Joni Karanka

The end, the beginning, the end

My time us up. I’m unlikely to write until May. By then I won’t be in this blog.

I learnt photography from my dad. He was in the military, and carried a camera with him to Kashmir, Golan, and other similar places in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember photographing when I was six years old. Two of the cameras I used then are ones that I still have (and used till recently): Asahi Pentax Spotmatic, a reflex camera from the 60s, and Olympus XA, a compact camera from the 80s. I remember getting the XA as a camera I could handle easily when I was small. I also remember carrying a light meter when I was seven or eight.

The one thing about photography back then was that it was not available to everyone. Having some relatively fine piece of kit and a light meter did give you an advantage. With my dad we photographed quite a few local events in the South of Spain. Soon we started selling photographs to local magazines. At times I don’t know where my photographs end and his start, or vice versa. The only problem was that it soon became a job. I didn’t see at the time any means of personal expression in photography. It was mainly about getting a picture to set the scene, couple of portraits, maybe a landscape. In hindsight, I think the archives at my mum’s flat in Spain must have interesting photographs from a time when the South of Spain was moving from the 1980s to the 1990s. Things changed a lot. You can judge from the Ole magazine front pages that there was a sense of a time gone by to the 1980s. Some of our photographs are in there too, not quite sure which or where. I can’t remember


By when I was 14 I was quite fed up of the whole photography thing. I did carry on a bit but I quitted. I did other stuff instead. I wrote horror and sci-fi short stories. I did a degree in psychology. I learnt to write code.

I picked up photography again in my mid-late twenties, this time having seen how it can be a personal thing (and not just a job to do the biding of others). I had seen a man jumping over a puddle and I was aware of flashy photographs of seagulls eating chips. I enrolled into a documentary photography evening course (that I didn’t finish). I picked up a camera again and tried to take more and more challenging photographs. Not technically challenging. I tried to find liberating photographs that would put me in challenging situations. I wanted to see what I was made of. I tried to get these photographs to express something that was beyond the thing in front of the camera. And I burned, burned, burned. Projects had become too ambitious, life too chaotic. I was assaulted a couple of times. Exhausted of challenging myself over the years I quitted again less than ten years before picking up photography again. Running a gallery and helping photography via others was more soothing, but still hard work.

So in 2014 I decided not to pick up a camera again. At least for the many years. In the summer of 2014 I took some rolls of film to be developed. I moved house. Forgot about those last rolls of film (which I had developed with the intention to be the last). I picked them up in the autumn of 2015. I’ve not scanned them.

They look sad and melancholic.



Last 35mm





Lost relations: Cyril Costilhes

I completely lost track of Cyril. For a long time we used to discuss photography and what we shot on a very regular basis. We had quite an exciting photography history where we discussed stuff like documentary photography. Not the objective stuff (do musicians get asked to write objective music?!) but the way in which you try to convey a message or personal story through photographs. Funny that so many years after we used to be in touch, Cyril published a great book that for me ticks all the boxes. It revisited something that did really happen, conveyed it to the viewer in a way that doesn’t ignore the emotional / subjective feel of the journey, and it’s made of great photographs. Recurring themes: jungles, darkness, spider webs. Plenty of abstract patterns and expressionism. A document of dreams and nightmares.

Circle Diego

Circle Diego

Circle Diego

Circle Diego

Circle Diego

Circle Diego



I found out that discussions with Cyril since 2008 (presented here in the original chat format) follow up my relationship with photography. From the first guerrilla shows, to having camera crews, opening Third Floor Gallery, running shows and all the way to quitting photography.



10:10 PM Cyril: cool

10:11 PM did you have to pay anything to book the camp site?!

10:15 PM trying to put together a selection of black’n'white street photos, had to find everything and scan again and eveything after that…i realise the hard work that it is to edit your work down to something great…but i can’t go there without anything to show!! Anyway, you are probably already down the pub, i’m off cooking some food, speak to you late :) !

10:30 PM me: I was at the chinese for four minutes and I saw both goals…

10:31 PM Cyril: man turkey there are unbelievable!

10:39 PM Cyril: are you briçnging a project or just various stuff aside from you serie that will be projected there

me: just bringing more of the same

sticking it on a wall

maybe 60 5×7” prints :D

10:40 PM Cyril: fuck:)!

that’s a lot!

me: yeah

I’m editing it

Cyril: your serie of Cardif nights right?!

me: I just think that it doesn’t work like a sequence

but like a mosaic

10:53 PM Cyril: i miss england, going a lot to London since i left there but still….and it’s a shame i wasn’t into photography at the time as it was some made years!!

me: my area is quite much more local, though

yeah, the uk is great to shoot

10:54 PM huge variety in a small place

and people are mad

Cyril: exactly:)!!

