The Gentle Tenderness of Pentti Sammallahti's Photographs
Inspired by the title of a 1920 epic poem by the poet and forerunner of Finnish literary modernism Aaro Hellaakoski, The Two of US at Nailya Alexander Gallery explores the poetic images of Finnish photographer Pentti Sammallahti.
Hellaakoski is known for his brilliant use of rhyme as well as for the mix of avant-garde and fairytale styles in his philosophical and existential poetry. In Me Kaksi, he uses a satirical tone to reflect on the surreptitious closeness of two beings, exploring feelings of inadequacy and loneliness while attempting to articulate unspeakable truths. Similar sensations, as well as the fortuitous encounter of two beings, recur throughout Sammallahti’s work. Whether these beings are lovers or friends, fellow travelers or strangers, a man and his dog, or two birds or animals,
Sammallahti’s poetic images speak to the themes of attachment and tenderness, emotional bonds, and the experience of sharing one world together.
In her essay on the work, the Swedish poet Marie Lundquist writes: "Sammallahti casts a gaze full of benevolence and empathy on men, animals, architectures and trees that populate the earth. It makes no difference. Everything is connected. There is everywhere the same loneliness, the same silence, the same nostalgia. How come I find myself so easily in these two horses standing there by the seashore in the Outer Hebrides, like toys placed here by a child? This may be because their portrayal emphasizes their vulnerable tenderness and the image is stripped of anything that doesn't relate to them, so they seem to leave their animal nature behind to become a pure state of being."
Ephemeral moments captured with poetry, Sammallahti’s images in The Two of Us are as delicate and precise as haikus. They celebrate intimacy, the fragments of serendipitous encounters, and the evanescence of all things and beings on the earth.
The Two of US is also the title of a book of photographs by Pentti Sammallahti, published by Atelier EXB in France in 2021.