Esa Ylijaasko

6x6 Europe Talent: Esa Ylijaasko, Finland

“When I first met Esa Ylijaasko, I realized immediately that he had a different voice, a unique way of seeing the world and telling stories with images. The perseverance, patience and tenderness of his approach are rare gems in this industry, and he is devoted to continuing to do it.” - Sebastián Liste, Spain, photographer and 6x6 nominator

Esa Ylijaasko is a photographer originally from a small northern town of Keminmaa, Finland. He has been awarded in the Magnum Photos Showcase in November 2012, the Gomma Grant in 2016, the Carina Appel Award in 2017, and the FotoFinlandia Award in 2018. He was also part of the VII mentor program.

November is a Beginning

In November 2013, a Syrian Kurdish refugee community found a new home a thousand miles from the horrors of the civil war. They settled in ruined houses, abandoned by the original inhabitants years ago, in the historical Ottoman district around the Süleymaniye Mosque atop the Istanbul's Third Hill. This neighbourhood was once a perfect place to live. Today, it’s abandoned and in ruins. With missing official refugee documents and limited Turkish, it is difficult for many to apply for work. Most men spend their days hanging around, drinking tea, watching TV and smoking cigarettes. Many women do laundry, cook and take care of the youngest children while older kids play or beg on the streets. As they speak only Kurdish, they cannot attend a Turkish school. Kind-hearted locals bring food and clothes to the refugees, but life stands still. Calls from relatives still in Syria, tell a hopeless story of the war. One story came to an end for the refugees, as a new journey began in spring 2017 when the Turkish government cleared Syrian refugees out of the Süleymaniye neighbourhood.

Spirit of Sauna

A myth says that saunas have the power to heal. People used to heal themselves by whipping their bodies in steamy saunas with birch whisks. The spirits were thanked with the ritual of throwing heat on the huge pile of hot stones. It wasn’t a long time ago that people used to give birth in saunas, or take their last journey there. Saunas are sacred places to Finns, with architecture reminiscent of religious buildings. Saunas are built in the most creative of ways, in a car, a boat, a tent or even a train. It’s often the first thing built in a new home, and it’s the first thing we do after a long trip. Everybody is equal, all undressed and naked.

Discover work by the 6x6 Europe talents, and find out about 6x6’s nomination and selection process.