10:55 PM did lots of “rave party”, techno stuff and man, such a shame i didn’t document this period of my life

me: shame indeed

I’ve been to a few raves

I just don’t have the time now to take two three days off

10:56 PM Cyril: yeah well that was when i was 20, now i just turned 31 all this is finish for me….but tomorrow is different, it is Music Day here :p!!



3:03 PM me: your pics are not on flickr anymore!

3:04 PM Cyril: i know lol

made them private….felt like taking most stuff out of the web for now, need to step back and concentrate on shooting…

back from shooting my father, actually…



9:00 AM me: I have my viva today!

doctoral thesis defense!

in two hours and half!

9:01 AM Cyril: what the fuck is that lol

me: lol

I go to this debate that determines if I’ll be a doctor or not

Cyril: wow


what kind of doctor?

9:02 AM me: I guess that doctor in philosophy



7:55 PM me: first is good

but I am unsure of the back of the guy at the right

Cyril: untitle 1?

me: untitled 7

7:56 PM I would change the back of somebody for the door

thats it

Cyril: Mat prefered that one too…yeah could find something different for the man back

me: cool

sounds good then

7:57 PM Cyril: but really…i’ve been hating my shot recently…depressing…life is boring and so are my photos..

7:58 PM me: gotta go

dont worry

ups and downs

just shoot more



12:06 PM me: going to ask david hurn for mindfist gallery :D

a friend has his address, so I’ll send him a letter

Cyril: really :)

12:08 PM me: :D

it’s his kind of place

Cyril: scanning back everything from my book project “Aaron Jacob”, have polaroids all over the place, some i can’t find, negatives everywhere, going throught everything and scanning them properly…fuck that’s a lot of works….



9:21 PM me: trying to get an arts studio / exhib space in cardiff

with local visual arts people

9:24 PM Cyril: nice nice nice

me: we expect to pay £50-60 / month each

Cyril: not bad

9:25 PM me: yeah

Cyril: good idea

9:26 PM just checking with you, make sure i get the boxe around the beginning of july

9:27 PM i will go there and put the stuff up around the 6th or 7th before going to Arles

(i’ll see if it can stay up there for 3 different parties )



Cyril: cool thanks Joni:)

3:53 PM i need a good stock of films for Arles….thinking of shooting color for d’Agata workshop, fuji 1600 iso, but not 100% sure yet…

me: I don’t know if I can make it…



4:53 PM so what Pizzafellas is doing in Cardif?!

me: filming

he’s going to arles from here

Cyril: you?!

me: yeah!

then he’s filming you!

Cyril: héhéhé

still don’t know where we will show the photos in arles

4:55 PM me: blue tack!

Cyril: maybe the chemist shop from last year

me: cool

Cyril: yeah but then we are stuck

me: ask, ask

Cyril: we’ll have to stay near by the prints as people expect to have their prints traveling around

me: yeah

4:56 PM or put them INSIDE the window :D



10:25 AM Cyril: so what do you think of Rubens edit?!

10:27 AM me: I want more of the cityscapes


10:28 AM Cyril: i know same here


so is he in?!

10:32 AM me: we might have to re-edit, though

work closely with him on the new one



11:15 PM me: and what is ph up to?

I’ve completely lost track of him

he seems to write in facebook a lot

Cyril: yeah i know

11:16 PM no more flickr account

i don’t know…i don’t even know if he shoot those days…

11:18 PM Haven’t seen much of Rubens stuff recently



9:48 PM me: I got an email that a kid stole my work to show in class

9:49 PM Cyril: lol

from internet?!

me: yeah



10:46 PM me: sent an email to roger ballen if he wants to show at our gallery

10:47 PM Cyril: héhéhé nice!!!

me: not bad

hopefully he has a sense of humour

met peter dench today and he was saying to try to get martin parr to show or auction a print

Cyril: nice

what about Bourcart?!

10:48 PM me: I want to get bourcart but maciej doesn’t think he’s famous enough!

I still want him in!

Cyril: really?!

me: so much nice stuff

Cyril: wtf

me: hahaha

Cyril: yeah man!!

me: send an email to maciej

Cyril: i mean…

what this about not being famous enough?!

i don’t get it

10:49 PM me: I’m not up for that either

bourcart rocks

I liked his wedding stuff

I probably like most of his stuff

he’s just good

no matter if it’s serious or fun or kinky

10:50 PM Cyril: yep

10:51 PM his forbidden city stuff

infetil madonnas

traffic stuff


really good

he deserves it much more than Ballen in my opinion



10:50 AM me: I’m standing off hcsp!

