Maria Kapayeva. Loose Photos, Odds and Ends 16/06/2022 – 30/12/2022

Kumu Art Museum

3rd floor, A-wing, Project Space 2

Adult: Kumu Art Museum
  • Family: Kumu Art Museum
  • Discount: Kumu Art Museum
  • Adult ticket with donation: Art Museum of Estonia
Project space

Maria Kapayeva. Loose Photos, Odds and Ends

This exhibition is an artistic experiment: presenting a research process as an installation. What can you do and what would you do with a random collection of photographs? Eight years ago, Maria Kapajeva came across a few old photographs online for sale.

This was a quite random purchase for me. An American dealer who runs an online shop selling old images from all over the world agreed to put together ‘a collection’ of photographs, which he thought might be from Estonia. So, this is how this 105-piece collection of ‘loose photos, odds and ends’ (according to the dealer’s description) ended up in my hands. In his message he added ‘I am so glad these photos are “going home”, so to speak’.


I had no knowledge of the images or how they ended up in the US.

At the end of 2021, when I started to prepare for this exhibition, I tried to contact the dealer again, but I learned that he had unexpectedly died a week before. It was sad to realise that I had had those eight years to ask him questions, but I hadn’t and now I could not. So, I hope with the help of visitors to the exhibition, I can get answers to some of my questions.

Kapajeva experiments with different ways of opening up the potential of the often undervalued, under-researched, marginalised heritage of vernacular photography. In the age of automated face recognition software – partly developed by historical archives, but even more so by state and military institutions and international corporations – her project demonstrates the benefits of “slow recognition”. As she slowed down for an artistic exploration of this collection, Kapajeva also made this a part of her own homecoming, as she has lived abroad for years, just like the photos she is exploring.

Gradual identification of the photographers and the people portrayed by them reveals new perspectives on Estonian (micro-)history, which gain new meaning in the context of the permanent exhibition focusing on “landscapes of identity”. By focussing on the faces of the photographed people, their stories and some other forgotten facts which she learned from these images, Kapajeva shows her appreciation for each person and every individual story in our history.

Kapajeva invites everyone to contribute to the installation as a continuous research process. Please look at the photos closely and if you recognise anyone, please write down their names or stories, add the photo number(s) and attach this information to the wall.

This exhibition is a part of the permanent exhibition “Landscapes of Identity: Estonian Art 1700–1945”.

Exhibition design: LLRRLLRR – Laura Linsi, Karolin Kull
Graphic designer: Maria Muuk
Exhibition coordinator: Magdaleena Maasik
Exhibition technician: Andres Amos
Artist’s research assistant: Ketlin Käpp
With contribution in kind by Linda Kaljundi, Annika Toots and Karmen-Eliise Kiidron

Special thanks to Liisa Kaljula, Merilis Roosalu (Tallinn City Museum – Museum of Photography), Aado Luik, Janeli Suits, Piret Karro, Lembi Anepaio, Aljona Kapajeva and the Sokk family