Pentti Samallahti’s Moment

With his work on the cover of Black + White Magazine this month, the opening on Wednesday of a one-man show in New York’s Nailya Alexander Gallery, and finally, the publication of a new edition of his great career compendium, Here Far Away, the next several weeks will be good for Pentti Sammallahti, the beguiling and masterful Finnish photographer.  Last summer, he was recognized at the Les Recontres d’Arles photography festival, and so it seems that slowly, Sammallahti is being recognized globally as a photographer of the highest rank.

If it weren’t for the example of Joel Sternfeld and Elliott Erwitt — two very different artists — one might wonder whether whimsy and charm were the death nell for a serious photographer.  But over the course of his 40-year career, Sammallatti has consistently found a way of incorporating animals into his photography, always in a manner that beguiles, and makes you think not less of him, but more.  In an era of online film festivals dedicated to cats, this might undermine his standing.  It doesn’t.  Seeing his picture of a dog stretching identically to the way a nearby tree curves, or the dog sleeping on the sacred cow in Delhi, makes you realize that, again like Sternfeld, Sammallahti makes his own luck.  His is not so much the decisive moment as the patient payoff, as surely, in so many of his best pictures, he could see the ingredients in his mind’s eye, and then waited  patiently for kismet to stir them perfectly in the bowl.

As Salgado can find the humanity in the most beset upon family in South America, Sammallahti finds the dignity — even joy — in those who live closer to the Arctic Circle.  If you could look at his images geotagged, you would want to click on the ones from the White Sea, and other places you likely wouldn’t want to visit, in winter, the way he has.

A master is getting the recognition he deserves.  Don’t miss out.

One Response to “Pentti Samallahti’s Moment”

  1. The lopsided, almost Seuss-like geometry of these photos are entrancing. Wow!

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