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The Questionnaire : Petri Damstén by Carole Schmitz


Petri Damsèn : Stepping out of his comfort zone

Originally from Kuopio, Finland, Petri Damstén is a photographer, digital artist and nerd who explores the darker side of life and the human being. With a degree in science, his passion for photography was born after he retired from his job as a software engineer. Self-taught, he is both actor and director of his images. For him, taking pictures is also a therapeutic process that enables him to deal creatively with his feelings and thoughts. His images are often surreal and disturbing, dark and humorous, and self-portraiture plays an important role in his work. While he draws his inspiration from many fields, music and certain song lyrics are undoubtedly the main source. The “The dark room” series, for example, was inspired by the lyrics of his favorite metal band, Sentenced. The result: a series of images showing a dark mind seen from the inside, with its destructive thoughts. The brain appears here like a dark room inside our own heads. He doesn’t try to please anyone, tackling sometimes very difficult subjects that make people uncomfortable forcing them to think about who they are.

With his curiosity firmly anchored in his body, he likes to step out of his comfort zone in order to shake things up.

Petri Damsèn has also won numerous awards for his photography in Finland and abroad. He was a finalist in the Fotofinlandia competition and got the PX3 Gold prize award in Paris, France.


Instagram: pdamsten


Your first photographic trigger ?
Petri Damsèn : Holiday/Interrail photos were taken on film back in the day with a compact camera. I got more serious about photography after retirement, thanks to an innovation from my wife’s brother.

The man or woman of image who inspires you?
Petri Damsèn : Juha Arvid Helminen, Brooke Shaden, Joel Grimes, Eugenio Recuenco

The image you would have liked to take?
Petri Damsèn : The Invisible Empire series from Juha Arvid Helminen came first to my mind but there lots of great photos out there.

The one that moved you the most?
Petri Damsèn : Photo exhibition in local photography center by Magnus Wennman – Where the children sleep

And the one that made you angry?
Petri Damsèn : Not a particular photo comes to mind. I think if a photo makes you angry, that can be a good thing. I have said that I’d rather get a comment like “that’s awful” than “nice,” since in the first case, the image gave the viewer a stronger feeling and hopefully something to think about.

A key image in your personal pantheon?
Petri Damsèn : Dystopia series:

A photographic memory from your childhood?
Petri Damsèn : I was watching a hockey game with my dad.

According to you, what is the necessary quality to be a good photographer?
Petri Damsèn : To have enough passion to do the work necessary to grow as a photographer.

The secret of the perfect image, if it exists?
Petri Damsèn : It evokes a strong emotion in you. Depending on the situation, it can be, for example, calmness from a pretty picture or sadness from the war image.

The person you would like to photograph?
Petri Damsèn : Personal looking ordinary people

An indispensable photo book?
Petri Damsèn : 365° by Eugenio Recuenco

The camera of your childhood?
Petri Damsèn : I didn’t have a camera in my childhood

The one you use today?
Petri Damsèn : Fujifilm GFX 50s

How would you describe your creative process?
Petri Damsèn : I get ideas from many places. They get mixed and modified, and then some of them end up being brought to life.

An upcoming project that’s close to your heart?
Petri Damsèn : Currently on a search for the next project. I have some ideas which might end up as a project or not.

The best way to disconnect for you ?
Petri Damsèn : A walk.

What is your relationship with the image ?
Petri Damsèn : Personally therapeutic and a necessity to keep my life organized. In a larger scale art is what defines us as humans.

Who would you like to be photographed by ?
Petri Damsèn : I have done lots of self-portraits and have modeled a couple of times for fellow photographers. Besides modeling, I try to follow other photographers to observe how they work, taking that as a learning opportunity. At least from that perspective, it would be great to see how some bigger names conduct their shoots.

How would you describe your personality?
Petri Damsèn : Very introverted. I try to learn new things throughout my entire life.

Your latest folly?
Petri Damsèn : I’m occasionally so absent-minded that it’s common for me to commit follies. Nothing significant comes to my mind lately.

An image to illustrate a new banknote?
Petri Damsèn : More ordinary things with great graphical design instead of pictures of some person.

The job you would not have liked to do ?
Petri Damsèn : Nothing specific comes to my mind.

Your greatest professional extravagance?
Petri Damsèn : Fotofinlandia finalist in 2016.

What question gets you off track?
Petri Damsèn : Questions whose purpose is only to mock, dismiss, mislead, … people.

The city, the country or the culture you dream of discovering?
Petri Damsèn : Iceland, New Zealand & Japan would probably be worth to visit.

The place you never get tired of ?
Petri Damsèn : Home.

Your biggest regret ?
Petri Damsèn : I try to look to the future and worry about the past as little as possible.

In terms of social networks, are you more into Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok or Snapchat and why?
Petri Damsèn : The less I use social networks, the better I feel. My use of social networks has dropped significantly lately. No favorites.

Color or B&W?
Petri Damsèn : Mostly color byt depends on the image.

Daylight or artificial light?
Petri Damsèn : Artificial light is easier, so it gets used most of the time.

Which city do you think is the most photogenic?
Petri Damsèn : Prague.

If God existed would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?
Petri Damsèn : I think I would have no interest for either.

If I could organize your ideal dinner party, who would be at the table?
Petri Damsèn : My wife. I’m not much of a party person and prefer less crowded events.

The image that represents for you the current state of the world ?
Petri Damsèn : War documentaries.

What is missing in today’s world?
Petri Damsèn : Empathy.

If you had to start all over again?
Petri Damsèn : There are things that I would change, such as keeping the focus more on images and not on likes, etc. Nothing major, though, I think.

What do you like people to say about you?
Petri Damsèn : Truth, even if it’s not always the most pleasant thing to hear.

A last word ?
Petri Damsèn : “I just try to live my life and do my thing.” — Robert Mapplethorpe

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