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Timo Jarvinen has earned a reputation as one of the best-respected surf photographers in the business – no mean feat given he hails from Helsinki in Finland, not exactly known as a surfing Mecca. As Quiksilver’s staff snapper, he regularly shoots the world’s best wave-riders, and has enjoyed a particularly fruitful partnership with a certain Kelly Slater down the years. But while he may be a water photography specialist, Timo’s oeuvre extends beyond the ocean – as his six favourite shots (which he talks us through below) show.
I quit school at 16, after 9th grade. I started working in the repro department in a printing company and I learned to operate a massive repro camera. That made me learn what shutter speeds and f-stops mean.
I got a shot published from the very first roll I ever shot. My grandfather gave me an old Nikon F from Japan that he bought back in 1966 to try. After two minutes of fiddling around with it, I realised how it was all the same as the five-metre long horizontal repro beast. I took it away on a snowboard trip straight away and got a shot in print.
It’s easy to get lost in all the gear available but it was clear as day for me from day one that I needed build a system rather than jump from brand to brand. So I started building my kit around that old F body. I’ve now been collecting Nikon kit for 25 years and now have enough glass to cover everything from fisheye to 500mm. It doesn’t necessarily mean things are easier though, many things are actually way more complicated when there are so many options to use!
I understand there’s a need for it but I’m not the biggest fan of showing poverty or sorrow. I like to shoot positive images. Most of us love to see images which are out of reach and then try to put ourselves into those situations. I want to show people something they would love to experience themselves.
I get inspired by light and water – the shades, shapes and reflections in it. That said, although my main subjects are in and around the ocean, I don’t want to put myself into corner and label myself as just a surf photographer. I love to shoot action but sometimes it’s good to slow down and focus on steady subjects.
I’d love to have shot Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the moon. Imagine the stress though, there’s no re-shoot!
Both my father and my grandfather were great dark room techs – they’re my photographic heroes. They never pushed me to grab a camera but they did awake my curiosity and encourage me.
If I could have shot one photo that I didn’t, it would have to be the first images of man on the moon – Neil Armstrong taking the first steps. There’s something eerie about those. Imagine how stressful that would have been though, since there’d be no re-shoot the next week.