I recently spent the afternoon dining at a friends apartment and while I was there I caught myself indulging in her bookshelf. About three shelves down, next to a collection of travel books, I found a beautiful book of photography.
Markus Henttonen: Twisted Tales – Road to Hope, it had displayed on the hardcover. Ever an aspiring photographer, I immediately claimed myself a fan.
“Where did you get this book?” I asked my friend.
“He’s a local photographer” She said.
Before I knew it I was on the phone to Markus and week later we agreed to meet for a coffee.
So there I was, one Monday morning, in a hideout square at the foothills of the Garraf National Park. When Markus arrived I thought I’d caught glimpse of a Hollywood star. In fact he was a star; he was a global class photographer with a huge sense of humility.
We ordered two humble drinks and sat next to the chipped marble fountain.
“So, you’re Finnish” I started. “What are you doing here in Barcelona?”
“Me and my wife have lived here for two years now after years in Berlin. We both felt strongly that Sitges was the right place for us. We had already spent some time in Barcelona when we were younger and the both of us fell in love with the warmth of the people and the climate. After going from ice and snow and minus 25 degrees in Finland to palm trees and beaches in Barcelona in March, it felt truly magical.” Markus exploded with a deep sense of connection.
“So does Barcelona also serve you as a photographer?” I probed.
“Yes definitely. I’ve been amazed at what I’ve found around Barcelona and especially around Sitges. You can get to many different locations all within half and hour, it’s a paradise. And the environment is very natural, warm and tropical. It gives off many vibes but I especially love that the landscape and the light are very similar to the best places in California ” He said.
If you were to pick up Markus’s book, Twisted Tales, you’d recognise a strong L.A. feel laced throughout it. I was curious to know more about what inspired the project in the first place so I went straight to the source and asked him.
“The idea came from a moment of wanting to do something totally different. I didn’t want my photography to become stiff and at the same time I was getting frustrated by the limitations and restrictions of the art world. I felt that it all propelled me into new beginnings and personal projects. So I decided to travel and explore my own visions. In the end I spent three years travelling around L.A., New York, Detroit, Berlin, Finland and Barcelona before I had the whole piece ready for exhibition and the book format it’s in today.” Markus explained.
I remembered vividly the photos from the book and how I felt myself merging into the story they portrayed. The dreams and the darknesses, the hopes and the desires.
“I notice you have a strong affinity to the 70’s era.” I said to Markus before asking him to describe his overall photography style in more detail.
“With Twisted Tales, and other projects I’ve realised, I’d say my work is cinematic, timeless and includes an element of storytelling. I feel very inspired by the timeless quality of the 70’s era yes. But I like to capture photos that are placeless too and the light is always very important. But what’s most important is that the photo captures a feeling.” He said calmly as he sipped his juice.
“Do you have an idol?” I slipped in.
“Yes I have many. But for their lifestyle I like German photographers Helmut Newton and Peter Lindbergh. They were both photographing their whole life and made decisions to move on when necessary. Also both of them are timeless and that’s why they had longevity in their careers. It’s not easy to make it with your own style in this industry.” Markus replied.
“Do you have difficult days?” I asked.
“Yes, of course. Doing your own thing as an artist or photographer is not the easiest route. You come up against all sorts of underlying issues from the art world and from people themselves. You need to be determined. Sometimes I have down days and then better days come along.” He told me, which of course inspired me.
“Do you think photography takes you home, closer to your soul?” I digged.
“Yes it’s very deep inside me. I can’t separate myself from it. It’s in everything I do.” Markus said coolly, as if photography was flashing through him, right there and then.
Markus seemed to have the personality for it, I thought to myself. But I wondered what he did when he was not working.
“So what’s it like at home, when you’re not shooting?” I shot him the question.
“When I’m not using my camera, the creative flow tends to come out through the guitar and making my own songs. I love music and these days I’m working on fusing photography with music and video. It’s very cool to see how the different energies come together.” He said. “But I also just love being at home with my wife. We live in a villa a bit out of the city and it’s such a pleasure to plant some seeds in the garden or hear a dog barking in the background of the silence. Or after a stressful work project to go downstairs to my music room to play drums. It´s the best meditation.”He added which made me smile.
It was such a pleasure to sit under the mountain talking to Markus. He was ever so warm and kind that it felt a pity when our brief encounter came to a close. But I managed to slip in one last question.
“What happens to you when you take photographs?”
“I get a rush of adrenaline. It could be a still landscape or nothing in particular, but something inside me moves.” He told me, with clears signs of a godly maneuver.
I was incredibly grateful to Markus for his time and his dutiful contribution to the art world. So naturally I thanked him.
Until next time.
Anneka Lott and Teresa Castells
P.S. If you’d like to connect to Markus yourself, you can find him here:
All photos copyright of Markus Henttonen