Crossing Borders

I have been thinking about my work lately – trying to reflect it in the eyes of the people I have conversations with. At the same time, searching for influence and inspiration from people I highly respect and whose work I consider to be the absolute best in their field.

Allow me to mention two persons (both also friends) whose work I esteem very highly.

The Island

John and Anu Webster on the beloved island

John Webster’s documentary Recepies for Disaster was on tv two days ago (and will be on again tomorrow Sunday 7th Nov., YLE channel 2 – and actually, for the next 5 days you can see it in Areena for free).  If you haven’t seen it, I warmly urge you to do so.

It got the Jussi-award (the Finnish Academy Award)  for the best documentary the year it was released and personally, I consider it to be one of the best documentaries ever made – well, of the ones I’ve seen. Very briefly, why:

It deals with subject matter that affects all of us, i.e. the climate change. It is very personal. And it shows dedication and commitment to the level one hardly ever encounters nowadays. The whole family worked for this “experiment” for a whole year – and it must have been a way lot tougher than what we actually see on screen. He shot it with a tiny handycam, showing that big budjets, fancy stunts such as aerial or underwater photography, gyro-stabilization, large production crews, and whatever you can think of…  are totally of secondary importance. ( And remember, I am the guy getting excited about all the high-tech stuff.) Essential is your topic, your skills and the depth and dedication you invest in your work. It shows, you cannot fake it.

He also admitted publicly his mistakes during that project. He learned in the process and instead of preaching, the  family now tries to live by the lessons they learned during that year. They do it now, two years after the project was finished, when media attention has calmed down, with no need to show off.  Making a documentary was not an act of “doing a  job and making money in the process”  but a journey of learning and enlightenment- not for personal benefit but for the benefit of all of us.

I wish I had anything remotely like that to show one day.



Click on the image to view the website

Another person deserving mention is Petteri Saario and his series of documentaries Crossing Boarders (Rajankäyntiä). I was fortunate to see the prescreening of the first three movies two weeks ago and I simply loved them.  The warmth, dedication, intimacy with the subjects, techinical expertise of a single person (this was first time I ever saw real HD footage projected on a large screen) just blows me away. The series of six documentaries  will be broadcasted on Mondays (unfortunately SD only), again YLE channel 2, starting 7th December and lasting until 18th January, on primetime (20.50) with immediate rerun on the following afternoon.

I hold the highest regard for Petteri and his work – his portfolio is quite extensive and there is no possibility I could discuss it any further here. Again, my warmest recommendation to see that series. I don’t think there was a one dry eye in the audience after we’ve seen the third documentary – on photographer and author Juha Taskinen and his voyages over the eastern border.


It was some casual discussions in our kitchen with Petteri that prompted me to post this. Some things he said you can see reflected on the Rajankäyntiä-website (in Finnish). With his permission, let me (freely) translate:

Crossing a boarder – be it a geographic or natural border, a cultural boarder – or a border in our mind – involves always a risk. But at the same time, crossing that boarder is an invitation, a possibility to learn something interesting, to create something new.

A boarder does not only separate, it also unites. With the boarder you have a birthplace of a unique culture. A boarderculture, which cannot exist anywhere else. And where differences meet, the seed of creativity is sowed.

This is so true about my own work lately – and I so much agree with him.  Because interface -be it user or designer interface – is a border of its own right by definition.

I am trying to convince people that there is something worthwhile in the  non-linear multimedia approach. Trying to talk to professional, seasoned journalists and publications with a long tradition and history in the print. Take them to the border – and over,  so to speak.

I feel one has learned so much by advancing into territory one is not familiar with, encountering totally new challenges – away from the normal “two images for tomorrow’s paper and 10 more for the archives, thank you” -routine. Trying something new  – with no examples to follow. Petteri talks about the seed of creativity and I believe I have seen it been sown.

Sure, this line of work does not pay the bills and that does worry me. But my wife says that despite all the long hours I have spent in front of the computer, she is happy to see that I am excited about the creative process and she prefers  to have a smiling, energetic and positive husband and a father in the house. Normally,  come dark November in southern Finland, it is more a season of constant depression. You know, “life sucks and then you die” -stuff.

There are lots of prejudices when trying to promote “rich media” to the reprentatives of the traditional printmedia. And it gets frustrating sometimes. People don’t see the depth of your approach, but only the surface: “Oh,  I have seen panoramas before, but yeah, nice work”.  It’s like saying: “Oh, I have seen a 8″x10″ glossy print before”.  Yeah, right…a deep sigh.

I mentioned my wife  already. She works as a journalist in a regional paper and she wrote an absolutely beautiful piece the other day on “allowing yourself not to be perfect”. She ended it with a quote of a Finnish poet, Tommy Tabermann. When I think about my encounters and discussions with other media professionals lately – and also when I think of  the look I see in the eyes of my students sometimes –  his words are just so much better than mine:

Epäröinnin hetkellä
kysy itseltäsi:

Kuinka paljon rohkeutta
uskallan tänään
jättää käyttämättä?

(In the moment of doubt
you ask yourself:

how much courage
do I dare to leave
unused today?)

1 Comment

  1. Looking Back, Looking Ahead and Looking for Inspiration « Kari Kuukka Photography – a blog
    January 16, 2010

    […] that there are people that I DO find extremely inspiring, people I look up to.  I have mentioned John Webster and Petteri Saario in an earlier post. Everytime I see their work (just saw an episode of “Rajankäyntiä” last night)  I […]


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