Like all great modern photographers, we discovered Osma Harvilahti‘s work while trawling through a random blog, the appearance of his work suddenly giving us cause for pause to take in the richness of his images and to hurry quickly to his website to look at more. What we came across there was a body of work that was proficient beyond its years and a photographer with the capability to turn the most serendipitous moments into exquisitely framed images.
Some time later we found out that Osma had spent some time shooting interiors and portraits for Apartamento and the deal was sealed, we’d fallen in love with this young, stylish Finn and his purity of photographic vision.
But what is it about Osma that makes his work so special? For one thing he’s not just another digital photographer reliant on photoshop to make the magic happen. Osma has mastered the use of a small set of analog tools with which he captures his images, predominantly shooting on 120mm film. As a result he spends a great deal of time in professional labs; “Print Space NYC has become my absolute favourite, and while shooting film I spend quite a lot of time there going through my negatives and scanning the commissioned work with their gear.”
This use of analogue techniques has made him extremely proficient at picking out elements in the natural world that intrinsically compliment his medium. “I’m always looking for certain combinations of form, shapes, colours, patterns and light. Sometimes pictures are made by finding a visually interesting spot and then just waiting for something to happen. I feel like I have an archive of potential places in my mind that might turn into a successful photograph if I encounter the right elements.”
Consequently Osma plans his photography trips to distant lands based on their sartorial and aesthetic merits. “If I’m thinking where to travel next I consider the culture and traditions in terms of fashion, architecture and contrasts.”
Recently this particular criteria has provoked a keen interest in Africa and Osma has undertaken a new series that’s seen him travel to Morocco in the last few weeks and on to Kenya in the new year. The results of only five days in Morocco are truly remarkable and testament to his ability to seek out beautiful moments in even the most alien surroundings. They also demonstrate a personability that enables him to capture strangers as if they were close friends. So how does he approach these subjects when he passes them on the street? “It really feels like I have no choice, if I see an interesting person, figure or silhouette I have to go and approach them otherwise I might feel bad about the lost picture for days.”
With a booming commercial portfolio and an extensive list of ongoing personal projects to his name you might think that Osma had no more room in his life for work, but 2013 sees the launch of the first monograph of his work and he’s committed to a cross-continental project that he hopes will see him documenting artists in their homes across New York, London and Tokyo. Pretty good going for a self-taught social sciences major, we think.