When Ex CEO of Nokia Stephen had to fire thousands of people, in his speech he urged people to jump from a burning platform into icy cold water and try to survive. One man jumped, fought and lived to tell his story. My job was to visualize his story and face my own demons while creating these images.
READ THIS STORY BEFORE YOU CONTINUE!
LINK : Toni Koutu: Branded man
There are stories, and then there are STORIES. That feeling when you read something that resonates with your own experiences or what is happening in your life. Sometimes because you know the person who is telling the story or the story itself just touches you. Or sometimes the time is just right.
Story about the “branded man” (written by Veera Tyhtilä) came to me at the turning point of my life; I had just come back from one year trip to UK, searching for a direction in my life. I read the story right after it was published in August 2015, but the meaning of the story in my own life came apparent to me when Toni asked me to visualize the story.
“I heard the golden cage around me shatter as it fell onto the floor. I had been part of this company for my entire professional career. I was the taught, the tutor, the authority, the man others came to when they could not find answers elsewhere. Now this guy just set fire to the platform under our feet and told us to jump.”
In February 2011 thousands of people working for Nokia were listening their CEO Stephen Elop telling a story about a man standing on a burning oil platform, a man who had to choose either to jump into the water or stay on that platform. The man jumped into the unknown and in the end survived to tell his story. This is what Toni did, too. First a free fall and then a struggle in the deadly cold darkness. Toni’s story “Branded man” tells about the battle we face when one chapter in our life ends and new begins. A story about the time when a defeated man has to find strength to carry on with his life.
“I said nothing. I wasn’t able. I went to sleep and slept for a year.”
Toni´s original idea for the picture was a literal approach of picturing a burning oil rig and a man saving himself from the platform. But I wanted to find simpler and stronger approach for visualizing the story. I decided to create a series of images where a man is rowing a burning row boat, alone. Just as the flames start to catch the man, he sees the shore. Man jumps into the water and struggles his way to the dry land, leaving the painful memories behind him. He sees now that he is not a desperate outcast anymore, but he is reborn from all the pain the flames, ice cold water and darkness caused him. Life goes on… and he is writing the new chapters.
“Suddenly I was struck by this profound and pleasant realization, that this was the way I wanted to live. That the world would be new and I’d be open for it. That every forthcoming situation would carry an opportunity for development. And when I discovered I loved the journey of discovery, I knew I wanted to share this with others, and so the idea inside me began to unfold and grow.”
When I had finished the first image I stopped and just stared the man rowing the burning boat. That could be me! Or anyone else. Someone’s burning boat could be his company, friendship or marriage. For me it was the return to my old hometown after a turbocharged year in the UK. I felt that I had changed so much during that year but the problems I had here in Finland were still here and even stronger. Fighting the ghosts of the past and lightless autumn dragged me under the dark waters, too. But like the “branded man”, I started to feel that I will make it to the shore.
I realised that the images I’m creating are powerful, and this story needs to be told. I think everyone will find themselves in Toni’s story and my images. Everyone is fighting battles most of us know nothing about. And people will always be stronger after leaving behind their demons.
I can not thank enough Toni for asking me to visualize his story. Also huge thank you goes to Aki Vänni and Suvi Sievilä for helping with the photoshoot in cold, wet and windy weather. I also thank my friends and everyone I’ve been sharing my feelings with. Most importantly: thanks to my own family for helping me back up from the dark waters of my own life.
”Branded man” -story @