Photographer Interview | Shanna Warocquier On The Northern Nature And Light

photographer interview

Hi Shanna. How did you end up in Finland from all the way from France?

Well It’s been a long time since I wanted to live and experience living in the Northern countries and have been interested in the design, artistic and cultural aesthetic of those countries.

I had already travelled to Denmark, Sweden and Norway and thus, was thinking about Finland as a country I really wanted to discover.

I also remember visiting Alvar Aalto’s house in the Paris’ suburb and feeling that it contained the kind of aesthetic and harmony I might also find in Finland.

photographer interview

It was obviously this kind of atmosphere that I was looking for and I thought that I would find it there.

I must mention Osma Harvilahti, Heikki Kaski and Helen Korpark as photographers I had heard about and had seen the work. It made me feel enthusiastic; especially the light that their work had.

You could see that the light was singular and had this “cray” aspect -that’s the word that I like to give to Finnish light – that I wanted to see and implement it in my own work.

The photographs I’d seen all had something in common, an atmosphere, even common subjects.

I was sure it was because of their origin and how it must’ve unavoidably influenced their pictures.

I wanted to see it with my own eyes. Furthermore, I wanted also to explore the lack of light in Finland. To be able to play with the constraining weather and natural elements the climate had.

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The weather here can be described in two ways: either it’d be cold or the sun setting down too fast.

While assisting Louise Desnos, a French photographer, we discussed about how that light period affects the final image.

Organizing shootings was harder since you almost only had 3 hours to organize an outdoor shooting during winter, but how rewarding such work would also be.

photographer interview

I wanted to research this limitation and obviously, the melancholic mood that was connected to it – the sad mood that I would also experience.

Indeed, coldness and darkness were things I was looking for: both as a subject as well as an aesthetic to my images.

To put it in a nutshell (love this this wording!), the natural aspect in Finnish photography was so well-known; having this intimate link to forests and nature. I found it to be interesting for the subjects I was already dealing with.

My thesis actually deals with the issue of how we connect to the natural environment – metaphysically and physically.

Especially how our internal bodies’ liquidity make us connected to nature; how the moon might influence periods, or even our inner water and blood.

photographer interview

Which are also influenced by sunlight since it gives us our serotonin and vitamins.

Therefore, this external elements which activate our systems, means that we are unavoidably influenced by it.

What differentiates French and Finnish photography scene?

A LOT of things. Firstly, I feel is that Finnish photography is mostly about the nature.

There’s almost always a part of a natural environment appearing in the images. I feel that there is also this quietness in this photography whereas the French works are more talkative, tackling with political issues, thus noisy as one might say. Or really poetic in a way that it both brings up chaos and beauty at the same place.

photographer interview

Finnish works have some slowness and peace in them. Maybe I feel that French photography is more diverse in a sense, but it’s also linked with our photography history. I feel that Finnish photography scene offers more opportunities and a place for emerging artists/photographers to come into the contemporary art scene.

I love the way one works with materials; what’s the process for you when building an installation. My mind envisions materials through the images.

Before starting any project I like to find its potential possibilities with the materials.

photographer interview

I like to think how does the material either underline the work, reflecting the concept that I want to give to it.

Then I often modify the material or the work itself in regards of how I feel about it; eventually it’s all about the senses.

I believe that nowadays contemporary photography needs to question especially how a print can exist. Not only through the paper, but also how the image will eventually be printed and how it will communicate in a three dimension space, as an object in itself.

photographer interview

An image is not only a two dimensional flat object, but more of a sensual experience which can be felt through touch and materiality, something that is close to us. The same experience can be felt through organic elements while being in the nature.

Who and what inspires you?

The ocean and industrial sites. I guess I’m inspired by the environments which express a feeling of overwhelming presence.

A presence we cannot really fathom and therefore feeling this grandeur, even though it would be sensed in really tiny spaces.

