Tallinn City Museum’s Kalamaja Museum’s Exhibition Where Even Sunrays Will Not Reach

Hans Soosaar’s photo series of the meeger living quarters of North Tallinn

In the courtyard of Kotzebue 16

Curator: Laura Jamsja

Consultants: Kristi Paatsi, Aap Tepper, Tuuli Silber

Artist: Lilian Juhkam

Photo sources: Estonian History Museum, Tallinn City Archives, Photo Museum

The exhibition was part of the Tallinn Photo Month ’19 satellite program.

Special thanks goes to:
representatives of the Kalamaja Apartments Association, Sille Kima, Joel Leis, Indrek Hinrikus, Andres Lall, Sirje Pallo, Kadri Toomsalu, Tanel Verk, Anneli Jalava, Jaak Juske.

Even sunrays don’t reach this place“. This is how the photographer and photo journalist Hans Soosaar (1903–1961) described Jüri’s home who lived on Köie Street. As one of the first professional photo journalists in Estonia, Soosaar has been fortunate and unfortunate enough to capture life under various power regimes. His photos can be seen on the columns of Rahvaleht (The People’s Magazine), Noorte Hääl (the Young People’s Voice), the Revaler Zeitung, Rahva Hääl (the People’s Voice) and others. His photo lens has seen the colorful balls of the Estonia Theater, people executed at the Klooga Concentration Camp, but also the simple life in the residential areas during the first Republic of Estonia.

At the end of the 1920s, Soosaar walked on the streets of Kalamaja and Põhja-Tallinn, and recorded the meeger living conditions of Tallinners. It is not known why this photographer, who was just at the beginning of his career, decided to photograph the homes of those with low-income and the unemployed. [1]. Although the press at the time chose to remain silent on issues that would cast a shadow on the image of the young republic, Soosaar fortunately did not follow this tactics of disregard. [2]

On the streets of Kalamaja you have the opportunity to see 10 photos of Soosaar’s apartment depictive photo series dating back to the 1920s. The photos come with detailed descriptions of the life of the inhabitants, the texts originating from the back of the photos. The pictures are placed in front of the same houses that Soosaar captured over 90 years ago. If the house has been demolished, the photo display can be found as near as possible. Soosaar’s photos, placed on the streets of their homes, bring people living in dreadful and humble conditions out of the shadows into the autumn light. Please take a moment from your day and have a look.

[1] Liibek, Tõnis 2014. Hans Soosaar – a photojournalist from Päts’ time until Khrushchev’s thaw. – Estonian Press Photo, pages 1–7.

[2] Linnap, Peeter 2010. On Estonian Photography 1900–1940. – History of Estonian Art 1900–1940. Tallinn: Estonian Academy of Arts.


Kesk-Kalamaja Street 11-6: Edu
“Old lady, lives in a dark, damp basement apartment. Pays 250 marks a month in rent.” (AM _ 16313: 7 F 5900: 7)