Meeri Koutaniemi Photojournalism

Meeri Koutaniemi is a Finnish freelance photojournalist working in Helsinki and abroad on international projects. Her main interests are documentary photojournalism and documentary film making on political and social issues.



Oasis provides medical care for HIV carriers who receive no support from their families, the state or the church. The residents come and go. They are not judged on how they dress or if they decide to leave and try to reintegrate into society. Oasis tells about the fate of HIV-positive men in Mexico. It is a story about transsexual Indians who interpret their freedom through their secretly held femininity. Gerardo, Reyna, Deborah and Carlangas believe in tomorrow despite the contempt and quiet violence they face from society. They finally find a way to themselves, by following their inner voice from the desert to the oasis. Oasis is a place and state of mind where men are accepted as equal.

Project is part of a documentary movie Oasis (Director Alejandro Cardenas/Oktober Oy). Multimedia "Queen by Night" won the Multimedia of the Year 2012 in Finland. See the Multimedia on the website of Photo Raw Magazine.


You can subscribe photo book OASIS via email Oasis tells about the fate of HIV-positive men in Mexico. It is a story about transsexual Indians who interpret their freedom through their secretly held femininity. Oasis is not only a place but also a state of mind where they are accepted as equal before God. Gerardo, Reyna, Deborah and Carlangas believe in tomorrow despite the contempt and quiet violence they face from society. They finally find a way to themselves, by following their inner voice from the desert to the oasis. Oasis is a place and state of mind where men are accepted as equal.

Musta Taide 2013 (Black Art, Finland 2013)
Texts: Alejandro Cardenas
Book is written in English, Finnish and Spanish
Price: 39 euros (shipping included)



Cataract, trachoma, onchocerciasis, glaucoma are just some of the diseases that lead to blindness. In Africa, millions of people have lost their sight because of these diseases which in most cases could be prevented or cured. This is a story of Aster, an Ethiopian girl, who lost her sight years ago and ended up as an orphan.

Project is ongoing. It has started through a funding from Echo Photo Agency.



Many ethnic tribes in Burma has went through terror and torture in their villages. The Burmese military junta has oppressed indigenous hill tribes over 50 years of dictatorship. Violations has forced millions of people to fled from the country to the neighborhood countries like Thailand. Refugees of Shan, Karen and Karenni are searching livelihood in the places where they can be hiding without official documents. This is a story of families living in the rubbish dump of Mae Sot and finding their livelihood through recycling.

Reportage won the Honor mention in the category Foreign Reportage of the Year 2011 in Finland.



Hereros are an ethnic tribe inhabiting Southern Africa, mainly Namibia. In the beginning of the 20th century the German colonists took over 80 000 Hereros to the concentration camps killing almost 80 percent of the population. The history has not only stayed in the memory of the later generations, but also in the clothes and appearance of the tribe. Hereros took influences to their clothes from the style of Victorian era and German soldiers. More than one hundred years later, the contradiction between the brutal history and the appreciation of the colonist style can be seen in Hereros clothes. Old German soldier uniforms and western women dresses are used daily among the proud community of Hereros. This contradiction can only be explained by the importance of combining their history into the present - Hereros have de- colonized themselves from their previous conquerors by taking the style of the Germans to their hands, and re-customizing it into their own.

Photo from the project won the Portrait of the Year 2011 in Finland. Project has been made together with a journalist Elisa Rimaila. Project has been exhibited in Finland, Denmark and United States.



There are over 130 million girls and women who have faced female genital mutilation. Female circumcision is a custom to remove parts of girl's genitals because of cultural beliefs or tradition. Female genital cutting has been widely judged as a procedure against human rights and as a serious violation against women's independency of sexuality.

Escaped is a story of young Masai girls living in Kenya. They have run away from their native villages before or after the scheduled circumcision and child marriage. Elisabeth Hkere left her home when she was 9-years old. Her father had sold her to become a wife for a 65-year-old man as an exchange for animals and sugar. Elisabeth found shelter home from rescue center Tasaru where she shared similar past with 64 other Masai girls.

Reportage won the Reportage of the Year 2012 in Finland. Project is ongoing and is part of documentary movie Mother's Wish (Director: Joonas Berghäll/Oktober Oy).



After the brutal wars in Chechnya many refugees have crossed the eastern border to Finland and started a long bureaucratic process for getting the permission to stay. Photo project Don't bury me here tells the story of three men and three women who live in Finland with different human status in official folders. Photo project speaks out of the convictions made in the offices which will define their possibilities to carry on their lives and prospects for future.

Photos from the project won the Photo of the Year 2012 and Portrait of the Year 2012 in Finland. Project has been made together with a journalist Veera Vehkasalo. Project is made for Group 11 (

"I never thought I could once be a refugee. Russians only insisted to know "Where are the guns, where are the guns, fascists?" We don't want to be like that, treated as second citizens." Ruslan, 48-years old, escaped to Finland in 2007.



After Israel announced to be independent in 1948 it has demolished over 24 000 palestinian homes in the territory of West Bank during its illegal occupation. Hamdan's family live in Anata and have lost their homes twice in the land that they have owned for decades. This is a story of the process of the demolition into a new home built on the top of the ruins of their previous home.

Project has been made through the help from ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions). More about the issue, visit or watch video below:



Story of Syrian women and children who have walked a long way from their destroyed homes to Lebanon and Jordan to seek shelter and protection. Many of the women have lost their husbands for the battles and have been left alone with the responsibility of survival of the whole family. Months are spent in small rooms or tents without school or other activities for the children and the hope of returning has started to vanish.

