A Photographic Life: An Interview With Finnish Photographer, Jukka Heinovirta

A Photographic Life: An Interview With Finnish Photographer, Jukka Heinovirta
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I first met Jukka Heinovirta a few years ago.  Many of his photographs of rural Finland evoke emotions of being out in the rugged landscape, taking in the cold, the ice and the snow.  The wind blowing against a barn, perhaps a hundred years old in a remote and otherworldly landscape.  These images fascinated me and I wanted to learn more about the photographer behind them.  Jukka is an incredible photographer in his own right.  One of the qualities that Jukka embodies is that while photography is in a sense something one does for one’s self – its an internal experience – it is also something that can be shared with your family and others around the world.  Jukka is also generous in his promotion of others.  His experience as a photographer embodies the best of photography – including the adventures that he shares with his children and his wife and the love of humanity and the Earth expressed through his images and the experiences they represent.


Can you tell us a little about your background?

I come from the faraway country of Finland. The country is famous for its harsh but beautiful nature. I must say I adore the Finnish nature, too.

Photography has always been an important thing in my family. My grandfather was a village photographer. He used to go to every wedding and funeral in the village and take photographs. People would then come by his house to collect the prints. My father got the photography bug from his father. He had a beautiful Zeiss Jena camera and he would use it passionately. That’s where my passion comes from.

My home is in the rural part of the country but I really love to travel. I want to visit as many countries as I can. I’m also a family man so we all travel together. It’s great. I adjust my photography to accommodate my family life.

How did you begin as a photographer?

My parents gave me an Agfamatic Pocket 4000 for my seventh birthday. A wonderful little camera! I used all the flash cubes that same night. Then my father gave me a speech about the costs of photography!

Anyway, that camera started my passion for photography. There were times I didn’t take many pictures, but I’ve always had a camera with me. On our family trips I’m the pain in the butt stopping everywhere to take a shot or two. Or fifteen.

What inspires you as a photographer?

I often use the phrase: I’m on a mission to find beauty in everyday life. There are many brilliant photographers in the world who have the ability to take the most beautiful pictures of the most common things. Beautiful photography does not have to have a sunset, lake or mountain. Sometimes a newspaper stand or stray dog is enough. I admire those photographers that see the beauty in the ordinary or the unusual enormously.


A typical old lantern on a wall of a medieval house in the old town of Tallinn, Estonia.


What path led you to where you are now?

Actually, we were on a trip to Disneyland Paris few years ago. Ok, I took about 1500 photos there. Then I found a web site showing photos of Disneyland taken by a professional photographer. He asked people to send photos to him and he would publish them on his site. I was suddenly very excited to get my photos published.

That led me to the Flickr Disneyland groups. Soon I was sharing photos to dozens of groups. People started following me and giving positive feedback about my pics. That felt awesome! Somebody actually liked my photos!  After Flickr other sites followed, including 500px and Instagram.  I soon noticed that other people’s photos on the sharing sites were just beautiful. The colors were vibrant and the compositions creative. I wanted to improve my photography and post processing skills. I read all of Scott Kelby’s photography books. In one book he mentions stock photography as a means to earn money with your photos. I started to send my photos to Shutterstock and iStock and other agencies.

Can you tell us about your interests and why you chose these particular genres of photography?

I’ve taken many pictures of barn houses out in the fields. With or without sunsets. I happen to come from a place where there are quite a lot of barns and fields. They are quite beautiful, I admit, but wouldn’t like to become that “barns-in-the-fields” guy.  I know it’s important to specialize, but it’s always interesting to try something new like macro photography, aerial photography or portraits. At the moment I’m very interested in street photography.  And I love gadgets. I love to get new stuff related to photography. It’s fun to try Lensbaby lenses or fisheye lenses or infrared filters or macro tubes. If there is a gadget I can attach to my camera, I’ll try it!

Of the many locations you have photographed, do you have a favorite?

I think my favorite spot would be Caloundra in Queensland, Australia. It’s not just because the place has so many beautiful beaches. We have so many wonderful memories of the town. We have many friends in Queensland, too. And the climate is a lot more pleasant than in Finland in the wintertime!  But seriously, Queensland is a very interesting place for a photographer. There are mountains, small towns, the outback, big cities, night life, nature, wildlife, theme parks, you name it. Everything in a very convenient package.


A surfer girl returns from the waves of the Pacific ocean at Caloundra, Queensland, Australia.


Do you have a particular approach to your photography?

Like many photographers, I have a family and a day job. I’ll do my photography in my spare time. I try to find time to take and process photos so that it doesn’t keep me away from my wife and kids.

In practice, that means I try to be a fast photographer. Long setups or wait times are not for me. I like camera bodies that take a lot of frames per second and lenses that have fast f-stops. I’m trying not to process the photos too much either.

What have you learned from your experience traveling and as a photographer?

Traveling is the best way to tell your children that people are the same everywhere you go. That’s a very important lesson we are trying to teach to our kids in these uncertain times.

Photography is a way to make memories. My photographs are documents of our travels and I’m glad when the kids take out the photo albums and talk about the experiences we’ve had together.  But thinking like a photographer, I try to travel light. I don’t carry all my gear with me. I try to select only the necessary devices for my travel bag. For example, if I have to choose only one camera for the trip, I usually take my video camera. You can take decent photos with it. The photos are not DSLR quality but at least you have them.

You promote many photographers from around the world. Can you describe what pushes you to be so open and to share the work of others rather than only your own photography?

There are so many skilled photographers in the world who share their work on the Internet. When you open a site like 500px, there are so many beautiful photos there, you can’t believe your eyes. However, many photographers don’t know how to market their photos or get their work known. If I can help them by showing their pics to the public, it’s a pleasure. And besides, most of the people whose work I share, are much better photographers than me.

You recently moved from Finland. Has your photography changed since the move? What inspires you now?

Yes, I live in Tallinn, Estonia at the moment. Tallinn is the capitol of Estonia and quite a big city compared to the rural town where I come from. Street photography is a natural choice in a place like this.  Tallinn is a very old city, too. The place is full of ancient buildings and you bump into history on every corner. That’s actually a challenge for me as a photographer. How can I picture history in my photos. I haven’t quite solved that one yet!

What would be your dream project?

That’s a very interesting question. We were in Australia on a beach near Brisbane and I was telling my friend: “I could see myself walking on this beach and taking photos of the ocean and the people walking by. Maybe have a booth by that bench.”  I don’t know if that’s my dream project but it would be a nice place to have a photographer’s booth.


More about Jukka Heinovirta:

Website: www.thetravelpictures.com

500px: http://500px.com/jukkaheinovirta

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9077088@N02/

Shutterstock: http://www.shutterstock.com/g/k009034

Twitter: http://twitter.com/k009034

Google Plus: http://plus.google.com/u/0/+JukkaHeinovirta

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thetravelpictures/

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/k009034/


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