Valto Pernu (1909–1986)

Valto Kallio Pernu was born in Asemakylä, Ii, on February 24, 1909. He was interested in photography at a very early age and built his first camera from a wooden box and a lens he had acquired. In 1920’s and 1930’s young Valto took photos of his home Ii, and made long rides on his bike, even as far as Imatra and Petsamo, taking photos.  On his travels, he often stopped to take photos of the wonders of that era: planes, or new farming machinery.

Since the end of 1940’s, Valto worked as a photographer in Rovaniemi, where he was known by a nickname “Linssi” – the lens. He had his own tent studio on Rovaniemi market place, where he took photos, and sold his paintings and souveniers. The camera that Valto built was a kind of a polaroid-camera: instead of film, Valto printed the pictures directly to the photo paper in a two-way “quick-photo-procedure”, and the people got their photos right away, to go.

Only rarely Valto took photos of sceneries and buildings alone – he always wanted to include people in his pictures. Maybe this is why Valto got interested in taking portraits and ended up in Rovaniemi.

Valto’s tent studio was a landmark in Rovaniemi for nearly four decades. His final photos he took at the age of 76. Valto Pernu died in his home on February 25, 1986.

Valto was known as a frugal man, stingy even: he even got his clothes by exchanging them to his own products. In reality, Valto was very wealthy, as he had been clever enough to invest his money in stock options that generated sizeable profit.

As Valto had no heir, he ordered in his will that a foundation in his name was to be established. Valto Pernu foundation was started in February 26th, 1988, to nourish Valto’s art, estate and forests. The foundation also supports art by donating funds and scolarships to artists.

Kansantaiteilija Valto Pernu.
Valto Pernu Säätiö: Valto Pernu – Pohjoisen valokuvaaja.
Gummerus Kirjapaino, Jyväskylä 2006.