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  • Writer's pictureGeert Meeusen

Mikael 'Wessu' Photography

… as we meet eachother at Noir, the Leuven community’s preferred coffeebar.

So, who are you, where are you from, and why the hell are you sitting in a coffeebar in Leuven with me?

Hahaha, good one! I’m Wessu. My real name is Mikael, but in parkour noone calls me that anymore. I'm turning 24 this year. What else?

Ah, I’m from Finland, I live in Helsinki. I am from a smaller town originally, but yeah, Helsinki is easier.

And the past six months or so, I have been living in Leuven for Erasmus, and it’s one of the best choices I’ve made.

Yeah, me and Nico were talking about it yesterday, we were saying;

“Wessu made the best Erasmus choice. He got to train almost every day, made new friends, still met Erasmus people, got to party a lot…

Yeah, it’s been perfect really, I don’t regret it at all. Apart from it actually being fun and meeting new people, I think I've fallen in love with parkour again.

Because I've been training since 2012, with some breaks and injuries and stuff, so it’s been a long time already. 

How old were you in 2012?

Twelve. I started with parkour classes. But there have been periods where it felt more like something I had to do.

I was kind of like: I have to keep training, I have to keep up this thing, and I haven't really progressed a lot.

But now it feels like I got a spark for moving again.

That’s very nice to hear.

I also wrote down the reason you are the first one I’m interviewing is because you are leaving next Monday!

Otherwise I would have interviewed one of the Belgians, but now the first one is a Finnish guy!

Haha, you don’t have to publish it first! 

Nah, I don’t mind!

So, how does photography fit in your life at the moment?

Ah, well… it started when I got a video camera. Since day one, parkour has always been about filming stuff for us, for some reason.

And being part of the community in that sense, creating parkour content. So, I got a video camera and we made some videos, me and my friends.

After a while I wanted a DSLR camera, because I saw all the cool parkour people filming with a DSLR.

Ha, the Canon 550D or 600D? We all had those camera’s back in the day.

I got the upgraded version, the 100D. So it was smaller, but yeah, still the same camera basically.

My parents thought I was crazy, because why would you use a photo camera for video!?

Anyway, because I had the DSLR, I also started taking photos. But it was mostly really basic landscape stuff.

I really started liking photography and was doing lots of architecture and street photography, but never really thought of combining it with parkour for some reason.

But when I moved to Helsinki… The spots are nice to take pictures of, and when I was training with people and I had some spare time, I took some pictures as well.

That’s when I realized: “Whoa, this actually works pretty well!”

It's only been three years now - close to four soon - that I've been doing parkour photography.

Do you bring your camera with you with the idea “I want to take some pictures today”?

Or do just bring the camera along and see what happens?

It started a lot from documenting. Like when someone is doing a trick and I was like “Do you already have someone filming? Ok, good, then I can take a photo”. But during the past three years, I've also had separate photoshoots with people.

And they're always nicer because you can actually control the situation, you actually have time to think about the photo more…

But I still really like just documenting things. And I think that's also how it ties into my studies, because I’m studying journalism and communication.

And ideally that would be something that I'd want to do more in the future, with parkour photography as well…

I like event photography a lot, but I've also done some music festivals, and that's also a really fun way to do photography.

But yeah, it’s always a niche market because you only need so many photos from an event, you know.

And if it's all inside, they are all gonne look like inside pictures so it's always a bit of a hassle. But it is nice.

And sometimes it's nice, especially at events, to take a step back and try to find something different at the event, instead of just going “Oh shit, they’re doing a big trick, I need to get some shots of that!”

Instead, take a step back and see an outside perspective.

Maybe it's nicer to see a frame where the whole crowd is looking at the person doing the trick or something.

Would you maybe like it to be a side hustle, getting paid for photography on parkour events?

Yeah, of course it would be nice to get paid! laughs

I’ve done some photoshoots with Farang, but not more than that.

Actually, this summer I'm going to work for a media company. It's more of a social media thing, but hopefully I'll also be able to go to music festivals, to shoot artists and stuff. There’s so much happening all the time there, you have to be really quick with capturing the right moment.

