Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen is a Finnish photographer who has worked in Britain since the 1960s. Born in Myllykoski, municipality of Sippola, Finland in 1948, Konttinen studied photography in London in the 1960s, and co-founded the Amber collective, which moved to Newcastle in 1969.
From 1969 Konttinen lived in Byker, and for seven years photographed and interviewed the residents of this area of terraced houses until her own house was demolished. She continued to work there for some time afterwards. This resulted in the book Byker, which in David Alan Mellor’s words “bore witness to her intimate embeddedness in the locality”. In 1980 she became the first photographer since the Cultural Revolution to have her work exhibited by the British Council in China. Konttinen’s next project was a study of girls attending dance schools in North Shields, their mothers, and the schools. The book Step by Step, which influenced Billy Elliot, came from this.
Three years of photographing the beach between Seaham and Hartlepool resulted in the series Coal Coast. Konttinen later returned to Byker and photographed its new residents in colour.