Picture the time
By Carina Chela
Photos: Anni Leppälä
Anni Leppälä makes time stand still in her photography. Her images oscillate between reality, and dream triggering emotions in a subtle yet profound way. In 2010 she was selected Finland’s Young Artist of the Year. She studied at the Turku Arts Academy and the University of Art and Design in Helsinki. Leppälä belongs to the renowned Helsinki School, an international brand recognised for its innovative work and excellence in art.
I started to take pictures on a photography course during my high school years. It felt like an easy access to a visual world and language. At first I was drawn to the melancholy and proof-like characteristic of photographs, and how they related to momentariness. More recently I have been interested in the transformation of materiality through photographs, and how images can alter their subjects in that process. I am also intrigued by the invisible aspect within photographs – what can be recognised and found through the visible surface.
Your images oscillate between reality and dream. How would you define your style?
It´s difficult to define. I think there are some elements that seem to keep on reappearing in different forms through my images, such as a specific atmosphere of light, colour, covering etc. Images are like a curtain, a drapery that I am constantly trying to picture and cast aside at the same time.
It seems that all the figures in your photos are female, why is that?
I usually photograph people that I know really well, such as close friends or my little sister. The figure of a girl or a woman seems to be the most familiar to me. It is a character that can also appear in different scales as a paper figure or something between a person and an image.
Your images often evoke the past, we can see this through the room interiors and the women’s clothes. Why is this?
At first when I started to take pictures I was drawn to the relation that photographs have with the past. How images are bound to a specific moment in the past even though they are always viewed from the present. Back then, I was also interested in home museum spaces which seemed to represent a similar setting from the past. Those spaces evoke the viewers imagination with interiors and pieces of furniture that no longer serve their original purpose. Also the outfits came from specific sources, usually from my relatives.
Does your photography say something about Finnish culture?
In Finland the changes of season drastically affect and alter the colours and atmospheres of the surroundings. This also reflects in the images in many ways. Different things become recognised through different times of the year. Otherwise it’s difficult to say if there is a connection to Finnish culture, perhaps a certain tone of melancholy could be part of that.
What do you enjoy most in your profession as a photographer?
Maybe I don´t see myself so distinctly as a photographer but rather someone working with images and the imagery. However, I love to see the movement and change in natural light and how it can be so alive sometimes. It gives me so much joy just to experience it and see how it highlights certain subjects, spaces and shadows.
Where do you find inspiration?
I think one thing leads to another and the connections between the existing works and the works-to-come play an important role in this development. Things also take time to evolve. Sometimes it can take years before an image is finally realised as part of a work. I find inspiration in various fields – literature, music, cinema, nature.
How do you switch off from work?
I work quite intuitively and I am collecting hints and fragments for my work all the time. So it’s difficult to draw a line between work and time-off. But I like to read biographies, do gymnastics and daydream. Idleness in itself is a valuable thing and part of a working method too, that´s when you start to notice things.
Before becoming a photographer, what other career did you consider?
I never really had any specific career plans when I was younger and later it seemed natural to follow the path of visual arts in some way. Perhaps I would have applied to study art history…. The thing is, you really can´t know beforehand what is going to be your profession until you immerse yourself in it. And if it starts to lead you somewhere, well, it´s a good sign