Starring, Joonas Linkola: Commercial photographer based in Finland
Original post with Nomadict, read it here! Written by Alex from Nomadict.
Having had the opportunity to grow surrounded by nature and an adventurous family, Joonas Linkola found his passion in the wild. The skiing tours around the most remote territories of Finland that he and his family made together built up his intrepid character.
In 2015, after traveling around Norway with 4 good friends, he decided to pursue a career as a landscape photographer and visual story teller. His curiosity for this way of expression as well as his admiration for nature allowed him to quickly understand the industry and create a powerful brand for himself.
As such, nowadays Joonas uses visual story telling to convey his emotions and make a living. Finding inspiration traveling or exploring the wildness is really easy for him. After all, it is the adventure and the unknown what Joonas enjoys the most.
Both the stories and style of his photography are widely celebrated by the community, which finds inspiration in the little moments of happinesses that Joonas shares being in the wild.
Welcome Joonas! First of all, can you please explain us what motivated you to pick a camera in the first place and what is driving you nowadays?
Lets go back to year 2014! At that time I was studying at Aalto University in Helsinki. I was immersed in the world of telecommunications, which as you can imagine, is something completely different from photography or any other visual media for instance.
However, I was already curious about other fields, such as marketing. I really enjoy marketing because in my eyes, it is something more “concrete” compared to coding and radio signals. The strategies that you can set up for a business are more tangible, and they usually have a storyline. I found it really engaging.
Photography was present already in my life as well, although certainly not in a professional way. I was photographing occasionally with my friends and family with my iPhone or Panasonic – all those random moments of happiness.
I decided to focus on web design and marketing strategy. Luckily, that Summer I was able to work for a company helping them with marketing campaigns and sales projects.
When I got back from my exchange year in France in the beginning of 2015, I was invited to an adventurous road trip around Lofoten, Northern Norway. A two weeks road trip!
We were five guys, including my little brother Konsta Linkola, who back then was already a semi-professional photographer. The trip was scheduled for January, and that meant we would be facing extreme weather conditions. For those who don’t know, Lofoten is located in the North-Western Norway, way above the Arctic Circle. We ended up getting a lot of snow, haze, wind and cold temperatures! It was certainly one of a kind experience to explore this amazing region for the first time with the other explorers and photographers.
During the road trip, these other guys brain washed me to pursue with the visual story telling and Instagram. I guess that they convinced me!
They taught me tricks with the camera and gave me advice with Instagram. They also tagged me to some pictures and I got my first 1k followers along the trip, if I remember correctly.
After that I deleted my old content from Instagram. Having all those photos with friends having fun and partying was fun and really important memories to me, but I didn’t want them to mix up with the outdoor content. Instagram feed is, in the end, kind of a brand. It tells the viewer what I’ve done and in the same way, it gives an idea of what should be coming in the future as well. I saw Instagram as a social media platform that could allow me to build my own personal outdoor brand.
I believe that I already had several advantages and skills related to being in the nature and living on the road. My family has been always adventurous, and we spent plenty of time together outdoors. Once we went for a one-week back country skiing in Finland. It was winter and we had -30 degrees sleeping in a tent! I also had an idea of branding in general, how the big picture should be consistent, and the vision and mission ware key elements in being credible.
Not many people in social media know that before photographing I used to be into music. A lot. I played piano and drums for ages, also in several bands. At the time I started University I hosted clubs as a DJ in Helsinki. However, party culture was pretty damn exhausting, and it didn’t turn out to be that profitable for me. Hence, I was used to be in front of audience on the stage. These things helped me as I was able to be myself in front of the camera as well, even though my acting skills were close to zero.
In terms of photography, having the help of my brother and other Instagrammers was crucial. I really enjoy the networking side of Instagram, so I attended events and sent messages to other photographers in order to learn and collaborate. I was certainly putting in a lot of effort into the network and eventually something really positive came out!
As I always say: “You get what you give!”
Finally, the last piece of this puzzle arrived in the summer of 2015. I got a summer job where I ended up doing social media content for a Finnish company, which was selling land for Summer cottages. In Finland we have a strong tradition of people owning their own Summer cottages and this company needed content to market their products. Doing this job and experiencing it was really important for me in order to make a final decision and focus all my attention on the production of social media content.
So, it has been quite an interesting journey so far, I would say.
You have been to so many countries already! Was traveling a passion of yours before diving into photography or is the other way around, photography is your main motivation to keep traveling?
I don’t see myself as a professional photographer yet because I have so much to learn. Currently, photography is part of what I do, as well as writing and video production and being in front of the camera. I see myself as a professional social media content producer, because that’s the big picture of my career. I am focusing a lot in anything that has to do with social media marketing, planning, organizing and executing campaigns.
Travelling kind of ensures a constant flow of work and photography is an important part of it. My clients are normally interested in nature related content and outdoor culture, so it encourages me to stay on the road. I get to do what I like in an environment that I love!
Good question! Recently I visited Cappadocia (Turkey) together with my girlfriend. Although we had some concerns about the current social situation (because of mainstream media and the most recent news), we decided to give the country a chance. As soon as we landed we understood that Turkey is actually a massive country. The central area of Cappadocia was far away from what the mainstream media let us understand.
