Kristian Kaarna with his camera outside his home in Riogordo. K. KAARNA
From the fashion houses of Paris to rural Malaga

From the fashion houses of Paris to rural Malaga

Kristian Kaarna now lives in Riogordo, having spent more than three decades as a photographer in Europe's capital cities

Friday, 14 April 2023

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Kristian Kaarna is a Finnish photographer who has settled in the Axarquía village of Riogordo.

Now 53, Kristian is enjoying village life after over 30 years of living in major European capital cities including Paris, Brussels and Madrid.

Kristian and his partner moved to Riogordo from Mijas Pueblo shortly before the Covid pandemic struck in March 2020 and, while there are still plans to travel, he admits that he is probably not going to do so "as much as before".

The photographer is originally from Finland, but says that at an early age, he had "an urge to travel. To get out of Finland". He goes on to say that for him the country in the 1980s when he was growing up was "culturally very grey" and although he had a "very happy childhood" in an area about 450 kilometres north of Helsinki, which was "beautiful but boring", he knew he wanted to see more of the world.

That urge took him to Paris at just 18 years old, where he learned French at the city's most famous university: La Sorbonne. From there Kristian went on to study photography at two different schools in the French capital and then worked in the world of fashion and advertising there. "My aim at the beginning was people and fashion," he says. He has photographed some of Europe's most well-known models, including the late Bimba Bosé and Natasia Urbano.

In fact an upcoming exhibition in Riogordo is a retrospective of this work and will feature his shots of these iconic women, among others.

Over the years Kristian's work has taken him to Brussels, Madrid and Barcelona, where he has lived for different periods of time. He admits that he always thought he would return to Paris, but a combination of falling in love with the south of Spain and a realisation that rural life suits him well, brought him to the Axarquía.


Kristian has quickly become involved in village life and, as well as exhibitions in the local museum (the forthcoming one is his second solo exhibition there), he has also become an active member of the community in other ways.

He participated in this year's Easter Passion play (El Paso) earlier this month and is making sure that he practises his Spanish (he has regular classes) with his neighbours.

Kristian believes that it was "very important to get involved with the community" by participating in El Paso, even though he admits that his last acting job was as a dwarf in a school production of Snow White when he was about 10.

In his late thirties, Kristian spent a period of time in Argentina and it was then that his focus started to turn away from the fashion world, to capturing nature and landscapes instead.

"I wanted something more permanent. Fashion is a certain period of time," he says. Kristian brought back the work he had done in Argentina to Europe, where he exhibited his work.

In fact, as part of Finland's celebrations to mark 100 years of independence in December 2017, the photographer took part in exhibitions at the Frame Gallery in Fuengirola, where there is a large Finnish community and later at the Finnish embassy in Brussels.

Now it is nature and landscapes that Kristian continues to capture, although he says that he does still get commissions in the fashion world. Riogordo, and the "360-degree views" he has from his home, situated just outside the village, provides him with the ideal inspiration for his work.

"When you live in a place for a long period of time, you can study it and capture how it changes," Kristian explains.

On finding happiness in the countryside outside a small village in the Axarquía, after over three decades of bit city life, Kristian says, "As a Finn, we all have this little country person inside us. We all went to our summer homes as children. Ours was small and very simple."

He says he is "very happy" living the rural life in Riogordo, with which he says he is ready for "a long-term relationship".

The exhibition opens on Friday, 5 May at 8pm at the Museo Etnográfico in Riogordo and runs until 31 May.

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