Alternate Realities

Fields of electric blue flowers. Luminous pink bushes. Otherworldly forests. These are the works of Sari Soininen (b. 1991), an internationally recognised Finnish photographer whose colourful photography draws from the depths of the human mind. She uses long-shutter speeds and colour gels to build alternate realities within the moment, traversing different states of being and planes of existence. At its core, Soininen’s work is about providing new ways of seeing the world – cutting through the fabric of reality. 

Transcendent Country of the Mind
, shown here, is a deeply personal series. “In my early twenties, I experimented with LSD regularly and excessively, and eventually experienced an extended psychotic episode,” Soininen explains. “It had serious consequences on my own life, but also profoundly changed the way I perceive the world. During this time, I abandoned all my worldly possessions; I confronted the demons of Hell and was shown the wonders of Heaven; I travelled through time and space; I peeked behind the curtain of this dimension and – even today, having fully recovered – my understanding of reality has changed forever. These photographs represent this perspective and offer others similar glimpses to what I found behind the curtain. Making this project years after the psychosis turned out to be extremely valuable for my mental health: it was a way for me to let go of this traumatic yet eye-opening experience. Now that the project is finished, I feel free. The incident does not define me as a person anymore.”

Soininen’s other, equally enigmatic, body of work is Shallow Waters, Misty Waves. This collection draws on Finnish folk beliefs and philosophies, comprising dreamlike photographs which, like Transcendent Country, seek “to reflect the emotional states and mental landscape that words only rarely succeed in capturing.” Beyond this, it taps into the strangeness of life online. “In today’s world, where we are fixated on technology and hustle and bustle, we no longer observe our surroundings the way that we used to,” Soininen continues. “Our environment has become meaningless and mundane. The project addresses how the mystery and magic of life used to be experienced in nature, but nowadays is obtained via technology.”

Image Credits:
1. Dimension #28 from the series Transcendent Country of the Mind
2. Dimension #21 from the series Transcendent Country of the Mind
3. Dimension #8 from the series Transcendent Country of the Mind
4. Vision 14 from the series Shallow Waters, Misty Waves
5. Vision 2 from the series Shallow Waters, Misty Waves