Emerging Photographers: Sanna Lehto

1st June 2018

We love learning about emerging photographers who are making a huge impact. We interviewed a group of inspirational fine art photographers, each with their own distinct style and desire to break the mould. Each artist’s work is surprising, varied and impossible to categorise. From different backgrounds and countries, all these photographers are exemplary in their field and already recognised as being hugely influential.

We wanted to know how they channel their creative energy, where they draw inspiration from, and what they hope to achieve. In the first of this series, we spoke with Sanna Lehto. 

Can you tell us a bit about your practice and how you got started?
I’m a 27 year old fine art photographer from Helsinki, Finland. I love to work with people, colours and staging. Along with my art practices I am also interested in fashion photography. I got into photography when I was a teenager. I remember seeing my older sister taking photographs for fun and was amazed by them. I have always been interested in the arts: drawing and music, but I think my sister was a big inspiration for me to try photography. When I was older I got into Aalto University School of Art and Design to study photography. I recently completed my Master's studies in fine art photography.
What is your process like? What conditions do you like to work in?
In my series Morphologies, part of the 33rd International Festival of Photography in Hyères, l was inspired to stage the photos and build  props for them. I wanted to experiment with flowers and the human body and I planned the photos before by drawing them. The photographs were taken from 2015 to 2017. During the summers I took long walks in nature and gathered flowers that somehow interested me for their form and colour. It did not matter if the flower was already dead or had just begun to grow. Some of the more exotic flowers I found in flower shops. Some of the gathered flowers I used right away in portraits and made different still life arrangements, and some I let dry over a year and used them then. I enjoyed this preparation, gathering and building, as much as taking the photo. I really like this kind of working process. 
Where do you draw your inspiration from? What is your favourite subject?
Right now I draw my inspiration from nature and colours. I am fascinated by living things: human bodies and plants, and their different and changing forms. As a photographer I have been always interested in photographing people. How every human looks different and how they change over time and are alive, just like flowers. I'm fascinated by both beauty and diversity - not mainstream beauty only. 

Do you have any rituals or do you like to be more fluid?
I like rituals but can also be fluid. 
What is it about the medium of photography that keeps you interested? Are you good at other artistic disciplines?
I used to wish I knew how to draw or paint, because with painting you don’t have any limitations except your imagination. But something about photography has kept me interested. I think photography is  almost like painting; planning and staging the photos, and building props for them. Besides photography I also love to play the piano and I am trained classically. 
What did you want to do as a child?
When I was younger I remember I wanted to be a physicist and discover the universe or be a music composer.
What do you hope to achieve in your professional career?
Right now I would love to collaborate with artists like fashion designers and different kind of models in my artistic work.
How do you feel about the commercial side of the industry? How do you plan to navigate this?
I have done some commercial work for example fashion editorials. I would like to try to somehow combine my artistic side with fashion in the future.
Can you tell us about something you have coming up?
I'm showing my Morphologies series in an exhibition with the amazing sculptor Matias Liimatainen in an art gallery called Lokal in Helsinki at the end of this year. I’m really excited about the exhibition because our work shares similar themes.
Thanks Sanna!