Uwa Iduozee (University of Tampere) Anton Thompson Coon (Arcada University of Applied Sciences) Sandra Itäinen (School of Visual Arts)
Q1. You said that you were doing a photo story for the project, but changed to a video. How did that happen?
One of the first moving images that I took for the project was Leena at the hospital. I took this tripod shot of her just sitting in the chair and just thinking. I just felt it was so much more telling than just a single image because you can see that time passing and the stillness of it all. So many elements could be portrayed in a single image too, but I felt it was stronger by having movements even if it was really minimal. From then, I started adding to that. I don't think there was a single moment where I went, 'No, I have to tell the story through moving images.' I just started using moving images and then I found myself gravitated more and more towards that end.
Q2. How is the still image and video different to you?
I'm interested in telling the stories of people. I've felt with photography, you're always imposing your subjective view on that subject matter. But (with video), given the additional elements of audio or the moving image, I was able to tell and show more aspects of the individual and their life. I was somehow struggling with photography because a lot of times if you're working on a subject like cancer, a lot of the pictures I was taking, I felt they were loaded with my preconceptions and how I understood because I haven't been a cancer survivor.
For me in especially telling portraits of people, video formats give so much more nuances when you're able to add elements and sound. Since then I've been gravitated to more of an observational approach to filming.
Q3. What did you keep in mind while you were filming the project?
Most of the times, I was trying to be respectful and not intrusive. I was also trying to do my best not to impose anything that I expected to get or wanted to get. I was trying to be open to how things are going to unfold, which might not necessarily be exactly how you had envisioned. But I just wanted to be aware of my position and my limited understanding of the issue. I do this with every project. Basically, be open to what happens and go with the direction that's given.
Q4. Your subject looked really comfortable with your presence. How did you do that?
There's a feeling of connection from the start. Of course, you're going to get to know a person, talk about your intention and talk about how you are to get to know each other. But after that, you quickly get a sense of, 'are you on the same wavelength? Do you understand each other? Do you trust each other? Especially do they trust you and your motivations?'
I felt she was really open and she wanted to tell the story. So that was also important. I felt like she wanted me to tell the story. I felt like she trusted me.
And the way that I work is often that the camera is like a safety net. You can hide behind it. I often minimize myself. People don't really forget you, but it doesn't show your presence as much. Or they might forget you for 10 seconds here and there and that ten seconds might be diamond.
Q5. What else did you do to minimize your presence?
You can always say that 'try to act like I'm not here.' But it doesn't work that way. It takes time. I was going back time and time again. By the time I was filming the video, I had already been with her many of times taking pictures so we had already built the relationship. She was also naturally an easygoing person. It also has to do with if the person has something to do. She was reading to her child and they were together. They had the possibility to delve into something other than thinking of my presence in the room. So, I think that's always important. It's much more difficult to get a person to relax or to not acknowledge your presence when they have nothing to do. But when they're doing something, it's always easier.
Q6. Can you give advice to people working on documentary short videos?
Make sure you’re working with a theme you’re passionate about. Be patient in building the trust between yourself and your subject and be open about your intentions to them. Also, nerd out by watching all the docs you can find that in any way relate to your subject matter!
Q&A by Yehyun Kim. Supervising editor is Liv Paggiarino.