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August 14, 2018

The photography of Pentti Sammallahti

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From the Economist :

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Under a low sun, a frog with a thuggish expression swims alone in a pond, its black reflection a crisply outlined mirror image on the still water. It stares straight ahead; an eye-to-eye confrontation seems imminent.

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This sinister yet amusing picture was taken by Pentti Sammallahti, a 68-year-old Finnish photographer with an unusual status: he is at once feted and deliberately low-profile.

His modest prices — prints start at €600 ($702) — are part of the explanation.

Peter Fetterman, who exhibited Mr. Sammallahti’s work at the Masterpiece fair in London this month, says he "is the best photographer whose work you can afford."

But price tags that make his work accessible put off some collectors and galleries, who see price as a measure of quality. "Peter keeps telling me to charge more," says Mr. Sammallahti.

He chooses not to raise prices, nor to limit editions of his prints. "I have the negative," he says, "why not print from it?"

For him, making prints is part of his art. The frog peers from a silver-gelatine image taken from a black-and-white negative, one of his preferred techniques, but he experiments ceaselessly.

Mr. Sammallahti is not a recluse, nor lacking in ambition.

He travels the world taking photographs; a book"Here Far Away," was published in 2012; another, of bird pictures, comes out later this year.

But he shuns the art scene, believing that commercial pressures undermine quality. He does not lecture and rarely gives interviews.

In 1991 he received an unprecedented 20-year grant from the Finnish government. Its sole condition was that he should concentrate on photography, so he gave up teaching. "I want to work in peace," he explains, "to be free to fail."

Failure has eluded him. In 2003 Henri Cartier-Bresson chose a photo by Mr. Sammallahti (top) — one of 100 images that the French master found most "stimulating, joyful and moving" — for his foundation's inaugural exhibition in Paris.

A big dog sits high up on a Russian snowmobile, its ears pricked, king of all it surveys.

August 14, 2018 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


Comments

I love that frog picture!!
Pissed-off but determined. I can relate.

Posted by: Flautist | Aug 15, 2018 7:47:45 AM

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