2015 Winners - Heikki Kaski
The purpose of the Aperture Portfolio Prize is to identify trends in contemporary photography and highlight artists whose work deserves greater recognition. When choosing the first-prize winner and runners-up, Aperture’s editorial and curatorial staff look for innovative bodies of work that haven’t been widely seen in major publications or exhibition venues.
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This series is titled after the Californian town in which the images were shot. The town of Tranquillity, tiny as it is, is thrumming with unease. Or rather, if one were to gauge the emotional tone of the site based on Kaski’s work, there would seem to be something distinctly dark and bitter brewing just beneath its otherwise banal surface.
There is a tension, a beat-down quality, that is beautifully conveyed in the barely balanced framing and dusty, drained palette of the photographs. Dust devils swirling on the horizon serve as one of the few points of recurring action. Blink and you’ll miss it. That would seem to be true of this town (population: 799, in 2010), but it is also something intimated by Kaski’s use of nearly identical frames. A pile of shoes is glimpsed first from one tightly framed, off-kilter angle, then echoed by another shot from a slight shift to the right. Similarly, a tree wrapped, cocoon-like, in plastic is seen first at night, and then in full daylight, injecting something like a visual stutter into one’s reading of the work and of the place. Nothing changes and yet everything has changed. There is something gorgeous yet restrained in this work’s execution.
Tranquillity was also published as a book in late 2014, upon winning the Unseen Dummy Award the previous year. While the photographer is not yet a household name, lowly, inexorably, like the breeding of dust on an old piece of glass, Heikki Kaski’s work leaves a discernable, haunting trace.
—Lesley A. Martin
Heikki Kaski (born in Kantvik, Finland, 1987) lives and works in Finland and throughout Scandinavia. He studied photography at the Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Finland, and Valand Academy, Gothenburg, Sweden. Before pursuing photography, Kaski worked in the sugar industry. His work has been exhibited throughout Europe, including at the Extensions Hagen residency program in Dala-Floda, Sweden. His book Tranquillity won the Unseen Dummy Award in 2013, and was published by Lecturis in 2014. The work will be exhibited at the Finnish Museum of Photography this spring.