We spoke to emerging photographer Minna Pöllänen as she's set to exhibit at the annual FreshFaced+WildEyed group show at The Photographer's Gallery in London. As one of our favourites picked out from the show, here the Helsinki and London-based photographer speaks to us about the themes of time, nature and isolation in her images...
Dazed Digital: A substantial amount of your work is associated with nature and geographical changes - why is this?
Minna Pöllänen: The different ways in which landscape is perceived and related to depending on the cultural, socio-political, legal and geographical position of the observer fascinate me; how the notions of private land and everyman’s rights are interpreted in different countries and what we think as worth viewing and nurturing in the landscape. By creating alternative ways through which to perceive and experience the surrounding environment my aim is to surface the familiar but often over-looked fractions of the landscape in a new context, and to question the approaches we take with our relationship to it.
DD: Ownership of nature and time play key roles in your work - do you come up with the series message/theme before or after you've taken the photographs? And how do you set about this?
Minna Pöllänen: I begin by doing textual and visual research around a wider thematic concept, which then slowly takes a more specific form as the body of work develops. I am particularly interested in the commodification of landscape and the relationship between photography and sculptural intervention, and most of my works incorporate some aspects of both of the above. I am also intrigued by the potential in a
seemingly futile act, present in the constructions made for Attempts and in the Sisyphean-like task undertaken in Wood on trees. As it takes me a long time to process a body of work, I tend to have multiple projects running parallel to each other and new works often begin to develop and branch out from ideas put aside during previous works.
DD: Even your figurative images seem quite isolated - how do you capture this feeling and what is it about isolation that interests you?
Minna Pöllänen: Rather than isolation, I am interested in a type of solitude or a series of solitary actions. In my earlier portrait works I was curious about the juxtaposition of a physical presence and an absent mind, which gave the images a heavier, and in cases an isolated feel. The landscape works on the other hand have a human presence through the depicted constructions, but never show the protagonist at work. I guess you could say that I isolate parts of the landscape in Attempts, but rather than using this to seclude or as a distancing device, the idea is to question the notion of landownership by highlighting specific but
concurrently arbitrary parts of the land.
DD: What is it like to be part of The Photographers’ Gallery graduate show and how do you think your work compare to your contemporaries?
Minna Pöllänen: Needless to say, being part of the Graduate exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery is a great opportunity for an emerging artist to get exposure. We also get to exhibit in the gallery’s newly renovated space, which makes it all the more exciting. It will be interesting to see how the diverse range of work will be hung in relation to one another and the connections this creates. From the work I have seen so far, there is definitely an interest in land present in the selection, ranging from geographical displacement to physical borders, and to more abstract notions of homeland and nature.