10:53 AM Cyril: really?!

not an admin anymore?!


10:54 AM me: too much going on

more exciting than hcsp

but I need to find somebody to replace me



11:42 AM me: was good last night


11:43 AM about 200 people

Cyril: oh yeah fuck it was last night


me: around 100 at the same time

around 400 beers were drank, and bottles and bottles of wine

and bottle of vodka

Cyril: héhéhéhé



12:56 PM Cyril: preparing next exhib?! Who’s next, salomon?!

12:58 PM me: solomons

12:59 PM hopefully then jocelyn bain hogg

Cyril: never heard


Cyril: yes i’m on it already



12:17 AM me: got a deal with newport uni on printing

they’re going to print shows for us

Cyril: found a guy named Chad states on Alec soth blog, he just won second prize for dummy book, his project is named “Cruising” and is on gay dogging spots (he works on different places), at first i didn’t want to watch it but then was curious, was scared it would look very similar, the places feels the same but different way of working so it is ok :)

me: lambda prints

Cyril: héhéhé nice

12:18 AM cheaper?

me: free

Cyril: fuck that’s perfect, lambda print are very nice

12:21 AM me: yeah

heh, that guy has good pictures of trees ;)



1:26 PM me: dropped an email to mark cohen about exhibiting him and he replied ;-)

Cyril: héhéhé nice:p!!!!

me: you like mark cohen? @D


Cyril: hahaha

1:27 PM no he sucks ;) !!!

me: it’s one of the most underrated guys out there

Cyril: totally!!!!!!!

me: you should hear his name quite a lot more often

Cyril: yep!!!

keep me posted about this

me: yeah

you could pop by for the opening if he’s coming

1:28 PM if we have an exhib :D

Cyril: about to go visit my dad, bought 2 disposable cameras to give to nurse for them to shoot my dad

i can’t i’m working

1:29 PM me: well, it would be closer to next summer or something



5:07 PM me: hey

5:08 PM just got home from work, but have to do phonecalls and emails about pr and exhibitions straight away… send requested images to press and such

5:09 PM Cyril: good good



10:49 PM Cyril: You’ll be all day at nofound on saturday?! I’ll come in the afternoon i think, did you change your phone number?!

10:50 PM me: no, still 079XXXXXX

I think so

I’ll be doing portfolios in the morning

then something in the afternoon I guess

but free to look around :D

10:51 PM sounds like christian (pizzafellas) is coming too

Cyril: nice nice:)!

10:53 PM but maybe i’ll be there earlier don’t know yet, i’m supposed to see antoine but i’m sure it’s going to be very tricky for it to happen specially during a week end like paris photo…he told me to phone him when there, let’s see

planning on going to Offprint, le bal

10:57 PM me: heh, yes

I’d like to go to offprint and le bal

but depends on how I do in terms of time…

I arrive friday night and leave monday morning :)

[Here we stopped chatting via google chat. We exchanged some emails.]


14/11/2011 20:22

Cyril: So did you get Antoine?! I’m glad you got to meet him!

14/11/2011 22:11

Me: Hey, yes, but he already was in Marseille on his way to Asia! Just landed in the UK, on my way to the train station. Feeling quite tired even if I tried to sleep as long as I could!

07/02/2013 21:11

Me: Hey Cyril!

How are things? Here really busy with work, a bit crazy! I was thinking if it would be ok to talk about The Pond in a Magnum professional practice workshop I’ve been invited to. I’m keen on talking about stuff we haven’t exhibited! smile emoticon

08/02/2013 20:32

Cyril: Hey Joni! I’m good, been in Diego Suarez, Madagascar, for two months now, back to france in 2 weeks, 6 months work then back to Diego. Hard first month, didn’t feel like photographing, was more into living, experimenting the place, absorbing the atmosphere and darkness of it…

29/04/2013 10:29

Cyril: Hé Joni, here is a little edit of my first trip to Diego, planning on doing another trip there but shorter to be in a different energy, probably 3 weeks, then will start working on a dummy…then maybe a third trip and that’s it…

29/04/2013 11:32

Me: nice :)

12/04/2014 23:45

Cyril: Happy birthday man! What’s up with you, are you done with photography?!

Me: I think so! I’ve barely picked up a camera over the last year

Cyril: Crazy how you lost the passion! Missing Joni the photographer:(! I have a book planned with Akina Books, i’ll keep you posted if you’re interested!

6 April  2016 19:17

Me: Hey Cyril!

any more books on the works after Grand circle?

