Interview with Vesa Pihanurmi

#1 Please introduce yourself

I’m a fine art photographer based in Helsinki, Finland. I was born in 1967. I have a wife and two already grown up kids. I’m photographing several subject matters from architecture and cityscapes to nature and streets and often use long exposure times. I’ve been awarded in several international photography contests during the last few years.

Foggy winter day by the Helsinki Cathedral

#2 How did you get interested in photography?

I got a film camera from my parents when I was about 12 years old in the late 1970’s. At that time I shot simply family and nature images for a few years till the camera got broken. After those years it was not until 2010 when I second time got interested in photography and bought a digital compact camera. I fast got hooked on and then almost immediately bought my first DSLR. After 2012 I’ve been a serious enthusiast. I guess for me photography is an escape to creativity.

A gray foggy day in Helsinki

#3 Do you have an artistic/photographic background?

Before starting photography I went in for electronic music. I played and composed with synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, sequencers and had some funny little band projects, too. As a photographer I’m self-taught.

Flatiron District, NYC.

#4 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?

My inspirations come from several directions – from photography, from abstract art and design and from architecture. I’m fascinated by the traditions of minimalistic Nordic architecture and design. I’m a huge fan of f.ex. 1930’s Functionalism and Mid-century modern architecture. Abstract art is also close to my heart which probably shows in some of my photography abstractions. I love the paintings of the pioneers of abstract art like Hilma af Klint, Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, El Lissitzky, etc. They inspire me to search for strong forms, shapes and geometric point of views in photography. I’m also an admirer of old East Asian ink wash paintings especially in how they use negative space. As it comes to photography there are many influencal artists like Josef Hoflehner, Håkan Strand, Michael Kenna, Pentti Sammallahti, Fan Ho, Alexey Titarenko and Masao Yamamoto just to mention a few, but I’m also constantly inspired by many of the not so well known fine art photographers I have as social media contacts.

Trees in snowstorm
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The 8 km long Öresundbridge between Sweden and Denmark.

#5 How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph?

I regularly scout for locations both in real life and through Google maps/street views. I have lots and lots of potential locations marked in the map of my cellphone. I think about the direction and quality of light in beforehand and how it might fall on objects at certain locations, at certain time of day and try to go the locations at the right moment. Ideally I’m trying to visit the locations multiple times in search for optimal conditions. Of course when you’re travelling you just have to adapt to the prevalent conditions. But when photographing I stay reactive and always try to find subjects and perspectives that I didn’t vision in beforehand. Actually I kind of think that the taking of photographs as a whole is just the preparation part of making photographs. I essentially treat photographs as raw material in the process of making the final result that can be very different to what I was thinking during the shooting.

Study of conifers on a foggy winter evening

#6 Which places have been your favourite shooting sites so far and why?

I used to love nature sites, but nowadays my favorite locations are urban – especially those by the water. They have so many possibilities both inside and outside. New York was great experience with awesome cityscapes, architecture and endless possibilities for street shooting. Venice is fantastic, too, for the same reasons although both of those cities are so much photographed. And Prague has these great pedestrian cobblestone streets with strong presence of history.

Bridge of Emäsalo, Porvoo, Finland.

#7 What do you do in your life besides photography?

In summer I like to hike and in winter I exercise cross-country skiing. I like to watch quality tv-series/movies. My daytime job is planning/design/analytics work in a media company.

Saplings in Snow

#8 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?

Well as I said I have saved enormous amount of locations around the world in the map of my cellphone… I’d just need some time to visit. 🙂 I also have this ongoing series I call Floating City that is kind of a metamorphosis of architecture, photography, contemporary design and abstract art. I’d like to continue it and I have some ideas to expand it to further directions. I’m also preparing a book around my Street Metaphysics series that I’d like to finish this year.


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