‘Sense of Finland’, by the photographer, Arno Rafael Minkkinen.
We all have our sense of home. I was born in Helsinki in 1945 but grew up in America. The 16 year absence from the homeland did create a vacuum within me—an affectionate longing, a subconscious urge to return. Every time the plane touches down at Vantaa I wait for the first bump. If it is going to be a crash landing, at least I will be home.
My first photographs in Finland, taken in Nauvo, confirmed for me the sanctity of nudity. The essential bareness that surrounds everything in nature surrounds us as well. In Finland, where nature can be at its most glorious, to be nude and alone in the forest or on some shoreline vista may be the closest one will ever get to the experience of creation. I love digging my toes into the forest floor or navigating the boulders along the lake shores barefoot and bare ass like a monkey in heaven.
– Arno Rafael Minkkinen
The largest Lake District in Europe: In a scarcely populated country there’s enough scenery and shoreline for all, allowing you to easily lose yourself in thought or be inspired by the vast clear lakes, intricately splintered by islands, isthmuses and green spits.
Morandi painted empty wine bottles all his life. My way of working hardly changes either. It’s not that I can predict my results but just hearing the echo of the shutter ripple through the water, I knew another wine bottle just got uncorked.
My work is the reverse of normal portraiture. The camera stands still while I move about, blindly and intuitively, to discover the decisive place from where the lens can work its magic.
I had no way of knowing when I went out into the water that the hot sand sticking to my wet back would transform it into a tombstone or a mooring post for fishing boats.
Two shoulder blades, two arms, two elbows, and two hands: symmetry comes into being with the word two. Being headless—a singular phenomenon—is another thing. Is it possible to sense the body without the benefit of a head, I wonder?
I photograph myself rather than someone else because my photographs can, at times, be painful or even dangerous to make. Even when they are relatively easy to accomplish, there can be a measure of discomfort in holding a pose.
Here the idea came to me as the water separated head from body. What I hadn’t counted on at all, of course, was the whale of a rock about to swallow me like Jonah.
My intention here was to respond to the cold north wind by creating a kind of bonsai tree, collecting my extremities into a tightly fisted torso holding its ground against the elements.
Our intimate connection with the natural world is the key to everything. Finland is fortunate to provide abundant examples of nature’s gifts, singular resting points for contemplation and celebration.
I work like a documentary photographer works. What is inside my negative will always match the positive print of it—balanced keel to shoreline, outstretched hand to birch leaf,—every time, in every print, exactly the way it first happened in reality.
What the camera will see at the moment of exposure is what I try to envision in my mind. Therein lies the magic of photography for me. It’s why it is always Christmas in my darkroom, even in midsummer.
Every year in August, the streets of Helsinki are filled with art enthusiasts, performance lovers and the culturally curious as the annual Night of the Arts begins. This integral and intriguing part of the Helsinki Festival, the largest arts festival in Finland, hosts hundreds of different events in the …