I was going to order it last year around this time but I somehow forgot, just put an order out for it

completely disconnected from photography

Cyril: hé Joni so cool to get news from you

Me: yeah, it’s weird

Local Vs Global

Photography is a fairly globalised thing. Check the internet: it’s full of pictures. You can easily read of lands far away where photography is happening… and see the pictures. People on the other hand don’t travel digitally. They have to move around with bicycles, planes and trains. They are sort of local creatures of habit. Much less nomadic than they used to be.

What is the point of galleries nowadays? In Third Floor Gallery we’ve got the criticism of not being local enough. We keep an eye on blogs, publishers, photographers and galleries independently of their location. But is it enough to be part of that network and node structure? How locally focused and by which means should you be? Welsh photography or British photography quotas? Great conversation to go hand in hand with Brexit.

TFG in Western Europe
TFG in the context of Western Europe

What do you think is the solution to having a physical gallery that is local within a network and content that are global? Do you follow galleries which you have never visited (I’ve never been to MoMA or FOAM)? Do you think there is a risk of being so local as to being insular?

Beginnings (iterate)

This should probably have been two better thought blog posts. No time for that.Curating a show

It’s so hard to find people to take over a gallery. When we started it was easy. It was 2010. It was difficult to get a job. Lots of students didn’t get part time jobs and they volunteered instead. Actually, it was probably the best thing you could do if you wanted to get a job. You could show you pulled your socks up or whatever. You could claim to have some experience managing people. Other people wanted longer hours in paid jobs but could only work part time. We had some time. I worked part time (four days a week) and spent another 20 hours or so emailing photographers, being at the gallery, curating shows, writing PR, changing light bulbs, sequencing, writing legal paperwork. You name it. Exhausting stuff, but we were young (-ish) and ambitious (-ish). Now that the gallery is set up it’s all easier. There are lists for PR, designers, the legal paperwork is sorted, the brand, etc. You’d expect to find people to help.

Early beginnings - Metro

Sunday before last we met up with a guy that answered our call for help on Twitter. We explained what running a gallery is: literally running a gallery. Sounds daunting but it’s easier than working at a hotel reception because it’s more fun. And people invite you to give talks about it. You can go to exciting places like Liverpool expenses paid.

An aside. I really like Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool. I’ve been there once for a show and it was great. I thought that being a fan of Kohei Yoshiyuki their show of The Park would be sparse and disappointing. Instead it was great, full of content and massive immersive prints shown in the dark.

Back to the Sunday before last. We met at this new alternative cafe that shows photography called Little Man. Great that we have an interest in such a democratic medium. You can just bang prints on a wall of a cafe and you might be doing a better job than the Tate. The interesting thing was the beer we had.meetup_10_4_16Pipes brewery in Cardiff had to change name for legal reasons, but when they started they hit a niche. We hit a niche back in 2010 as well. In Cardiff I had a reasonable access to photobooks (via online shops and occasional visits to London) and photography on the web. But exhibitions were hard to come by. We had Ffotogallery which was doing a good job at arts photography (mainly-ish). But in a way that was like being in a town that has only one cinema and doesn’t always show what you wanted to see. We craved to see more photographers we saw on the web and in books up in print. Some personal documentary, some photobook bestsellers that didn’t seem to show up much in the UK, a few controversial types. Pipes beers were a bit of the same.

If the reader doesn’t know much about the UK beer scene, here is a summary: there is a strong tradition of British beer (you get plenty of this), a lot of poor commercial lager (even more of this) and more and more American influenced craft beer (back in 2010 this was on the up but not like nowadays). Pipes didn’t really specialised in any of these. They are the only British brewery that I know that has brewed what I had that Sunday in Little Man: a German Doppelbock. German beer is pretty scarce in the UK, mainly because imports are dominated by Pilsner and Weissbier. Pipes insted has featured the likes of a regular Helles, smoked lager, Altbier, Schwartz, Berliner Weisse, etc. They aren’t madly popular in the UK, but you just can’t get them anywhere else. Lots of people do actually like them. Beer, like photography, is democratic. And if you don’t like your scene you can brew your own.Vincent Delbrouck

So on Thursday (day after tomorrow) we are catching up again in a pub. Bringing photography, beer and diversity in each back together. We need to talk with the volunteers, we need to get people to run a gallery (please, give it a go) and we need people to curate shows. I usually aim at people in the 20-30 age range because they are foolish enough. But universities make them conservative and they seem to have the wrong expectations. Think it’s once in a lifetime that you are foolish and you get to follow your dreams. They are nothing particularly glamorous, but you can go to bed at some point in twenty years thinking to yourself, “you know what? I did put together a wicked show of Japanese photography”.

TFG achievements over the years

(All the photographs of the gallery come from memory lane and have been taken by a variety of photographers. You can find the credits of each on the TFG Facebook page.)