Markku Lahdesmaki is an professional photographer and filmmaker, who was born in Tampere, southern Finland and currently based in Palm Springs, CA, United States. Markku left Finland at early age to study photography in London. He has worked in London and last 20 years from Los Angeles for both American and European clients.
For his documentary project “Avanto” (Hole in the Ice), Markku captured ice-swimming ritual during a trip to his hometown of Tampere. Avanto is an age-old Finnish tradition of going swimming in frozen lakes in the dead of winter. The ritual is combined with that other Finnish staple, the sauna.
“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,” Lahdesmaki says. To his surprise, the place was full of hardy swimmers facing the elements in nothing but a bikini or a pair of trunks send a shiver down the spine.
People from all ages were doing their daily ritual. I needed extra warm gloves to hold my Leica M 240. I was first wondering how the swimmers would react on me pointing the camera to them and wearing my thickest winter clothing and looking like North Pole explorer and while they just had bikinis and swimming pants.
– Markku Lahdesmaki
“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.”