This 2016 Young Nordic Photographer of the Year, Akseli Valmunen, exhibits The Same New Pet at Fotografiska. The grant recipient is a 29-year-old photographer from Finland, who recently graduated with an MFA in Photography from Aalto University. Valmunen works at one of Finland’s largest newspapers, Helsingin Sanomat, and was selected as the Challenger of the Year by Finnish Photojournalism in 2015 and 2016.

“It’s a great adventure for me. A fantastic opportunity to show my work to a large audience at Fotografiska. What drives me is a kind of curiosity to observe, and enter into, other people’s lives, which is also a way of expressing myself. I have always loved to tell stories but because of my dyslexia it has been difficult – until I discovered photography. Almost everything I photograph is about me, about different perspectives of my thoughts and feelings, desires and fears, which I share with large parts of humanity, attempting to see yourself through others,” Akseli Valmunen explains.

The jury were impressed with his series The Same New Pet, in which Valmunen explores the research into cloning at a laboratory in South Korea. This is a place where pet owners, for a fee of 100,000 USD, can choose to clone their beloved departed pet. And as one pet owner put it: “It’s not the same one – but I can think that it is.”

The jury’s statement:

”In clinically minimalistic images, Akseli Valmunen manages to touch the entirety of the ethical emotional spectrum, from warmth and compassion to the strongest feelings of discomfort. Humanity playing God is an old moral dilemma, which becomes ever more urgent with the progress of technology. In intimate portraits, Valmunen makes us reflect on this question, when breeding is no longer sufficient to create the perfect pet and cloning takes over. With a poetically documenting eye, Valmunen observes the world around him, and we look forward to see where he will take us in the future.”

”For us at Fotografiska this grant presents an excellent opportunity to contribute to the development of photography among young Nordic photographers. We very much look forward to an exciting collaboration with Akseli Valmunen on his solo exhibition,” says Jan Broman, CEO and founder of Fotografiska.

The Young Nordic Photographer of the Year Jury 2016:

• Marianne Ager, Exhibition Researcher – Brandts Museum for Kunst & Visuel Kultur, Odense, Denmark
• Nygårds Karin Bengtsson, Artist, Höganäs, Sweden
• Kristín Hauksdóttir, Project Manager – Reykjavik Museum of Photography, Reykjavik, Iceland
• Johan Vikner, Exhibition Coordinator – Fotografiska, Stockholm, Sweden
• Ellen-K Willas, Gallery Manager – Willas Contemporary, Oslo, Norway