The Minkkinen Helsinki Bus Station Theory

Tonight I had the privilege of hearing (and seeing) Photographer Arno Minkkinen speak at the Photographic Resource Center's Polaroid Spotlight Lecture. If you haven't experienced Minkkinen's photographs, please immediately go outside and prance around naked in the snow. Or buy one of his books right away. Your choice.

Plenty of others have analyzed and praised his photographs better than I can, and I'm sure many will for years to come. I'm going to try and reproduce an anecdote that came from Arno the teacher, something I'm calling the Minkkinen Helsinki Bus Station Theory. It goes a bit like this:

When you're a student or otherwise starting out, your work - be it photographic or otherwise - will probably resemble that of an influential practitioner who came before you. Wanting to be original, you're likely to try and break away from that influence. And you'll probably end up showing some other influence.

Ready for the heady metaphor? Good. Here it comes.

Pretty much every bus line in Helsinki starts at the central bus station. And many bus lines travel the same route for some distance from the central station before eventually diverging. If every time you see that your bus is traveling along another line's route, you go back to the central station and get on a different bus, you'll never get out of town.


Not to put too fine a point on it, but at dinner after the lecture, I found myself seated across from Adam Marcinek, a local photographer. I recognized the name because I had bought one of his prints at an auction a couple of years ago, a piece that reminded me a lot of the work of Aaron Siskind. Of course it's not fair to either artist to dwell too much on one phase or type from their varied bodies of work. I certainly can't afford a Siskind, but I wonder what my Marcinek will be worth when Adam finds his bus' final destination. I'm enjoying it right now in any case.

marcinek-untitled-2004.jpg <-> siskind-kentucky-5.jpg

Adam Marcinek, Untitled 2004 <-> Aaron Siskind, Kentucky 5

I'm not sure if I've done justice to Arno's anecdote or his philosophy, but I hope the germ of the idea gets through to those who need it. If you happen to stop by the PRC's Student Show, you can try and figure out what bus lines those kids are on, and also marvel at how far out of town some are already. When you're done making nekkid snow angels, get over there - the show closes March 16.

4 Responses

  1. What a great analogy and post! At first, I am thinking, pun intended, where is this going? Glad I stayed on the bus. Adam is a super guy, photos, and a great printer. I hope you told him you own his photo. He is a part of a great group of 4 emerging photographers who are co-publishing and exhibiting. I featured them on NEO: You can see a sneak peak of where Adam might be going on another bus line with some new work here,
  2. I was fortunate to hear and see the same lecture you did, David, and struck by the wisdom in Arno Minkkinen's Bus analogy. I looked for and found it online, with some of his photos and the complete text.
  3. Great find Michael, thank you! That's the theory from the source and quotes some of the same anecdotes Arno told at BU. Love your water photos, too. Stay on your bus!
  4. [...] the blog radar: Adam Marcinek’s blog.  You may remember my random run-in with Adam last year. He’s got a new blog that promises an image a day from this up and comer.  So far he’s [...]
  5. [...] is huge in peoples’ lives. Not so large in graduate schools.” It reminded me of both Arno Minkkinen’s bus station and Andrea Robbins and Max Becher’s travel philosophy, both observed at past PRC [...]
  6. no tosi helvetin joo :D
  7. […] Helsinki buses are not the only mode of transportation delivering serendipitous inspiration. […]
  8. […] [2] […]

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