Our favorite Finnish photographer, Jouko Lehtola, passed away last week. He shot the most honest and stunning portrayal of Finnish youth we've ever seen, and had that rare ability to create a special energy between himself and his subjects, and then capture the moment perfectly. We featured two images from his book Finlandia in our 2007 Photo Issue, and then commissioned him for the fashion shoot on Big Calf Island.We wanted him to do a lot more for us, but now it's too late. Instead, we've put together our favorite images of his and asked two Scandinavian friends to write down their memories of Jouko.
"I think it was Sanna Charles who first told me about Jouko Lehtola, and I've adored him and his work ever since. I admire him not only because he took beautifully sparse, honest photos, but because he was one of the most decent, fuss free people I've ever come across. He's the kind of person who, if you called him late at night in a panic for photos--which I did quite frequently--he'd just go, "Well, the buses have stopped running for the evening, but let me wait for this blizzard to ease off and I'll ride the bike down to the studio. I've got an early flight in the morning so it'll fit right into my schedule." True story. I never even met him, and yet he never denied me anything. I can't imagine what it must be like to lose him for those who were actually close to him."
Elin Unnes, former Vice Editor
"It feels like yesterday that Elin sent me an email asking me to coordinate a photo shoot with Jouko Lehtola. It made me nervous because to me, he was untouchable, a living legend. We all knew his pictures from his book, Finlandia, portraying Finnish youth in their most idle nature--young and drunk with a sad shade of despair. I set up a meeting with Jouko but somehow got lost and arrived really late, expecting no less than a "fuck off." But when the big black door opened, he welcomed me with nothing but warmness and killed my nervousness with his jokes.
The day of the shoot I studied him working; pushing the models to go one step further than what they were comfortable with. Being naked was just one aspect, he managed to put them in the right mood and made the awkward situation feel natural by being relaxed and sincere. As the day turned into night Jouko didn't slow down. I don't think the shoot would have ended if all of his camera batteries hadn't run out. Everyone else was relieved and ready to pack up and go grab a beer, but Jouko was bummed. To him, photography wasn't something that started and stopped when the camera came out and went back into the bag. It was about the mood and the energy of a moment, and proving that that moment can exist for as long as we want it to. I feel privileged that I had the chance to meet him, and I am sure that he will be missed by many."
Timothy Kühn, former Vice employee