North. Wide forests. Islands. Silence.
Modest. Sincere. In need of warmth.
Life content. Tradition. National culture.
Life in Northern Europe is inconceivable without a sauna. FULL STOP.
The Finnish word “sauna” is well known all over the world. Moreover, the fact that the Finns were voted the happiest people on Earth for the third time in a row, may also have been due to this retreat. At end of 2020 Finland could safeguard its sauna culture to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Onnea!
A good reason to go to the sauna with Finns: sweat and dive into their world. Into the world of Löyly. This constant throwing of water on hot stones. Watching the people. Their faces.
To see their sweat beads and to listen to their thoughts. At more than 70 degrees, in the humid air – under extreme conditions for people and technology.
Pearls from and on the skin. Pearls of human souls. Therefore: Löyly Pearls
There is no literal translation for “Löyly”. For the Finns, Löyly describes everything that happens after the water has been poured onto the hot stones of the sauna heater. A unique steam develops that envelops the people in the sauna, literally descends down on them. Some Finns say that Löyly is like a hug: You are together in the Löyly and yet for yourself. Connected yet separate. As the sweat beads slowly rise to your skin, thoughts and memories emerge. Individual and unique, just like people are – true pearls.
If you want more sauna steam, you politely ask “lissä löyly?” And a ladle of water flies onto the stove. Afterwards, the sauna guests often exchange ideas about its quality. “Hyvät löylyt” is heard over and over again – which attests to a good sauna steam. And in general, the social component: you get to know each other easily in the sauna. A conversation begins open-minded.
Young as old. Everyone is the same in the sauna.
An hourglass? Nope. Close the door? Rare. It’s a constant movement in and out. Because the Finns can’t be asked twice: when it’s enough, they long for colder place. In the lake or in the sea. And then immediately back to the oven. Back to the community. And so it continues: water is constantly flying towards the sauna heater. It hisses, steams. The pearls will run down again soon.
About the Series
All photos were taken under real conditions in four Finnish saunas around the Baltic Sea city of Rauma in the southwest of the country. At least at 65 degrees Celsius, sometimes even over 80! High humidity. Steam. The camera, the photographer and the flash were exposed to the same extreme conditions as the photographed. All participants were asked individually to take a seat at a prepared spot and then be photographed there.
Almost 30 people showed their sweat beads, most of them having been informed of the idea in advance. Some came by chance and spontaneously participated. People and technology survived the shooting without damage.
Before leaving for Finland, two extensive experiments had been carried out to determine whether and how the idea actually could be implemented in terms of technology and health. Important finding: It is indeed possible to endure a sauna photo shooting session in Finland, on the sauna floor. And: ice-cold Baltic Sea-water is sooo good!
See for yourself how an crazy idea turned into an existing photo- and storytelling project.
Löyly Pearls. Pearls from and on the skin. Pearls of human souls.
Thank you so much!
to all lovely people who sweat for this project! A special thanks to my always in a happy mood friend Katja Ansorge (saunaglueck.com) for organizing, her curious questions to our guests in the saunas for the texts her and hospitality. Thank you also Katia Klose-Soltau for your kind support in editing and choosing the best images for the serie.
A special Kiitos paljon to Rosanna and her family for inviting us to their Puusaun in Lappi at the Narvijärvi and to Katariina from the Lahdenvainio Rantasauna at the Kaljasjärvi, as well as to Enzo Forciniti und Thomas Rötting for their patience in the “test sauna” in Leipzig before the journey to the north.
All photos were created in digital medium format (long edge >8000 Pixel/RAW) and can therefore be easily reproduced for all purposes!