portrait: Samuli Alonen

The other day I and fellow photographer and friend Felix (www.felixpeter.com) visited Finnish artist and “father” of the citybird”, Samuli Alonen, at his wonderful workshop at Pykälistö in order to shoot some portraits of Samuli at work. Pykälistö is a former guard house of VR (Finnish Train Association) that has been refurbished and transformed into an oasis of Finnish artwork by Samuli and his father Kari. For more information about Pykälistö and Samuli’s and Karis’s work visit www.designalonen.fi.

I met Samuli for the first time a few months ago, because I was shooting a photo series of one of his art crafts, the citybird. The citybird is a sculpture made of a piece of naturally shaped ancient rock with feet and head made of bronze, and it looks like, well, a bird. Samuli started crafting citybirds some ten years ago, and the first one was sold to a Swiss family that visited the workshop in 2003. During the past ten years the citybird has become Samuli’s most popular piece of art and at times demand exceed Samuli’s production capacity. Samuli offered me coffee and introduced me to the craft. The birds are characterized by beautiful craftsmanship, lines and shapes, and each of them has something very special and personal. Samuli had two birds ready and I took them with me to the studio. I had no experience of how to shoot this kind subject. The shapes of the craft were interesting and called for a simple lighting setup with one or a maximum of two lights. I felt I wanted to do a low key setup and put the bird on black acrylic plate. The lighting was very simple, one striplight and a reflector, and a background light for some shots. Since I had two birds I thought of making a sequence of pictures that would make up little story. I wrapped the pics into a quick slideshow:

But let’s get back to the other day. Arriving at the workshop, we were offered some coffee and had a chat, and after two cups we started to setup the light. For a first setup we’d use flash without ambient, with one softbox to the left, a speedlight in the room behind Samuli and one speedlight on the floor to illuminate the brick arch on the right. I like the text on the blackboard that says “Tervetuloa”, because that is what you feel like when visiting the workshop, “welcome”.

Next we decided to use ambient light and add some light with a simple low budget light torch (Felix’s specialty). This introduces some white balance problems but overall allowed us to better retain the ambiance of hot iron and sparks.

 

 

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