I am also interested in something I've seen is being integrated into parkour more nowadays.

You know how in other street sports like skateboarding and street snowboarding, they have people who are there just to shoot stills when doing a big video project? Yeah, I think that’s something that would be really sick.

Yes, like capturing the vibes, documentary style.

Yeah, and it feels like there's a lot of value there. They can use it as promotion for the project - if they are really good photos.

But there is also a lot of value just for the people involved. Like, look, we've got something to document the journey, we're having fun here.

Yes, that’s very cool.

BTS photo of Capital??

So now we got the basics covered, here’s a little bit of a deeper question:

What does a picture mean to you in parkour, compared to a video?

Because we are so video focused, with Instagram and video projects. Like, why not just film it? Why take a picture?

laughs That's a good question! That's honestly a very good question…

I think part of it may be because of saturation ‘on the market’, so to speak.

Everyone takes a lot of videos and, I don't know, it’s just an example but, like the Geo (Bartolucci) thing we talked about, the ender in his 2023 video where he does the kong pre. In a video that angle works, because you can still see the movement. But it wouldn’t work as a photo because you don’t realy understand anything from it. So that's why I think with photography it's even more important how you frame the whole thing, and you have to think about it more.

Of course, with video there's the whole storytelling aspect involved, but the individual shots don't always have to be that thought about. Especially with parkour, because sometimes people have that attitude of “I don't give a shit about the filming, I just want to see the movement.” Which is fair enough sometimes.

Yeah, I kind of started like you, just having the camera to film parkour and then also started taking some photos on the side.

But not from parkour, because I was like: “Why would I take a picture if I can film it? Then you can see so much more.”

Only after many years I started to appreciate the fact that there is something special about choosing that one frame.

Yeah. And I do tend to gravitate against trying to show the whole context of a jump or move. Sometimes I purposely take a big step back and just try to find an interesting angle all together. So maybe you don't even understand the whole thing, what's going on, but it still works as a nice photo.

So maybe it's more - I hate the word ‘artsy’ - but maybe it's more artsy that way.

But yeah, I mean, a good parkour picture is also when you can just in a single frame, you can then as a viewer imagine what's going on.

I think that's also pretty sick.

Does there need to be more parkour photography? You already said it's still kind of a niche in the market.

Yes, absolutely! And I’m glad it’s getting more popular. Because there’s some people out there you didn’t expect to be that good.

There’s even some people who are doing a really good job, without maybe even realising it. Like the Cave brothers (Max & Benj Cave) and Callum (Powell), for example. It looks like they just shoot iPhone photos and make it black and white or something. But they're actually pretty sick. And it might not even be about the movement, but it's this whole thing about documenting the vibe, the setting, all that stuff.

Can you think of more people that you really like, what they are doing with parkour photography?

I think, especially when I started, I got very inspired by what Joel Larsson was doing.

And also Max Pattenden (@ from the UK. Hmm, who else? I have to cheat a little bit pulls up Instagram on his phone

Definitely Dodds (Jack Dodds) as well.

I think some of the people I used to follow like posted way more because also, I think Drew from Storror was very much into photography as well at some point. So I got very inspired by him as well. But he was being very artsy about it, with all the public stuff and that.

Yeah, when I started capturing parkour I was inspired a lot by the Americans: 

@caseywlsn I actually got a poster from him as well.

@kent_johns He shot the stills for the Queen City project. But he's also gravitated away from parkour photography, I guess when you kind of want to make your work out of.



Oh yeah, this guy! Casey Wilson. but he’s way more into restaurant stuf now.

I was very inspired by Casey Wilson, and I actually got a poster from him as well.  Casey. Kent Jones as well. He shot the stills for the Queen City project. But he's also gravitated away from parkour photography, I guess when you kind of want to make your work out of.

Yeah, like early on it was that like those Americans, and then the public stuff Drew did, just for like street photography inspiration kind of.

How to see the world differently. But I feel like nowadays, it's a lot about how I mean Dodds and Joel Larsson. Max Pattenden.

And do you have non-parkour photographers who you follow and are inspired by?

