Latvian Photography Museum
Marstalu street 8.LV-1050
At the core of Pälviranta’s artistic curiosity are issues relating to violence and masculinity, and often in his works he bridges these two themes. His artistic approach varies depending on the project: the final result can be post-photography or classical documentary, moving or still image.
We had a nice and interesting talk with him
Photographer and researcher, what are the differences in your work between these two fields?
I would say I am an artist with a PhD. In this respect, I do not separate these practices. The fact that I have gone through the PhD process has influenced my thinking a great deal but first and foremost I am still an image maker. The researcher in me affects on my writing and teaching and I like to follow contemporary theoretical discussions within the field of photography and visual arts. And I am also working with projects that are purely research-oriented. But like said, I see these two fields coming together in my work. Sometimes careful, analytical writing is a wonderful extension to making art.
So I guess you spend a lot of time documenting and researching the topic that you want to photograph. Are you an artist that has a lot of pictures or you “shoot” not too many before editing ?
This depends on the project I am involved with. Even though I possess this interest for reading and obtaining knowledge, I also work very intuitively. I definitely do not want to be too analytical in my artworks, even though some of the background work would be rather extensive. Actually, I like to work in swampy grounds where uncertainty prevails. But it is true, though, that I do not ‘shoot’ that much, I rather see myself making pictures than taking them. Recently, I have been working with a project where I use appropriated materials (for this project I have scanned 26 662 pictures that function as my material) but simultaneously I am also doing traditional photography within another project. I always have several projects going on with very different approaches.
We can say that you are a documentary photographer, but this classification is just the way you use to criticize or question aspects of our society, but also investigate and experiment with the more formal aspects of photography.
For me, the concept of documentary is a very difficult one. We have a strong tradition using it in a very straight forward manner: often this concept is used simply when referring to the ways photojournalists and other people are taking pictures. This perspective refers to the transparency of the pictures – that the world is viewed through the photographs. This approach often forgets the artisan quality of the photograph, that is an object made purposefully. I approach documentary in a much more many dimensional way. It is a concept that triggers certain presumptions, attitudes and prejudices both within the viewer and the photographer. One very important quality with the documentary discourse is the fact that the term documentary has strong connections to political. The act of making documentary pictures means taking a limited view to the world, that documentary pictures or projects can never show the subject but they rather construct it from a chosen political perspective. This act of limiting, excluding and selecting always includes ethical positioning. All this said, I can no longer use this term in a lighthearted manner. But I still love it because it carries this burden of simultaneous clarity and unclarity with it. It sparks discussions.
Besides photography is there any discipline that you use to express what you want to say?
Again, I see photography as a tool, method or practice that is very broad. In my use, it also includes moving image and text. And I also see the way pictures are presented to public as ‘extended photography’. By this I mean that for me there are no pictures, only the ways they are used or presented to the public defines their being. In this respect, I see exhibition as a medium.
What could be your suggestion to one person that is stock in one topic or in one creative process?
Photography and art is not just a profession but an attitude towards life – or life in itself. I am now 46 years old with about 20 years of professional experience and if all goes well, I still have some 25 years more to do this. With all this time and richness in the world, why to stick in one topic or perspective! Art is about curiosity, towards life, the world, oneself and others. I understand that the demand on creating a signature style or branding oneself is very strong especially to young photographers and artists. But what is the hurry? My suggestion is that always work with several projects simultaneously. Be joyful. Do crazy things. Do not take all this too seriously. Enjoy life! There is a lot of time.
What about the support of book. You just launched NEWS PORTRAITS, a book focusing on school shootings and media criticism, published by Éditions Bessard. Do you enjoy the editing and publishing process?
This was only my second monograph so I am not really a bookmaker. But I love the book as a medium. It is totally different to exhibition. Working with Éditions Bessard was a great joy, Pierre Bessard is a wonderful character. Prior to publishing the book, over the years I had made perhaps seven different dummys or maquettes of this book. So when this opportunity appeared, I had played with this material a lot. Book making is very similar to preparing a series for exhibition. It is about trying, test printing, redesigning, etc. But yes, it was an intriguing process which I enjoyed a lot.
As we see in your career your work was showed in different places around Europe, how hard is for one artist to find an opportunity or a place that wants to show his/ her work? The tools of managing your own work in the context have changed since you´ve began your career?
To put it frankly, very hard! There are various ways of advancing in your career but always, always so much works needs to be done. Of course there are those artists who just happen to be in a right place in a right time with a right work, but for the great majority of us, it is about travelling, meeting people, presenting your work to other professionals within the field, sending submissions, etc. Often this work is very frustrating and consumes a lot of energy but then on the other hand, no one finds you from your home.
When I entered the professional field, the possibilities were much scarcer. Now there are hundreds of residencies, competitions, portfolio reviews and various types of other possibilities. The whole field is so much more international than 20 years ago. There is also an art market that is fully functional. So even though the competition is harder, there are more possibilities. And it is not one field only where one can work. International field of contemporary art is full of subfields. If one wants to be doing decorative commercial art, there is a market for that but there are also vivid alternative possibilities. I think the point is to find the right field for oneself.
What participants can expect attending your workshop? What aspects are you going to present on it?
I am very insightful and have a lot of experience in the field of contemporary photography. On one hand, I can give very concrete advice and help participants to connect to the field. On the other hand, I can also help participants conceptualizing and theorising their projects.
I am thinking on focusing on each participant fully. There will be an introductory session and following that, I will focus on meeting the participants individually. Depending on the size of the group, either we will all be present in these meetings or then having them as closed doors.