I want to be a voice for those who have none

Interview with Jari Kokko

I want to be a voice for those who have none

Words by: Mats Alfredsson | Photography: Jari Kokko

Jari, who are you?
I was born in Helsinki, but landed in Borås when my mother got a job at Algots.
I think that people who have followed me through life would describe me as a philosophical nomad, as I seldom stay in the same place or thought but am constantly on my way, dreaming and exploring. I have lived in Gothenburg for six years, and I love street photography.

How and why did you start with street photography?
When I look back at my old slides and photo albums I realize that I probably have been doing street photography since I bought my first camera in 1982. But the interest for the genre started in 2014 when I bought my Fuji xt1 and signed up for a street photography trip to Berlin. The first day of the trip I walked a hundred meters behind the others and copied whatever they did. I only knew Mats Alfredsson, who was arranging the trip, and I didn’t want to take up too much space. But I enjoyed this type of photography almost immediately and after four days I was sold.
I had a new passion!

Why do you photograph?
For me street photography is a type of meditation and a meeting. A meeting through the lens, and through the talks afterwards. Some people take walks in the woods to enjoy the peacefulness. I walk through the streets and enjoy the meetings, For me it is not a must to show what I have captured and there are many pictures that I have never posted on social media or shown in an exhibition. During the pandemic I have taken daily walks in my neighborhood, always with camera in hand. That is one of the projects I will tackle soon – doing something out of the thousands of everyday pictures.

What is your biggest drive?
To be a voice for those who don’t have one. To make the everyday and mundane beautiful. And to give joy to future generations through little instants from our present and their past.

Your biggest challenge?
To step out of the shadows and take up space. It is a stark contrast to the calm and unhurried Finn that I am. But I love to expose myself to discussions and confrontations about opinions and feelings.

Which is your best photography memory?
It’s difficult to say when there are so many memories and encounters. But one of my early street photography memories is from when I was on my way home from work and had been playing a bit with the camera in Brunnsparken. I wanted to take pictures of people running to get the tram. My camera was on a fast shutter speed and I was ready to go. After a while it was time to wrap up and go home so I started to put away my camera as I was crossing the street. through the corner of my eye I caught a strange sight some hundred meters away. Someone was approaching running on a fence!
I quickly got my camera out, got down on my knees and shot a series of pictures of, as it turned out, a guy training parkour. It was over in a matter of seconds. If I hadn’t had my settings right, I wouldn’t have had the time to capture the picture, which served a bit like my trade mark the first years.

How would you describe your style?
I am pretty straight to the point in my style. When I started reading about
street photography there were tips about being discreet, wearing black clothes, and that black and white was “da shit”. But I am 193 cm tall, love color and vanity, so I thought that even though I am a bit of an introvert, I should be visible and open to others.
I want to be seen when I am taking pictures, and I think it shows. But I want to take the picture a split second before it is noticed. The more I photograph the more I become attentive to the environment and the details around the person I am photographing. Just like a football player cannot think about his feint at the moment he is doing it, a street photographer can’t think too long, but must train, train and train until it is a second nature to you when the moment appears.

Which equipment do you prefer?
I prefer Fujifilm and fixed lenses, mainly because they are light and small thanks to the compact APS-C format. You take a lot of steps during a day of street photography, and if you are on a trip where you are out 14-15 hours a day for four days it means some kilos less to carry around compared to a full format camera. They also have a nice retro look which make people kinder in their reactions.
Taking pictures from a distance is not my thing. 75% of my pictures are taken with my 35mm lens, the rest with 23mm and 56mm lenses.
The most important thing for me is to always have the camera with me – the you have the chance to take The Picture!

Do you have a favorite city and why?
If I could choose only one city to photograph in it would be Paris. You find everything there. To live in a metropole like Paris does something to people. There is a sensuality and a self confidence in both men and women that I haven’t found anywhere else. This makes it easy to photograph, as it seems totally obvious to a person that I would want to take a picture of him or her. There are also big contrasts in the various parts of town which fascinate me. But I have only scratched the surface and would love to return several times.

What are your hopes for the rest of the year?
Naturally I hope that the fall will be more normal. That we will be able to realize the street photo festival, and that it can show people who have not yet found the way to become attracted to street photography. I am mainly thinking about the younger generations and people from different cultures who would get a chance to tell us about their every day lives, and share present and future through pictures.
Of course we are also looking forward to more opportunities to go on photo trips in Europe. There are many pictures yet to be taken!

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