AVANTO = Hole in the Ice
I was visiting my hometown Tampere in Finland in January and decided to venture out to one of my favorite places, the lakeside called Rauhaniemi. In most places, when you went to a lake in January, you wouldn’t expect to find people swimming, let alone a lot of people. But, Finland is not most places, and when I arrived at the lake, I found it teeming with swimmers, despite the fact that it was -11 F!
Taking a plunge in an ice cold lake is a common ritual in Finland, so much so, that there is a word for it: Avanto. Of course, Avanto, also involves another Finnish staple, the Sauna and the smoke from the chimney told me that at least the swimmers would have the warmth of the Sauna after their time in the lake.
I arrived at the lake with camera in hand and dressed in my thickest winter clothing. I wondered how the swimmers would react to my embedding myself in their Ananto moments looking like a North Pole explorer while they were wearing bikinis and swim suits. How could I make them comfortable with me capturing them in the midst of this past time? And then it hit me…I need to join them. So, I promised them that I would do the polar plunge myself after I photographed them and that is exactly what I did.
I ended up swimming six times. It was an amazing experience: spiritual, breathtaking, invigorating and, of course, cold. I was very moved by the experience and the people I met.