Interview: Jussi Ulkuniemi (@skwii)

One of the most iconic and creative minds on Instagram, Jussi Ulkuniemi’s photos perplex, bamboozle, and delight. He took time out of his break-neck schedule to answer some of our questions:

When you’re not doing photography, where would we find you?
Well, right now, you’d either find me working with Adobe programs from behind 3 computer screens at the company’s office, or partying my way down the streets of Helsinki with my bass-booming headphones. Then again, where I’d really like to be found (if I wasn’t so busy) would be a small and lovely training space, practicing some groovy dance moves…!

Do you remember the first photo you ever took? What was your first camera?
Whoa… I think it was a toy camera of some sort.. We had gotten it for Christmas, a kind of a tiny polaroid-style camera that instantly developed an image in a size of a post stamp. It was a portrait of my parents, and well… To this day I have never seen a portrait as bad as that one. ๐Ÿ™‚

How would you describe your style in three words?
Avant Garde Mofos!

If your portfolio had a soundtrack, it would be…
…a mix-tape of genres like New Rave and Chiptune.

What is a photo technique or rule that your regularly follow (or constantly break)?
What I love breaking is the perspective. Tilting the angle purposefully 45 degrees or so can sometimes create something worth watching. Or pick one line and make it horizontal at the cost of others, you get really interesting results. But still, I’m very strict when it comes to perspective. A well thought, precise perspective is often a start for a brilliant composition.

What’s the one iPhone photo app you can’t live without?
Filterstom and Juxtapose, totally. Everything you really need for editing (Especially the “curves” function) is there in one app: Filterstorm. Then there’s Juxtapose for unlimited ways of manipulating your pics and getting creative-crazy. Mixing photos together AKA juxtaposing really seems to be my all-time favorite way of spending time.

What else is in your virtual camera bag?
To this day I’ve gathered about a twenty photography apps worth mentioning. The newest one of interest is FrontView, which is an unique perspective shift application. Now I’ve finally found a way to really mimic the effects of a tilt-shift lens: first creating a small depth of field with TiltShiftGen, then shifting the horizontal lines properly with FrontView.

Did you upgrade to iOS5 as soon as it was released?
Yes, instantly. Love the new features! Everything is now smoother than ever, even the camera app opens faster. The only bad point in upgrading was the upgrading itself… something happened and all my apps, music and videos disappeared… Took some time before my dear phone got it’s identity back.

What aspects of photography are challenging for you?
Capturing facial expressions. Mostly the only time I feel satisfied is when I tell them to look as neutral as possible, as if without any expression. That’s a part of the reason why I love silhouettes and portraits with faces hidden. There’s too much information in a face, sometimes it absorbs focus out of everything else.

Your shots (and edits) are remarkably unique and creative. Where and how do you find inspiration? Do you ever get ‘photo-block’?

Thank you. I guess the inspirations come by looking around. Being aware and keeping your mind open for a chance to create. My inspirations are usually very irrational and on the moment, because I won’t stop to think it twice if I get a crazy idea of (almost!) any kind. And yes, photo-block… Those are hard times, especially if you are keen on updating your photoblog everyday… But I’m glad to have some quality stuff stored on my camera roll for the bad days.. ๐Ÿ™‚ To be honest, I haven’t really had any good time for hobby photography for 2 months now.. (but still online and updating!)

Pick one of your favorites shots from your portfolio and tell us the story behind it.

This one was taken about six months ago in Florence. Me and my friend (in the pic, down there) were visiting the Giotto’s bell tower at about closing time. We had been gasping at the view from up there for about a twenty minutes until the caretaker told us to leave, the tower was closed. Just when we had started descending downstairs I noticed a small grid where you could see straight down through the floor. From there I saw a perfect opportunity! Quickly I told my friend to “Run!” downstairs and in a minute she had blasted through the crazy medieval spiral staircases. I began shouting my lungs out with posing orders but she didn’t hear a lot. I bet the whole Florence heard our conversation. We were lucky thought, the tower bell didn’t start thundering. Afterwards we smoothly escaped with a satisfying set of photos ๐Ÿ™‚

You shoot most of your photography in Finland. If you could shoot any other locale in the world, where would it be, and why?

Italy I’d say. Most of my favorite shots I’ve taken there. The architecture and and warm, colorful blaze of the mediterranean sun…! Using my iphone 3GS wouldn’t be a problem there, hate the cold, long and dark Finnish winters, in an iphoneographical sense of course.

If someone told you, “I want to take photos like @skwii,” how would you respond? What tips would you give them if they wanted to emulate your style?
I’d say “Think graphically.” I love mathematical lines, shapes and frequency. I use a lot of radial blur, so I guess Iโ€™d say that too. Oh and most of all, to spice up your ideas with humor.

Any other secret talents we should know about?
I have a talent for being late from everywhere. Itโ€™s one of my most used talents really, so I donโ€™t know if itโ€™s very secret, but still mentionable.

Pick an IG’er with fewer than 500 followers that you think deserves a look from the community.
Iโ€™ll pick @Strawbrie and her colorful and humoristic personality that shines brightly through her photos.

2 Comments on “Interview: Jussi Ulkuniemi (@skwii)”

  1. Hi Jussi! Great read!!

  2. What a fabulous interview, Jussi! I love it and I love hearing your insights. What a crazy ride this past year, eh?! You are so super talented and such a dear hearted nutter. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Perfect combination! BMIC(tm) forever!! xox

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