MARIA LAX: SOME KIND OF HEAVENLY FIRE
Maria Lax is a London-based photographer with a background in cinematography, which influences her photographic oeuvre highlighted with precise use of colour, and an amalgamation of fantasy and reality. In ‘Some Kind of Heavenly Fire’, her first monograph, she returns to her roots, a small town in Northern Finland which was initially a hotspot for UFO sightings in the 1960s. Lax, who only got to know about the supernatural events once she was going through her grandfather’s book dedicated to the UFO sightings in the area, approached people who had seen mysterious lights in the past – in addition to collecting newspaper archives and adding her own images from the family albums to the mix.
The rapid industrialisation in the 1960s and 1970s, forced people to move from small towns to cities in order to support their families and have sustainable jobs. Consequently, some towns lost nearly half their populations, drastically changing the lifestyle in them. Lax describes it as a painful and uncertain time similarly as with the UFO sightings, evoking both fear of the future and the unknown.
The locations depicted in the book are familiar places Lax frequently visited during her childhood years. When approaching the inhabitants of her hometown, still deeply religious, they all described similar accounts of their sightings: colourful lights following cars or people walking home alone. In an interview with The Guardian, she explains that “the lights would be silent, pulsating in different colours before disappearing into the sky. Sometimes bright lights would wake people up in their homes in the middle of the night – and would again vanish without a trace.”