The exhibition Mythical Journey by photographer and writer Heikki Willamo speaks about the bonds and meanings that have existed for millennia between humans and animals.

Animals were a vital source of food and raw materials in ancient cultures, but they held a deeper meaning, too. Through animals, people were able to reflect on their own place in the circle of life and look for connection with the universe. Animals and their images held an important role in communicating with the spirit world.

The bear and the moose as travel guides to the exhibition

The moose photographs showcased in the Mythical Journey exhibition are from Länsi-Uusimaa, Heikki Willamo’s home region, and the bear photos were taken in Kuhmo. Originally, the idea was to immortalise rock art.

– This proved to be challenging; one would have to photograph something someone has made at some point in time but that cannot even be seen properly, Heikki Willamo says.

Finally, he achieved an image that looked like rock art. It helped concretise the idea that the animals represented in rock art had to have been important to people.

– I place myself to the end of the 40,000-year chain of people who have created images of animals. Mythical Journey closes the circle, and the photographs now look the same as the first illustrations did, Willamo describes.

Meeting between humans and animal

Heikki Willamo has been a professional nature photographer since 1983. He is a story-teller who captures an entire story arc. Books were the goal of his work for a long time, as text is his other medium. Today, when taking photographs, Willamo also thinks of them in terms of series and exhibition units.

The forest nature of southern Finland, old myths and rock art, which Heikki Willamo are currently working on, are his special interests. In his work, Willamo often considers the meeting between humans and animals – the place of an animal in the world today and in ancient times.