t e x t
b o o k
e x h i b i t i o n s








I AM #1

I AM #2





The idea in embarking on the Interior/Exterior project was a nocturnal inspiration after seeing
some bw-images of Abelardo Morel in a photo magazine. In the room converted into a camera obscura
I could capture an image of a person and at the same time that person’s room and the view from the window – what an all-encompassing method by which to photograph a person’s living environment!
The originally documentary idea soon expanded in a new direction. The pictures began to form not only a person’s living environment but also to constitute an excursion into the mental landscape:
reflections of memories, reveries, fears and dreams.

Working on this series is for me like taking photographs for a family album: visitations to people and also to myself. To take the pictures I transform people’s rooms into camera obscura by covering the windows of the room with blackout plastic and placing on top of the hole cut in it a simple convex lens. Then the view outside the window is reflected upside down into the room forming a dreamy layered space. This and the occupant of the room I then photographed with a conventional camera.

At first I used roll film cameras, nowadays a digital camera. The printing techniques also changed in the course of the project: from the chromogenic colour prints of the early years to the present prints on rag and fibre paper with permanent pigments.

Interior/Exterior is my most extensive and long-lasting project accomplished with the camera obscura method. So far I have photographed this series in Finland, Norway, Italy and France,
and the work continues.

In 2002 came out my
photo book CAMERA OBSCURA interior/exterior (sold out).
Also my retrospective book Carried by Light, published in 2014, consist images
of the Interior/Exterior series. This book is awailable from me.

Camera obscura (Latin: a dark room)
is a phenomenon in which, as light travels through a hole or a lens
into a dim space, an upside-down image is formed there of the world outside.
It is based on the direct passage of the light and is a basis
for the functioning of the eye and all cameras.

The magical quality of the camera obscura phenomenon has entranced people
for thousands of years. It has been exploited in both science and art for centuries:
by scientists for astronomical purposes and for the observation of optical phenomena,
by Renaissance artists as a tool for creating drawings and paintings
and by philosophers as a tool in their deliberations.


by Janne Seppänen
professor of visual culture, University of Art and Design in Helsinki

When Marja Pirilä makes a camera obscura, a darkened room, out of someone´s flat,
with the outside world projected upside down on its walls, she is playing with an invention
that is thousands of years old. The people in her pictures are situated in their
own personal spaces, within four walls.

Windows open from these spaces onto the outside world. The window is the boundary between
the private and the public, between the personal and the commonly shared, and - if you like -
between psyche and culture.
In them, the external space leaks with irresistibile force into the interior, into the persona, domain.
The window is no longer a peephole, but becomes a two-way portal between inside and outside.
This eats away at consept of human beings for whom their own interiority alone suffices,
and who view the world without the world getting to them.

Pirilä´s pictures attest to the fact that the landscape seen from the window is not outside, but within us.
Here, we are at the centre of formation of identity, at the point where the individual´s mental reality
meets cultural narratives.

The pictures also live up to the magical role of camera obscura. When the walls of room
are papered with flickering figures, this has bewildering effect. The pictures are upside-down, and it is sometimes hard to decipher them. They drip with indeterminacy.

This constantyly calls into the question the camera-obscura tradition that understands it
as an instrument for gathering accurate information. Perhaps this magicality also illustrates
the postmodern individual´s identity, which is made up of multiple ingredients
and is even harder to define than before.