Born and raised in a small village in central Finland, Aapo Huhta felt a similar impulse to break away upon the completion of his schooling. Relocating to Helsinki for his university years, he acquired a camera and began learning his craft intuitively, focusing at first on whatever happened to catch his eye. Huhta’s relationship with the medium was later cemented by a Masters in photography, during which he developed an interest in elements of documentary practices to consolidate his own tendency for observing and capturing ‘photographic coincidences’.
After the publication of his first photobook in 2015, Huhta’s personal life entered a turbulent period. Where his subsequent journey to Namibia allowed for a welcome escape, it also provided unchartered subject matter and total immersion in the unknown – something the artist regards as critical to both his professional and personal development. The geographical and mental break from a now distant reality also alleviated the pressure to work with a clearly defined sense of purpose, opening the door instead to an unfettered, childlike approach to image-making – not too far removed from Huhta’s early relationship with the camera.
In rich, deep blacks and blinding whites, Omatandangole – the resulting body of work – plots a fragmented impression of Namibia’s sparse terrain. Hazy desertscapes and rippling sand dunes sit alongside rugged, wind-swept outcrops, punctuated by occasional traces of life – be it an animal, a human form, a hardy plant or the fading tracks of a passing vehicle. The project paints a somewhat violent picture of a harsh, vast landscape, a long way from the pine forests of Huhta’s native Finland, though an equally fitting place to seek out solitude and catharsis.
In print, a prototype of the Omatandangole project was shortlisted for the Unseen Dummy Award 2018. Designed in collaboration with fellow Finnish artist Heikki Kaski – a previous winner of the same prize – the book’s immaculate printing and textured paper provide greater definition to Huhta’s visual fragments. ‘Some photographs can show something so complete and unbroken, which is of course, not how our surroundings really are. But in that brief moment that emerged as a photograph, everything actually was like that. A glimpse of something that normally doesn’t exist…I think many people have had this experience of a sudden bliss that disappears as fast as it appeared.’