So, you had an epiphany. Care to enlighten us less blessed? Ah, don’t make it into some holy truth. It’s just something that revealed itself to me last week. I’ve had this almost sacral relationship to the analog frame. To this one, 6cm by 7cm rectangular form, that is one in a set of ten. And the respect is not so much for the format as it is to the medium itself. It’s not even about the cost of the film, it’s hard to explain. There’s something in the quality of the film, in the roll of film as an object, that has caught my attention. I somehow respect it because it’s a hassle to use. Because I’ve had to learn how to work with it. There it is again. You have cherished the analog technique, because of the unequal position it has, compered to the digital technique which is accessible to everyone? Well yes, kind of. But it is not only that either. When colour photography first came to the market, it was a consumer product made for the wide audience. All fine art photographers continued using black and white because that was the real thing. Then slowly, also artists started converting into colour for various reasons I suppose. When the digital equipment came to the market, commercial photography immediately took advantage of it, because it was so convenient to use. Then came the consumer friendly equipment and now almost everyone on earth owns a digital camera. Many fine art photographers still use film, because that’s now the real thing. Or actually I’m a bit late stating this, let’s say ten years ago this was the case. Now I assume many artists use digital equipment. Where are you heading with this? I mean, I have until this date felt that as a fine art photographer (hate that term by the byway) I need to use film because that’s more valuable. But when you’ve been asked why you shoot medium format, I recall you given a quite different answer? Of course. I use medium format because I like the process. The slowness and all that shit.
Is the Mamiya for sale now? Oh no, never. It was a bargain! But I realised that I can choose what I use. I hate the analog/digital discussion, I think it’s purely a matter of preference and choice. It is not a religion or a lifestyle, it’s just a tool you use for making the kind of images you like to make. But now I know it is also a project based choice. What I’m doing now, I just can’t do with medium format. Or at least at this stage when I’m not completely sure about what I’m doing. You are more mobile, more flexible when using digital? Yes, not only physically but mentally mobile as well. I’m not restrained to those 10 frames. It feels like I’m not restrained to a frame at all! When I shoot film, I edit myself already in my head to the point that I only make one image per composition. Usually. When I shoot digital, I have no respect for the shutter what so ever, and I make a lot of images. And sometimes it happens, that those images I didn’t think about making are the ones that were worth making at all. And I would never have found this out, if I would have taken just one image and then moved on to the next motive.
So spontaneity is something you strive to in your image making? Yes, I got so fed up with the formality of my previous project. I think that was the hardest part for me, in the end, giving up on the creativeness and going on with the formal methodology. I had to do it with those images. But it left me feeling so small and so inadequate, and that is why it was so difficult for me to start working again down here. Because you didn’t know what to do or how to do it? How to is more likely, since I always have a lot of ideas. I was afraid that I can’t pull off a similar project again.
So for you, choice of technique, digital or analog, is a much more complex question after all. It’s not just about the tool, like you stated earlier? I guess you’re right, I contradict myself here. It is a matter of seeing, of how you look at stuff. Right now my eyes are in digital mode.
Breaking the rules. I don’t understand why it is so important today to brake the rules. Which rules are you referring to? I mean in my art practice. I get anxious about thinking that I have to be rebellious in my practice in order to matter. Am I not interesting enough if I’m not “breaking the rules”? Do you think you’re not interesting enough? Yes, I sometimes do. I’m afraid of not being interesting enough, like all artist are I believe. So why do you worry so much about it, if you know everyone else is worrying about it as well? A good question. We were discussing comfort zones during the weekend, and how important it is to step out of them occasionally. I stated that I don’t have to do it in my private life, because my work life mostly operates in the borders of my comfort zone. But being a photographer puts limits on the inter- and indisciplinarity. What are you talking about? I mean you have to know your medium in order to create and I feel that you can’t experiment so much with the medium of photography, as you can for example in painting. There are certain rules of physics you just have to follow. Otherwise you won’t get anything exposed or you get way too much stuff exposed. Again, photography is about excluding and including. I always get back to that. Alright, but let me go back there for a second, you feel that you can’t in general experiment, or you just can’t? Maybe it’s me. I’m too boring to experiment. There I said it, I’m not interested in experimenting.
Where does all these ideas come from all of a sudden? We had a seminar about “The potential of the discipline in contemporary fine art practice” and again, I felt rather stupid sitting there. Most of the slides shown was bad art, in my opinion. Painters get away with a lot of bullshit just because they happen to ride on an institutionalised convention of Fine Art, Painting with a capital p. Photographers have to justify themselves to everyone else in the art discourse all the time, that probably teaches us something really valuable. I just haven’t figured out what, yet. But isn’t that a bit harsh? Yeah, probably. But how do painters justify themselves to the world, when their art is about making some bubbles go up an down? A lot of the art shown today, which was made by a quite broad range on contemporary practitioners, was just very uninteresting to me. I don’t understand what is considered as “good art” in painting. I have some understanding of what is meant by the phrase in terms of photography but as I said, painters can do anything and people all around the world go whooah! And this is something I learned here in Glasgow, I haven’t experienced this earlier. It’s like the norms of good art is even broader here than back home. Or maybe Finland is just a bit behind the rest of the world? Maybe, Finland is not really the “rule bender” here, which kind of puts me in place, being Finnish and tightly embedded in my comfort zone.
