Swan Suite, Finland 6/1996 confessions of a surrogate traveler*

This is another shoot featuring Clay Walker. You may recall his appearance in my previous adobe spark page about Korea. We flew to Helsinki and had a limo ride to the site in western Finland. Several hours away and I vaguely remember the jet lagged drive there. We arrived at the site and were welcomed, had no logistical issues and were escorted to our quarters, affectionately referred to as "The Indian Village". A bunch of cabins for contractors working at the site. But it was actually called "The Indian Willage" on account of that northern euro verbal swapsies of "V" and "W". Which also meant that my name for the duration of the shoot was "Wance". Nice digs and there were numerous and serious saunas. Even a little bar where where you can drink your Lapin Kulta with an Accordionist at the open mic. The Finns take their saunas and accordions very seriously. We decided to take a sauna at the Indian Village and told our manguide, Panu Wilska, we would meet him in a while at the sauna after getting our modesty briefs. He said "everybody else would think you were hiding something" so we obliged into a certain level of hell wearing our birthday suits. It was over 200 degrees and the Finns would be at the top bleacher rung in the sauna and the American contractors would be on the 1st rung. gasping for air. Then, someone would dump a bunch of water on the rocks for a flash fry. Still quite enjoyable and I enjoy a good sauna to this day.
Swan in the Gulf of Bothnia

An after-hours fishing trip with Nino, Clay and Panu

Lightman supremous, Nino lands a big one. Panu looks on with boyish trepidation.
Clay nestles his head between Unit 1 and Unit 2

At this point I was experiencing what I believe to be hypothermia, yet it was close to midsummer's night. Afterwards we retired to the Indian Village Cafe. I can only imagine this place in the Winter.

Nino points out the way.
Nino and Clay perched upon a dingy!
Getting some feeling back in my fingers over dry land.
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Rauma is the town closest to the plant so we went there a several times, once for a welcome dinner with Panu and our site host (Reindeer anyone?). Another time to a full blown sauna - where the real business deals are made. Also one evening out to a disco to hang with the young people. It's easy to stay up till the sun rises when it never really goes down. That's the flip side to months of relative darkness in the winter.

One memorable dinner at a restaurant in Rauma located in a WW2 bunker, named Wanhan Rauman Kellie (The Rauma Cellar). They even have a nice website.

Russia and Finland have had a difficult relationship. There have been strange alliances, invasions and occupation. I believe it was at the Cellar restaurant when I asked Panu if any of the Russian soldiers stayed behind with local girls to make a life in Finland. He replied that the only remaining Russian soldiers in Finland were "6 feet under". It was not said as a joke.

New boy group in town: Nino and the Nihilists.
Panu was in such a hurry he threw his bike down to strike a pose.
Panu and Finland were early adopters of cell phones (see Nokia!). This was in Rauma, outside of a nice Sauna we visited.

When finishing up we were running late to catch our flight from Pori to Helsinki. We managed to get to our hotel close to the airport in Helsinki around 10PM and were too tired to go out. All I basically saw of Helsinki was the inside of my eyelids. We flew out in the morning. On the flight home they offered a CD for sale of Finlandia, by Finnish son Jean Sibelius. It's now one of my favorites. Visit the link below for a Video montage of my Swan photographs featuring The Swan of Tuonela. Turn up the speakers and view full screen.

The Swan of Tuonela is based on the Kalevala epic of Finnish mythology. Where the "music paints a gossamer, transcendental image of a mystical swan swimming around Tuonela, the realm of the dead". (source: The Swan of Tuonela wiki).

Please send inquiries to: vance.cox@gmail.com

* "Surrogate travel" was a photo documentary method, pre-dating "virtual reality" developed in the 80's by my previous boss, Steven Levin, along with encouragement from DARPA for anti terrorism purposes in response to the State Department's beefing up Embassy security. After Chernobyl and the US's 3 Mile Island debacles, the nuclear power connection was kismet. I worked at ITC (Interactive Television Company) in Rosslyn, VA in the early 90's and moved to Catco, Inc. in Atlanta in the mid 90's where I did the same work for commercial nuclear power plants. I shot some 30 plants for a lifetime exposure of 10 Rem. Yes, I glow in the dark under the correct conditions ; )


© 2016 Vance Cox

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