PROFILE

Nana and Juhana Simelius

A female model poses in a red room in front of a cardboard black horse.

To play with perspective, Canon Ambassadors and advertising and fashion photographers Nana and Juhana Simelius sometimes print images and photograph them again as part of their sets. The horse in this image is printed on cardboard. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM) at 47mm, 1/125 sec, f/8 and ISO100. © Nana & Juhana Simelius

Vivid in colour, bold in composition and with an almost otherworldly glow, the wildly imaginative studio-shot images of Nana and Juhana Simelius originated as a reaction to the inclement weather in their home country. "Living in Finland, it's dark most of the year," Nana explains.

"We started creating sets as a way to express ourselves but also because the reality made us do it," she continues. "We love working at the studio. No matter if the rain is falling, you are still in control."
The award-winning directorial duo met in 2003 when they were both living in the Finnish seaside city of Pori. They fell in love, got married and moved to Turku. At first Nana worked in telemarketing and Juhana at a shipyard. But life took a definitive turn when Nana interned at the Valotus photographic studio. "I fell in love with it," she says. "I just felt this was my thing and I was good at it. After six months I started my own business."

Nana quickly gained her first commercial clients: a sports brand and a shoe shop. "I think they were at a point where they needed someone young to come in and offer a fresh perspective," she says. At the time, she and Juhana were also midway through renovating a house together, and they were struck by how well they worked as a team. Bit by bit, Juhana started helping out building sets for Nana, coming on board officially from 2009. "That was when things started to happen in a big way," says Nana.
Canon Ambassadors and advertising and fashion photographers Nana and Juhana Simelius.
Location: Turku, Finland

Specialist areas: Advertising, fashion and music

Favourite kit:

Canon EOS 5DS

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM
A woman poses for the camera in a pink and white photograph taken through painted glass.

There are no limits to the materials Nana and Juhana will use to give their images an unusual look. They shot this album cover for Finnish singer-songwriter Evelina through painted glass. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 82mm, 1/125 sec, f/8 and IS0160. © Nana & Juhana Simelius

A man stands fully clothed in a swimming pool looking up at the night sky.

The low-light capabilities of the Canon EOS 5DS were invaluable when shooting at night in this music video for Robin Packalen – a rare outdoor shoot. "He was in a swimming pool and it was really cold. We were shooting at night because we wanted a dark atmosphere," says Nana. Taken on a Canon EOS 5DS with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 55mm, 1/80 sec, f/8 and ISO160. © Nana & Juhana Simelius

Today, Nana and Juhana, known professionally as Simelius Simelius, shoot stills and moving images for a range of clients, from fashion brands Minna Parikka and Uhana Design to the Finnish Defence Forces. But music has always been a particular passion. In 2017 and 2018, the pair won an Emma Award – the Finnish equivalent of the Grammys – for the year's best music video, and in 2017 their video for Robin Packalen was the most watched video on YouTube in Finland.

From the outset, Canon has always been their brand of choice. "I haven't ever taken a photo with anything else!" says Nana. "It's because of the colours. I don't see them in images shot using other cameras. I'm not that into technique and I find Canon kit really easy to use and versatile."
A black and white image of a woman in a black dress with her shoulders on the ground and her feet raised up against a wall.

Nana appreciates that Canon cameras are quiet and discreet. "This is especially important in portraits when you don't want your subject to focus on the camera," she says. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 67mm, 1/125 sec, f/8 and ISO125. © Nana & Juhana Simelius

Influenced by their commercial background, Nana and Juhana's images are recognisable for their clean, graphic look that's sharp across the frame. But in true Simelius style, they're always experimenting, using petroleum jelly on the lens or shooting through textured materials to give "this beautiful mix – this clear and beautiful look and an old-fashioned filter". They've been shooting video since 2014, having taught themselves in their studio after clients began requesting it. "Sometimes we need stills, sometimes video, but it's the same world for us."

Looking ahead, Nana and Juhana hope to use their unique vision for good, building on recent charity commissions and awareness-raising campaigns about mental health, cyber bullying and diversity in the beauty industry. "We want to focus on shoots that bring more meaning and value to our work," says Nana. "Films and photos are powerful tools to deliver messages about challenging subjects, and I think by adding this depth and meaning, we can have an impact."
How does your collaboration work? Who does what?

"Juhana is the technical one. On a video shoot he deals with the lighting team, and he does the editing and monitors the post-production. He's like the glue holding everything together. I'm the one who communicates; the people person. I direct and write all the treatments, for example. And when we shoot video, Juhana holds the camera. When we shoot stills, it's mostly me," says Nana.


Do you ever have creative differences?

"We can be really creative and free when we're putting our ideas on the table, but we can also be really honest. Most of the time! Of course, there have been little fights but nothing that was a big deal. We've been together so long we can read each other's minds. I can see from Juhana's face if he's not happy with something," says Nana.


How do you come up with ideas?

"There is always a spark of inspiration, which might come from the client, or the artist's music, or the fashion collection. We look at their world – we want to see what they think, what they feel, what kind of personality they have. We always start by brainstorming with just paper and a pen, and we're open to all ideas. You see so many photographs in this profession. You are full of Pinterest, full of Instagram. It's so important to put away those things and think, 'What do I see?' It's about being loyal to yourself as a photographer or a director," says Nana.


What's the role of spontaneity in your work?

"On set everyone brings their energy and their heart. When we're shooting, we're not looking that much at what we have planned. We let go and give people space to use their creativity. Everything comes together, you create something new, and it's always better than what you had in your mind," says Nana.

One thing I know

Nana Simelius



"The most important thing is supporting the talent. As directors and photographers, the atmosphere you are creating on set must be one where people feel free and can trust you. It should be an environment where people are always searching for solutions, you should never say, 'No, this isn't working!' It doesn't matter if you're doing catering or lighting, your job is to support the talent. We want to do the best we can, and we want to push our team to do the best they can. We always want to be proud of the things we have done."

Instagram: @simeliussimelius

Website: www.simeliussimelius.com

Nana and Juhana Simelius' kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

Nana and Juhana Simelius' kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.

Camera

Canon EOS 5DS

Combine fast, instinctive DSLR handling with 50.6MP resolution, and capture exquisite detail in every moment. "This camera just does the job. The way it captures colours and skin tones is amazing," says Juhana.

Lenses

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM

Favoured by those wanting to carry a single lens on location, this lens delivers stunning image quality with advanced image stabilisation. Juhana says: "This is the most common lens we use. It's so easy to work with."

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

This versatile lens gives great results in portrait work and handheld movie-making, thanks to its ability to achieve a shallow depth of field with beautiful bokeh, along with built-in hybrid image stabilisation and a lightweight design. "This macro lens is the best for beauty shots. Sometimes we have to go really close up and it doesn't distort the shape of the face," says Nana.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM

The successor to the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM that Nana and Juhana use is a favourite telephoto zoom lens with photographers of every genre. Nana says: "Our images are usually sharp throughout the frame but sometimes, when we want to achieve a nice bokeh effect, we'll use this lens."

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

A lightweight ultra wide-angle L-series zoom lens, that makes the ideal travel companion. "We turn to this lens when we need to take full-frame interior shots," say Nana and Juhana.

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