Noora-Maija Tokee is a Finnish photographer whose work is focused in seeking and exploring the boundaries between humans and nature, trying to show us the magic that links them indissolubly to each other, showing their beauty, freedom and wildness. Through her philosophical, sometimes mythological and sometimes folkloristic point of view, she develops her art, approaching nature and its wonders as a poetess would.
Who are you? Where do you come from?
I am a Fine Art photographer from Finland. I was born and spent my childhood in the countryside of Finland in a very small village surrounded by nature.
Tell me more about your background. How did the environment you grew up into influenced your way of thinking and working?
The environment where I grew up has affected my whole artistic work. I spent a lot of my time in the woods and nature when I was a child. The backyard of my house opened onto a large forest, where the imagination knew no bounds. My childhood habit was to climb a big tree and sit there and watch the opening of scenery. The treatment of the subject is born from intuition, which is fed by memories of childhood landscapes and imagination towards nature itself.
Where do you take inspiration from?
Nature has a big impact on my work. Photographing is always in one way or another about immersing myself in nature and observing the wonders of it, which I approach as a poetess would.
Are there any photographers, painters, moviemakers that inspire you?
My greatest inspiration has been the Finnish photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen. Inspiration and ideas come mostly from everyday life. It can be a poet, text, color, smell, painting; anything that feeds the imagination.
Is there a special theme you’re exploring in your work?
At the moment my main theme is to seek and explore the boundaries and the interfaces between the man and nature. But I don’t follow this slavishly. The theme changes, and I like it that way.
Let’s speak about your last works – Trees and People, which is still in progress, and The forest answers in the same way one shouts at it. What are they about?
Trees and People is a work in progress which deals with the relationship between man and trees, from different perspectives. In this series I use inspiration from Finnish folklore traditions related to trees. The forest answers in the same way one shouts at it is a story about Finnish nature found in forests. The forest is scary, comforting, magical and powerful at the same time. The photographs in the series mix reality and dreams, linked to the ancient myths related to the forest and, at the same time, the photographs reflect the relationship between man and nature. We have a twofold relationship with nature. On one hand, we experience love towards it and on the other hand we are indifferent and lack the willpower to defend our nature. My pictures breathe a human autonomy and freedom to be a part of nature, but also the awareness and adherence to the environment, the future of which is no longer so certain.
What do you want to communicate with your work?
Photography has taught me to see things differently and I have become more interested in nature through it. It is a way to create something new and develop as a human. For me making art is a bridge and opportunity to study and explore the symbiosis between man and nature from different kind of perspectives. Sometimes my perspective is philosophical, sometimes mythological and sometimes folkloristic.
Where did you take the pictures of your projects?
They were all shot in Finland.
What about the models in your pictures? How did you make them feel comfortable in their nudity in the woods?
I find people that are interested in art and nature in general. Also people who understand the nudity in my pictures as a part of humanity and nature, not just an object to look at. Usually I use family members as models and also myself.
Who do you want to reach and what reaction do you want to provoke in the spectator?
I think that my works can be approached from many different angles. I wish the viewer could see the magic that links humans and nature to each other in my pictures. I want to show the beauty, freedom and wildness between human and nature. Photography has developed my relationship with nature and has taught me to concentrate more in details, not just the whole.