When you crash into Kerola’s work you would believe he is a 40 years old photographer based in the U.S.A., a nostalgic man of the Ektachrome film colours. Instead, Kerola is only 19 years old and he lives in Sweden. Grow up in the suburb outside Stockholm as only child, Simon spent most of the time of his childhood alone. That’s when he started to create a new character and he gave himself a new identity: Johnny Keethon. He says “Johnny” is a real badass name and quite mysterious, whilst Keethon comes from a written text he found in the livingroom of an abandoned house where he used to spend a lot of time, the text said “Keethon died here”, those kinds of things that happen in the movies. When Simon wasn’t playing Johnny Keethon he spent time with his mom, she is artist and initiated him to the artistic environment. To keep him busy when he was with her she used to give him disposable cameras and that was the first introduction to photography.
When he 15 years old he started taking pictures more seriously. Simon felt this impetus of creativity and he was sure that photography was the right way to express it. He used to watch Bud Spencer and Terence Hill films and he used to pause certain frames to study them, analyzing the way they were dressed, the surroundings, the atmosphere. Soon, he started to reproduce that world using other subjects. That style was also contaminated by jazz music and beat literature. However, what influenced his photography the most is that he is an only child, a detail that he included in his biography. Be an only child means rely only on yourself and have none to play with, an experience which brought that melancholia that we find in his photos. He says “I like abandoned places when they are timeless and have a story to tell. Walking through these environments creates a lot of feelings and becomes a place where only you decide where and who you are. Not a very happy place but still very beautiful”. In the future he wants to enhance the narrative theme in his pictures, head towards a cinematographic storytelling and change his gear to be completely analog, he says “it feels more real when I shoot film”. If you feel nostalgic of the 50’s, if you like a cinematographic style, if you saw Ektachrome film and you loved it, you must know Simon Kerola or his double Johnny Keethon and you will forget that he is just a teen.
All images © Simon Kerola
Written by Anna Trifirò