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Press Release

Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to present Pentti Sammallahti and the Sea, on view online Monday 26 July through Tuesday 7 September 2021.

Pentti Sammallahti is well known for his travels around the world and for his dazzling images of animals and nature in such far-flung locations as Solovki Island in Russia and the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. Equally powerful is the work he has made in his native country of Finland, where he stands today as one of the country's most beloved national treasures and a towering figure in the history of Finnish photography.

Pentti Sammallahti and the Sea highlights the artist’s special relationship with the landscapes of Northern Europe, Asia, and Africa and with the majesty of the sea in various seasons and moods. The exhibition also includes rare photographs from 1968 and the early 1970s, many of which are especially spiritually charged and border with abstraction. In the 1978 photograph Kihti, the moon rises above an expansive space where sky and sea merge, producing another dimension and a sense of timelessness. Similarly, the horizon is just barely visible through the glimmering mist and fog in Sändo, Finland, from 1975; a faint celestial glow illuminates scattered clouds and the edge of the curving path. A mysterious atmosphere around the abandoned boat in Ristisaari aus: Archipelago, Finland, 1972, has a mythical presence. Sammallahti captures a unique austere beauty of the Baltic Sea, its dark, deep waters shifting beneath looming cloudy skies, while a photograph taken in the rain suggests a symphony of sounds from the water droplets and the waves blowing in the wind.

In more recent photographs of the sea taken during the artist’s travels, the mood is joyous and romantic. These images are often animated by birds, as in Nice, France, 1997, and Turkey, Sea of Marmara, 2000; in other photographs, Sammallahti captures the impressive roar of the ocean, as in The Atlantic, Portugal, 2010. Small sizes of these photographs offer an intimate experience with these poetic images. 

Sammallahti’s work has been shown in both solo and group exhibitions since the 1970s. Since 1979, he has published more than thirteen books and portfolios and has received awards including the Samuli Paulaharju Prize of the Finnish Literature Society, State Prizes for Photography, Uusimaa Province Art Prize, Daniel Nyblin Prize, and the Finnish Critics Association Annual. In 2004, the renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson ranked Sammallahti among his 100 favorite photographers for his Foundation's inaugural exhibition in Paris. 

Sammallahti’s work can be found in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Finnish State Collections and the Photographic Museum of Finland, among other museums and institutions.