Nude photographer visits KU

By Ashley Hocking

In the mornings when Arno Minkkien is getting ready for work, the first thing he does is get naked.

Arno Minkkien is a 70-year-old Finnish-American photographer that has photographed his nude form in nature for the past 4 decades.

“I never mean to be scandalous,” Minkkien said. “I take nude self-portraits to communicate the fluidity between nudity and nature.”

Minkkien gave a presentation about his collective body of photographic work at the University of Kansas (KU) in Spooner Hall at 10 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2016.

“He understands and communicates the plight of the photographer and the artist,” said Daniel Coburn, assistant professor of photo media at KU.

Minkkien started off his career as a copy writer at an advertising firm on Madison Avenue in New York. When he was assigned to create an advertisement for the Minolta camera, he decided to change his career path.

“I started to believe my own copy writing,” Minkkien said. “I realized I could make what happens inside of my mind, happen inside of a camera.”

Minkkien uses a 9-second shutter release, which allows for him to pose for the images.  He does not look through his camera’s viewfinder before he takes each image.

“There is no photographer in my work,” Minkkien said. “I am the subject. The camera does the work.”

None of Minkkien’s images are manipulated in Photoshop. His photographs are black and white urban images that “capture the contemporary spirit,” according to Minkkien.

Minkkien believes there is an element of timelessness to his body of work because of the continuity of the subject and elements of nature.

“There is no age to a photograph when it is just the landscape and the body,” Minkkien said.

Minkkien self-portraits are exclusively taken in the nude, but he has never viewed this as a restriction upon his creative abilities.

“Out of that narrow tunnel, you’re forced to create,” Minkkien said.

Minkkien was born in Helsinki, Finland and immigrated to the United States when he was 6-years-old. He has traveled to 21 countries, including the Czech Republic, Brazil, Spain, Lithuania and Canada, over the past 40 years to create his body of work.

“I want to be able to travel the world one day, like he did, to expand my horizons and my portfolio,” said sophomore Lauren Muth, a photo media student at KU that attended Minkkien’s presentation.

At the age of 68, Minkkien was awarded the Lucie Award for Achievement in Fine Art in 2013. Two years later, he received the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. He considers these great feats to have accomplished at an advanced stage in his life.

According to the Guggenheim Foundation’s website, Minkkien’s photographs have been featured in 100 individual shows and nearly 200 group exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide.

“Even though I am a lot older now than when I started taking self-portraits, there is a continuity to my work,” Minkkien said. “I am the same man and this is the same body, but time has changed me.”

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