They could hear a faraway thunder: Jorma Puranen

1 - 25 February 2023

They could hear a faraway thunder, Jorma Puranen’s forthcoming exhibition at Purdy Hicks Gallery (1 – 25 February), continues his long-term work, re-animating the history and legacy of Arctic explorations. In ́narrating the North ́ Puranen often uses archival sources and different techniques of re-photography, exploring and visualizing relations of history, knowledge, landscape and culture.


In this work Puranen uses satellite images and aerial views of the Arctic vistas. The role of archives, dreams, memories and time are deployed to create transient and accidental visual forms, which aim to encapsulate multiple, interwoven temporalities. In his photographs the found visual material reappears as though from a lost (or future) world, becoming manifest in a ghost form. Through experiences of travel and borderland Puranen wishes to create a matrix of fact and fiction, a field of fantasy and geographical imagination.


The title They could hear a faraway thunder comes from a poem of Aqqaluk Lynge, a Greenlandic poet and human rights leader. Lynge ́s lines echo ancient times of caribou hunting. People could hear a faraway thunder, the caribou approaching two or three days in advance. Today the caribou is gone and the faraway thunder now resonates with different threats and uncertainties experienced by Arctic indigenous peoples in their natural environment.


For Jorma Puranen, photography ́s capacity to register reflections is its singular gift. What other medium deals so expressively with the play of light and shadow? His series Icy Prospects has as its source historical paintings depicting Arctic landscapes and seascapes. Inspired by these lacquered paintings Puranen painted a sanded piece of wooden board with black, glossy paint to give it a reflective, mirror-like texture. Taking the board outdoors into the icy northern landscape he photographed the fragmentary reflection of the landscape on the surface of the board.


Throughout Puranen ́s work there is an approach that reminiscent of Jean-Luc Godard ́s comment, “a photograph is not a reflection of reality, it is the reality of that reflection.”



Jorma Puranen (born 1951, Helsinki) is one of Finland's best-known photographers, with his work held in many major international collections including Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and Victoria & Albert Museum, London. His distinguished career has included a tenure as Professor of Photography at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki.