Fire and Ice — Four&Sons

Fire and Ice

Finnish photographer Pentti Sammallahti wanders the world, capturing starkly lit landscapes and marooned mongrels in black and white.


Fire and Ice

A horse stands still as stone in a field blanketed by fog. A white hare cowers beneath sinewy brambles in a forest all but swallowed by snow. A bony dog dozes atop a sacred beast’s mountainous haunch on a blistering street. There is something cinematic about Pentti Sammallahti’s photographs. The self-described nomad globetrots—from the frigid shores of Russia’s White Sea to the fevered banks of the Ganges in India—capturing scenes so ephemeral they seem the stuff of dreams.

Sammallahti first picked up a camera at eleven, and is now nothing short of a national treasure in his homeland. (In 1991, he was awarded a 20-year grant by the Finnish government to travel and take pictures.) And travel he does. Sammallahti’s otherworldly photographs place him on Istanbul’s stormy Princes’ Islands, in the primordial grasslands of Namibia’s Mount Etjo and the sylvan subtropics of Nepal. But he is ever drawn to the North, to the cool shades of black and white. His is an oeuvre of frozen moments: starkly lit landscapes and marooned mongrels.

Sammallahti once said: “Finding myself on a rocky island, I suddenly understood what the stone near me, the ship on the shore, the cloud navigating the sky and the salient, sporadic calligraphies drawn by migrating birds were telling me… Then I understood that you don’t take photographs, you receive them.”

Here And Away, a retrospective of Sammallahti’s work is available in hardcover here, and a permanent installation of work is on show at Nailya Alexander Gallery.

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