From freelancer to full-time photographer – Audiovisual Specialist Maria Mihhailova joins Unigrafia!

23.10.2019 Essi Horkka

I take photos, stream and manage the studio operations at Think Corner (a venue for themed events and the living room of University of Helsinki), says Maria Mihhailova. In September she became Unigrafia’s latest addition. As an audiovisual specialist working within a variety of media, she can now also include audiovisual support services to her tasks.

Mihhailova used to work as a freelance photographer. “When I was asked to join the company as a full-time employee, I already knew the crew very well. I had been working with my colleagues for a year already and knew the offices, too. And, all in all, Unigrafia has a great reputation so it was easy for me to accept when I was offered the job”, Mihhailova confesses smiling.

Before joining Unigrafia, Mihhailova was especially known as an event photographer. For several years she helped develop and coordinate the media team of Kulttuuriareena Gloria, a famous venue in Helsinki. The schedule there was hectic. One weekend could include theatrical performances, a small festival and a band marathon of a school specialising in music education.

Those years in Gloria included also introducing youngsters working on a subsidised employment to the world of media. “They called me mother goose as I was not only their instructor at work but also tried to provide them guidance in life. We looked for training and job opportunities, and even filled out tax forms together. It was not an easy job but it was rewarding. With the work experience many were able to find a place to continue their education or find work. Many sent me messages afterwards thanking me. It felt great.”

The days at Unigrafia vary. One day you might be shooting portraits and stock images for the campus websites. You can find yourself documenting a seminar and spending the next day going through the material and editing. The third day might be busy with streaming a stakeholder event while the fourth can be all about providing tech support for a discussion at the Think Corner.

“Philosophy is kind of my thing and I’m interested in the world of academia. I enjoy immensely being able to spend time working among the latest research and findings. I have the opportunity to listen to the experts in their own field and absorb all the information while I’m working. I really hit the jackpot with this job!”, states Mihhailova with excitement.

Next on her to-do list is planning the new employee photos for the Unigrafia website. “First we will take test shots and then, together with colleagues, we’ll start to figure out the visual aspects, the style and the lighting. The ones before were in black and white, and this time we’re going for colour. There are also a couple of streaming projects coming up as well as a few shifts at the Think Corner.”

Not all photo sessions are easy. For example, taking a portrait photo is difficult if the person is nervous, does not stay still or speaks nonstop. If you approach the person with kindness and empathy, you will be able to help ease the chatter and the excitement. “People sometimes feel anxious about wrinkles, spots or their tummy. I will assure them that they look beautiful just the way they are. If they are older, I might say that signs of life and experience are a thing of beauty! We’re only human after all.”

There have been also more extensive photo projects on her assignment list. When Funidata’s website needed to be renewed, Maria Mihhailova visited the office a couple of times. First the portraits were taken, then the group photos followed by feature photos for the career story series depicting the personnel at work. It required more work than projects usually but everything was organised very well.

So, how does the latest addition to the Unigrafia team spend her free time? “When I’m not with my family or saving the world, I photograph music. Gigs and concerts are the most fun thing to shoot. The best moments when shooting a gig are those when you see the artist truly believe in what they do. You can see it and sense it even through the lens, and capture it in the pictures.”

Making the move from a freelancer to a full-time employee is not something Mihhailova seems to regret. “This work really is not just about the money. Each day is different and we have a house filled with talented people. You get to try everything. I also enjoy not being tied to one place but, rather, having the chance to work in different universities and campuses. I have fun at work!”

Seems like a perfect match between a company and an employee! Welcome to Unigrafia, Maria!