Interview with Photographer | Vanessa Forstén

Quiet portraits that speak loudly through a soft color palette, heavy feelings displayed in a calm and harmonious way. The atmosphere and mood in the pictures focusing on the female identity and the feminine are what Finnish photographer Vanessa Forstén is known for.

Vanessa Forstén graduated from The University of the Creative Art’s in Rochester UK in 2013. As a “late bloomer”, as she calls it herself, she was extra hungry to learn and to explore her abilities. Maturity in the field is a positive thing as young talents might have difficulties handling their abilities. They might feel too much pressure from their surroundings and care more about what others think.

Forstén works both as a freelance photographer and as an independent artist. In her artworks, she usually uses herself as a model.

“I like to work with myself, to reflect on my own thoughts via photography. For example my project Revir was all about finding out who I am – I was alone for the first time and the project was helpful in the process of developing as individual.

The interesting thing about using yourself as model is that you get to communicate with yourself, look at yourself from another direction via the pictures. The power you have being both the model and the photographer is that even if you are feeling vulnerable in the moment the picture is taken, being the photographer as well you decide what you show and how you show it. It does not feel uncomfortable, but I couldn’t photograph anyone else in the ways I do in my art projects , it’s very personal and intimate. I’d rather use myself as model, the content and the thoughts in the pictures will of course get an entirely different meaning if I’d photograph anyone else.”

“It’s liberating not to put too much weight on the way you look. When someone takes a picture of you, the faults you think you see in your looks is only in your head. As model you can’t take yourself too seriously, a picture won’t ever represent you fully, it’s a brief moment, a part of a second, taken out of it’s context. As a photographer, you steal a picture of a person, you have to be very careful not to objectify the model and to respect the person. When taking pictures of yourself the relationship flips and you are in control of what and how you present yourself.”

“Art doesn’t have to be pretentious and serious, art happens by itself and develops to what it is to become. I had lots of spear time one summer and it was the first time I lived alone. Taking pictures is therapeutic and that summer it was a way of spending time with myself, to kill time. Something was born; the photo series Revir is a project about exploring who I was and what I felt when I was completely by myself. I do enjoy being by myself – but I criticize how easy it is to isolate oneself  from the outside world into one’s own emotions and state of mind.”

The end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood is a challenging phase, as it tests young adults how to balance life between independence and loneliness. Being alone is not the easiest thing, especially as we are constantly connected to everyone and everything around us. A fast pace living is often used as escapism from real life.

You need the presence of others to give you a sense of belonging. But the constant influence of others and the focus on others needs rather than our own will keep you from self-validation. Being alone is crucial for growth of one’s identity and helps to communicate with oneself better. You need a space where you get to be completely yourself and only do one thing at a time, uninterrupted.

Forstén has chosen to work in a calm way, not to stress anything because one rarely gets something out of quality when done in a rush. You don’t need to touch all problematic subjects at once, rather grow an idea and make it a thoughtful and strong statement – supporting different causes is something to be done by choices in everyday life.

“In a more experimental project it is important not to have high expectations – or expectations at all, but rather to be curious during the process, not to try forcing the artwork to mold itself into the idea you have in your head.”

In her latest project, Menorrhea, Vanessa Forstén explores her own body during menstruation. She questions the controversial issues around the social taboo surrounding menstruation. The view of a woman being e.g. dirty when she’s bleeding has gained a lot of attention with some of her bold contributes to the series, and is highly current with today’s talks about the female body and the view of women.

Images courtesy of Vanessa Forstén.


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