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Press Release

Nailya Alexander Gallery is pleased to present The Extraordinary World of Pentti Sammallahti, one of Finland’s most internationally prominent photographers. The exhibition showcases some fifty photographs from 1964 to 2010. The opening reception will be held on January 20th, from 6 to 8pm at 41 E 57th Street, Suite 704. The exhibition will run through March 10, 2011. Gallery hours are 11am -5:30pm, Tuesday through Saturday. We are especially honored to have this show in conjunction with Pentti Sammallahti’s retrospective at The Finnish Museum of Photography in Helsinki (September 2010- February 2011).

From early childhood Pentti Sammallahti (b. 1950) was drawn to photography. Growing up, he was surrounded by the works of his grandmother, Hildur Larsson (1882-1952), a Swedish-born photographer, who worked for the Helsinki newspaper Kaiku in the early 1900s. After visiting The Family of Man exhibition at Helsinki Art Hall (1961) Sammallahti made his first prints at age eleven. Pentti joined the Helsinki Camera Club in 1964. His first solo exhibition was in 1971.

Sammallahti is a poet of his native Helsinki; a philosopher, who cherishes the nature and solitude of the great north; and a wanderer, who makes subtle observations of the people and animals he encounters. Recording ordinary occurrences, he alludes to existential themes. Regardless of where he travels – France, Italy, Japan, India, US, Nepal, Russia or Finland – a gentle humor is visible in his work. Grace Glueck in her New York Times review spoke of “Mr. Sammallahti's work being playful and lyrically intimate, making poetry from small visual surprises.” His seemingly effortless and quiet images stir a viewer’s emotions and are exquisitely composed. 

From 1974 to 1991 Sammallahti taught photography at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, retiring when he received a 15-year grant from the Finnish government, which allowed him to travel more. As a master craftsman, Sammallahti meticulously tones his gelatin silver prints. These come in various formats, from prints of 4 by 5 inches to panoramas of 6 by 14 inches. For his retrospective exhibition in Helsinki he created large format pigment prints, about 9 by 21 inches and 15 by 35.5 inches in size, and we are happy to include some of them in our New York exhibition.

Sammallahti’s travels and interest in fine printing and lithography have led him to publish numerous books and portfolios, of which the most well known is The Russian Way (1996). In 2001 the Helsinki University of Art and Design awarded Pentti Sammallahti the title of Honorary Doctorate in Art. He had a solo exhibition at Paris' Mois de la Photographie in 1996 and another in 1998 at Houston Fotofest, Texas. In 2004, the famous French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson ranked Sammallahti among his 100 favorite photographers for his Foundation's inaugural exhibition in Paris. The French Photo Poche book series published his book edited by Robert Delpire in 2005, and the same year, Sammallahti had a personal exhibition at the International Photography Festival in Arles.

Among museum collections Sammallahti’s work can be found at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, France; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany; Moderna Museet / Fotografiska Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; and The Finnish State Collections and the Photographic Museum of Finland.