During the past ten years, Karoliina Paatos has worked for several Finnish newspapers and magazines. Alongside her career as a photojournalist, she has been advancing her personal, long-term art projects. She has held several solo shows, and additionally participated in many group exhibitions in Finland. Paatos has studied photography both in Aalto University’s graduate program in Photography and Documentary Film, as well as at the University of Arizona. In 2015, she won the Photo District News’ student category with her submission of the series Rodeo Queer.
Paatos’ photographic method concentrates largely on dwelling and lingering. She spends extensive amounts of time in specific spaces with her subject matters. Through this kind of immersion the essential moments become more attainable for the persistent observer. Paatos herself states that she photographs “found moments, found people, and found objects,” and recognizes how the share of the intuitive in her process always grows as the project progresses.
Many of Paatos’ series depict individuals and identities with contradictions: she is inclined to locate couplings of the romantic and the harsh, the bare and the intense, the vulnerable and the sinewy. Through her photographs Paatos explores the relationship between the people living in the sparsely populated areas and the stark nature surrounding them. Also, the concise sociality and often-restricted interactions within the peripheral circumstances are at the core of her interest.
All in all, her practice can well be positioned between the documentary and the mysterious. The Cowboy Girls and the Rodeo Queer projects and their offshoots are good examples of this alliance: in both series the captured reality does flow strongly, but Paatos’ visuality manages to glean tones of the mysterious and magical.
The transitions taking place within the rigid rural traditions as the society changes around them are a recurring theme that connects Paatos’ projects in Finland and in the U.S. Her interest in structural changes – whether they concern the cowboy or the reindeer herder – is interrelated with her depiction of alternative indentitites: in the face of extinction of a culture or a lifestyle the broadening of traditional fixed roles becomes inevitable.
Karoliina Paatos is FCINY’s artist-in-residence in January and February 2016. At the moment, she is working on a new exhibition concept and a photobook, under the working title American Cowboy.
http://www.fciny.org/residency/harri-plviranta http://www.fciny.org/residency/anne-hamalainen http://www.fciny.org/residency/markus-henttonen