In his series The Invisible Empire, Finnish photographer Juha Arvid Helminen (1977) creates a dramatic world that revolves around anonymous authority figures, probing into the (mis-)use of power granted to those in uniform. In 2006, the photographer was a witness to the Smash ASEM anarchist demonstration in Helsinki – a so-called ‘riot’ – and the abuse of power enacted by authorities during this event became a source of inspiration. His series conveys the consequences of creating a distinction between a human and the force he becomes when uniformed.
In deeply black images, Helminen presents an unsettling vision of reality defined by control, uniformity and lack of personal identity. The soldiers of this invisible empire become interchangeable, a part of a collective force that drains the light of individuality, to the point that they are even indistinguishable from their environment. Like stills from a movie, carefully composed, lighted and staged, the pictures of The Invisible Empire are symbolic rather than realistic, yet they portray with cold accuracy the potential for the pursuit of domination and destruction in the heart of any human.