In The Gift of Looking Closely, the novel I have translated and published, the main character Claire buys a camera to capture the world from a different perspective.
‘I want to open a window into a place where colours are like jewels.
I want to make small things so big they become a whole world.
I want to surround myself in a peel of bark. Wrap myself in a leaf. See the moss like a forest.
I want an ant-sized view.’
The element of macro photography is like a symbol for the whole novel, which explores new perspectives both through the quite unusual narrative point of view and through the different ways in which the characters look at reality.
The other day, a reader described this so well: ‘To me, the magical thing about this book wasn’t the story as such, but rather what happens beneath the surface. It is a book that calls for you to slow down and really see what happens in the tiny details.’
When I made the cover for the Swedish translation, the author Al Brookes and I agreed to look for a nature-themed close-up photograph, since nature is another important theme in the book. I stumbled upon the extraordinary macro photographs of Finish nature photographer Joni Niemelä around the same time as Al asked if I could find a picture of curled up fern. When I found ‘Unfurling’ we were both hooked.
I have interviewed Joni Niemelä about his passion for photography, nature and the tiny details around us.
Who is Joni Niemelä?
I’m a self-taught fine art nature photographer based in Southern Ostrobothnia, Finland. I’ve been capturing the world around me for over a decade now. Though I like to photograph various things in nature my favourite subjects are the world of macro and those little details that usually get unnoticed.
You started photographing when you were quite young. What made you explore photography as a creative medium?
At first I just wanted to save those moments in nature for myself but after a while I began to share my work and noticed that other people do also like to see my work. Since then my camera has been always been with me in nature saving the details and moments. I think photography is an easy medium to approach for people and you can always find something new to learn about it. Macro photography opened a whole new world to me and I’m still exploring it.
What does nature mean to you?
Nature is a huge part of my life and my photographic works. You can always enjoy it even if you don’t get any images. Many have lost the connection to nature now days so hopefully my images will also make it more interesting for the viewers and that way reconnect with the nature.
How do you think being a photographer affects the way you look at the world?
I’m definitely looking the light and the details around me – not all the time but I do notice it some times even if I don’t carry my camera with me.
Could you share a few of your most memorable moments as a photographer?
I don’t think there’s any single moment but I do remember really well all of those misty mornings especially in the fall. Something familiar can transform so greatly when the thick mist rises and hides your surrounding showing only some details around and near you.
Another one is of course the tiny world of macro. When shooting these kind of images my mind is so focused on the subject that you forget everything else around me. It’s a nice place to get lost.
Do you remember shooting ‘Unfurling’, the photograph used as the cover image for Det som andra inte ser?
Shooting rising ferns in the spring one of those things that have become kind of an ritual for me. These plants are one of the first ones to rise off the ground after the winter and photographing these is a great transfer from the cold white winter scenes to a more green ones. I remember taking images of this particular plant for over couple of hours from different perspectives and found this one to be most successful one. I’ll maybe release a photo series of these some day when I have enough images of this theme.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt through your creative work?
I think it’s important trying to do your own thing – finding and evolving your style.
What are you looking forward to right now?
Well the summer is now gone and also the fall is coming to an end so I’m really waiting the winter. Hopefully we will have a lot of snow this winter.