Timo Karmakallio: Capturing the beauty of movements


These pigeons are not for sale; the textilles are. -- TIMO KARMAKALLIO

Finnish diplomat Timo Karmakallio never leaves home without his camera, er, almost always. Whenever a photo opportunity arises, he will whip out his camera and click away to record happy moments.

Karmakallio, 66, deputy head of the Finnish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, has dabbled in photography for 50 years now. In the last five years alone, he has taken about 30,000 photos on various subjects.

Ten years ago, he took an interest in the performing arts. He snapped photos of singers, musicians, dancers and even Chinese opera performers. Karmakallio may not understand Chinese but that does not stop him from appreciating the colourful and elaborate costumes, and the expressions and movements of the performers.

He has been with the Finnish Foreign Ministry since 1973 and in Malaysia for five years.He retires end of this month and will be returning to Finland.

With each posting, Karmakallio looks forward to a new life and, of course, a new photographic experience.

Asia has been a verdant ground for his photography and he has captured a rich tapestry of cultures.

Dancers performing One Thousand Hands. — TIMO KARMAKALLIO
Dancers performing One Thousand Hands.

In Malaysia, he enjoys taking photographs of performing arts. In October 2010, Karmakallio held an exhibition, Performers On Stage, at Kinokuniya bookstore in KLCC.

He has also travelled to Sabah, Sarawak and Penang. In Sabah, child immigrants and the stateless caught his attention.

Karmakallio loves to visit temples, particularly in Bali and Chiangmai. He looks forward to local festivals such as the Hungry Ghost Festival where Chinese opera performances would be staged.

Among his memorable photography outings were trips to Congo, Chad, Uganda and Sudan (Darfur and Southern Sudan) in Africa.

He enjoyed photoshoots of humanitarian aid projects in Africa in the early 2000s, and the numerous activities of the Red Cross movement and the Finnish non-government organisations.

He would whip out his camera to take photographs at public events and gatherings involving music clubs and poetry readings.

Karmakallio loves to take portraits of people.

“To do it in a studio with one person is demanding and terrifying,“ he said. Nevertheless, he finds that he can capture personalities when they are performing on stage.

“It’s possible to grasp the artistic portrait of that person,” said Karmakallio.

These pigeons are not for sale; the textilles are. -- TIMO KARMAKALLIO
These pigeons are not for sale; the textiles are.

He is not keen to hold photo exhibitions at galleries. He prefers public places such as LRT stations and the corridors of cinemas and theatres where more people can get to see his works. He is pleased that a local university had used his photos of wushu exponents.

Most of his digital photos are stored away. The best to come out of his photographic pursuit is his photo book for family and friends. Otherwise, he is quite happy to use Facebook as a platform for his photos.

“A photograph is a still picture, where time seems to be frozen. That still picture is like the film of life or an instant painting,” said Karmakallio.

While Karmakallio loves to take photographs, ironically, he hates to be photographed.

“My wife managed to take some decent photos of me,” he said with a laugh.

Karmakallio thinks photography improves with time and experience. And the photographic experience changes every day. Such positive thoughts have helped Karmakallio to face new challenges with a brave front.

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