A Photographer Reimagines the Northern Lights

Maria Lax
Maria Lax trees negative image
All images from Some Kind of Heavenly Fire © 2020 Maria Lax.

when one learns of Maria Lax’s Lappish roots in northern Finland, the fantastical saturation of her photographs begins to crystalize, and to recall that phenomenon peculiar to the northern reaches of the globe, the aurora borealis. With the region’s extremes of weather, atmosphere, and light, it is perhaps unsurprising that there is a history of mystical and supernatural episodes there. Lax’s 2020 project, Some Kind of Heavenly Fire, pairs her own photographs with family pictures and newspaper clippings that her grandfather collected recording a lifetime of UFO sightings in the area. The result is an ambiguous local—and family—history. Lax writes, “The UFO sightings embodied a fear of the future, the unknown.… Some reacted to the mysterious lights with fear, some took them as a sign they were not alone.”

– Eugenia Bell

Maria Lax gas station amid trees photo
Maria Lax green light in trees photo
Maria Lax Tree and stars photo
Maria Lax Galaxy Photo
Maria Lax is a photographer based in London who is known for her use of color and seamlessly blending reality and fantasy in her work.
Originally published:
April 1, 2020



Finding company on and off the page
Carl Phillips


Emily Ogden and Dana Spiotta

Reckoning with middle age and complicity
Emily Ogden
Dana Spiotta

The Stakes of Dictee

An introduction to a famously difficult work
Ken Chen

You Might Also Like


Photographing the George Floyd Protests

Alex Golshani


Exile and Memory

Reimagining Iran through 200-year-old portraits
Amak Mahmoodian


A Forger’s Art

The photographer who saved the lives of 14,000 Jews
Adolfo Kaminsky


Help keep print culture alive. For a limited time, enjoy 10% off two- and three-year subscriptions.