Fans of Prof. Arno Minkkinen’s iconic photography – he is best known for black and white nude self-portraits in natural settings – may be surprised to know that the camera was not his first artistic love affair.
“I wanted to write – maybe the Great Finnish/American novel – so I studied English.” His choice was remarkable, a long way from the 6-year-old boy who emigrated to the United States speaking no English, and who couldn't read until the fifth grade. But, he realized he “hadn't lived enough” to write fiction, so he took his brother Ari’s suggestion and chased a job in advertising. Many ad agency jobs and teaching positions in Finnish colleges later, Minkkinen joined the faculty of the University’s Art Department.
“Forces of luck brought me here,” he says. “I love my students, and I am able to work creatively and collaboratively. I am in the right place,” he says.
Students would agree – especially those fortunate enough to have participated in his popular Spirit Level foreign exchange trips. Begun in 1996, he’s taken lucky students to Italy, Mexico and Eastern Europe. In each case, students create work which is exhibited and published, offering each of them a ready-made, professional portfolio.
In 2012, six students from the University (joined by students and faculty from France and Norway) took an American road trip, complete with several days on photographer Sally Mann’s Virginia farm and an afternoon at the George Eastman House.
Returning to his writing roots, Minkkinen has penned a semi-autobiographical screenplay, called “The Rain House,” which has already begun filming, and demo scenes were screened at The Film Society of New York’s Lincoln Center’s Francesca Beale Theatre. He also created an art walk tour for New York’s Chelsea neighborhood as part of Louis Vuitton’s Amble phone application.