffering from a tumor or a deformity of the neck has been photographed from the waist up, showing her bare breasts. “It makes you wonder what the motivation for taking, let alone publishing these images has been”, questions Laurila.

In most medical photographs, the women’s eyes have been covered. You would assume that it’s to protect their anonymity, but Milja Laurila asks: “Maybe it could be done for the viewer as well? Maybe he does not want to face the women’s eyes, to have her looking back at him?” Read more in this interview in Art Düsseldorf Magazine.

In her early works on film, Laurila used pictures from her childhood family album, questioning the link between photography and memory.

Recent exhibitions and art fairs include: Persons Projects (Berlin, 2022), LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, 2021), Kunsthalle Helsinki (Helsinki, 2021), Persons Projects (Berlin, 2021) and Paris Photo (Paris, 2021).

Laurila’s works are included in public and private collections in Europe and USA, and she is featured in The Helsinki School photography books published by Hatje Cantz in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2014.