Jaakko Heikkilä

By the Sea

The indigenous population along the coast of the Barents Sea in North Russia is known as the Pomors. Pomor means “by the sea”. The people there became known owing to the Pomor trade, as it was called, that is to say the intense sea-bound exchange of goods with Norway and the rest of Europe. The trade started at the beginning of the 18th century and was brought to an abrupt end by the Russian Revolution. The life of the Pomors takes place directly on the water and at the water’s edge, for they live from trade and fishing.

Armed with his camera, Jaakko Heikkilä set out to search for traces of this once very prosperous region and its cultural remains. Highly varied were the impressions he gained on his travels. And what he recorded includes photographs of peaceful, untouched nature and thriving cultural traditions as well as of hard physical work, poverty, loneliness and alcoholism.

Heikkilä’s pictures show us above all the tender, poetic side to the infinitely broad and silent landscape. In them we discover places where time has apparently come to a halt and people today still live to the rhythm of nature. The photographs show them going about their daily work, in their homes and in village communities. If, after long months of darkness, the sun returns to the region, it dips the colors of nature in a radiant light, and we find it resplendent in Heikkilä’s pictures. With a romantic eye he has offered us a friendly vision of the shores of the Barents Sea and its inhabitants.

Biographical information

1956

born in Kemi, Finland

1983

graduate engineer, Oulu University

1987–89

researcher at the Academy of Finland

since 1989

independent artist

lives and works in Kukkola, in the valley of Torne River, which forms the boundary between Sweden and Finland.