TIP OF THE DAY: Watch a short documentary by photo artist Sanna Kannisto about the creation of bird photos at the Hanko bird station.

Herbarium - series of works

Photographer Sandra Kantanen

Photographer Sandra Kantanen's collection of works at the Herbarium in Vaasa Hospital presents familiar and exotic plants with microscopic precision. The plants photographed with the scanner are printed in a large size so that even the smallest details of the plants stand out. The almost unnatural precision of the images reveals something about the structure of nature.

In her works, Sandra Kantanen combines photography with painting

I am a photographer living in Hanko. I mostly work with natural themes and landscapes. In my work, I combine photography with painting to approach the tradition of landscape painting with new methods. I make use of digital methods and a variety of techniques, pushing the boundaries of photography within my genre. My latest series of photographs “Smokeworks” from 2016–2021 was shot in the forests of Hanko. The series is related to the memory of trees and was originally inspired by war-time archaeological findings in Hanko. I set up scenes using smoke bombs and manipulated the photographs digitally.

Photo: Sami Pulkkinen

Making the series of works Herbarium

The works created for the hospital were made by photographing plants with a scanner. I built a miniature studio on top of a large flatbed scanner, where I photographed various plants. I collected the plants from nature, gardens and flower shops.

I have been developing this method of photography using a scanner since 2001 and have used it in previous works. My floral series “Distortions” was made with the same method, but the plants were moved during exposure which creates an impression of a long exposure time and breaks down the image, creating an effect similar to paint dripping.

Considering the hospital’s patient rooms, I kept the subjects simple and still for the entire exposure, so that the plant can be examined as is. The precise details of the plants emerged as the prominent theme. 

Photos: Sami Pulkkinen

At the very early stage of the project, I thought about making landscapes for the patient rooms. I created a variety of them, but it was challenging to find a sufficient number of works suitable for the hospital environment, so I moved to this botanical theme, for which I had a method ready at hand. I suggested this series exactly due to the large size of the works. Scanning provided very large files that could be made into prints that are two meters high without any deterioration of image quality. This allowed fully focusing on the details.

Creating the work, all the way from the landscapes to the ready botanical works, took approximately six months and the time of the year posed some minor challenges in finding plants. Another challenging factor in creating the work is precisely the large size of the prints. I use a mid-sized digital camera to shoot landscapes. The large size causes a variety of capacity issues with memory cards, computers and software. It also slows down all processes and even the smallest hairs are visible in the final large prints. 

I hope that the patients feel at home in the rooms and that the works can help in creating a calm atmosphere that transport the viewer’s thoughts to the diversity of plants. As an artist you have to accept that there will always be things you cannot control. The end result will always be a surprise and hopefully a happy one.

Listen to the presentation

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