Roope Rainisto: Challenging Perception Through AI Photographs

*This article is part of our editorial series, Gallery Selects, where we showcase the diverse artists, collectors, and curators who are creating and sharing their NFTs on Gallery.

Roope Rainisto, a Finnish artist and former designer, intentionally evokes a sense of unease through his work. His images often blend the absurd, the deeply personal, and the strikingly surreal.

His transition into AI photography is quite unique, positioning him as a prominent figure in the NFT and AI art communities. His collection ‘LIFE IN WEST AMERICA’ has garnered attention, becoming an essential addition to the evolving art history. This series critically examines the concept of the American West, challenging viewers’ PRRs (innate pattern recognition) abilities. Scenes evoke déjà vu while offering fresh perspectives.

Rainisto fearlessly explores the tool’s capabilities and inherent flaws. Rather than hiding imperfections, he leverages them to create innovative and evocative pieces. For him, AI isn’t just an implement; it’s a creative partner that amplifies his vision.

We recently reached out to him to gain insights into his process, and to get some details about his latest series, ‘Vacation’.


Reflecting on your initial foray into design and your subsequent 25-year career in the creative field, could you describe the journey that led you from design to photography, and eventually to integrating tech and AI with art in your current practice?

Photography - arts in general - has been a part of my life ever since I’ve been a teenager, but for a long time it was a relief - working in a professional/corporate setting, leading design, “solving problems for others”, arts was something I could do for myself. No need to ask for review comments or try to fulfill requirements given by others.

I’ve always been fascinated by the potential that new technology can bring in terms of increasing personal creativity. As soon as generative AI methods became accessible to a relatively layman, I had the fortunate chance to be able to dive into this topic full-time.

What motivated you to incorporate Web3 and onchain components into your work?

Funnily enough, the final spark came after someone impersonated me. I hadn’t set up any Web3 profiles myself, so it was easy for someone else to take my art, create a profile called “Roope Rainisto” and start to sell the art to collectors. After the second time this happened, I thought that I should make it harder by at least creating “the official account” myself.

Having created one, I then had the reason to get started. Web3 space - despite it’s many flaws - offers a chance for any motivated artist from anywhere in the world to make it. Take me for instance. I haven’t been able to formulate to myself how I could have done what I have done now under the traditional artworld / “web2 rules”.

Your creations are quite unique, especially within the NFT space. Could you share what drives your exploratory spirit?

In a very broad sense, I think one can use AI in two ways: either to replicate the form of existing art, or then to create something that exists only because of AI. There is nothing wrong with replication. For instance if you use AI to create music, you probably want to create something “that doesn’t sound weird”... That doesn’t sound like it’s made with AI. That is all fine and good.

My personal interests though always lie much in exploring the new in whatever it might be. Each artform has its unique characteristics. A painting is made out of brushstrokes. They bring it its own character. A painting doesn’t become better if you Photoshop all the brushstrokes away.


Merging technical skill with intuitive insight is no small feat. In your process, how do these aspects interplay?

Many AI tools are now at a level where instead of technical skill you need time, patience and curiosity. It is not so much about getting something to run in the first place, but to try to grasp the myriad of settings and their effects on creation. Documentation ranges often between poor and non-existent.

'LIFE IN WEST AMERICA,' a collection you created in 2023, was such a success. How do you see your body of work evolving from that experience, particularly with your latest project 'Vacation'?

There’s two main developments: technical skill and artistic understanding. Technically one of course learns more the more one does something. Personally I think the larger evolution comes from increased awareness of art and artistic expression itself: what is art anyway? What is good art? What makes it good?

“Vacation” in my mind is slightly less an exploration of the technical medium of AI art and more an attempt to use it to create art, just like I use any other tools to create art. While still preserving and curating the work so that “the AI is present” in each piece.

The narrative of this series obviously carries a unique emotional imprint. How did this influence its development?

Emotions are indeed a critical part of Vacation - it comes down to my understanding of art in general: art is something the artist creates to transfer and evoke emotions in the audience. So for me - when asking about whether some piece is complete, or whether some piece gets curated in or not, its emotional power is the ultimate and final check.

I create tons and tons of art that technically looks beautiful, and fulfill other criteria, but if they don’t make me feel strongly - if they don’t tell a story that I think about - they’re not getting in. Vice versa, a piece can technically have many flaws, but if it works emotionally, that is enough for me.


How does your process of curating AI-generated outputs influence your selection and editing decisions?

I try to treat it similarly to how to curate photography. I’m using Adobe Lightroom, and basically the same processes I’ve been using for a long time now. In terms of editing, I try to minimize unnecessary edits, to preserve the imperfections of generative AI as long as they don’t detract from how you would read the image. I realize the reasons why one wants to avoid unnecessary edits in photos are completely different from the reasons here (in terms of maintaining a link to reality), but nonetheless.

Vacation' doesn't shy away from its digital roots, highlighting the artificiality of the medium. How do you see this affecting perceptions of authenticity in digital art?

I think each artform has its natural fingerprint. A painting looks like a painting because of the brushstrokes of the brush.

A painting doesn’t become better if one Photoshops the brushstrokes away. In my mind, if there are unique visual elements of generative AI right now, I want to preserve them. I hope it gives the artworks their unique flavor. It is moderately likely that as generative AI improves in the future, these “glitches” (as some people call it) will go away, but I’m not sure that is necessarily a positive thing for it as an artform.

Modern digital cameras are flawless, but many people still like to shoot with older cameras, using vintage lenses and vintage films, doing many steps to skew the outputs to be “less perfect” in photos. Art isn’t about realism! Likely something similar we will see in the future with AI art.


Given that photography is often equated with reality, how does the digital dimension of your work invite viewers to question this assumption? Are you comfortable with the term 'post-truth photography'?

“Post-photography” - a term some love, some others love to hate - isn’t a technique but it’s exactly an examination about what happens when photographs can no longer be trusted as being primary capture of reality, but that they’re just images. It’s the digital image deluge, and we will take part in that. The role of an artist moves from being a producer to being a giver of meaning.

I’ve always been critical of “truth” in relation to traditional photography - often the truth is severely perverted there already, and people have been far too gullible or accepting of photographs. If and when generative AI creates additional levels of critical thinking into all of us when seeing all imagery, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Looking ahead, can you give us a glimpse into how you plan to integrate ‘real-world’ elements with digital components in your future projects?

I’m very much excited about this potential - I’m working on various explorations where a project starts from my traditional photography, and then by using generative AI I “extend the photoshoot”. Once I’m one day able to create images that seem to come from the original photoshoot itself, and presenting these images side to side, then it’ll certainly be (hopefully!) an interesting exercise to examine truth.

In general, nowadays people talk a lot about art being normal (“0% AI”) or AI-generated (“100% AI”). The fact of the matter will be that soon enough many people will create something that is 5% AI or 20% AI or 50% AI - generative methods get integrated into apps like Photoshop. In that case, in the long run, the distinctions between what is AI art and what is not will slowly start to blur away. As the generative methods become more accepted as new artistic tools. But this will take a while.

Thanks for your time Roope.

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