Abstraction in not unique area

Call it a minor crisis – a positive one – or just a general thirst for rejuvenation, but lately I’ve been having a growing need to step into something completely new in my art practise. I do not want to abandon my long term projects but I need space for more experimentation. Perhaps the pandemic and some other current circumstances have created a situation in which I feel somehow jammed, doing the same thing over and over again.

Under cover and exposed (2021) – Jarmo Pikkujamsa

I have borrowed the title of this blog entry from somewhere in the social media, I forgot the source, please accept my apologies. But when I saw it, I felt an immediate connection to it, like entering a new house where you are certain you have never been and yet it all seems strangely familiar, room after room. Who knows, perhaps you have been there after all, in another life, or when you were a child, or in a dream… I have always given value to the ordinary, everyday random “meaninglessness” but I never thought I could return to it with a new eye. Perhaps I did think of it briefly in the end of last summer when I already found myself photographing abstract details and patterns that just kept popping in front of my eyes. To push things further, I am hoping to catch abstaction that is made of something larger than objects, such as man made or natural structures and spaces that themselves form the abstraction and encapsulate you within. I am warming up now!

I am currently writing a novel that is much about geography and streets and neighborhoods and lately I have also incorporated parts of the story to my street photography by documenting those areas in which the story takes place. It’s a lot of fun and I use one or the other – the story or the image – as a source of inspiration to develop both of them further. At the same time the storyline in the book is now in a state of a “travelogue” leading the reader through the lives of the protagonists and I am hoping to find another, more abstract geography, a fictional one that would come accross as a new dimension that belongs to the book and grows into you as the story unfolds. Maybe this is where I am heading next?

Afropolis Dakar: A New Nexus

I’m sharing with you a teaser for my upcoming short film in the series on urban space and city dwellers. This film will discuss the status quo of urban planning and the Dakarois civic activism in times in which the public space seems to be growing more and more private with often foreing investments. The teaser was filmed at the beach in Nord Foire in Dakar.

As it happens, the pandemic ruined most of my plans in regard to film making (and I would like to shout, like I am sure you would too: in regard to so many things!) so I have postponed this project for now, in wait of better days and unmasked faces. In practise this means that I will focus more on writing during the summer, so chances are good that it will also affect my future posts on this blog, possibly with random snippets of texts.

Afropolis Dakar: A New Nexus

Afropolis Dakar: A New Nexus. Teaser, 00:59 min.

Afropolis 2020 Saint-Louis

Afropolis 2020 Saint-Louis

What makes you remember a street? Is there an area in town to which you return often? Why? We all know how specific areas within any given city have their own feel and pace, depending on the time of the day. I was always a walker and in whatever town I lived, I always developed a fast understanding of my own favorite neighborhoods. In the case of Saint-Louis, it’s the northern part of the island, or the sandy stretch of land further north by the Mauritanian border in Goxum Bacc and Sal Sal. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic I started my days by walking around the island very early in the morning, and the first thing I do is check the surface of the river as some sort of a fortune teller or weather forecast. I would also choose my first walk or bicycle route of the day always by the river even in the non-pandemic times. 

With Covid-19 the pace of life has changed and even more so with the Ramadan in full swing. This change will – I hope – manifest also in my video installations for Afropolis. I have chatted with friends and listened to them talk about their hometown and it has been very interesting to hear what they like about this town and how they would change it if they could. I chose to shoot on the streets with a mini DV camcorder on purpose as I have come to realize that digital does not always convey so well what I am hoping to show. I like this extra-economical boundary of 60 minute-cassettes because that puts me in a completely different mood with planning my work. Additionally, it has been my interviewees who gave me ideas for locations to shoot.  

Afropolis 2020 Saint-LouisA Takkusaan Production (2020), Duration: 45:14 (In French & Wolof)

Organic photography and chlorophyll process

I have made some anthotype prints in the past but never found time long enough to experiment with that technique. So far my plan has always been postponed to “that next summer in Finland” when I would, in theory, attempt to extract some delicious photo sensitive juice out of the intestines of whichever plant or berry I could get my hands on. And then the summer would come, and I would be busy with too many other things... Now the new plan is that we will organize a workshop on anthotypes, so perhaps when it’s part of a more official residency program it will materialize in a more constructive way.

Anthotypes aside, I just realized earlier this week that I have a relatively easy access to banana leaves and decided to give it a go and make chlorophyll prints. I am a fan of Binh Danh’s work* and some years ago when I saw some of his portraits I knew that one day I would put my mind to it and try this process myself. And here’s that day! Below is my first print, which I made out of an old negative converted into a positive when the print was ready. That’s because I did not have a transparent positive to work with, I was just too eager to give it a go! This print had an exposure of approximately 24 hours. More experimentation is on its way now and with proper positives.

Maam Coumba Bang. Chlorophyll print (detail), 2020 © Jarmo Pikkujamsa
Sunglasses. Chlorophyll print, 2020 © Jarmo Pikkujamsa

I made the piece called Sunglasses of a positive that was printed on paper. I had to add some contrast to make the photo more visible though. I have sometimes used very thin white Japanese paper as a positive with good results, but this slightly opaque transparent paper did not work so well even if I had an exposure time of nearly 48 hours. Some other positives on paper were much more contrasted than this one and they all failed to print anything. I may need to experiment with the level of contrast as well since this work was the least contrasted and it produced a fairly decent print.

*Link to Alternative Photography and the chlorophyll process where you can see some examples of Binh Danh’s beautiful prints.