The second book of Finnish-born, Paris-based photographer Osma Harvilahti, titled “Ethiopia” and published by Libraryman, is a vibrant study of a capital city in flux

By Maisie Skidmore (AnOther Magazine) |

It’s a strange yet recurring phenomena that some memories – of trips, or places, or seasons, or even people – are permeated by a single color, as though seen through a tinted lens. For Finnish-born, Paris-based photographer Osma Harvilahti, Ethiopia was a dusky purple.

“It was this one color which I’ve always spotted, this very beautiful purple,” he explains. “I wanted to create a visual story around this, and study the meaning of that color.” This same shade has since become the common thread which binds his new book, titled Ethiopia – the third in an ongoing four-part collection of books, Seasons Series, by Antwerp- and Stockholm-based publisher Libraryman. The series takes as its inspiration South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring – and Harvilahti’s view on autumn is a natural fit.

Osma Harvilahti created the series at the tail-end of a two-week trip to Ethiopia, to which country he traveled with a good friend, to visit her family. “What I tend to do on holiday is disappear somewhere with my camera, and then I’m not really resting or spending time with people – I’m just in my own world,” he explains. On this trip, however, a tight schedule meant that his time outside with his camera quickly became very limited. Instead, he took two days out before leaving to explore Addis Ababa, the country’s capital.

It was a surreal experience, he continues: “I had this strange feeling that I had been here or seen something like this before. Then, after a day, I started hearing stories about how the economy works in Ethiopia – it’s completely funded by Chinese investment, so that becomes a dominating force. You see and breathe it all around the city.”

As a result, Addis Ababa’s landscapes take on a strange contrast. “At street level you can see what you’re expecting to see – people with their tiny, mini businesses, or makeshift stalls selling food, vegetables, leather goods and whatnot.” Hanging over these scenes, however, are towering concrete skyscrapers and “this metro line which is kind of like a sky train. It crosses the whole city.” It’s a strange juxtaposition, he continues – of Asian and African influences, new and old. Soon, Harvilahti’s attention turned from his shade of purple to the way this influence permeated the environment.

Continue reading this story at AnOther Magazine
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