Janne Tuunanen is a Finnish photographer and visual artist living and working in London. Janne's subject matter ranges from exploring what is quintessentially English in 'F. Cooke,' a video on the local pie shop, 'Come Back Next Summer' which looks at long forgotten English seaside towns to the political 'Hackney Aftermath' a reflection on the aftermath of the London riots.
Wolf sat down with Janne to chat about his inspirations, moving from stills to video and living in the UK.
When did you first pick up a camera?
I grew up with cameras always around and I can remember finding pleasure aesthetically in images, like well-composed holiday photos or record covers from a fairly young age. It just took me years to develop that understanding to the point where I realised that I want to do this myself.
Who are your influences and what first attracted you to these photographers?
My all time favourites that I tend to go back to now and then are the ones like Eggleston, Frank, Epstein, Graham, Ruscha, New Topographics and so on, but more and more my influences seem to drift off from photography. For example, for my latest project I was inspired by painters like Prunella Clough and Agnes Martin.
I think my influences come in phases depending on what I'm working on and usually from sources that I find by chance. What tends to attract me is the ability to reveal the secrets of the work slowly, because that gives room for revisiting the work.
Your series 'Come back next summer' examines the once thriving British seaside resorts. What first attracted you to this subject matter? And how did you decide on which towns to visit?
I moved to England five years ago, and spent my first year on the south coast in Bournemouth. I had very little knowledge about the area, so I got fascinated about the different seasons that the town went through during that year. Even back then I was already thinking about doing a project about the economical structure and function of the towns on the coastline but I felt that I wasn’t ready for it yet, so it needed to marinate for a few years to materialise.
I know that there are towns all around the coastline that battle with the same kind of issues. They’re trying to rediscover their identity, but there was something about the south coast that kept luring me back. Maybe it was that I had already experienced the life there and I wanted to explore that path further.
How does the English coastline differ to that of Finland? Or did you find any similarities between the two?
The experience is very different. There aren't that many purposely built tourist destinations on the Finnish coastline. I think the experience in Finland is one of remoteness and with nature. People go there to escape and to be in a silent environment.
Did you see yourself as an outsider whilst shooting this project?
I think the years have brought me closer to UK society and developed things I can identify with. But in my heart, I probably will always feel a bit like an outsider, but I guess that's down to my nature as well.
Talking about your nature your work shares many characteristics with Scandinavian Modernism, such as being very quiet but well crafted. Do you think this is something that is part of the Scandinavian psyche?
This is an interesting question because I get it quite often. I think I carry the Scandinavian psyche with me on a subconscious level because I grew up in that environment, experiencing those aesthetics, but it’s never been my intention to make images that look “Scandinavian”. Over the years my main influences have been mainly American photographers and painters, but maybe because of my background, it is easy to put my work in Scandinavian context.
Your series ‘Hackney Aftermath’ examines areas of London affected by the Riots showing quiet scenes and juxtaposing them with clippings from newspaper reports. To me it's a reminder that just because an issue is no longer visible it doesn't mean that it has gone. Was the work a comment on both the situation and the causes of the rioting, as well as a comment on how our media portrayed the riots?
Yes, absolutely. I am a Hackney resident myself, and it is not a secret that you can see the sociological issues here on a daily basis that caused this kind of unrest among the habitants. A lot of people are left on their own, without a sense of belonging to the society. The riots gave them a voice to get their message across. I was quite amazed after the riots how the media and politicians dealt with the actions and labeled them simply looters, and completely ignored and brushed the real issues under the carpet. I felt that I needed to say something about it.
Is beauty an important tool as a documentary photographer?
I think it helps in some cases but I don’t think it is a necessity. Also I find it hard to define what is beautiful. I know that some of the work that I find beautiful, a lot of people see them too banal and boring.
You've worked in video as well making a portrait of F Cooke a Pie Maker in London, how did you find the transition of working with stills to telling a story with moving picture and sound?
It was nice challenge to myself because I’ve never done it before. I found the process completely different from photographing especially when it comes to editing. With photographs I tend to have a ruff idea of how the final sequence is going to look, but with the video it was a lot more going back and forward with the material. I still wanted to keep same aesthetics than what I have with my photographs and sort of saw the video as a continuum from them. I definitely want to experiment with the video more in the future as well.
Do you foresee yourself continuing to work in other mediums in the future?
Yes, I'm intrigued to experiment working in different ways. At the moment I am working on a collaborative project with a fellow Finn, Jonne Kuusisto who's expertise lies in political science, writing and audio production. The project is on the island of Sardinia and combines photographs, video and audio.
Interview and words: Jameson Kergozou
Photographs: Janne Tuunanen
More of Janne's work can be found at: jannetuunanen.com