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Style, innovation & equality

Osma Harvilahti

12 years ago Osma Harvilahti got involved with photography while traveling in Australia and South East Asia. Today he lives in Paris and works with clients like Louis Vuitton and Hermès. He, at 34, is also Director of Photography Projects at the Paris gallery-collective The Community.

Edited by Robin Douglas Westling

Paris, France

How did you get involved with photography?

— Becoming a fashion photographer happened accidentally. I was more interested in design and portraits, as well as my personal projects but soon fashion magazines and clients asked if I could work with them. Today, 80% of my work is more or less related to fashion. But, I still feel that my personal work is the biggest inspiration for my other projects.

What’s good about living in Paris?

— I’ve lived most of my life in Helsinki, then in New York and now for the past 3 years in Paris. It feels like a natural location to stay in at the moment, due to the European political situation. Also, the French lifestyle is not completely dominated by work and career. Most of my clients are based here too. I’ve worked with brands such as Hermès, Sonia Rykiel, Petit Bateau and some LVMH brands. Paris also feels like a softer environment to live in compared to say London, which is really work oriented.

What are you working on at the moment?

— My second book. I’m also working on several editorials, and a few interesting commercial projects. There is something coming with Louis Vuitton and several nice projects for the Swedish brand Arket. I also work as the Director of The Community.

What’s challenging with your work?

— The abstract nature of work, especially in fashion, can be challenging. It’s really political and success seems to be a lot about one’s social skills and network. Those who are at the top of their game really need to push boundaries, as well as having exceptional skills and stamina going from one project to another. Also reputation seems to be everything.

How do you work for a change in the industry?

— By breaking some rules and moving closer to the process of how I work on my personal projects, I could hopefully achieve something that wouldn’t be labeled so easily as ’fashion editorial’, I don’t really like titles or labels that much. My goal is to create even more seamless bodies of work and really dedicate the work to collaborate and grow as a photographer but at the same time as a person too.

Where do you find inspiration?

— My work is mainly inspired by my travels, and the people I meet. I love to watch modern dance and to listen to good music; classical, jazz or electronic. I’m always inspired by sounds, smells, and movement in everyday life.

What’s next for you?

— I’m looking forward to publishing my second book, which should be published later this year. It is set at a very recognisable location in France. It’s always great to have some time and freedom to work on projects. This always delivers results that are otherwise difficult to foresee.