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Monday, October 14, 2013

BTS/360: Julius Koivistoinen's Terrarium



So you have learned a little bit about lighting. So what. What do you do with it? What's the goal?

What if you were only 22 years old, but you had an idea for a project. And what if you wanted to parlay it into a solo exhibition. What would you do?

If you are creative and resourceful, you could do what Finland photographer Julius Koivistoinen did…
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Age is Not a Factor

But age is a fantastic excuse to not do something. You are too young. You are too old. Maybe both!

Koivistoinen began shooting seriously (or at least, lighting his work) at age 16. But that number is really irrelevant, because there is no minimum age for photographers. Stlll, at 22, Koivistoinen has for six years been shooting and sharing his work online.

At 18 he started shooting for magazines, and was getting plenty of gigs. Then he went off to join the army. That dampened his shooting a bit, but gave him time to experiment. He found his voice in a single-light, multi-exposure technique that has since been written about here, and the technique stuck.

This process evolved into a personal project: shooting portraits of people in urban landscapes.


Have an Idea



The project was borne of the multi-exposure speedlight technique. It grew into a concept: people photographed in an urban landscape in a cinematic way. Koivistoinen would choose the people on the street — and the right location — and interact with them while photographing. The individual shoots would take about an hour.

The result is a wide, cinematic portrait that relies heavily on environment as subject matter.


The World Will Not Come To You

Well, probably not, at least. Koivistoinen modestly says he got noticed by the Finnish Museum of Photography. But the truth is more like, he studied the landscape and did the things he needed to do to get noticed.

"The competition between applicants to the museum is very high," he notes. So he included touches with his application to help him stand out. He incorporated "hand-sewn and hand-written parts for it to have personality and uniqueness."

This kind of thing is what separates successful photographers from you. And me, frankly. Little touches matter. At its core, your Big Photo Goal probably comes down to getting the attention of a single person. Figure out how to do that and you really help your odds.

I listened just last month to a famous photographer (you would know him) tell me how he once used a third person, a Lincoln Town Car and a bouquet of white roses to make an impression on an art buyer. I just sat there with my jaw hung, equal parts, "You really did that?" and, "I need to re-evaluate what I consider to be the rules of this game…"

It goes without saying that when Koivistoinen reached out to me, he did so in a way that would guarantee that my interest was piqued. I am not going to say how, out of respect to his ingenuity. But suffice to say that very few photographers understand intuitively that this is all part of the game. And the rest of us can't even see the whole playing field.


Congrats. Now You Have an Exhibition.



Koivistoinen understood that layers like audio soundscapes and interviews added to the photos would make them more immersive to the viewers in the context of an exhibition. So that's what he did. (Again, he is 22.)

But he also thought that photos in a line on a wall invited speed-viewing. So he made the exhibition 3-D, and led the viewers through a varied path of photos. The photos were in deep frames, and backlit. (Part of the exhibition is see above.)




He did the frame/enclosures DIY, and for not a lot of money. There was thinking and bootstrapping involved. Custom deep frames and LED light strips for the interior illumination. Kind of hard to ignore in an exhibition.

The overall project is entitled, Terrarium. The first exhibition from it, entitled Everyday Paradise, has a companion website here. There is a companion BTS video on how he single-speedlight-layed some of the shots because, of course there is:



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To the commenter who is ready to drop a "I don't really get the photos," or "I'm bothered by the composition in frame number (whatever)," you are missing the entire point.

And that point is, learning your f/stops and shutter speeds and lighting and all of that other stuff is just a tiny slice of the landscape we all work in as photographers. Some people see the rest of the playing field intuitively. And some of us need someone who's barely old enough to drink (in my country at least) to explain it to them just by our stepping back and watching them work.

I'll be curious to watch Koivistoinen continue to develop as a photographer. And even more so to see how he learns to play the ecosystem he obviously already understands at such a young age. Who knows what he'll be doing at 30 — or even 40.


More:

:: Website ::
:: Exhibition Companion Site ::


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19 Comments:

Blogger Ralphy Cruz said...

That was cool to watch . thanks for sharing

October 14, 2013 9:17 AM  
Blogger Jimh. said...

I suppose I qualify as an older photographer, but I am always learning new techniques and putting them to use. I have liked the idea of multiple flashes in a single photo since I saw Eric Curry's American Pride and Passion series. I only recently got my first speedlight, but I am putting it through its paces between work and family. This is a great way to make an otherwise boring composition more interesting, particularly useful, I think, for people who might not have the money or time to travel to all those wonderful locations. I'm really curious, though, about his backlit mounts! That is a neat proposition and I would love to see a "How To." Thanks for the new ideas!

October 14, 2013 9:38 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Very interesting work, and an incredible amount of documentation for his projects. A couple of thoughts spring to mind. For a world used to 4 years of high school and then another 4 years of college/university as a minimum, 22 seems young. But for an individual inspired to do creative work, 22 is almost mid-life. Physics and math is a young person’s game and by 26 you are unlikely to make your paradigm-busting contribution to science. Is it the same for photographers? Perhaps, when running with an idea when you are young, you simply don’t know how it fits into what you are “supposed” to be doing. Having said that, the level of documentation, planning and craftsmanship in Terrarium leads one to believe that this project is conceived on a fairly grand scale. Wonderful.

But David, are you not worried that you will have strangers showing up in Lincon Town Cars bearing white roses in an attempt to get on Strobist?

