Review of Mikko Waltari's baccalaureate diploma work
The name of Mikko Waltari’s work “plays [on capturing the time lost]” creates a parallel to the famous novel by Proust, In Search for Lost Time. Right at this moment, the author begins a very interesting discussion with time in his photography. The photographic media, which is in a constant discussion with time, by stopping, creating and expanding it is convenient to Mikko Waltari, whose one of the photographs is called just that - Time. Even though the name is rather banal, however, the time in the photography is reflected not in a banal way. Time in this photography is a frozen moment of a character’s time that goes beyond the photograph and sits in the consciousness of a viewer. It seems that the glance of the main character is directed to himself. The surrounding world, the person sitting next to him and the fire are unimportant. His head is framed by the television screen, and the little elephant seen in the foreground (which is usually given to someone as a token of good fortune) emphasises the emptiness of existing and past time.
The same empty stares are repeated in various other photographed situations. This stare is also seen in She Never Knew Her Father, where the middle-aged man is indifferently glancing through the window, right at the same moment when the young woman is looking at him. But in fact, with his glance the man is distancing himself from the surroundings, because the reality is too difficult to be accepted straight away.
In the photograph On That Day the mimic of the girl is stopped with news that are told to her over the phone. Right at that moment her body is experiencing a stage of weightlessness, when one does not know, understand, realise or accept the painful event, it redirects the stare from the outside world into inside world, where one is searching for an answer to what might have happened? In Drop-outs, a suited man that is walking under the bridge directs his stare to the water in order to avoid situation of conflict or attachment. His glance rather transforms into empty pigeon eyes, staring us from the centre of the frame.
I believe that the biggest advantage of these works is that they are believable. Even though you can clearly see that they have been staged, the stories told by these photography’s intertwine with reality and become not representations but operating objects.
Mikko Waltari uses few techniques to achieve this effect. First of all, he does not claim that these are “captured” documentary frames or the decisive moments of Bresson and Stieglitz. These are staged scenes. However, here the directing overcomes the artificial boundaries and involves you to their nature of unique storytelling.
At the first sight these works remind of Jeff Wall’s staged photography. Yet, there is one moment that excludes the graduate from Jeff Wall and that is – coincidence. Where Jeff Wall accepts coincidence as a unique quality of photographic media, there is no room for coincidences in his work. Wall’s time-consumingly directed, photographed and edited scenes excludes any chance of coincidence from the written scenario. Coincidence in Mikko Waltari’s photographs is consciously accepted and used.
It is a pigeon that accidentally landed on the set, or a dog walking with his owner on the background, pictures on the wall and scattered things around an apartment, frame of the window that forms a cross. Amateurs or friends that the author chose, as in the piece On That Day, themselves emphasise the authors capability of controlling coincidence and using it to his advantage even more. That is why the author’s idea or a fragment of his memory intertwines with the vision of the actors, the surrounding or their memory and becomes an organic unit. It is anti-theatrical and theatrical at the same time.
It is an entire dimension put together from experienced and still experiencing time, and if to remember the M.Proust novel, mentioned above, Mikko Waltari’s photographs become Discovered Time.
Doctoral student Akvilė Anglickaitė 2015
Theatre of the everyday
Lithuania-based Finnish photographer Mikko Waltari has finished his BA studies at Vilnius Academy of Arts this year. His thesis project (supervised by Alvydas Lukys) consisted of four large-formate photographs, which he calls plays and createed with the help of professional actors and amateurs. Like in Jeff Wall’s tableaux, here the whole drama is compressed into a single instant, into barely noticeable gestures, subtle changes in facial expressions or prolonged contemplation.
These metaphotographs raise the issue of discrepancy between the experience and representation of time, because brief, barely visible movements extended into eternity with the help of photography coincide here with prolonged states of stasis - it is almost impossible to spot a difference. On the other hand, internal tension, the protagonists’ seething emotions and reveries look equally mundane here, although the opposite might be true as well: photography demonstrates that the habitual texture of the everyday masks internal intensities. But equally interesting is the very transference of a Western mode of constructing a photograph into the Lithuanian context, which, with all its antique and bourgeois furniture, Vilnius cafes, bridge underpasses and pigeons, becomes the set of a universal stage play. Staged drama imparts a tinge of artificiality to the environment as well, and this exposes the deceptiveness of the documentary-like “Lithuanian school of photography”.
Associate professor Dr. Agnė Narušytė in “Lithuanian photography yesterday and today ’15"