25 Feb 2015

Sleeping beauty

When I was taking this first picture of a green wall the friend (Portuguese) who was with me said, that I shouldn’t take pictures like that. That I shouldn’t show this side of Portugal. The decay.

Did I stop? No. It just urged me on to find ways to bring out the beauty in imperfection. The peeling, faded paint is much more interesting than shiny, unblemished surfaces. The foregone beauty is still there, in a different form, like crow’s feet on an old woman’s smiling face. Signs of a life well lived.

I know, it’s a matter of opinion. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, they say. My eyes see the colours and the forms of things, the balance and harmony. The history, and no-one can take that  away from them as long as the walls stand up right. 

Green wall
Aveiro, 2009


Faro, 2012

Closed doors
Vila do Conde, 2010

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21 Feb 2015

Clear waters

I lived six months in Espinho, over one winter. It’s a dull enough city in winter, ugly even, that only lightens up on Mondays when there’s the weekly market. In summer it’s more lively, because there’s a beautiful stretch of beach, or actually two.

On sunny winter days I sometimes went for a walk on the more distant beach. There was only the odd fisherman there, and seagulls, gaivotas. The receding high tide left behind pools in-between black rocks, revealing mussels, tiny, tiny pebbles and pieces of seashells, smoothed by the waves, bathing in sunlight and crystal clear waters.

One of these days I wanna go back there. 

Underwater in Espinho, 2009.

17 Feb 2015


In Lisbon you find antique and ultramodern buildings side by side. It’s just the way the city has evolved itself, layer by layer, block by block, building by building. Some would say that it’s a horrible way to plan and build a city. I don’t know. I tend to think that too much planning restricts freedom of choice and leads to monotonous, colourless suburbs. There are plenty of examples of those in Finland. The other extreme I’ve seen in Aveiro – I’ll show that to you another time.

But in Lisbon, São Sebastião, you’ll find the old and the new side by side like Ebony and Ivory – in perfect harmony. The antique buildings reflect in the mirror-like surface of the modern, showing a slightly distorted image that from some angles looks like a cubist work of art.

No, I wouldn’t say that it’s ugly. 

All photos Lisbon, 2015.

14 Feb 2015

Home is where the heart is

 A friend (Portuguese) once told me that the Portuguese love to have their hearts broken. They love to fall in love. At best they’re sentimental, affectionate, caring, warm – all qualities that make a person a good lover. At worst possessive, jealous, unfaithful. In other words they’re human.

I probably don’t need to tell you that Portugal as a country and the Portuguese as a people have stolen my heart. That´s why I´ve made my home here.

Everywhere I go I look for hearts painted on walls and confessions of love. I find them a lot. Of course. The Portuguese love to love. 

Happy Valentine's day, Feliz dia dos namorados!

A big heart (um coração grande)
Porto, 2014

Small hearts
Lisbon, 2012

Azulejo hearts
Lisbon, 2015

11 Feb 2015


I’m in Lisbon. The first time I came here was in the early 90’s, I think. The city was beautiful even back then. And so clean. Few tourists in those days, in March. There didn’t even seem to be any inhabitants out on the streets. It was quiet and calm. Like a suburb during working hours.

These days it’s different. Lisbon has changed. It would be strange if it hadn't. Everything changes over the years. 

The city is still beautiful and clean, but buzzing with life, and tourists, even in February. It’s ok. They’re welcomed with the same warmth that the Portuguese welcome both visitors and immigrants.

I went for a walk with the camera but took few shots, so I dug up from my archives for what I’d like to share of Lisbon with you. The alley cat. The old lady sharing her bread with pidgeons. The statue in Avenida de Liberdade. There’s more, of course, but I’ll leave them for another time. 

I’m going back North, home, tomorrow. I realized today that the girl from Southern Finland has become a woman from Northern Portugal. Some kind of metamorphosis that, too.  

7 Feb 2015

Knock, knock.

People sometimes dream of silly things, without being able to explain why. When I was a little girl I dreamt of having on the front door of my house (when I grew up, of course) a door knocker like a lion’s head. I suppose it sounded romantic, instead of those boring “ding-dong” doorbells that you have in Finland.

Never even in my less romantic dreams did I imagine finding one day a lion’s head knocker with a skull in the handle; even less that I’d one day have probably the largest collection of door knocker photographs in Portugal. They simply mesmerize me. I can’t walk past a rusty or a shiny knocker without taking a photo of it. I just can’t. I’ve tried, but I can’t. I imagine the people who live(d) in those houses, the people who came knocking, what they wanted, what they got; did they ever have a look at the knocker before grasping it, how did the metal feel in their hands, cool, hot? 

My dream hasn't come true yet, there's no knocker on my door, lion's head or any other. Not yet, anyway.  

Lion's head holding a skull. 
Angeiras, Matosinhos, Portugal, 2010

Been knocked too many times. 
Porto, 2010

If I touch it, will it turn into rusty dust?
Vila do Conde, 2011.

5 Feb 2015

In the beginning there was a camera and a pair of eyes

Dear all,

Welcome to follow my photograph blog. It will take you to see things that most people pass by without noticing; another world that only reveals itself to the eye of the camera; beauty that can be a matter of opinion. I retouch my photos very little, so what you see is the real thing. It exists.

Most of the photographs are from Portugal, where I live. So, come in, please, and have a look at the world as seen by my eyes.

Anu Patrakka

PhotosAlma, photos with soul (alma = portuguese for soul).

This first photo kicked me off into photographing details in Portuguese cities. The harmony of peeled paint and contrasting colours, beaten by the climate; sun and salty air.
Aveiro, Portugal, 2009.

Three years later I returned to the same spot with a new camera. The wall had become more blackened and a glimpse of sun reached a part of it. Somehow I like more the original photo, which just goes to show that you have to be at the right place at the right time, and that sometimes sooner is better than later, but later better than never.
Aveiro, Portugal, 2011.