Avanto by Markku Lahdesmaki

Markku Lahdesmaki was born in Finland and left at early age to study photography in London. After assisting and establishing a studio in London and following 6 years back in Finland he moved to Los Angeles. Markku has been living in US now over 20 years working for both European and American clients. His love of photography also inspires a constant stream of personal project.

Avanto = Hole in the Ice  

I was visiting my hometown Tampere in Finland early January last year.  It is always exciting to see places with new eyes,  after being away for so many years.  One of my favorite places is the lakeside called Rauhaniemi. 

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. To my surprise, place was full of people swimming in the frozen lake. A little smoke coming out from the chimney was telling me that at least they would have the warm Sauna after the swim.  

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. 

And then it hit me… I need to join them.  So, I promised them that I would do the polar plunge myself after I photographed them and that is exactly what I did.     

I ended up swimming six times. It was an amazing experience: spiritual, breathtaking, invigorating and, of course, cold. I was so moved by the experience and the people I met that I came back the second day to film it. Ultimately I accompanied this short film with a great piece of music composed by my son Julian Jones. 

All photos by Markku Lahdesmaki