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In the Shadow of the Earth Dark Space Forest & Landscape Solar Intensity

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SuomeksiIn the Shadow of the Earth

As the sun drifts below the horizon, the blue shadow of the Earth rises slowly on the southern sky, creating the backdrop for my photographs. Serene and expansive, the twilight, the opposite of the warm hues of skin and fire, has fascinated me for years. It challenges me to capture our well-trodden and well-documented landscape anew.

By extending my exposure times, I have sought to depict the unfolding of an event, its passage and history, and capture it on film – to bring life to a landscape that is stood still. I might spend a month planning, poring over maps and searching for the right stage setting and then embark upon my preparations over a number of days in order to light and shoot the event in one long take, in one single direction. The right light at dusk lasts for only a moment and there is often only enough time for a single attempt. The visual simplicity of my images disguises a complex technical reality and the constant prospect of failure, brought about by the many variables, the forces of nature and my own nocturnal exhaustion.

I use fire to express movement, the passage of time and the presence of humans without a visible, recognisable form. At times my attention turns to examining the idea of movement from the point of view of the object. My camera might be fixed on to a moving boat. Here, the extended exposure time and the blurred focus created by the moving vessel lends the surrounding landscape an abstract appearance. I might synchronise the camera with the turning of the earth to create a photograph that expresses the earth’s movement in relation to the stars. I have come to notice that I have imposed upon myself a set of informal rules as well as a challenge: exposure to a single sheet film, cropping set in advance, no post-processing. My photographs are direct representations of what has taken place in front of the camera.

All my photographs are taken in Finland. In theory, they could have been taken at any time n history. We first settled in these latitudes some 10,000 years ago and yet, in all that time, the bedrock and the landscapes have changed but little where they have not been shaped by human hand. I want the viewers to take a break from the fast pace of modern life and to reflect on the value of our shared landscapes.

My work seeks to define our relationship with time and place, the universe and the passage of history. The photographs are often a blend of nature, art and science, the imaginary and the real. Approaching these images and landscapes from the viewpoint of the past and the future can lend them an entirely new set of meanings. My photographs are inteded to be viewed and experienced but many of them can also be read. I hope that while depicting the real, my photographs also convey another world and transport the viewers to a new dimension I have attempted to create.

Solar intensity

We may feel that we can manage very well on our own in this world, but in reality we are entirely dependent on energy that is being generated over a hundred million kilometres away. Without noticing it, we move on the Earth every morning towards that stream of energy, which is the source of all life. After a period spent in the shadow, we once more face this ball of fire which we are so apt to take for granted. Its radiation turns its full intensity on us, in the area that is now becoming the illuminated side of the Earth and the temperature begins to rise.

Its immense power is most evident at dawn, as its blinding light is brought to bear on what has been the dark side of the Earth and dispatches the shadow. Like the rays reflected from a mirror in space, the sun penetrates the unlit parts and floods them with solar energy. We can appreciate the vast intensity of this energy only when it is contrasted with darkness.

What I have done in the Solar intensity series is to introduce the sun into nocturnal landscapes. This is done by a new technique in which two moments in time are combined, superimposing two photographs taken from precisely the same point, one by day and the other at night. These are different landscapes, although the place is the same. The people in the sunlit scene are different from those pictured at night. The direction and angle of the beam of this gigantic searchlight as it reaches the ground are determined by the season of the year and the time of day.

This simultaneous view of a landscape at two points in time allows day and night to confront each other in a manner to which we are not accustomed. Our perception of a place and its atmosphere is always influenced by the time of day at which we see it, and just as a long exposure time used in the dark can reveal movements going on in the scene, the rapid shutter speed used in daylight will stop events in their tracks. Apart from the work of developing the idea and predicting the events, the whole process of producing these photographs calls for precision and takes up a great deal of time.

The sun has been an object of worship in some cultures, and it will not be long, I am sure, before interest will be revived in the more accessible celestial bodies, as our non-renewable energy supplies will run out within a few generations. The sun is an immense source of energy, and an inexhaustible one as far as human life is concerned, but are we able to appreciate the benefits and opportunities that it holds for us? Do we simply take it for granted as a part of our everyday life? We can’t look at it directly by day, and we can’t see it at night.