Finnish photographer works magic during residency

“Embrace the power of three,” exclaims photographer, Arno Rafael Minkkinen.  “It’s not about the project.  You are creating a body of work!”

The artist — shrouded in white, wispy hair, beard and mustache — bears a strong resemblance to Gandalf of “The Lord of the Rings.”  During a week-long artist-in-residency at Daytona State College’s School of Photography, he certainly worked his magic on students attending his workshops and lectures.

During one of those presentations, five University of Central Florida students and five DSC students stared intently at the lithe 6-foot-5-inch master photographer pacing the classroom. They were a select few photography students chosen to attend Minkkinen’s four-day workshop which preceded a lecture and book signing the first Friday in October.

“If souls had a family tree, he would be my grandfather,” Anna Thorne reverently said in regard to the artist.

A senior in the UCF photography program, she added, “At first, I did not know who he was, to be honest, and my teachers said to look him up.  They were saying how jealous they were that I got selected. Once I looked him up and saw his work, I was completely enamored and so excited!”

Now 72, the Finland native IS a big deal. Forty-seven years of a rich body of work reveals a tenacity that transcends time. The majority of his images are uniquely faceless self-portraits that meld his barren body with the environment and unfold a richer, deeper truth about the world, humanity and ourselves. From creating Minolta’s memorable slogan, “What happens inside your mind can happen inside a camera” to exhibiting his photographs in a hundred-plus museums worldwide, he is one of the most prolific living photographers.

Professor Steven Benson of the DSC photography program proudly curated Minkkinen’s “Mind Over Matter” exhibition at the Southeast Museum of Photography, which closed on Oct. 29.

“This exhibition has been evolving for decades. Prior to meeting, when we both served on the National Board of Directors for the Society for Photographic Education, we knew and respected each others’ work which led to this collaboration.”

Arno’s workshop had a profound impact on students in attendance.  Stephen Helfrich, in his final semester at DSC, simply said, “Before the workshop, I felt discouraged.  My work wasn’t going anywhere.  It just wasn’t happening.  On the first day of the workshop, I didn’t think I belonged.  Arno Minkkinen basically gave me direction and validation.  I just need to figure it out from here.”