Published in Gioia (Italy) & Brigitte (Germany).



Story of an innocent Mayan woman Basilia who was forced to admit a crime without her consent. Basilia spent three years in male prison from her 12-year verdict and was able to gain freedom through local NGO and Amnesty International.



Rural villages in Ghana suffer from severe floods annually. This is a story of the destruction of the village of Dzemeni next to Volta lake which had to face the side effects of the opening of a pad in Burkina Faso. The village was left to survive on its own because the Ghanean government refused to take responsibility on the acts taking place originally outside of Ghana.



Western Africa is the biggest center for illegal fishing activities in the world, and Africa is where Chinese distant water fleets - mainly disastrous bottom trawlers - extract their largest catch. Fishermen from Ghana suffer from Chinese trawlers robbing their fish and beating them with iron sticks if the local boats gets too close."They shoot us with weapons and water cannons when we are looking after our lost nets", a fisherman tells while describing how Chinese trawlers constantly destroy their most important working tools. That sad fisherman has been unemployed for seven months after losing his net. China is the the world largest exporter of fish and fish products, but many times consumers in Europe don't have a clue about the real origin for chosen foodstuff, because under the European Food Law the origin of food is marked where the product is being processed, not where it is caught or cultivated. More than 60 percent of fisheries products consumed in the EU are now imported, big share is coming from China.

Published in Kehitys 3/2013. Text made by Kukka Ranta.



Traditional hair dressers are threatened to lose their tradition because of the modernization of hair industry. Big chain corporations and new modern trends are arriving from Europe and United States and occupying the cities. Few of the elder stick on their tradition and have decided to survive through the support from frequent customers.

Published in Maailman Kuvalehti in 5/2012. Text made by Alejandro Cardenas.


Meeri Koutaniemi, 26, was born in Lapland and lives currently in Helsinki. Koutaniemi started to work as a freelance photojournalist through her interests towards human rights and minorities. Koutaniemi studied photojournalism at the University of Tampere, and currently gives workshops on photography.

Koutaniemi has worked as a photographer and journalist in over 30 countries and filmed documentary movies in Bolivia, Mexico, Kenya and Palestine. In 2013 Koutaniemi was selected in Finland as the Photographer of the Year and won the category of Foreign Reportage with her reportage Taken about female circumcision. In 2012 Koutaniemi was selected as the Photographer of the Year, and she won the categories of Photo of the Year, Portrait of the Year, Multimedia of the Year and Foreign Reportage of the Year. In 2011 Koutaniemi won the Portrait of the Year and got the Honor Mention in Foreign Reportage. Koutaniemi is a founder member in an Italian Photo Agency Echo and belongs to Finnish Collective 11. In 2012 Koutaniemi received the Memorial Award of Tim Hetherington in United States and the Memorial Award of Carina Appel in Finland 2013. Koutaniemi has exhibited her photos in more than 20 exhibitions around the world.

Photoessay Taken won the Freelens Award in Lumix Photo Festival in Hannover, Germany and received the Visa D'or Daily Press Award in the photofestival Visa Pour L'image in Perpignan, France. Koutaniemi was selected to World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass and VII Masterclass in 2014.

Currently Koutaniemi is focusing on her long-term project about female genital mutilation in Africa, Europe and Asia.


Argentina / Austria / Bhutan / Brazil / Bolivia / Burma / Cambodia / Chile / Denmark / Ghana / Georgia / Greece / Guatemala / Ethiopia / Finland / India / Israel / Lebanon / Jordan / Kenya / Montenegro / Macedonia / Mexico / Namibia / Nepal / Nicaragua / Niger / Palestine / Thailand / Serbia / Slovenia / United States


Articles and photos published in following magazines, newspapers & websites:

TIME LightBox (United States), Internazionale (Italy), CNN Photo Blog (United States), El Pais (Spain), National Geographic Traveller (Russia), Photo Raw (Finland), Gioia (Italy), Brigitte (Germany), Re:Public (Sweden), Beam Magazine (Luxembourg), La Prensa (Columbia), NRW (Netherlands), El Tiempo (Mexico), VICE (Mexico), Sin Embargo (Mexico), Animal Politico (Mexico), Ruum (Estonia), Paris Atlantic (France)

In Finland: Helsingin Sanomat, Suomen Kuvalehti, Image, Vihreä Lanka, Voima, Apu, Talouselämä, Kotiliesi, Olivia, Ilta-Lehti, Maailman Kuvalehti, Me Naiset, Kehitys, Ympäristö, AP, Katse, Häät, City, Juoksija, Ydin, Nuori Voima, OP-Pohjola, Aviisi, Iso Numero, Basso, Kauneus & Terveys, Seura, Ilta-Sanomat, Maailman Kuva, Aamulehti, Le Monde Diblomatique, Hämeen Sanomat, Työmaana maailma, Retki, Tekoja


Finland / Single and Group Exhibitions / 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Italy / Mediterranean Festival 2014 / Etica Photo Festival 2014
Denmark / Kind of Blue / 2012
France / Images Humaines / 2013
United States / The Center for Fine Art Photography / 2013


Nepal / 2014
Georgia / 2014
Kenya / 2013
Namibia / 2013


Available for assignments:

Meeri Koutaniemi
Tel. +358 40 750 4703 (website of Group 11)