Pentti Sammallahti was born in Helsinki in 1950 from a family of artisans. His grandmother, Hildur Larsson, is a Swedish born photographer. At the age of eleven, Pentti took his first photographs and made small contact prints under the guidance of his father. At thirteen, through a school club, he enrolled in the Association of photography, built an enlarger and began photographing Helsinki. In 1964 he joined the Helsinki Camera Club. In 1971 he held his first solo exhibition. In 1973 he refused military service and began civil service in the laboratory of glass fiber vessels in a prison. He then photographed other prisons for the Ministry of Justice. In 1974 he participated in the Mullasta taivalle exhibition organized at the Finnish Museum of Photography. He began teaching photography at the Lahti Art Institute (until 1976) and at the University of Art and Design. In 1975 he was awarded the State award for photographic art (which he will receive also in 1979, 1992 and 2009). In 1977 he held his first solo exhibition abroad. In 1979 he completed his first portfolio, Cathleen Ni Houlihan, which he accompanied with a traveling exhibition in many cities. The portfolio inaugurated a series of Opus, which now includes about fifty publications. In 1980 he received the annual award of the Finnish Association of Critics and began to experiment with new techniques for photographic reproduction and ink printing. In 1984 he began to teach printing techniques at the photography department of the University of Art and Design. In 1991 the Finnish State assigned him a 15-year-grant reserved for artists and he stopped his teaching activity. Following the solo exhibition organized in Paris in 1996 during the Mois de la Photographie, he regularly began to participate in exhibitions all over the world. In 2001 the University of Art and Design awarded him an honorary degree. In 2004 he took part in the inaugural exhibition of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris, for which the French photographer personally chose his favourite hundred photos. In 2010, the Finnish Museum of Photography dedicated him a retrospective exhibition.
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