October 14, 2013 10:50 AM  
Blogger Keith said...

This may well be one of the most important articles you've posted.

"I just sat there with my jaw hung, equal parts, 'You really did that?' and, 'I need to re-evaluate what I consider to be the rules of this game…'"

Though I'm not a full time photographer, my full time job (sales) does have me in strategic think mode for most of my day.

Most companies define their sales people as "account managers," but our official title is "Business Manager." One thing you'll hear the owner of our company say is, "The rule is, there are no rules." 4 years ago I thought that was some pithy saying that carried little weight. The further down the rabbit hole I get at managing my business, the more I see things and think, "Geez, This guy is playing chess at a Kasparov level, and I'm barely even able to say 'king me' playing checkers."

For Koivistoinen to have that vision at 22, major, major kudos and respect. Coming across people who can see the whole strategic landscape, and make it through the small tactical things to put it all together, is rare. It's one thing done well, plus another thing done well, plus one more... the trick is not seeing the whole forest and thinking that you can't ever cut down all the trees. I struggle with that.

October 14, 2013 12:23 PM  
Blogger Tyler Briley said...

Age and experience go such a long way, but this just goes to show that there is absolutely no substitute for raw artistic talent.

October 14, 2013 2:49 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

First off let me say congratulations to this young guy for getting a show. No easy feat! The really interesting part of Koivistoninen's project is his "marketing".

I do like his photographs. But I find the images you posted by John Moran from the book "Springs Eternal" to be far more interesting and better executed. Maybe I'm just more in-tune to the fine-art world than some others, since that's my main arena. But environmental portraits are nothing new. Seems every kid out of art school does it as their first project (or graduate thesis). This includes multiple exposures, using location lighting, compositing multiple files, etc, etc.

October 14, 2013 4:29 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

First off let me say congratulations to this young guy for getting a show. No easy feat! The really interesting part of Koivistoninen's project is his "marketing".

I do like his photographs. But I find the images you posted by John Moran from the book "Springs Eternal" to be far more interesting and better executed. Maybe I'm just more in-tune to the fine-art world than some others, since that's my main arena. But environmental portraits are nothing new. Seems every kid out of art school does it as their first project (or graduate thesis). This includes multiple exposures, using location lighting, compositing multiple files, etc, etc.

October 14, 2013 4:30 PM  
Blogger Micah said...

Would you have any insight on how he went about printing the images to be illuminated from behind? Is it some sort of acetate or film print mounted on white acrylic?

October 14, 2013 5:37 PM  
Blogger Micah said...

Would you have any insights as to how he went about printing the images to be illuminated from behind for the exhibit?
Do you think he printed on an acetate/film material mounted to clear white acrylic?
Thanks!

October 14, 2013 5:39 PM  
Blogger Zach said...

These pictures are really beautiful. It reminds me of something Gregory Crewdson would do (although he would do it all in one go :)

I actually made one of these just the other day since I only have one speedlight. I think I like the technique. Lots of depth for no a lot of money.

October 14, 2013 7:24 PM  
Blogger Jim Campbell said...

"To the commenter who is ready to drop a "I don't really get the photos," or "I'm bothered by the composition in frame number (whatever)," you are missing the entire point."

Perhaps, but one of the first things I was taught, decades ago, is "You can shoot 'who' or 'where' but not both."

Happily throwing that rule away now. Thanks David, and especially, thank you Julius!

October 14, 2013 9:52 PM  
Blogger JP Manninen said...

Alright, the Finnish Mafia in full effect! Good job, Julius, and cheers to David for featuring him on the site. Eipä vissiin!

October 15, 2013 5:37 AM  
Blogger Blackie Ray said...

Just Brilliant. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Shown here yet again.Age isn't just a number, it's a perspective too. Inspiring!

October 15, 2013 8:06 AM  
OpenID crackleflash said...

Good work. Julius' future seems to be ⚡5000ws⚡. The video showing the lighting as it evolved for each shot is fascinating. It is like clicking Photoshop layers with different lighting effects on and off, only better.

Julius seems to have learned some valuable lessons early on——things generally taking much time, trial and error, rejection and some expense to both ego and bankroll to learn. He is ahead of the game and it will indeed be interesting to watch his work mature.

October 15, 2013 11:22 AM  
Blogger Robert Davidson said...

Seems to me I remember learning about another very young creative artist who stood out waaaaay ahead of many other artists at least 2 or 3 times his age. I believe his name was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

October 15, 2013 2:41 PM  
Blogger 61 Degrees North said...

Looks like the same technique as the fellow doing architectural photos that you posted about in 2011:

http://strobist.blogspot.com/2011/09/mike-kelley-two-speedlight.html

Both techniques look interesting and I need to try the multiple exposure speedlight thing myself.

October 15, 2013 4:19 PM  
Blogger jon said...

Awesome! It's like the Breizer method but done with light.

October 16, 2013 4:48 PM  
Blogger Luminance said...

Hello!Awesome stuff!Those anyone know what kind of material he used for the prints for the led backlight to be visible?

Thanks!

October 17, 2013 7:01 AM  
Blogger Luke said...

Amazing ideas here, so glad I found this.

Wrt the back-lit prints. Who's seen an exhibition of Jeff Wall's? He shows his the same way, and the effect can be astounding. Wall says he got the idea from back-lit billboards in Spain.

November 21, 2013 10:25 PM  

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