Mikko Takkunen

Place of birth: Joensuu

Place of residence: Swansea, Wales

Education: MA in Politics and International Relations, University of Aberdeen; BA Photojournalism, Swansea Metropolitan University

Family: My father Esko and mother Liisa. Sisters Anu and Pia. Brother Tomi. My girlfriend Veronica.

As a child I wanted to be…a rally driver.

I hate it when...I speak before I think.

In ten years time I’d like to…still be a freelance photographer, but one who gets regular, interesting assignments from great publications, which isn’t the case at the moment.

IN LESS THAN four years, Mikko Takkunen has gone from regular university graduate to Finland’s young photojournalist of 2010. Despite living in the UK, his work was noticed in his native land and he has established himself as one of Finland’s rising stars. Takkunen has photographed a range of themes in his relatively short career, including Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Barack Obama’s inauguration, illiteracy in Sierra Leone and the hunters of eastern Finland. SixDegrees caught up with the photographer shortly after he won this coveted award.

Why do you think you were chosen as Finland’s young photojournalist of 2010?

Maybe because there aren’t so many young Finnish photographers who’ve done the kind of documentary projects I’ve done, such as the ones I worked on in Sierra Leone and Lebanon.

What got you into photography in the first place?

I think I always had a certain fascination with photography, but I didn’t get into it until I bought my first Digital SLR.

Er, what’s that, then?

Oh, sorry, a digital single-lens reflex camera.

Thanks. Which photographers do you feel have influenced your work the most?

One name I’d definitely mention is American photojournalist James Nachtwey. I’m sure the documentary film War Photographer about him has influenced and inspired thousands of young photographers. Others whom I’ve always admired include Eugene Richards, another American, and Italian Paolo Pellegrin.

You’ve photographed many different themes. Is there a common thread running through your work?

Most of the work I’ve done so far – apart from the hunter portraits – has been related to some kind of political or societal issue. I’d say the common thread then is my interest in documenting these political/societal issues and events in reportage form.

Many of your photos are taken in black and white. Do certain themes lend themselves to being photographed in this way?

I think I initially used black and white because a lot of the work I admired had been photographed in monochrome. Over the last few years, however, I’ve realised that regarding certain subjects, colour can be quite distracting and black and white is more suitable. It can sometimes also be purely a creative choice.

What’s the point of photography, in your opinion?

Photography, in a journalistic and documentary sense, can provide a record of reality unlike any other medium. It has an important role to play in recording world history, as well as shedding light on issues that might otherwise remain unknown, misunderstood or distant. Not all photography is like this, nor does it have to be, of course. Photography can also be about providing purely aesthetic pleasure or displaying creative expression.

What do you hope your photography will accomplish?

I’d be happy if my photographs were able to draw viewers’ attention to issues, events and people I have found interesting and in need of documenting. All the better if some of those viewers show enough interest in the subjects of my pictures to actually act on any reactions they have. In the case of my Sierra Leone work, this could be in the form of people donating to the Finnish Refugee Council. Whereas with my hunter portraits, it could just be the viewer showing interest in the culture of the people photographed.

Why do you live in the UK? As a Brit living in Finland, I can’t see the appeal.

I guess I just kinda got stuck here after coming to study in Scotland. But in terms of the photography work I want to do, I think the UK is one of the best places to be. The market is certainly bigger than in Finland.

Find a collection of Mikko Takkunen’s work at:

Allan Bain