Cathleen Ní Houlihan

By Pentti Sammallahti


This is a rare chance to obtain a copy of Pentti Sammallahti's first portfolio, Cathleen Ni Houlihan,

which initiated the acclaimed Opus series – see notes below 

Opus 1, Helsinki, 1979

31,5 × 29,5 cm. 

Portfolio in soft card case

30 black and white photographs

Duotone offset 

Preface by Edna O'Brien in English and Finnish

Poem by W.B. Yeats in English and Finnish


This portfolio contains photographs from Ireland. They were made in the west parts of the island in the summer of 1978. Heavy masses of clouds hang over the landscape. The people as well as their dwellings are one with the terrain. This portfolio shows how the overall control of the maker is conclusive for the nature of the work. Sammallahti made the photographs, designed the portfolio and was responsible for the technical realisation. This groundbreaking portfolio is dedicated to the memory of Paul Strand.


(The portfolio white card cover is  has a minor crease which can just be seen if you enlarge the photo, and is only  a lttle scuffed, but the contents are in mint condition.)

 Quotes below are from the Finish Museum of Photography website and other website sources.

The Opus series is a series of Finnish photographic art books and portfolios that was initiated by photography artist Pentti Sammallahti in 1979. Sammallahti wanted to guarantee absolute artistic freedom, and control the entire process of bookmaking from the photographs and the graphic design to the printing of the book. The book should be entirely the work of the artist. In this way, it is not the original photograph, but rather the complete book or portfolio, published in limited editions, and bound by hand that forms the artwork. Until today, the publications of the Opus-series are often completely the work of the photographer who is responsible for each phase of the bookmaking process. 

The Finnish Museum of Photography has dedicated the autumn 2010 to a major exhibition of the life's work of Pentti Sammallahti. He is a master of classical black-and-white photography and a pioneer of Finnish photographic art.

Pentti Sammallahti (b. 1950) is one of the first Finnish photographers to have carried out his entire life's work as a photographic artist. Being a skilled craftsman he was working as a teacher at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki for a long time. He and his workgroups created there a culture of high quality photographic printing and printing using photomechanical processes 

The retrospective exhibition includes Sammallahti’s original photographic prints and graphically printed thematic portfolios. His breakthrough work, Cathleen Ní Houlihan - An Irish Portfolio from 1979, marked a new opening for photographic art emphasizing the tonality of the pictures and the photographer's own inner experience. Sammallahti's photographs take the viewer beyond everyday experience into a wistfully enchanting world. Regardless of where in the world he goes – Finland, Russia or France – a gentle humour is visible in his shots. In Sammallahti's universe things that are considered unimportant become significant, while the essentials are discovered through acutely experiencing the world.  .

Sammallahti is one of the internationally most prominent Finnish photographers. In 2004 the famous French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, ranked Sammallahti among his 100 favourite photographers for his Foundation's inaugural exhibition in Paris. 

When Sammallahti published his first portfolio Cathleen Ní Houlihan in 1979 he called it his Opus 1. This work was the one that initiated the Opus series. Since then more than 50 titles have been published in the series, by a dozen or so photographers. The works have sometimes been published in very small editions, occasionally in editions of thousands. In Finland the Opus series awakened a serious interest in ink-printed photography. (Kristoffer Albrecht: Ink on Paper)