Juuso Westerlund was passing his family bathroom when he noticed his youngest son, Antero, had climbed up on to the toilet seat. The six-year-old had just finished his evening bath; he didn’t notice his father in the doorway. As the boy studied his body in the steam-clouded mirror, the Finnish photographer snapped a silent photo. It would later become part of his Heartbeats collection, which is being exhibited at the Latvian Museum of Photography, in Riga. “The collection is the story of my boys,” Westerlund says. “The photographs are like love poems to my sons.”
Westerlund says he wouldn’t have dreamed of putting away, or later editing out, the half-empty handwash bottle or unplugged toothbrush charger. “I’d never stage a photo like this, and I’d never tidy up the space," hy sê. “The world is filled with pictures of kids, and I don’t want mine to be polished or perfect. I just want to capture everyday moments and their special magic.”
Westerlund always asks Antero, and his elder son, Erkki, permission to share pictures of them, but says they have become less interested in his exhibitions as the years have passed (Antero is now 10). This doesn’t bother him: “They’re my memories, not theirs," hy sê. He does, egter, hope they will treasure them once they reach adulthood.
Reflecting on the photo five years after it was taken, Westerlund is struck by how sincere his son looks. “I’m not a big man, so it’s not that he’s comparing himself to me. In plaas daarvan, he is asking himself: how do I look today? How do I appear to other people?”