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Pentti Sammallahti

From october 19th to january 13th 2019


There are some photos that, to be appreciated to the full, have to be framed and hung on the wall in front of you. Pentti Sammallahti prints his own photos and the resulting masterpieces (and the term is justified) reveal the photographer’s immense talent in the profusion of precise, lucid and subtle nuances: and like a gift to the eye, they need to be seen face on to be truly enjoyed.

Each of this Finnish photographer’s exhibitions is a rare and precious moment, one which nourishes an inner dialogue and provides time for oneself. If there is indeed such a thing as artistic sensibility or visual poetry, it is undeniably present in Pentti Sammallahti’s photos. His body of work follows in the footsteps of a tradition of “photographic wanderings”, in the casual and yet attentive attitude that was born in the middle of the 20th century with Kertész, Cartier-Bresson, Sudek and others in the same vein. His discrete and yet considerable body of work stays aloof from the visual voracity of our times. It carries us away, far from cliched formats and platitudes and, in so doing, does us a world of good. There are no methods, no favourite subjects (except perhaps the gracefulness of animals) and no systems, just an immersion in the delicate world of living things and the beauty of nothing much in particular, in silence, in the moment and its innocent perfection.

Pentti Sammallahti has no stories to tell, neither is he trying to give an account of a situation or an action. If everyday life does indeed feature in his images, it is so that it can be raised to the status of a timeless event, all the better to reveal the universality of attitudes and gestures, whether they were captured in Nepal, Russia or Morocco. Pentti Sammallahti is not an insignificant relay, nor an image maker like so many others. He is a “master observer”, just as he is a “master printer”, one of those people who takes us by the hand and whispers “see!” in our ear. His attention, his patience and his happy benevolence are communicative. Immersed in his images in a sort of communion, we become in turn attentive to detail, to the mood of the weather, the movements of lines, the depth of distant spaces, to the noise of clouds and the imperceptible vibrations of birds in flight.

Birds (and animals in general) are a common feature in Pentti Sammallahti’s entire body of work and they have a prominent place in this exhibition. In fact, the opening of the exhibition coincides with the publication of a new collection of books by Editions Xavier Barral entitled Des Oiseaux  (Birds) and whose first volume contains the works of Pentti Sammallahti.

Each time a new book featuring Pentti Sammallahti’s photos comes out it is an event in its own right. Galerie Camera Obscura, which represents him, will also be presenting an exhibition of his work from October 26th to December 29th 2018.


Moscow, 1980
Pentti Sammallahti / Courtesy galerie Camera Obscura


Montana, Bulgaria, 2003.
Pentti Sammallahti / Courtesy galerie Camera Obscura


Helsinki, Finland, 1983 
Pentti Sammallahti / Courtesy galerie Camera Obscura


In cooperation with the Galerie Camera Obscura, Paris
In partnership with the finnish Institute, Paris