Pentti Sammallahti’s (b. 1950) retrospective solo exhibition Here, Far Away is currently on at the Photographers’ Gallery in London. The exhibition is based on a book of Sammallahti’s most loved photography taken over his 40-year career. The book consists of over 300 black and white photographs.
Sammallahti is best known of his intensive landscape and animal figurative works, which are often depicted with humour and warmth. The themes have remained the same throughout his career.
“For me it is not important to understand what I photograph. But the picture has to touch me, so it will able to touch others as well.”’
Over the years Sammallahti has seen how photography has shifted from a marginal craft to a widely respected genre of art. In his opinion the reason why many Finnish photographers have won international acclaim is Finland’s excellent art universities and art education. Sammallahti himself has taught at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki for 17 years.
Sammallahti is a rare craftsman in the era of mobile phones cameras, social media and digital editing. He photographs with an analog camera and develops his films in a dark room.
“I see digital photography as a positive thing. But when one has photographed with the same technique over a half a century, there is no point to changing it” he says.
Sammallahti has exhibited in more than 20 European countries, gained wide international acclaim and won awards throughout his career. 1991 he received a 15-year artist grant from the Finnish government.
“After that I haven’t done anything else but photographed – not even given interviews. Sometimes I think I’ve had so much acclaim, some of it feels misplaced.”
Sammallahti has travelled extensively in many Northern countries, Siberia, Japan, India, Nepal, Europe and South Africa. The analogic camera still comes along wherever he goes.
“If I would stay at home, I would become blind. I need distance in order to see.”