Almost something “sublime”, but one felt in nature. An experience of the metaphysical link that we make: a “sublime” feeling through looking at images of a chaotic event like the wildfires happening in Amazonia, Siberia and South of France.

photographer interview

Last spring in Normandie, I had the chance to photograph a nuclear power plant from a seaside point of view. So the ocean and this nuclear industrial site were somehow melting together, and I thought it was truly a depiction of human history.

If I look at some inspiring artists, I love Osma Harvilahti’s work for its colors and textures. Virgil Vernier, Terrence Malik, Clément Cogitore and Sofia Coppola’s movies, for their soundtracks and all of their aesthetics. I also love Anicka Yi and Rachel Rose’s installations, because of the way they use materials and images to create almost sculptural objects.

Obviously I’m also interested in the subjects they work with, which deal with nature and processes happening among living organisms.

photographer interview

I can also mention Lucile Boiron’s work – her photographs are truly inspiring to me: they combine the physical and fluid features that I deal with in my own practice.

Finally some writers/philosophers: Emanuele Coccia’s work is amazingly inspiring, as well as Hannah Arendt, Augustin Berque ; Nicolas Mathieu’s novel Leurs enfants après eux (Their kids after them) and Capucine and Simon Johannin’s novel Nino dans la nuit (Nino into the night).

photographer interview

Whats going to happen in Shannas life within the next 6 months?

Mmmh well I’ll have an exhibition happening in Helsinki, alongside other Aalto’s students next February (2022). Also an exhibition in Paris, in the beginning of March under the theme of the Metamorphoses. I will have to finish and present my thesis, eventually! I’m also currently planning an exhibition with 3 close friends who are also amazing female photographers – I hope that we’ll find the right place to make it happen. I’ll sadly will have to leave Finland, the country that I truly love ♥︎

I love to hear you are so fascinated with Finland. What was the first moment you felt intrigued by photography ?

I guess I had already been intrigued by it when seeing exhibitions as a kid. But the most important part was when I did a foundation year in arts and had Mathieu Pernot, a French photographer (he’s known for the series Les Gorgan)as my teacher. It was also while studying there, that I discovered my way of creating: by first creating the photographs and then using it as my starting point to build up a sculptural image.

photographer interview

Spill your life lessons you wish you knew before you dived into photography.

Photography is not what we know it to be, even though it appears to us as a really accessible tool and medium. It combines many aspects and our planet is truly an inspiration for it all.

And photography as a medium is not only about using your camera. But mainly about what happens outside of it; the environment that it depicts and tries to trace. But photography also introduces you to new environments and people, so it indeed creates a new reality within the work you make but also your own life.

Photography as a medium simultaneously combines the 2D image with a three dimensional physical object.

We can work from anywhere in the world while also being introduced to the experience of living it.

photographer interview

Is your methodology something you want to share? How does the magic happen for you?

Why not? Even though I don’t really know if I have a specific “methodology”. I would say that I can talk about my working process which relies on the literature I consume.

I try to maintain this reading routine every morning. It inspires me a lot and lets me find a peaceful space before starting to intellectually process anything.

I follow my intuition regarding places I’m interested with or other essential features, the conceptual aspects of it and of course aesthetics of the things I see.

photographer interview

I would gather all this information, which are extracts of the reading that I do; I summarize key points in my notebook and also think about the images.

Through this mix, sometimes something caughts my attention or an idea emerges about how to make new work. Then the process really begins and isn’t complete, if they don’t physically exist in a space as physical objects.

Just physically immerse yourself with the enthusiasm you have abotut he world, let it flow through you and be in the core of this feeling.

I feel if you’re curious about your life, any fears about the the physical departure that we all eventually experience as humans, just seizes to exist ☺

It’s so intriguing to hear about your process and your thoughts about photography. It was a pleasure to have you here ☺︎

Thanks! Was fun being a part of this <3

Shanna Warocquier (b. 1998) is an artist living and working in Paris. She has completed her BA at EnsAd (Ecole nationale supérieure des Arts décoratifs) and is currently pursuing a Photography Master’s Degree in Aalto University.

Her interest lies in the transformation processes happening in nature and human beings. She combines several mediums such as photography, sculpture, video and installation.

Instagram @w.a.r.o.

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