Pentti Sammallahti’s careful images of birds

January 10, 2019


“Pentti Sammallahti’s Birds”, a solo exhibition on view at Nailya Alexander Gallery, is the first to focus exclusively on one of the Finnish photographer’s most consistent and compelling subjects: birds. Despite his frequent attention to dogs, cats, and other animals during his many travels, Sammallahti’s work finds its true apotheosis in birds.

© Pentti Sammallahti, Humlebaek, Denmark, 1999
© Pentti Sammallahti, Cracow, Poland, 1974
© Pentti Sammallahti, Luxor, Egypt, 2001

Residents of the land, sea, and sky, birds find their way into the artist’s field of vision no matter what continent or country he explores. In some photographs, they fill the frame as a flock, alighting from a tree or field, their speed and restlessness mirroring the artist’s own itinerant spirit; in others, one or two stands alone, sanctifying the spot with its quiet presence and its choice to break flight. In many photographs, the small shape of a bird is the anchor that unifies the entire composition, holding its own beneath a staggering sky, or bringing delicate balance to a jumble of branches or power lines.

© Pentti Sammallahti, Delhi, India, 1999
© Pentti Sammallahti, Hamnavoe, Yell, Shetland, 2016

In a 2012 review for The Guardian, writer Sean O’Hagan notes that Sammallahti “captures humans and animals in worlds of their own, lost in reverie: dogs chase birds, birds cautiously approach humans or circle above them…But what is most palpable is the silence of the surroundings. Looking at the photograph, you feel on the threshold of another, more mysterious world that is indeed here and far away.”

© Pentti Sammallahti, Solovki, White Sea, Russia, 1992
© Pentti Sammallahti, Helsinki, Finland, 1997

Pentti Sammallahti’s Birds is on view from January 10th through 31st and coincides with the release of Sammallahti’s most recent monograph Des Oiseaux (About Birds), released in November 2018 by French publishing house Xavier Barral.

© Pentti Sammallahti, Kirkkonummi, Finland, 2016
© Pentti Sammallahti, Delhi, India, 1999
© Pentti Sammallahti, Kitakata, Japan, 2005

Pentti Sammallahti’s Birds 

January 10 – 31, 2019

Nailya Alexander Gallery
41 E 57th St #704
New York, NY 10022


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