Bio Juha Metso - images from hell and paradise – with a warm compassion for human kind
- How long have you been working as a fine art photographer?
I’ve taken images for 30 years. That means over 100 exhibitions, 15 books and 60 countries. Together with the director of Kotka Photographic Centre and artist Timo Mähönen, I’ve curated over 100 exhibitions as its’ founding member. So I started with film and was amongst the first to embrace the digital tools. When working in the dark room in the 80’s nobody could imagine the digital era we’re having now. I have in my archives 100 teras, between 1600 to 1700 different personalities and people, and with the film archives that take a roomful, it goes up to 3000.
- I understand that you still work as a press photographer. How do you find working in two different photography genres?
The two genders feed and complete each others. As a press photographer I meet enormously different people and get into places and situations where I don’t think I would get into otherwise. And that’s where I get ideas for art, too – from the encounters of people and cultures.
I travel a lot, especially I’ve traveled in Russia and its’ eastern parts Carelia where I’ve spent overall years of my life. My Russian imagery covers the times from Yeltsin to Putin and Medvedev, and the geography from east to west. And everything from woods and wilderness to the metropoles and again to small villages. I love working there and with Russian people – the mutual trust is instantaneous and they love being photographed. Sometimes what happens is that I give my camera to the person in front of me and they shoot me. The situation becomes a kind of a performance and understanding without common language. After all we people are very much alike anywhere in the world, we have the same feelings, desires and gravings. And sorrow or pain.
What you really need for art and visions is living – you need your history and experiences you’ve gone through from laughs to looking at the birth and death from eye to eye. I wouldn’t do now what I do without my years in the battle fields and war in Europe and Africa.
- What is the market like? How much of a demand is there?
- What do you think about selling your images through sites such as 500px or your own website?
I do only unique pieces so my main channel is not on the net, but in the more traditional art world, the galleries etc. The work of art as physical object counts for me, too. I do quality prints and materials. Exceptions of course are my video art pieces. And of course I think the digital distribution and the internet is great. Not only it gives opportunities for images and young artists or to anyone like never before, but it has also changed our way of reading or consuming images. We get visual access almost to anywhere in the world. At the same time what hasn’t changed is the power of use and even the misuse of images. Internet is a very powerful tool for propaganda. Think about for example the moment where Pete Souzas’ picture spread all over the world from the White House, the one where Obama and Hillary Clinton watch live Bin Ladens’ death through the camera on a soldiers’ helmet. And what was explained afterwards about it. I had to do art from that, because I think that picture changed the political world radically. The piece is called Obama versus Osama – what really happened? and its’ on youtube. The project was online just few days after the original picture. That tells something about my way of working. When you get an idea you just do it. Other ideas I might have for years, and they grow and get richer with time. My large series of works are like that. I get them out during a long period of time. For example one of my major series I’m working on at the moment, is the climate change. The first part “The Ice - Stay” is out, but there’ll be more to come, the climate change through the elements of fire, water and the rock.
- You have had many exhibitions. How do you make contact with the curators? Do you find them, or do they find you? Both happens, for example my New York agent found me through my old web pages, and I mean they were really old and simple, historical from the internet point of view. This is where I get into my favorite subject: the image and the content is what counts, not the fancy bling on the pages or the technical details of the cameras. I hate people asking me about the cameras, I couldn’t be less interested. What counts is what I happens or what I express through the images, or more precisely what the viewer is living or not through the images. There’s no art before it’s seen by someone.
-What is your advice for people who want to break into fine art photography?
My advice is live. Have passion and work. There are no short cuts. Life is the best fuel for art. And it happens right here under your feet. Don’t wait, don’t think it’s somewhere else. Don’t make plans for retirement.