Marke Liimatainen – A Young Finnish Photographer in Los Angeles

It is always great to interview people who really love what they do for living. Unfortunately not that many people are like that, Marke Liimatainen is a very fortunate young lady.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Marke, I’m 28 year old and I’m from the smallest village you can imagine, Tervo, Finland. There is less than 2000 people living in there, a lot of lakes, forests and not much to do. I live in Los Angeles, I moved there about six years ago and studied photography in Santa Monica College. After graduating I got a job from a local photographer’s studio and have been working as her assistant ever since. I also shoot my own projects when ever I can.

Did you always wanted to become a photographer?

No, not at all! I wanted to be a police officer, a cake baker and a writer. I became a photographer by an accident, really!

What happened?

Well, a lot of people told me I take nice pictures and I should consider doing it for living. When I was working as an Au pair in Culver City, California, my host family gave me my first dslr-camera and it really gave me a big push towards becoming a photographer. I didn’t know how to use it, so I decided to take a class in Santa Monica College. The teacher was amazing, he was so inspiring and he had the best stories, and I just started to get into photography more. After taking the class the teacher told me I should consider enrolling SMC full time. I talked with my host family, and they agreed. I though about it for a half second, enrolled and never regretted!

Is there any particular award or an achievement throughout your career that you are particularly proud of?

Even though I’m just getting started as a photographer, I have few things I’m really proud of. A photo I took was selected as the “best portrait” in my school’s photography exhibit. It was the first time I was ever “the best” of anything, and the level of photography in my school is very high. I couldn’t believe it when my friend told me. Second one was when I was selected as the “Best Mentee” by Young Photographers Alliance. Just to be selected to the program among hundreds of applicants was huge, and then being selected the best among all the amazing photographers….Again, couldn’t believe it. That was pretty cool!

Did any funny or exiting things ever happen during your photo shoots?

Yes, all the time! One of the coolest things was when I was able to bring models to this small airport, and we set up a secret agent type of a photo shoot. I had rented guns that looked real. We were doing the photo shoot in the end of the runway in front of a small airplane, running around with the fake guns while small planes were taking off and landing. Another funny one was re-creating Pinocchio with a modern twist. I had my models dressed up as drug dealer and a human puppet. It was a lot of fun to shoot, because the models were really good actors and I was literally rolling around in the dirty ground laughing.

What motivated you to move abroad?

Coming from a small town, I always wanted to see more. I remember being like 12 years old and reading these books about this young woman who went all sorts of amazing adventures. I wanted to be just like her and create my own adventures (the books were Katja-books by Ellinor Rafaelsen).

Where all have you lived abroad? What place was your favorite and why?

My first time abroad without my parents was when I was 17 years old and did an internship in a film workshop in Arhus, Denmark with my friend. It was such an amazing experience and I absolutely fell in loved with Denmark. After that, I lived in Hillerod, close to Copenhagen for a bit. Then I moved to Milan, Italy. I spent there almost two years, working as an Au pair. After that I still wasn’t ready to settle in Finland, so I found an amazing family from Culver City, close to LA and became an Au pair again. My favorite place will always be LA, I just have so many amazing memories from there.

What have you learned from living abroad?

Oh, so much! I leaned who I am and what I want to be when I grow up. I was just a kid when I left Finland, and I feel like I have been raised by all the people I have met during my travels. Of course I have always been able to call my mom back home, but I have also got second or third opinions from people from different cultures, which has been awesome. I feel like I would be a completely different person if I never left.

What is your secret to keeping a positive attitude while living abroad?

I am happy in LA. I feel like I have the best second family, friends and a job, and everyone is always supporting each other. If I ever feel down, all I need to do is talk to my absolute favorite person in the world, 8 year old girl I used to look after. She is super smart and really funny, and she always makes me smile. It is great to spend time with kids, because they have an amazing attitude and such an appreciation towards little things in life.

What´s the best place you´ve ever traveled to?

Death Valley was pretty amazing. And I love San Francisco. And this little town called Cefalu in Sicily, so beautiful!

Do you have a bucket list? Would you share with us a couple of things on that list?

Drive a formula one car. Skydive. Write a book. Visit Naples. Take a lot of amazing photographs.

Do you have a bucket list? Would you share with us a couple of things on that list?

I really want to stay in LA. I love my job, my boss is the best and I love going to work every day…who can say that?! I feel so lucky. I want tp become a better photographer, keep doing my shoots to stay creative. I am just happy here. Finland will always be a place where I grew up and and a place where I love to visit, but I feel like I am the happiest in Los Angeles. And that’s what life is really about, being happy, right?

Connect with Marke


Models in photos:

Airport: Jonas Lind and Sun

Pinocchio: Fred DiBella and Martin Mikitas