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Jonna Kalliomäki and Ari-Matti Nikula to lead the renewed Kuusamo Nature Photo Festival

Since the pair of new artistic directors, Jonna Kalliomäki and Ari-Matti Nikula, started in their joint post, winds of change have begun to blow in the arrangements of Kuusamo Nature Photo Festival. Until this year, the artistic direction of the festival has been in the able hands of Lassi Rautiainen, one of the founding members of the festival. Over the years, the small event of a few dozen people has grown into a significant forum for nature photography. Rautiainen has turned his big boots over to Jonna Kalliomäki and Ari-Matti Nikula to fill, and will himself remain an expert in the background.

Visual Artist Jonna Kalliomäki, originally from Kristinestad, south-west Finland, graduated with a master’s degree in applied visual arts and nature photography in Kuusamo in 2019. “The programme was unique; as far as I know, this was the only degree programme for a master’s in nature photography that has ever been offered in the world,” says Kalliomäki. Currently, Jonna Kalliomäki is the coordinator of the Kuusamo Arctic Residence Centre and runs her own arts company.

“The joint artistic directorship of Kuusamo Nature Photo with Ari-Matti Nikula is a great honour. It is great to take on new challenges. I am deeply grateful to the previous artistic director Lassi Rautiainen, and to Hannu Hautala and Ulla Ingalsuo-Laaksonen, for placing their trust in me. Kuusamo Nature Photo is built on a solid foundation from where it is easy to take the event forward. Personally, I do not work as a nature photographer in the traditional sense. For me, nature creates content that can be made visible and emphasized in different ways through visual art. Therefore, I think it is great that Ari-Matti Nikula, a long-standing nature photographer, will share the post of artistic director with me. The dialogue rising from our different artistic starting points will create interesting content and openings for the festivals of the upcoming years,” Kalliomäki believes.

Ari-Matti Nikula is a trained photographer and long-time nature photographer, who has lived in Kuusamo for a few years. “While I train other photographers, I find it important to keep track of time and everything that happens in the field of nature photography worldwide.

The Kuusamo Nature Photo event has been important to me since the very beginning of my work as a nature photographer. I am grateful, because after my first appearance at that event, I felt like a new leaf was turned in my career. Now I feel like I am facing another interesting challenge. It is also interesting to share the artistic directorship with Jonna Kalliomäki, and I know it will have a favourable effect to the whole event and its future. My heartfelt thanks to Lassi Rautiainen and the organizers of Kuusamo Nature Photo, this is a great honour!”

Jonna Kalliomäki will also continue as the jury chair of Kuusamo Nature Photo Competition. The other permanent jury members are nature photographers Paavo Hamunen and Mika Honkalinna. The fourth post in the jury is rotating, i.e., a new fourth member is selected every year.

Kuusamo Nature Photo Festival is organized for the 27. time in September 2022.