Avanto: Cold water and a hole in the ice Markku Lahdesmaki in -24°C with a Leica M (Typ 240)

Markku Lahdesmaki was born in Finland and left at early age to study photography to London. After assisting and establishing a studio in London and following 6 years back in Finland, Lahdesmaki moved to Los Angeles. After living in the US for over 20 years now, he has worked for both European and American clients including GE, Nike, Nokia, Adidas, Apple, Microsoft, Toyota, Honda, Sony, Gillette, among others. His love of photography also inspires a constant stream of personal projects.

His personal work and commissions from advertising agencies have been recognized and placed in numerous awards competitions such as Clio, Epica, Cannes Lions, AOP awards, NY Festivals, CA, PDN, APA, Lucie Awards, IPA and PX3. Additionally, he received The Grafia Platinum Award for his influence on the Finnish Advertising.

We had the opportunity to get in touch with Markku and know more about his project, Avanto. It is common to navigate the area of Tampere, Finland in freezing temperatures averaging -25°C. Tampere, Markku’s hometown, is the most populous inland city in any of the Nordic countries. With a typical Scandinavian landscape full of lakes, forests and mountains, Lahdesmaki takes us on an adventurous yet uncommon endeavour.

“One of my favorite places is the lakeside called Rauhaniemi.  It is a swimming place by the huge Lake Näsijärvi, which is the biggest lake in that area. In the summer days Rauhaniemi Kansankylpylä (Rauhaniemi People’s Spa), built in 1929 is full of people enjoying sunbathing, ice-cream, coffee and swimming in the fresh lake water.”

Clearly, living conditions are subject to the cold Nordic temperatures. Markku says: “When arriving, the temperature meter in my car was showing – 24°C (- 11°F ).  I was expecting to find snowy trees and buildings by the frozen lake.” To his surprise, the place was full of people swimming in the frozen lake. A little dash of smoke coming out from the chimney suggested that at least they would enjoy the warm sauna after the swim. He added by saying that people from all ages were doing their daily ritual. Maybe referring to some of Finland’s most traditional customs.

“I needed extra warm gloves to hold my Leica M ( Typ 240) with the Summilux 1.4 50 mm lens.  I was first wondering how the swimmers would react when pointing the camera to them and wearing my thickest winter clothing and looking like a North Pole explorer and while they just had bikinis and swimming pants.” Markky explains. Fortunately for him, everyone was quite positive and inviting. As the Leica community knows, these cameras don’t usually frighten people like some big black SLR cameras, as Markku would call them.

“One thing I promised was that I would do the polar plunge myself after my photo session.” He continues “The Sauna was ready and doors opened at 1:00 p.m., which only gave me about two hours of daylight to shoot before it started to get dark again. I went back there shooting 4 times and ending up swimming maybe six times.

“In the second day of shooting I turned on the movie feature in my Leica. This winter swimming was looking almost like a spiritual routine and

shooting the movie will tell more about the whole story. After my third day the weather started to warm up. Only – 1°C (30°F) and the Winter sun was just above the horizon line. The swimmers were hoping this unexpected “heat wave” would not last too long.”

Markku’s son, Julian Jones, a singer-songwriter based in Nashville is the composer for the video’s music.

To know more about Markku’s work, please visit his website and follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

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