What’s in a landscape? Is it a window out to the world, or a window out to a world? Artists look for patterns, angles, twists or filters in order to show a world in a certain way. For me an interesting landscape is like a family member whom you deeply love but sometimes you’d rather not look at in all its misery. Sometimes you happen to be there when the sun light hits the treetops in the perfect angle and you can just see it in your minds eye how to capture it.
I’ve been watching artist interviews this week in our national broadcasting company’s archives which they kindly offer for anyone to see online. The site is unfortunately only in Finnish, but there are some clips that are in English, like for example this marvelous Steve McCurry interview. In that interview he talks about knowing the surroundings first and feeling ‘home’ in the location before shooting it. I love they way he shows his respect to the people in the location and wants to understand their way of living and the reasons behind cultural phenomena. I suppose that is the way to make people find something to relate to in the photos. If the photographer who comes from totally different culture and surroundings finds a way to understand the subject, it will eventually translate also to the viewers. Some people say that they like the way my photos make them feel, e.g. calm or serene, and maybe then landscapes translate to landscapes of the mind. I hear many of my artist friends say that they need to have music on when they create, and that is true about me as well. Creating landscapes of the mind sometimes happens quite unexpectedly when you are by yourself deep in your own world, letting the flow of the moment and the feeling you get from the music take you to places. Sometimes the flow takes you to places where you didn’t expect to end up in and going with the flow in that moment becomes testing the boundaries, seeing if I could pull this off. Seeing how my landscape becomes also someone else’s landscape when I post it online, adds another wonderous layer to the experience of that moment which once was so intimate and has now become that to many others who do not share my past or my culture or my surroundings.
I also watched a documentary about a Finnish photographer Jorma Puranen who shoots the indigenous Sami people of the North. He studies the relationship between people and their environment. He has made transparent prints of Sami portraits and embedded them into various environments, in order to make us see that Sami people who have deep respect for nature, will reflect that respect for nature even in our industrialized cityscapes. Also Puranen says that if a landscape is skillfully captured, it will speak to people regardless of the boundaries of language or culture, and if the landscape reflects e.g. ecological values, it will be respected even more. Puranen also says that he does a lot of research for the photos and in a sense it is the same thing that McCurry said about getting to know your environment. First day photos in any location do tend to end up in the ‘touristy shots’ folder. All I ask from my photos is that they would have a story in them, enough emotion to make the viewer feel something, to believe that something could happen in that scene, to imagine that the scene is a true one, full of life and possibilities.
Artists have their own ways to see and present landscapes. Appreciation for the beauty of nature can be seen so strikingly for example in the paintings of Holly Friesen or Terrill Welch. Also some movie makers are very skillful in portraying landscapes, and particulary in the movies I see the connection with actual physical landscapes and the landscapes of the mind, like e.g. Aki Kaurismäki portrays the silent inner landscapes of Finnish mentality with his sparse physical environments. Last night I happened to see Mikko Niskanen‘s Under Your Skin (1966) on tv and even though I have seen it many times before this time I was mesmerized by the stunning beauty of the landscapes and the way those young people were portrayed in it, undoubtedly partly because I have been thinking about landscapes all week and I seem to have lost myself in the black and white world once again. But in the movie, even in their city clothes and young people’s ways of doing things the main characters seem to fit so perfectly in that beautiful nature scene (purchase the movie here, archive of screen shots here). The movie received a lot of awards here in Finland back in the late 60s and it has been one of the most popular Finnish movies of all time. I’m left dreaming of summer and admiring the beauty of summer light in that forest, which makes my heart skip a beat in hope of sunnier days.