Creative Conversations: Joel Jägerroos
Photographer Joel Jägerroos works as a creative in an advertising agency. After living in New York for ten years, he cannot think of living anywhere else.
How did you come to New York?
I am originally from the north of Finland, Lapland. The only access to anything that felt edgy or underground when it came to the arts and culture were magazines such as i-D, Interview and The Face, from which I learned a lot about that world, and obviously dreamed of being a part of it.
After graduating from high school in Rovaniemi, I applied and got into an art school in London. However, I met someone, and ended up in Paris instead... I studied a bit at Sorbonne University and then at Parsons Paris, and was given a scholarship to transfer to Parsons School of Design in New York, from where I graduated in 2010 as a Bachelor of Arts in Photography.
And then you decided to stay here?
Shortly after graduation I started collaborating with my Parsons classmate and friend, Swedish photographer Therese Öhrvall. We worked as a photography team for a little over five years. We also co-founded a creative agency, Rourke Studio, together with an Icelandic colleague Regina Arnadottir.
Therese and I have worked with clients such as Time Magazine, The New York Times, Wired, Out Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. Our portraits of Woody Allen and Greta Gerwig were named among the best portraits of 2014 and 2013, respectively, by Time Magazine. Our work has also been exhibited internationally, at The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico; The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia; MOPLA in Los Angeles; Milk Gallery in New York City; Gallery S. Bensimon in Paris, France; and Ricoh Ring Cube Gallery in Tokyo, Japan, to name a few.
We created beautiful work together but in 2015 for a multitude of reasons—both professional and personal—we no longer felt that it was possible to continue.
I switched to advertising, where I currently work as a creative. At my day job, I deal with fashion and cosmetics, big budgets, 9-to-5, corporate America. I have always wanted to work in teams – I feel like it’s important to have people around you.
Have you continued making your own art?
At the end of the day, one of the biggest reasons behind this professional redirection was to be able to work on my own art, with my own working process. Being able to make up my own path and also try out everything that comes to mind without anyone interfering is important to me. I dreamed about going back to shooting with large and medium format analog cameras, which I ended up doing. I have also started working with video, which is something new for me. I have been working on my solo series for about a year and a half, shooting here in NYC, then Tennessee, Iceland, France, the list goes on. Next year I am going to Russia and Japan. The series will come out in 2019.
You have studied in Paris and New York. How would you compare those cities?
I loved and still LOVE Paris. But Paris, just as Europe in general, can be a bit old school and hierarchical when it comes to creative work. I don’t think New York has those kinds of restrictions.
What are the most important things you have learnt here?
After nearly a decade in New York City, I have finally learned how to present myself in public, and to understand how important it is. Also, I now understand how important it is to interact with others. Like Anna Wintour would say, you can’t be some difficult, shy person who is not able to look another person in the eyes; you have to present yourself. You have to know how to talk about your vision, your focus and what you believe in.
Be confident. Be proud of your work. You can do anything. Embrace who you are. We Finns come from a culture where this does not happen often…. but it should. Fuck that Lutheran shit.
What would you consider your biggest achievements in New York?
That I have been able to create a meaningful life for myself here. I am not going anywhere anytime soon.
What have been the biggest challenges?
Blood lines. There is this great article called Do You Have to Be Rich to Make It as an Artist? by Ben Davis on Artnet. It's both funny and depressing how most people in the arts come from extreme wealth.
How does New York inspire you?
Apart from the Chinatown rats, questionable working conditions, bad dating, everything being so expensive, work meetings about having more meetings… this city is everything: inspiring, challenging, exciting, rewarding... and sexy af. Everything is possible here.
Interview by Liisa Jokinen
http://fciny.org/news/creative-conversations-lotta-nieminen http://fciny.org/projects/fashion-after-fashion http://fciny.org/news/creative-conversations-timo-rissanen