Sammallahti’s photographs take the viewer beyond everyday experience into a wistfully enchanting world. Regardless of where on the globe Sammallahti goes – Finland, Russia or France – there is a gentle humour in his gaze. In Sammallahti’s universe things that are considered unimportant become significant, while the essentials are discovered through acutely experiencing the world. Dogs stretching and doves dozing, the rhythms of a Roma market, or children in clothes that are too big for them – all well-aimed shots in the hunt for decisive moments. Sammallahti represents an alternative to the frenetic rhythms of contemporary life and to the adulation of rapid change
Apart from being a world-travelling photographer, Sammallahti is an immortaliser of his home city of Helsinki. Although the place has changed and grown over the decades, Helsinki-ites will recognize in these pictures the dampness, the wind and the mist coming in from the sea that are part of the scene in autumn and winter.
Sammallahti is one of the first Finnish photographers to have carried out his entire life’s work as a photographic artist. As a craftsman who emphasizes the knowledge and skill of the photographer in taking photographs, making photographic prints, and printing photographs using photomechanical processes. Along with individual pictures, Sammallahti has made thematic portfolios. His breakthrough work, Cathleen Ní Houlihan – An Irish Portfolio from 1979, took its name from a figure in an Irish folk tale. It marked a new opening for photographic art that accentuated the tonality of the pictures and the photographer’s own inner experience. He taught for a long time at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, where he and his workgroups created a culture of high-quality photographic printing and printing using photomechanical processes. The retrospective exhibition includes his original photographic prints, graphically printed portfolios and contemporary digital prints.