March 30, 2022

Markus Naarttijärvi

Slowing down and focusing with Markus.


Describe your journey with photography.

When I was ten or so, this was in the early 90’s, my aunt worked as a reporter for a local newspaper and I got to hang around with her and to see the photos we took developed in the darkroom for the first time, which blew my mind. I decided I would become a journalist, which as far as I knew entailed both writing and photography. Eventually, I became part of a group of youth-reporters for my local paper, doing stories of local bands and such. When I graduated high school, I was lucky enough to get to do my military service at a monthly newspaper for conscripted soldiers. At that point I had to choose between writing and photography and I picked photography. That newspaper was the best photography school I can imagine. I came in knowing way too little and got to spend a year learning by doing everything from covering peacekeepers stationed in Kosovo shortly after the war to photographing celebrities.

After that I spent a few years combining stints at local newspapers with freelance work. It was a great time, but eventually I decided to move on. Partly because I missed writing and partly because the future didn’t look so bright for newspaper photography with cutbacks and short-term work. Instead I decided to go to law school for some reason. Photography turned into a hobby except for some occasional freelance work I still take on from time to time. While working professionally I had experienced the move from film to digital photography and the immediacy of that, so at one point I stupidly traded in my hard-earned Leica M4-P and a beat up Nikon F4 for a Canon 10D and some lenses. I still to this day can’t really think about that without kicking myself. In the end though, going digital led me to starting a photoblog to have somewhere to post my photos. This was back in the days of and homespun web design. I kept it up for a few years and it was a great way to keep up with photography. Eventually the photoblog scene deteriorated as social networks took over and I started my academic career which kept me busy, so that community aspect of photography sort of got lost for me.

I still kept up making photos though, they just ended up in folders and drawers. In terms of equipment I moved from that cursed 10D to better Canon gear, then briefly switched to Nikon, then to Fujifilm because the X100 reminded me of my Leica, then to my current digital setup which is based around a Sony A7R IV which I really enjoy, especially as the Sony prime lenses are so impressive. Eventually I could afford to get a used Leica M4-P to replace my old one so I got back into film photography a couple of years ago. I now shoot quite a bit of medium format as well with a Hasselblad 500C and I recently found a Nikon F100 for a bargain online which is just plain fun to use, I always wanted one of those back in the day.

When Glass launched it feels like I finally found a community for photography again that I could get behind. Part of it is the removal of metrics which makes it more about the photography and the fun of it all, but mostly because of the lack of an ad-based model based on profiling and surveillance capitalism (in my day job, I do research into privacy and surveillance, among other things). In the end, the community and the friendly people posting lovely work is what really makes it special.

What have you learned along the way that you wish you knew earlier?

So much. Don’t trade in your beautiful Leica for an entry-level digital camera for one.

No, but really, I think there are perhaps few things I think about looking back. Like not to settle, don’t just document what is in front of you, or snap a picture happy to have found a nice view or great light. Keep going, get closer, try harder, make the most of it and find that unique perspective that is yours. I should say that I fail at this constantly, but it is something I have always admired in other photographers I’ve worked with. I think another is to allow yourself to be yourself in your photography. There’s a bunch of photographers and types of photography I’ve always admired, old-school photojournalism like that of Larry Burrows or crisp, contrasty, black and white documentary photography like that of Ragnar Axelsson or Matt Black which gets close to people and social issues. I’ve tried, and I wish was better at it, but in the end my photographic personality makes it an uphill battle. It turns out what I’m drawn towards in my own photography is something calmer, trying to capture a mood or a location. I think I would have benefited from leaning into that earlier, developing as a photographer along that line instead of fighting against it. This is not to say you should give up if that’s your thing, as long as it is actually your thing.

Oh, and one more; walk more, drive less, otherwise great photos will just zoom past your car window.

Your 365 project is such a pleasure. How has shooting daily impacted your photography?

A lot. For one thing, there is photography to talk about. Shooting on a daily basis has brought me out of a long period where photography was something I did in short bursts with weeks or even months in between. I’ve always remained interested in photography and kept spending too much money on camera equipment, but shooting every day like this has brought back a mindset of continuously bringing my camera, looking for compositions, and not waiting for those perfect conditions when the mood strikes. I think when doing a 365 the visual style you didn’t necessarily knew you gravitated to comes to the surface because each day you make a selection of that one photo out of however many you took.

But I think it goes beyond the photography aspects as well, for me it’s just a great mental health thing, focusing on this one thing you do for yourself each day, no matter the weather, the crappy state of the world, or whatever else you have going on, it’s been great. At least so far — I’m only some 90 days in.

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Markus Naarttijärvi

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