How Green Day inspired the title for this Helskini street shot

This week, Culture in Context had the great privilege of interviewing Tomi Pajunen, a Helsinki-based photographer. We learnt about how taking a camera on a run for school books paid off with I Walk Alone, and how Green Day inspired the title of the photograph.

Interview below the image

I Walk Alone by Pajunen

Could you please briefly introduce yourself?

Hello! My name is Tomi Pajunen. I live in Helsinki, Southern Finland. I’m married and have two daughters. I work as a system specialist for an IT company. My hobbies are photographing, music and movies. I play drums and guitar, but not in any band anymore. I played drums for 15 years in some rock bands, when I was younger.

I’ve been photographing actively for 8 years. I wasn’t interested in photography when I was younger. Drawing, painting, writing and music were my hobbies. I just took some photographs every now and then. I got my first camera, when I was about 10. It wasn’t a very good one. Back then in the ’80s taking photos wasn’t free. You had to buy the film and pay for the developing. And you couldn’t edit or share your photos easily, because there were no internet or computers. I got interested in photography only in 2005 when I bought my first digital camera and after that I got more and more excited about photographing. I purchased my first digital SLR camera in 2011. Before that I had only compact cameras.

Where did you take the picture you called I walk alone?
I took it in Helsinki, Finland. The street is Kalevankatu. I went there to buy some school books for my daughter and I took my camera with me.

What was your inspiration for the picture? For example, was there a particular theme or mood you wished to convey?
The inspiration was just to take some photos of the streets of Helsinki. The idea for the title came later, when I was listening to a song called “I Walk Alone” by Green Day. The song came to mind, when I looked at the photo.

How was the creative process behind the picture? For example, did the shot hit you spontaneously or did you scout the location?
It was quite spontaneous. I took several pictures of that street and the person seen in the picture just happened to walk there. I waited for him to be in the middle of the street and then took the photo.

How does I walk Alone fit with other pictures you have taken?
It fits quite well. I take quite a lot of urban and street photos. I avoid taking photos where the people are clearly recognizable.

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