Museum - Open today 09:00 ― 23:00
One of Finland's most recognised artists, Pentti Sammallahti, will be among the first four opening exhibitions in Fotografiska Tallinn. Distant Land is a fascinating journey to the mysterious land that is both presents at the moment and existing in our imagination.
Pentti Sammallahti grew up surrounded by images. His grandmother, Hildur Larsson, was a recognised Swedish photographer for the newspaper Kaiku printed in Helsinki in the 1900s. Aged nine, Sammallahti decided about his future as a photographer – after his father took him to the group exhibition Family of Man curated by Edward Steichen. Only two years later he made his first photographs featuring everyday life in Helsinki, and since then never stopped taking outstanding images that are both formally accomplished and filled with melancholic poetry.
"I feel like I received the photograph. I didn't take it. If you're in the right place at the right time, then all you have to do is push a button. Being a photographer doesn't come into it," says Pentti Sammallahti. "Everything I've photographed exists regardless of me. My role is only to be receptive. The most important thing is the luck, behind every good image there is good luck too," he continues.
For over 50 years Sammallahti has captured the mysteries of nature, in all of its forms across the world, in exquisite imagery in which nature and artifice, reality and fantasy, become indisputably intertwined. He has developed a unique talent of observation, capturing seemingly ordinary scenes from everyday life, that in his lens are lifted to timeless compositions that remind of stills from a monochrome film, or grayscale landscape paintings.
The exhibition Distant Land has a unique connection with Tallinn, Estonia; there is a portfolio of eight images taken in Tallinn in Estonia in the winter of 1981 when Sammallahti spent mere minutes photographing people walking past a wall on a busy street.
"He is not a documentary photographer or nature photographer, but a photographic artist, using references to music, poetry, literature to influence his work. The language is very poetic, filled with cultural traits that you might not immediately notice, that only unravel in time," says Anna Mustonen, curator of Distant Land.
Sammallahti's black and white photographs which, as he says, "are not taken, but given to him," become in his hands true jewels of photographic art – developed in his darkroom with enormous precision - and are both proof of Sammallahti's extraordinary craftsmanship and a formal key to his visual poetry.
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