Q&A: Aapo Huhta

01.02.17

KD — Where do you reside and what do you love about it?

AH — At the moment I’m living in Windhoek, Namibia, focusing on producing new work. What I like here is the distance and the isolation that is created between me and my new local surroundings. No one really knows that I’m here. Or needs me. It makes it easy for me to focus only on one thing. When I am back in Finland, I am surrounded with numerous things that make my work process very different.

Do you think your Nordic upbringing has inspired a particular aesthetic in your work? And if so, how?

I’m not sure if it works that way. These days, it seems, that the sources of inspiration come from so many angles that it’s quite challenging to trace it. Often, I feel I relate more to the American tradition of photography rather than the European, whatever it means anymore. Perhaps my Nordic roots have more a role on things such as how to react in different occasions and how to be with people.

When did you first pick up a camera?

I was around 12 years or so on when I first had a camera to shoot with, but I didn’t find it too interesting back then. I think I only shot a few rolls with it and it didn’t feel too spectacular. It only caught me when I moved to Helsinki at the age of 20 and started doing it again. Since then I haven’t done too many things other than that.

What does your average day normally look like?

My ordinary day includes quite a lot of thinking about the works that are in progress, some assignment works and some exploration of works by other people. Also, a lot of emails and then some lazy wandering.

How do you like to unwind?

By having discussions with other people on various topics.

What is your favorite camera to work with and why?

I’ve been using a Nikon F100 a lot lately and it’s been really enjoyable. I guess it’s the speed that feels good. I’ve previously used a large format camera a lot and I believe it’s good for my restless mind and my process to have something that works really fast sometimes. I still do both though.

What is the strangest thing that has inspired a photo?

It is way too humiliating to share, but it had something to do with multiple photographers being present and how that affects the situation.

Oh, you are keeping us all on the edge of our seats there! 
Your work often deals with incredibly complex concepts; what inspired your first photographic essay?

The essay was about the adolescence, first love and about all those things people at that age can’t share with their parents, their peers – things that remain hidden. It started because of a few portraits of teenagers I was inspired to make in a house that I found when I was walking back home one day. I noticed a magenta light shining from the windows and I felt I needed to see this place. A mother let me in after I explained why I was there knocking her door. Afterwards, I started to think about those portraits and the topic found its way to me. Fundamentally, I’m having a constant struggle with theme-oriented photography as I feel the photographs rarely do justice to the topic. Therefore, I’m trying to keep a vague approach on my photography and only later on I try to understand what it is actually about. It requires a lot of time and sometimes you need some frames to operate, but for now it seems the only way for me to set myself free from conscious and one-dimensional thinking.

That is a brilliant way to work. I was taught that sometimes you don’t understand what it is you are saying until it manifests in a work. Can you tell us about someone whom you admire more than anyone else in the field?

My sources for inspiration change all the time, but some people have stayed a little longer. I’ve been looking a lot at Harry Gruyaert’s works lately. He seems to understand the medium and its incapability’s really well and has still been able to do photography that makes sense, at least for me. He carries a sort of natural approach to his photography and captures things with so much sensitivity.

Where do you find most of your inspiration?

It is just so much of what you see everyday. I think it comes from all that we surround ourselves with.

What piece of advice would you pass onto your younger self?

Not to be too serious all the time as you can become blind easily. That’s the burden of Nordic upbringing!

What do you think makes a memorable photograph?

It can be so many things for different people. For me, it usually has something to do with the relationship between the person in a photograph and myself. But it is very coincidental in its nature, so I don’t see a pattern there.

We know you are currently working in Namibia. Can you tell us more about your adventures Namibia?

Well, here I am looking at things from a very, very western, privileged perspective. It’s been quite demanding to be able to diminish that position when being with the others – trying to perceive a human connection without being too much interrupted by the fact of being a super rich with super high education and having a super white skin compared to almost all of the locals. I mean, even if you don’t want, those facts color every encountering except with some of the kids. But the photography is happening, let’s see what I will make out of it.

What’s next on the agenda?

I need to develop hundreds of rolls of film and see what’s in there!

Where can we see more of your work?

I just finished quite a hectic exhibition year and it might take few years to be able to show something new. Meanwhile, I hope I could still exhibit Block in different places.

Aapo Huhta was born in Haapajärvi, Finland in 1985. He holds an MA in photography from the Aalto University of Arts and Design, Helsinki Finland.

Huhta works with his personal documentary based essay projects and makes commercial and editorial assignments for companies and magazines. In 2014, Huhta was selected as one of the Top 30 Under 30 photographers by the prestigious Magnum Photos. He also received the award of the Young Nordic Photographer of the Year 2015. His first monograph “Block” was published by Kehrer Verlag in 2015.

To see more of Aapo’s work visit his website – aapohuhta.com