Nils Hirvensalo-Dupuy is a photographer and artist based in Paris. Nils spent 8 years working as a photographer for FT1 before he decided to focus on his personal projects. Nils talked to us about his creative influences, fascination with human emotions and balancing out order with mess.
1. Describe your path to becoming a photographer?
My father was a war journalist and my mother was a model so I think I was inspired by this in the first place. I studied art in high school, I saw the work of my mother and my father and I loved it, so you can say I was always interested in imagery. But in fact it was providence that made me become a professional photographer. My father used to work for a TV channel and when I was 20 the same channel offered me a job as a photographer. It had been my hobby for a long time, so I asked if I could do film photography just like my father, and they said ok, so I took it on board. My job interview lasted for two seconds after which I became a professional photographer and stayed with that channel for 8 years. So providence drove me into photography - it was my father’s heritage.
2. Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
I like things to be very raw and brutal. I’ve always been into this kind of sexy trash imagery like works of Terry Richardson and I liked photographs by Helmut Newton which are the opposite of that. I think those are the ones who inspired me to show what I want to.
3. Has there been a point when you’ve taken a big risk to move forward?
After 8 years at TF1 it seemed like I was doing the same photos over and over so I got bored and felt like showing more of my personal work. But because I’m really lazy I didn’t try to do any exhibitions [laughing]. So I pushed myself to organize something to show my work to people. Now that I don’t work for one company and most of the time I refuse to work with brands I can focus on my personal projects. After I quit my job I’ve been lucky enough to only do art.
4. Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?
People around mostly support me, but sometimes they they say: “you shouldn't do that or it's stupid”. And I accept that because no one is right and no one is wrong. When you show a picture you like the most it’s only your point of view - kind of like in politics. You’ve got to figure out what works for most of the people and simplify the picture if necessary. If it's something obvious for you, it's not necessarily obvious for everyone else, so you’ll have to think of another way to say the same thing. In all my projects I try to bring out the meaning inside - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I try to be real with myself and show what I think to others.
5. Where’s home and how living there influences you?
I was born in the USA, in Washington DC, then I moved to Finland and then I moved to France. My father was French and my mother was Finnish, so where my home is - I don't really know. I know that a part of me is really French and at the same time I know that sometimes I tend to be really Finnish. I guess, my home is wherever people are nicer.
6. Does your mixed origin influence your art?
I’m balancing out the mess with the order. Because people from North are very straightforward: yes is yes and no is no, while in France people are all about “maybe”. If you go to Finland you’ll see that people are very serious about rules, but the French sometimes don’t mind breaking a couple of rules. So my parents’ heritage is this combination of order and mess.
7. Do you have a routine?
I don't really have it, I think I'm scared of it. The only thing I can say is my nights are longer than days. My days have always been different: first I was a kid, then I left my parents, then I worked and now I do art - it’s all very random. Even if not much changes every day, it’s those little changes that lead to a big change in the future.
8. How would you describe your style?
I think my work has always been dark and beautiful at the same time. It’s emotional, it’s natural, even raw if you want. I do not use photoshop that much because images lose that raw look. I try to make my images emotionally powerful.
9. What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such great imagery?
My feelings, my questions… Particularly questions like “what am I doing here as a human”? So yeah, it’s mostly about feelings and emotions, which I try to express by means of other people. You can say that I try to capture my inner world on their bodies.
10. What do you see yourself doing in a few years?
I hope I’ll be doing photography, but I don't know - it might be something else. I think I want to continue exploring people’s emotions. Because it is a really interesting thing - it never stops. We have emotions all our life. And they are complicated too. So what I want to show in my pictures or whatever I might decide to do, is that a dark or sad picture can still be beautiful. Even if it goes against any conventional logic. That’s what I intend to capture.
For more photography by Nils Hirvensalo-Dupuy, visit his website: