Recreating Modernist Artwork by Photograph

Niko Luoma takes a fresh look at paintings that may seem stale

Niko Luoma's interpretation of Picasso's Le Reve and Picasso's Le Reve
Left, Self-titled Adaptation of Le Rêve (1932), by Niko Luoma, 2015. Right, Le Rêve, by Pablo Picasso, 1932. Niko Luoma; Bridgeman Images / © 2020 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Fifteen years ago, says the Finnish photographer Niko Luoma, “my whole photographic process moved from the front of the camera to the inside.” He had already been pushing the boundaries of photography with minimalist landscapes and color studies, but now, rather than training his lens on the outside world, he would compose images in his Helsinki studio with overlapping colored filters and templates on a light table. For his new book, For Each Minute, Sixty-Five Seconds, Luoma found inspiration in the canon of Western art. His color-saturated images, each representing “a dialogue with the painting,” offer tributes to Vincent van Gogh, David Hockney and Pablo Picasso, artists whose very familiarity may, ironically, blind us to their brilliance. Luoma’s interpretations encourage us to see anew. “The most familiar thing in the world might look completely different if you just slow down, pay attention. You feel that you gain time,” Luoma says, offering a clue to his book’s time-warping title. “Something magical happens when you just slow down a little.”

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This article is a selection from the December issue of Smithsonian magazine