Helsinki-based photographer Jukka Ovaskainen is one of those guys who gives off a ‘nice, regular dude I know from down the street’-type-vibe. However, this seemingly regular dude’s output is actually pretty irregular, perhaps even singular in the way it portrays its varied array of subjects and deals with themes of innocence, the nature/ culture divide, and what he calls the magnetic force of melancholy.
Born and raised in the Finnish countryside with a background in the straight edge punk scene, Jukka’s background is far from ordinary. And it’s precisely the way in which the Finnish talent channels his unique story into his work that can be both subtly haunting and beguilingly honest. Moreover, as his work within both fashion and art photography indicates, Jukka sees value in capturing the aesthetic zeitgeist as well as mediating his intimate vision of the world that surrounds him in a deeply personal way.
Dazed caught up with the up-and-coming Finn for a chat about the new ideas inherent in rebellion, nature photography and the bomber jacket-wearing, 90s techno heads who would drive up and down the tiny street of his childhood town in their tuned Toyota Corollas.
Dazed Digital: What’s your main source of inspiration?
Jukka Ovaskainen: I’ve been interested in pictures for so long that I guess there is quite a big visual registry in my head. Memories are also part of that and the strongest ones come from the place where I grew up. People were wearing three striped pants, bomber jackets, caps sponsored by beer labels and driving their tuned, eighties Toyota Corollas around the main street (which was hardly one kilometer long) while listening to nineties techno and after that they would go camping in the woods. Within those moments there was something innocent and honest and I guess I try to keep that kind of spirit up.
DD: Have you always known that you wanted to be a photographer?
Jukka Ovaskainen: I think I knew it before I even owned a camera. I’ve always loved to look at photographs and art and movies. I felt that the images themselves told a strong story, so the act of starting to take photos felt natural.
DD: What’s kind of camera(s) do you use?
Jukka Ovaskainen: I usually shoot with Rollei afm35. It's a small film camera, it’s always in my pocket and I also shoot fashion photography with that. That camera ended up with me accidentally when my friend one day asked if I wanted to buy it from him. I said okay and so far it's been the best camera I have ever had. ‘Best’ means that it fits me…
DD: Has your background in the straight edge punk scene influenced your work?
Jukka Ovaskainen: I think that from rebellion often comes new ideas. And everyone takes photos so you need to have your own opinion. I was kind of rebelling before I got into any youth scene… I got there because I searched for something that shared my ideas of youth and music.
DD: You’re interested in both fashion and art photography – do you use different approaches when shooting the respective categories?
Jukka Ovaskainen: The reason I became interested in fashion was that I saw its creative side and the possibilities within that. I try to keep my approach to both quite straightforward and intuitive. The working processes are quite dissimilar, though, because in fashion there’s usually more people involved than just you.
DD: A sense of dark melancholy seems to permeate a large part of your work. Would that have anything to do with your Finnishness?
Jukka Ovaskainen: For me, there is something fascinating and magnetic in melancholy. In my work I'm looking for a certain mood, which could be described as a kind of tense moment reaching a point where you don't know if it’s melancholy or something else. Actually, I just read that Finland is the second happiest country in the world, so I would argue that there’s always a balance in those things.
DD: Where does your fascination with nature come from?
Jukka Ovaskainen: I spent my childhood wandering around in forests. My parents were always camping, hunting, picking berries and mushrooms and they always took me with them. I wasn’t so much into crouching on tussocks or killing animals, but I was really happy when I got a rabbit’s foot to bring me good luck. Nowadays it’s in-between places at the border of cities and the woods that I'm interested in. Places that do not have any function or reason to be. And that probably because those are inspiring places for someone who grew up in the woods and is now living in center of the city.
DD: How would you describe your aesthetic?
Jukka Ovaskainen: Nature and culture in constant collision.
DD: Upcoming projects?
Jukka Ovaskainen: I’m doing my BA in photography at the moment, so that takes up a lot of my time. Hopefully a book and exhibition will be the end result. Apart from that that I’m doing couple of fashion films this summer and hopefully I’ll have some time to spend at the summer house.