WATCH: A photographic trip to holy places, because 'it's all one history, almost'

2018-11-22 19:00
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The Pantheon in Rome, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the Vienna Stadttempel Synagogue. Often you can't tell if its a mosque, church or synagogue until the second or third look. 

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Centuries-old houses of worship are Ola Kolehmainen's subjects. Before he presses the button, the chemistry has to be just right. Kolehmainen says that when he goes in, he needs to have something like an enlightenment of the space and the light. In some places, it is easier to find than in others and sometimes its easier to find than to capture.

Turning his lens on Berlin's cathedral, Kolehmainen is looking for just the right subject, the optimal position and especially - the perfect light. His challenge is to capture the particular mood and spatial dimensions on film.

Kolehmainen says that part of his technique involves dividing the image into several parts so as to somewhat deconstruct the space before reconstructing it. This creates the feeling of three dimensionality. In his Berlin studio, he arranges his photos like the tiles of a mosaic into larger panoramas.

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The native of Finland discovered his passion for houses of worship in 2013 in Istanbul. He spent months photographing mosques. After that, he spent more than three years visiting over 50 sacred sites around Europe. The result was a book of photos and an exhibition titled 'Sacred Spaces' in the Helsinki Art Museum. The walls and spaces themselves became part of the installation.

Ola Kolehmainen is a photographer of what's known as the Helsinki School. While studying in the Finnish capital in the 1990's, he began to specialise in images of spaces and facades.

Kolehmainen compiled his 'Sacred Spaces' from 2014 to 2017, years during which tensions between the world's major religions were growing in Europe and elsewhere. Did his photo project have a political message? 

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Ola Kolehmainen says that he isn't doing political art but he thinks that the theme and how it is handled does illuminate some of his intent and thought process. His images reveal that when seen from a distance, Christian, Jewish and Muslim houses of worship are visually at least - not all that different. 

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