After a while traveling around the area we almost felt ashamed for having thought that this country could be a dangerous place in any possible way. Not only the landscapes are gorgeous, the culture and its people are remarkable! It ended up being one of the most friendly traveling places I have ever been to. The locals were always helping us to get the most out of the experience.
Even the wind that is moving the balloon can’t be felt. As you start to go up towards the rising sun you see the Earth bellow your feet, everything looks so small, and you are surrounded by other balloons. It is like a party to celebrate the sunrise, its magnificent. As I understood, the balloon-trend is quite recent. Although they’ve had balloons in the area for ages, it became trendy just some decades ago.
I am really curious about your home country, Finland! You have been sharing some beautiful photos from this country. Besides its wonderful landscapes, what do you like the most about your home country?
Something that I really like about Finland are the strong and well defined seasons. In spring, when nature begins to flourish and awakens from a long winter the landscapes can be enjoyed at their best. The change is really intense and the variety of light is an important part of this.
Think that in the northern part of Finland for instance the sun does not rise at all. It is completely dark during winter! On our backcountry skiing trip around the Finnish Lapland we could experience this perfectly. We were deep in the wilderness, everything was dark and we had a meter of snow below us.
“After a long Winter people start to go crazy as Spring arrives. When it is Summer, people really take their time to enjoy the warm and bright season.”
Normally the Summer holiday lasts one or two months. During those months people spend their time with their families and friends at the Summer cottages, relaxing, enjoying and celebrating the summer because everyone knows that it will be gone in a second.
The culture of Finland is something that I really like as well. We have a strong supportive culture. Even though some media may say that we are individualistic, that does not mean that you are alone. The circles and the networks in Finland are just different.
From my perspective, an individualist culture here means that you can be what you want to be and then you are supported by your family and friends to become that, to be that. In my eyes, that is pretty unique of our culture and is certainly something that I appreciate.
You have been traveling for a while now! What do you like the most about the nomad lifestyle?
I have loved to help other people, both individuals and companies. Overall, when I can help somebody the entire experience becomes more deep, meaningful. That is something that I appreciate.
For me traveling is important as well because I can reflect myself against the surrounding world.
Seeing myself experiencing new feelings and things is fascinating. I travel because I want to be familiar with “differences”. I want to understand the reasons why people do certain things.
What are the three most valuable personal lessons you have learned traveling?
1. I have learned to listen to others. Usually, if someone is talking to you, they also have something to say!
2. I have learned to plan and organize. I don’t think about plans in a “fixed” way, for example, plan A or B. The idea is to have in mind different visions of possibilities. That enables to change the strategy and action quickly. The more you think about your adventure, the better you will handle various situations or circumstances that may appear.
3. Never underestimate nature and always prepare for the worst. When it comes to deal with nature it is really important to be humble. This is also important in order to be calmed and relaxed along the journey.
The restorative benefits of nature have been proven scientifically. I know that you find inspiration in nature as well. So, I am curious about your thoughts in this regard. Would you be able to describe how do you feel when you are outdoors, in the wild surrounded by nature?
For me being surrounded by nature is like an active therapy. I really enjoy the sounds, colors, as well as the lights when I am outdoors. All these things make me feel confident about myself. They also make me feel even more connected to the other people traveling with me.
Nature is actually the best place to get to know also your partner or the partners that are traveling with you. Perhaps this is because when we are surrounded by nature, we are all at the same level. I feel that when I am traveling with other people, superficial things does not really matter (like how much money they make, or what is their sexuality, or religion). All that matters is that we are outdoors, together.
We care about the moment and about taking care of each other. There is no space for irrelevant things.
Imagine yourself at the beginning of your professional career as a photographer. What three pieces of advice would you give to yourself?
1. Take your time and move around the subject, get to know the various angles and find your unique perspective. This is how I approach almost every project.
2. Only include the most important subjects in the photograph, and give them enough space. Having unnecessary objects in the frame may lead the viewers attention to something unintended. Often concise and simple stories are more engaging.
3. My third advice is to expose according to the most important subject inside the picture. If your subject is a person, then you have to have the perfect light on that particular individual. Forget about the other things such as sky burning out such. The question you should ask yourself is: What is the most important thing inside the picture? That is, in the end, the core of the story.
Is there any artist/photographer who has inspired your art? Can you name three?
Yeah, there are many! I get inspired by all the people around me. I get inspired also from people who are not into photography.
Within the photography community I can name four guys: @dansmoe @eljackson @konstakonsta @kpunkka. These are the guys who took me on that road trip. I am still looking up to them. I really appreciate how they have developed their own styles and audiences. They are true artists!
All these guys are from Finland, so I want to name a few other “international” photographers that have inspired me: @alexstrohl @forrestmankins @hannes_becker @daniel_ernst have inspired me in a great manner! Although they have different styles, they are currently my idols!
Any new projects coming up or countries you will be visiting soon?
I have been focusing a lot on video production lately. It is a lot harder as well as challenging comparing to photography. I have started my YouTube Channel, although I don’t really mind if it grows or not, I would like to focus more of my time on this platform.
In addition, I have now finished my studies from University and now I’m open for long term collaborations and projects. I love what I am doing nowadays, and I try to improve my skills and relationships further. If you’re around, hit me up with a message in Instagram and maybe we can go outdoors together!