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Photographer Osma Harvilahti

The Finnish photographer rates Pierre Bourdieu's theories, prefers 35mm Nikon to digital and reckons his images can be sound tracked by 'silence'

Born in Helsinki, Osma Harvilahti was surrounded by different forms of art and photography from a very young age; “my photography mother always had a continuous family photo shoot going on”, he explains. Increasingly fascinated and obsessed with this artistic medium, the amount of school lectures he missed also increased as he found himself in the library reading the sociologist theories of photography by Pierre Bourdieu. "Every photographer should read his work.” It is therefore surprising to learn that Harvilahti is soon graduating in Sociology and Media at the University of Helsinki – what with the huge body of extraordinary body of work he has created over the past years it is crazy to think that there would be any time left to study...

Shooting mainly on 35mm film, Harvilahti’s images have a deep, ethereal quality to them. Surreal and sublime, they take you to a delicate, dreamlike world full of fantasy and fiction. Often using natural light and surroundings there is the most beautiful raw and organic feel to his images that make you feel as if you are there in the moment. Here we speak to Harvilahti about dreams, Moonmilk and photographing nudes in Space.

Dazed Digital: What do you shoot on?
Osma Harvilahti:
I´m shooting mainly with my mothers old medium format Mamiya and a 35mm Nikon Fm2n. It´s hard to decide which I like more but I really like the ideal frame size of Mamiya, and the look of Mamiya´s 80mm normal lens shot wide open. Sometimes I also shoot digital as some clients and models like to see immediately how the pictures look like. Almost with no exceptions I end up using the film ones, and I also just love the surprise-factor and the whole process involved with film.

DD: How would you describe your photography?
Osma Harvilahti:
I guess my photography could be described quite natural, but some elements of it include indirect indications to more imaginary and fictional world. The mood and expression in my photos is often sensitive, neutral and melancholic, and could possibly be described as "silent".

DD: What influences and inspires you?
Osma Harvilahti:
I´m often inspired by my own dreams, which I tend to write down in the middle of the night. Last summer I made my first trip to the Finnish archipelago, the islands there are all different from each other and the atmosphere there is surreal and mystical. Experienced an explosion of inspiration there. My work is hugely influenced by the seven dark months in Finland. I work mostly with natural light, so I have to stay creative.

DD: Whether it be the water of the sea or the light of sunshine, nature figures heavily through your images ­– is this an important aspect to your photography?
Osma Harvilahti:
Finnish people are born close to the nature and forest, so yeah, nature plays a significant role in my photography, and natural light is one of the key elements in my photography.

DD: How do you choose the people, places and subjects you photograph?
Osma Harvilahti:
I like to shoot in places that don't represent a particular decade or period of time, if I get to choose what the people in my photos are wearing it´s usually something a bit more classical or nothing. Recently I´ve had the pleasure to shoot people from a local model agency, but most of the time I'm photographing my own life, my girlfriend and other friends, or people I´m working with.

DD: There is a suggested narrative through all your images – is this intentional?
Osma Harvilahti:
Yeah, I´m trying to create small series of photos that would represent my vision of certain places – as they are or as they could be. A big part of my work consists of sets of captured spontaneous moments, combined with more controlled stuff to build a narrative or a particular mood.

DD: Your images feel quite dreamlike and magical – what do you hope people get from your images?
Osma Harvilahti:
If I can raise some emotions and stimulate peoples imagination trough my photography that would be very cool.

DD: Do you believe in magic?
Osma Harvilahti:
Not really, but there´s some hedonistic experiences in life, that could be described as magical.

DD: Which is your favourite photograph or series of photographs and why?
Osma Harvilahti:
There are so many classics and long time favorites It´s impossible to pick one... But I go for an easier and newer one with incredible amount of visual coolness: Ryan McGinley’s Moonmilk still works for me.

DD: If your photography could have a soundtrack what would it be and why?
Osma Harvilahti:
It would be 'silence'.

DD: What are you working on at the moment?
Osma Harvilahti:
Along with my own projects, I'll be shooting some more tests and hopefully some more fashion too. I'm also working on my portfolio, and a new website which will be opened shortly. Very excited about that. Next year I´ll move away from Finland for some time, so I´m working on that as well.

DD: What would your dream photography project be?
Osma Harvilahti:
Space. I would like to shoot some nice highly artistic nudes on the surface of the moon.