Tag Archives: Christmas

Santa 24/7: Portrait of a Year-Round Father Christmas

For most of us, he’s that cheerful, rotund guy who drops by for a quick visit on the same night every December. For others, though, he’s a year-round presence. Or so Touko Hujanen found out in the summer of 2011, while working as a photojournalist for a Finnish newspaper. On assignment in Helsinki and looking for quirky stories, he came across a fully-costumed professional Santa named Timo Pakkanen sitting in a park, waiting patiently for tourist cruise ships to dock.

“It’s 140 days to Christmas!” Pakkanen exclaimed as Hujanen approached. Hujanen photographed the red-coated, bearded Pakkanen for his newspaper. The two hit it off pretty quickly, and so began a seven-month documentary relationship between Santa and photographer.

Hujanen hitched a ride as Pakkanen toured Japan, a country where he is popular, and also hung out with him in Finland. The resulting work he calls, simply, Joulupukki — Finnish for “Santa Claus.”

The portraits that came out of the collaboration are as playful as they are unexpected. After all, we’re not used to seeing Santa powdering his eyebrows, taking a dip or enjoying a cigar. This is Christmas at its most elemental, without the tinsel.

That said, Pakkanen is no novelty act: 68 years old, he has been playing the part since 1961 and has an office in downtown Helsinki. What started as a small gig for local Finnish families eventually saw him become the de facto national Father Christmas — a significant honor in a country that, by some accounts, is St Nick’s home.

“My job for me is bigger than life,” Pakkanen told TIME, speaking on the phone from Japan. “It’s much, much more than work.”

Touko Hujanen

Touko Hujanen

Pakkanen in the Saitama prefecture of Japan. In 2011 he met with children evacuated from Fukushima.

In some ways it was an obvious career, he adds. His mother, Kaija Pakkanen, was a prolific children’s author who told him stories as a child; his sister, Outi, is a writer, as well.

“I lived all my childhood in a fairytale world, and that is very good grounds to be a Santa,” he says, laughing.

Pakkanen often works 12-hour days during the holiday season, and for many years has spent Christmas Eve in a Tokyo hotel room, tired but fulfilled after weeks of hearing Christmas lists and visiting kindergartens. He likes to celebrate with a can of Yebisu beer and a cup of warm sake.

The best thing about his job? It allows him to not only see joy on people’s faces, but to experience it himself. He may seem old, but he claims he feels like a kid.

“First we are children, then we get older, and we return to our childhood,” he says. “That’s the circle of life.”


Touko Hujanen is a co-founder of Finland-based collective Yksitoista. Joulupukki is part of the Suomi/Finland exhibition and runs until Feb., 1o, 2013 in Tampere and May, 5, 2013 in Helsinki

Santa and Timo Pakkanen can be found year-round at santaclausforever.com



Guest Blogger 5 – Forward Thinking: Hotshoe looks ahead to 2013 on the World Photography Organisation blog

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Hotshoe covers from 1980s to present day

For my final guest post before Christmas at the World Photo Organisation and to mark the end of the year and the start of a new one, I asked the team at Hotshoe magazine to look ahead to 2013, rather than back at 2012, to comment on any trends in the world of photography and to pick out some up-coming events, photographers and works to look out for.

If you ever wondered who we were and about the history of this independent publication (first published in 1979) then follow this link Forward Thinking for some photos, comments and photos. There’s also a pre-Christmas competition to win a year’s subscription to Hotshoe magazine, just LIKE Hotshoe International Facebook page this week, see the end of the WPO post for details.

Enjoy the run up to the holidays and here’s wishing you all a healthy, happy holiday.

Filed under: HotShoe magazine, iPad app, Photographers Tagged: Bill Kouwenhoven, Gregory Barker, Hotshoe International Contemporary photography magazine, Hotshoe iPad app, Melissa Dewitt, Miranda Gavin

Pictures of the Week: November 23 – 30

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From protests in Egypt and life in the aftermath of the Gaza conflict to Myanmar’s refugee camps and volcanic lava spilling into the ocean in Hawaii, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

Pictures of the Week, December 16 – December 23

From the North Korean’s reaction to the death of Kim Jong II and a devastating typhoon in the Philippines to a violent assault by Egyptian soldiers on a woman protester TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

See last week’s Pictures of the Week.

Pictures of the Week, December 9 – December 16

From a shooting in Belgium and Congo protests to the lunar eclipse, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Pictures of the Week, December 2–December 9

From suicide bombings in Afghanistan and the U.S. pullout from Iraq to the Ashura rituals in India and Russia’s elections, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Merry Christmas From Lee Friedlander

On his many trips across the United States, Lee Friedlander has famously documented the social landscape and tapestry of the country in his own inimitable, unique way. For more than half a century, his personal and often oblique visual language—filled with the recurring themes of reflections in mirrors, shadows, signs and cars— has provided a rich and distinctive portrait of America.

Friedlander recently combed his archive in search of photographs that celebrate the season of Christmas. The result is a selection of photographs—all of which are new or have never been shown—currently on exhibition at Janet Borden, Inc. in New York. Consistent with Friedlander’s interests and style, the photographs—some which barely hint at the presence of Christmas—present an alternative and grittier view of the holiday. In Friedlander’s images, Christmas is sometimes filled with imprisoned Santas, neglected garlands and sobriety instead.

The photographs are funny, poignant and stunning gift from a master photographer—all in time for the holiday season.

Merry Christmas From Lee Friedlander is on view at Janet Borden, Inc New York through Dec. 31.

Lee Friedlander is an American photographer who has received three Guggenheim Foundation Fellowships. He is the first photographer to receive a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award. Monographs of his work include: Self-Portrait, American Monuments,  American Musicians, and America By Car


The Christmas Lights Feud – Ross McDermott

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The Christmas Lights Feud tells the story of two neighbors in Charlottesville, Virginia and their continual battle to out-do the other in building the greatest Christmas lights spectacle.