Behind the Scenes. Five Photographs of Hyéres Finalist - Osma Harvilahti
The camera of Finnish photographer Osma Harvilahti is squarely focused on people, specifically. Through experimentation with color and composition, he creates their portraits in his own signature style.
Harvilahti opened the cover of his first book of photographs, “Polychromatic”, last year, thereby giving us all a view into the world as he sees it. Just published by Éditions du LIC, “Polychromatic” represents the artist’s monographic debut: a book of 96 pages and 73 color plates expressing a personal language, intensely related to spontaneity and free of the codes that are now prevalent in a large part of contemporary photography. The strong identity of this young author flows deeply throughout the book, which is certainly one of the most beautiful to be published by this independent Scandinavian publisher.
Osma Harvilahti is one of ten finalists, and the only one representing Scandinavia, in this year's Hyères Festival of Fashion and Photography, held annually in its namesake city in the South of France.
It is precisely the artist's provenance that led Arterritory.com to approach Harvilahti and request a personal, no-holds-barred look at the how he creates his works. Below, Harvilahti reveals how five of his photographs came to be – at times, quite comically:
Red wind, 2013
My photographs are, very often, fast-fleeting moments that I happen to capture. Very rarely I use a tripod, but with this particular image, I was waiting for the paper to catch the wind for five to ten minutes. When I got up, my neck was feeling stiff and there was a group of local kids standing there, laughing and pointing at me.
This photograph was shot in Morocco, in late 2012. I wanted to do a series of compositions about Muslim clothing – studying different materials and layers. There was a big problem I didn't foresee: no one – especially women – was willing to let me take their picture. The woman you see here was the only one I had a chance to "work" with. After one single shot, she ran away, her burqa flapping behind her!
I decided to take a walk along a foggy beach in Mombasa, Kenya. There's always all kinds of colorful plastic thrash to be found on the beaches of Kenya. This time I came upon this green bar, having no idea what it was. The beach was usually packed, but this time there was only a couple of young men throwing rocks into the sea. The calm atmosphere and dark sky provided a somewhat surreal setup. I asked the other man to lay down on the sand to make the white sand stick to his back, and then asked him to look at the sea – with the green bar composing a new vertical line on top of the horizon. It was a funny moment for both of us.
This is the very first photograph I took during my trip to Morocco in 2012. I felt a bit uneasy about carrying my camera in public. My mom had gone on a trip to Morocco by herself in the 1970s, and was punched in the face for taking photos in public. When I saw this photographic composition, I literally ran towards the man wearing the blue/cyan djellaba. The combination of two strong colors and the bright afternoon light was what made me do it.
I like to shoot personal work during commissioned projects. This one was shot last year, in Singapore. I noticed that the dashboard of the car parked outside of my hotel was quite colorful and full of different materials. There was still something missing, though. Due to the Chinese New Year celebrations, there were all sorts of tangerines lying around everywhere. I took a small one from a man, made a "tangerine bush", and placed it under the wiper. The art director we were working with on the commercial project laughed in disbelief when he saw me do that.