Thursday 4/21/16 time 1:20 PM - interviewed by Hanna Peräkylä


James Morley, 24, Canadian


Background as an artist: 

My interest in art began when I was 13 years old. My friends and I were always skateboarding and filming each other with a cheap video camera. I enjoyed editing the footage together, and would spend hours and hours creating short videos with it. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to try shooting still photographs. I wasn't as good at skateboarding as my friends, so I thought that photography would allow me to continue hanging out with them. Through skateboarding I eventually found myself interested in documentary photography and decided that I wanted to study it at a university level. I studied photography at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, and I received my Bachelor degree in Fine Arts in 2015. Throughout my time in school, my practice has evolved to incorporate video and installation work that mainly focuses on the individual experience of urban space.

How did you end up choosing your media? Best/worst sides of it?

I chose photography and video because of their indexical nature. I am not very well co-ordinated; I don't have the precision and control that are needed for drawing, painting, or sculpture. Cameras are the perfect tool to be able to document something in the world exactly as you see it. The best part of photography is exactly that - being able to transform your own vision into an image that everyone else can see. I also enjoy exploring and seeking out opportunities to find new subject matter, and photography is the best suited medium for capturing things spontaneously.

The worst part about photography is that the subject matter you are looking for just doesn't exist sometimes. Even though it is easier that ever to manipulate images on the computer, you still need to be able to find a subject in the real world that best conveys your idea. I do enjoy that part though, as well as the problem-solving that goes into finding the perfect composition.

What do you find as the best and worst sides of being an artist?

The best part of being an artist is having the ability to take your ideas and concepts and materialize them into some sort of physical or visual media. I find that the creative process forces you to learn, think about things a bit differently than you normally would, and in the case of photography, it puts you in new places and interesting situations that you might not normally find yourself. I also really enjoy creating things that you can look at again and again.

The worst part about being an artist is definitely the financial side of things. Cameras, computers, film, and other materials are all very expensive, and selling a couple of prints here and there doesn't really help cover the costs very much. It helps that there are a lot of commercial opportunities within photography, but they come with their own issues. Once you start shooting things purely for money, the motivations behind your work tend to change a lot. It is sometimes quite difficult to separate purely creative and commercial work, and it can sometimes be detrimental to a project to start thinking about how you are going to profit from it. Maintaining a balance between the two is definitely the hardest part.

Is this your first time in Finland? What kind of expectations did you have about Finland/ Joutsa?

It is my first time in Finland! I think I expected Joutsa to be a bit smaller, and I thought that I might have a hard time going about my day-to-day activities without speaking Finnish. It wasn't a problem, however, as most of the people I encounter speak very good English.

How's your average day in Joutsa?

I usually start the day with some coffee. Throughout the day I will usually go for a bike ride or two and explore Joutsa, looking for opportunities to shoot photos or video. I also spend a large portion of the day reading, researching, and planning the project I am working on. I also try to spend some time in the common areas of Haihatus so I can talk to the other artists and hang out with the three cats that live here.

What are the best sides / opportunities in having an art residency? 

Having this art residency has definitely allowed me a lot of creative freedom that I don't usually have at home. Leaving behind my computer, job, and responsibilities has helped to give me a lot more time to think about work that I would like to make, and I have been able to spend a lot more time shooting and planning projects than I normally would.

How does Haihatus meet your expectations? 
Haihatus is exactly what I was expecting and hoping for. I needed a relaxed and easygoing environment like this to start thinking creatively and make some new work.

I would recommend Haihatus to anyone who has an artistic background and experience making work, who is also looking for an opportunity to spend time in a unique place while working on a self-directed project. The environment provides the perfect opportunity to work with a clear and unobstructed mindset. I do think participants should be fairly diligent and responsible with their time, as there isn't a strict structure that governs how you should be spending it.

What are your plans after Haihatus?

When I leave Haihatus, I will be returning to Toronto, where I will begin working again. I will be spending a significant amount of my free time over the coming months editing and finishing the film I have been shooting in Finland. When it is finished, I hope to exhibit it as well as a series of photographs in galleries Toronto and elsewhere.

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