An Otherworldly Implication
In the 1960s, a desolate Finnish town at the edge of wilderness made headlines for a series of UFO sightings. Maria Lax was unaware of her hometown’s storied past until she discovered her grandfather’s book chronicling his experiences as a journalist during this time. Now suffering from dementia, Lax was no longer able to ask him about him directly about what happened, so she began mining local archives for old newspaper clippings and speaking with eyewitnesses about the phenomena.
During a period of industrialization, the UFO sightings coincided with a paradigm shift Northern Finland. It was a time that took farmers away from their homes in rural areas and into more populated cities and factories. Places like Lax’s hometown were left largely uninhabited.
Some Kind of Heavenly Fire, Maria Lax’s photographic series, is not a strictly investigative project though. What she taps into is the liminal space between occupation, abandonment, and the psychological space of loneliness. Many of the images embody an ethereal quality—a blurred shadow on a wall in a dimly light room, a neon beam softly cutting through the forest, an unsettling wash of redness bleeding over an otherwise twilight sky. The images represent the afterglow of action, but not the event itself.
We’ve seen this before—during the American Civil War, spirit photography was a way for the living to grapple with deep loss. When the world feels largely out of our control, the photograph becomes a willing substrate for the extraterrestrial; a medium for us to direct our grief. In Lax’s own words, “It’s no wonder that the UFO sightings embodied a fear of the future, the unknown and the inexorable shift in lifestyles and livelihoods going on around them. Some reacted to the mysterious lights with fear, some took them as a sign they were not alone.”