Yes. I have to think about that as well. It has changed a lot I think, because I used to just look at this like pretty clean street photography, these guys with the Sony cameras and a low focal length.

Other inspirations that I can specifically name:

@arttuheikkine (urban skiing)

@kasperikropsu (street & film)

@gandarario (photojournalism)

@ottolaine (portraits & events)

@juliustoyryla (art & events)

Did your style also change when you started following more parkour photographers?

Yeah, I think so. But it's also evolved just little by little. I think it's also a little bit through film photography and stuff. 

In recent years I’ve also gravitated more towards trying to be as simple as possible, and also not being too critical.

Sometimes there's a lot of feeling in a picture, even though it seems chaotic.

Or if it's very simple and just like, yeah, no matter of fact, I don't know.

I think more about the human aspect nowadays, because when I started photography, I was being a little bit scared of photographing humans. It was a lot about buildings, you know, buildings and landscapes and birds and stuff like that. Corners of buildings.

That sounds very recognizable. I had the same with filming. Instead of having a clean angle of a building or wall, just filming someone’s face can be 10x more interesting.

Yeah. Exactly.I used to think stuff like this is like super nice. showing a picture of a building, with a clean, symmetrical composition 

It's a nice wallpaper or something, but I do, I do like documenting like the human aspect way more nowadays.

Like the stuff I did at Helljam where it's a lot about, like I don't know if these are as good pictures as the previous ones if you're like an art photographer or whatever, but I feel like there's way more feeling into this once this tells more of a story and one is more composition.

And I do like that a lot these days, like posting a series instead of posting just one photo or like having a series where you actually can, like, tell a story about the whole thing   Probably just random pictures I see because I can't think of a name.

Mostly, like, just like other friends who do photography and stuff like that. That’s always inspiring.

And what about some of your favorite pictures that you shot?

He scootches over on the couch next to me, as he starts scrolling through his instagram feed

I think these ones in the snow are pretty special. It’s almost more like a snowboarding photo or something, but it's actually parkour!

I sent these to Avanti Garda jam last year, and had like a little exhibition.

I also feel like a lot of these are nice because there's a feeling attached to it. Like for this, we went to Sweden and this was one of the better spots, and it was just us there pretty much. So there's a lot of feeling attached to that one.

This one kind of also resembles my old stuff a lot, where it's like a clean building and composition, but then also combines that with parkour. (photo of kong pre in parking garage)

Oh, yeah, this one was special because I think these two pictures, where Valterri is doing a side pre, I think those were like a turning point kind of where I realized like, oh, actually like these can be really good. And I feel like they're kind of basic now, but back then I kind of realized like; “Oh shit, this is what I want to do/“

You almost always have the color version and the black and white here, why is that?

Yeah… laughs That’s just me being indecisive. I think I’ve turned away from that now. If you look at my recent stuff, I usually just make a decision.

And what makes you choose between color or black & white?

Pffff… I don’t know…

Deepest question so far!

Hahaha! Yes… Just the feeling of it, I guess. Hmm…

I think one of the main points is that if I like the colors in the scene, then I'm going to use color. But otherwise, if it's a gray setting for example with a gray sky and everything around is pretty gray, I might as well use black and white. 

I think the ones I really like are sometimes a bit funny, like here, like the pole is going straight into this guy.

This one is funny as well. Just There’s this big giant setting and people are like filming is big trick. I don't know. He did like a double of some kind. And then like Max came just like running his photo. It really captures the moment of everything. And like, seeing that from the outside, if you don't do it for it's like what?

This is also kind of a turning point. When I did this shoot with Valterri for Farangs new collection. Because he also designed the clothes for that one, and it was the first collection he did for them. And then he asked me to take the photos.

As we are scrolling through your Instagram, this is my final question: Where can people find your photos, your work? 

Yes, on Instagram! It’s @visual.west.

I think I'll have to change that name at some point. I don't know. It’s a bit cringe.

I don't like it too much, but I mean, maybe I’m already in too deep! laughs

Ok, very nice, I think that’s it! Thank you so much!

It was a pleasure!

Let’s have another final session at the gym on Saturday, before you leave on Monday!

Yes, for sure, we have to! 

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