After winning the Unseen Dummy Award of 2013, Finnish photographer Heikki Kaski's book Tranquillity has now been published by Lecturis. Named for the small Californian town where the project was shot, the series is as enlightening as it is mysterious. In photos of dry and endless horizons, we see the vast nowhere that encloses Tranquillity, distant mountain ranges sometimes offering the semblance of an enclosure as small dust storms whirl up in mini tornadoes, both threatening and harmless. Scenes from the small town and portraits obscured by light offer us an impression of the depth of life that exists there—and our inability to access it completely. We are relegated to the role of outsiders, fascinated but uncomprehending.
“Those some 800 people in and around these 12 streets, 4 churches, 2 grocery stores, 2 hardware stores, a car dealership, a post office, a library branch, a high school, Mom's drive-in or The Corner Bar may have seen me when not working on the fields stretching around: almonds, pistachios, migrated bees shaking the pollen," writes Kaski in a short piece of writing at the back of the book, illustrating more than the size of Tranquillity but also its spirit. There is something deeply individualistic about the scenes, with large lawns separating neighbours, occasionally fenced in, and yet, the way the people present themselves indicates a friendly accessibility and realisation of interdependence. In one image, an old woman does the splits on a bar room floor, a drink in front of her and a large smile on her face as she stretches forward. She seems somehow comfortable doing this, seemingly surrounded by friends who encourage her antics. In another image, three men stand waist-deep in a body of water, one in front with his arms raised – it's a scene that could easily be interpreted as a baptism, though they're all wearing t-shirts, leaving it all a bit unclear, except for the clear community involved in their inexplicable walk through the water.
Wrapped in a matte black cover, with fragments of a conversation embossed in the cover, nearly invisibly without the aid of light, and the edges of the paper also toned black, the book itself doesn't express morbidity but impenetrability; a black box. The images, a mixture of black and white with colour photography, express lush emotion. It's this richness that enables us to feel connected to Tranquillity, even while cognizant of the wall that separates the townspeople from us. Kaski's book offers in photographic form that deep urge inside of us to be protected and defensive, while just underneath, we offer evidence of limitless love, for those who are willing to make the leap with us.