Crossing Borders

Crossing Borders

I have been thinking about my work lately — trying to reflect it in the eyes of the people I have conver­sa­tions with. At the same time, searching for influence and inspi­ration from people I highly respect and whose work I consider to be the absolute best in their field.

Allow me to mention two persons (both also friends) whose work I esteem very highly.

The Island
John and Anu Webster on the beloved island

John Webster’s documentary Recepies for Disaster was on tv two days ago (and will be on again tomorrow Sunday 7th Nov., YLE channel 2 — and actually, for the next 5 days you can see it in Areena for free). If you haven’t seen it, I warmly urge you to do so.

It got the Jussi-award (the Finnish Academy Award) for the best documentary the year it was released and perso­nally, I consider it to be one of the best documen­taries ever made — well, of the ones I’ve seen. Very briefly, why:

It deals with subject matter that affects all of us, i.e. the climate change. It is very personal. And it shows dedication and commitment to the level one hardly ever encounters nowadays. The whole family worked for this “experiment” for a whole year — and it must have been a way lot tougher than what we actually see on screen. He shot it with a tiny handycam, showing that big budjets, fancy stunts such as aerial or underwater photo­graphy, gyro-stabi­lization, large production crews, and whatever you can think of… are totally of secondary impor­tance. ( And remember, I am the guy getting excited about all the high-tech stuff.) Essential is your topic, your skills and the depth and dedication you invest in your work. It shows, you cannot fake it.

He also admitted publicly his mistakes during that project. He learned in the process and instead of preaching, the family now tries to live by the lessons they learned during that year. They do it now, two years after the project was finished, when media attention has calmed down, with no need to show off. Making a documentary was not an act of “doing a job and making money in the process” but a journey of learning and enligh­tenment- not for personal benefit but for the benefit of all of us.

I wish I had anything remotely like that to show one day.


Click on the image to view the website

Another person deserving mention is Petteri Saario and his series of documen­taries Crossing Boarders (Rajan­käyntiä). I was fortunate to see the presc­reening of the first three movies two weeks ago and I simply loved them. The warmth, dedication, intimacy with the subjects, techi­nical expertise of a single person (this was first time I ever saw real HD footage projected on a large screen) just blows me away. The series of six documen­taries will be broadcasted on Mondays (unfor­tu­nately SD only), again YLE channel 2, starting 7th December and lasting until 18th January, on primetime (20.50) with immediate rerun on the following afternoon.

I hold the highest regard for Petteri and his work — his portfolio is quite extensive and there is no possi­bility I could discuss it any further here. Again, my warmest recom­men­dation to see that series. I don’t think there was a one dry eye in the audience after we’ve seen the third documentary — on photo­grapher and author Juha Taskinen and his voyages over the eastern border.


It was some casual discus­sions in our kitchen with Petteri that prompted me to post this. Some things he said you can see reflected on the Rajan­käyntiä-website (in Finnish). With his permission, let me (freely) translate:

Crossing a boarder — be it a geographic or natural border, a cultural boarder — or a border in our mind — involves always a risk. But at the same time, crossing that boarder is an invitation, a possi­bility to learn something interesting, to create something new.

A boarder does not only separate, it also unites. With the boarder you have a birthplace of a unique culture. A boarderculture, which cannot exist anywhere else. And where diffe­rences meet, the seed of creativity is sowed.

This is so true about my own work lately — and I so much agree with him. Because interface ‑be it user or designer interface — is a border of its own right by definition.

I am trying to convince people that there is something worthwhile in the non-linear multi­media approach. Trying to talk to profes­sional, seasoned journa­lists and publica­tions with a long tradition and history in the print. Take them to the border — and over, so to speak.

I feel one has learned so much by advancing into territory one is not familiar with, encoun­tering totally new challenges — away from the normal “two images for tomor­row’s paper and 10 more for the archives, thank you” ‑routine. Trying something new — with no examples to follow. Petteri talks about the seed of creativity and I believe I have seen it been sown.

Sure, this line of work does not pay the bills and that does worry me. But my wife says that despite all the long hours I have spent in front of the computer, she is happy to see that I am excited about the creative process and she prefers to have a smiling, energetic and positive husband and a father in the house. Normally, come dark November in southern Finland, it is more a season of constant depression. You know, “life sucks and then you die” ‑stuff.

There are lots of preju­dices when trying to promote “rich media” to the repren­ta­tives of the tradi­tional print­media. And it gets frustrating sometimes. People don’t see the depth of your approach, but only the surface: “Oh, I have seen panoramas before, but yeah, nice work”. It’s like saying: “Oh, I have seen a 8“x10” glossy print before”. Yeah, right…a deep sigh.

I mentioned my wife already. She works as a journalist in a regional paper and she wrote an absolutely beautiful piece the other day on “allowing yourself not to be perfect”. She ended it with a quote of a Finnish poet, Tommy Tabermann. When I think about my encounters and discus­sions with other media profes­sionals lately — and also when I think of the look I see in the eyes of my students sometimes — his words are just so much better than mine:

Epäröinnin hetkellä
kysy itseltäsi:

Kuinka paljon rohkeutta
uskallan tänään
jättää käyttämättä?

(In the moment of doubt
you ask yourself:

how much courage
do I dare to leave
unused today?)

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