So, to make your standing point clear, you think painters are vain? Well, I don’t want to make it personal, lets talk about “painting” instead of “painters”. But can you distinguish those two? Aren’t paintings things made by painters and painters are mainly making paintings, because otherwise they would be called something else? Like what, artists? For example. Why can’t we all just be artists! Or picture makers? Not all painters make pictures. I get frustrated by these definitions. But with saying that painting is vain, I only wish to make the remark that a lot of paintings I see and now I mean paintings in their wildest sense, photographs as well I must add, doesn’t move anything inside me and what is the point of making anything, if to doesn’t touch even a little bit? Because art can also be fun, both for the maker and the viewer and because art doesn’t always have to be so serious? I agree, totally. But even if it’s humorous and fun to make, it can still be serious, and should be made seriously. I think that is just plain old showing respect to your audience. Seeing some paint running downwards and then finally drying in a certain posture, doesn’t awake anything in me. It is a funny idea, it looks kind of funny, but then what? I think good art engages either politically, intellectually or emotionally or even better, in all of these three. If it doesn’t do any of these, it is made in vain.
I lost track of who is talking here, but I agree, totally.
I haven’t felt this satisfied with my discipline in ages.
Hello Linda, how are you today, what are you up to? I’m fine, thanks for asking. I’m not doing much at the moment, just hanging around in my studio. I turned the radiator on, since it’s getting rather cold. There’s a building on the opposite side of the road, and I’ve been trying to figure out what those Chinese symbols on top of the entrance mean. It really disturbs me. I’m also emailing with my brother who’s coming over tomorrow. You’re brother will come over to visit you here? Yes, he’s living in Norway so we don’t meet that often. We’re pretty close anyway, I always enjoy having him around.
Let’s have a chat about you and your work. Alright, I don’t know if I’m the expert on that topic at the moment though. Can you tell us something about yourself? Well, I’m Finnish, I live in a small town in the South East of Finland. We just recently bought a house from there. Or actually, it is over a year ago already, but we had to renovate it completely and we could only move in this August. But you came to Glasgow in August? Yes that’s right, we got to live in the house for only two weeks before we had to move again. It was a bit unfortunate, but we got over it quite quickly. We all like it here, even though moving abroad is always a hassle. It is sometimes hard to adjust to changes. Is there something that’s been particularly difficult? Well, just getting used to the system, really. I thought there was a lot of bureaucracy in Finland but not compared to this country. But we’re fine now, I don’t want to complain.
Alright. So, lets get to business. Your most recent work is a typology of singing architecture. What is that actually? I have photographed buildings, or creations as I like to call them, that are built for singing. Or they used to be for that, now they are used for other purposes as well. How did you come up with that idea? I don’t know. I happened to be in the right place at the right time I suppose. But to tell you the truth, I’m quite bored talking about this work. Can we talk about something else? Of course, what would you like to talk about? Thanks for understanding. I hope I’m not messing up your interview too much. Don’t worry, I don’t have an editor. What would you like to discuss? I don’t know, maybe what it’s like to move on to the next project once you made a rather successful one. How to make it happen again. How do you make it happen again? I used to have this viewpoint that I just have to copy everything from the previous project, in order to make it happen again. Like copying the methodology and the workflow. But I recently discovered that I can’t, and I even don’t have to do that. I mean, that way of thinking totally paralysed me. I was so concentrated on how the images should look like when they’re made, that it stopped me from making anything. It was a terrible feeling. But you feel better now? Yes, I feel inspired now. What happened? I guess it was again about being in the right place at the right time. I had a chat, or more like a listen, to a person I look up to. That was all it took, actually. Sometimes people make all the difference. Really metaphorically, it’s been raining a lot during the past week, but today the sun is shining. What a cliché. There’s also a really harsh wind, I’m just sitting in my studio looking out of the window and I’m sure stuff will start to fly around soon. So you’re not anxious about your work anymore? Not really. I mean, I’m sure I will be again in a later phase but right now I feel… Good? No, not good, that’s dangerous for an artist. More like satisfied with the circumstances.
Let’s get back to the chat you had with this person you mentioned. What did you guys talk about? Well, first I have to say I didn’t talk much. He’s a real talker. It was more like I listened to him. I actually think he’s hidden a microphone in my studio, because he was tangling all the issues I’ve been complaining about the recent weeks. It was really hair-raising, like he could read my mind! I tried not to think about anything when I was around him, so I wouldn’t give away anything else. Why didn’t you want him to know what you were thinking? Probably because I’ve been ashamed of my thoughts. I know I haven’t really got any excuses for not making work, but I just keep coming up with them anyway. Why do you look up to this person? Forgive me my curiousness. He’s old, that’s why. He’s been doing his thing for a long time. And apparently, everything to judge, he’s been successful doing it. I mean, he doesn’t look like he’s been sleeping in the streets or anything and that he hasn’t been eating. I don’t mean his fat, though.
I also discovered what redefine means. What does it mean? That I don’t have to do things in the same way as I used to. I don’t have to work in the same manner as I used to work. I thought that I had already defined myself, but how can you do that when you’re at this stage of your practice? And what stage is that? I’m just out of the delivery room and on my way to the ward, all grey, wrinkly and loud.
I think that’s a worthy ending to our discussion. Is there something you’d like to add before I let you go? No.