Minkkinnen’s Body And The Natural Environment

Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s photographs make a powerful visual statement about Man’s interaction with the natural environment – even though that was not his intent when he created this fascinating body of work.

Minkkinen is a Finnish photographer who created ‘self-portraits’ of a different kind. He set himself the task of creating a set of photographs of his own body, or parts of his body, unclothed and generally in some sort of natural environment. The result is a set of potent, elegant and often surprising images.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Minkinnen’s focus was the exploration of process and the creation of clean, elegant and visually powerful imagery.  Re-interpreting his work today, in a world occupied with environmental concerns, the images become a powerful statement on Man’s relationship with the natural environment.
Looking at these images I am left with the feeling that Man’s relationship with nature has been reduced to that of an intruder; an unwelcome presence that no longer belongs in a natural environment.  All sorts of questions spring to mind. Will our handiwork continue to smother all that is around us?  How long will it take us to snuff out the light and everything that gives life to this world?
compositeAs polar ice caps continue to melt, world leaders head to Copenhagen in December for yet more talk, talk, talk as a substitute for any meaningful action.  When they emerge, in which direction will we be headed?

Left, Right, Business as Usual?

Left, Right, Business as Usual?

Maybe one of Minkkinnen’s most powerful images is the one below. He titled it simply – ‘Self-Portrait, Narrangansett’. What I see is a desperate scream at the point where the Man-made meets what’s left of the natural world.
It has been said that artists do not own the interpretation of their art.  Once an artist puts his art work ‘out there’ it becomes public property, subject to different opinions and interpretations.  It may end up with a meaning that is quite different from what the artist intended.  Focused on the modernist concerns of line and aesthetic, Minkinnen never intended his work to be a commentary on environmental issues. Yet, in today’s postmodern world, it is difficult to see it as anything else.


  1. Fascinating set of images. I’m seeing a man struggle with his place in nature and struggling in some way to control the natural world around him. But he has to resort to visual/optical gimmicks to create this illusion of control. I’m left with feeling that humans are insignificant compared to the natural world. And there’s a cold loneliness to these images (Finnish influence?).

    The final image of him crying out at the interface of the made and natural worlds – is he frustrated that he alone cannot control nature and bend it to his will? That he cannot hold back the tide?

    Perhaps individually we are insignificant, but maybe in aggregate we are highly destructive to the natural world? Contrasting these images with ones of the teeming masses of people at Times Square and hyper-urban development of Manhattan would be interesting.

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