Anna (Stranger #81/100), Helsinki

Street Portait

Between flashes of bright sun and sudden rain, the smooth white of Helsinki’s iconic cathedral remained constant. Offering a neat, plain background with lots of soft light and decent numbers of people, I’d taken a quick hour to whizz out from the hotel as my wife and daughter recharged their batteries from a morning’s jaunt to the island zoo (which is awesome!), before heading out to Suomenlinna (which is one of my favourite city attractions anywhere).

Having met a few people I was about to head back and began trotting down the steep steps, when I saw Anna’s wild technicolour scarf swirling across the street below. Rushing over, I broke rule #3 and hailed her and her companion Setto from behind. Unphased, she listened to my explanation of the project and agreed not only to take part, but to troop all the way up to the cathedral and the white background I described.

We chatted on the way up. Anna is a Helsinki native, returned to study following some travels and adventures around the country. She and Setto were on their way to meet their daughter and her husband for lunch. They had a wonderfully calm, effortless magnetism, so I asked how they met. Anna’s flawless English slowed a little as she searched for exact, right words to explain.

They each other for a while, before getting together. That they finally found each other, having known and yet not known each other, was difficult to express; happiness, relief, epiphany, peace, thrill… until that point she had varied expression between a neutral gaze and a smile. She paused her explanation; smile and tears mixed and expressed what words could not.

Kiitos Anna and Setto for getting involved in the project – I hope you like your picture! Thank you too for offering “The Thames” as something we have in London… it’s not Suomenlinna, but the thought was appreciated!

This is portrait #81 of my 100 Strangers Project – check out the group page and get involved.

Lighting is provided by a couple of reflectors; one held by Anna, one left of camera by Setto.

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