About the work



     Barbarita, Batesville, 1997
96 x 204 cm
An elderly woman is posing in front of her humble little home, welcoming the onlooker with a mixture of obligingness and reservation. Our view of and encounter with her is an integral part of the picture's meaning.

The photograph is a portrait of Barbarita and her closest surroundings, taken with the assumption that our milieu, where and how we live, reveal something about us as human beings.

During a study trip to Texas and New Mexico Männikkö photographed the so-called Mexas, the people in the border district between Mexico and USA. They are predominantly Mexican immigrants living in small, isolated communities.

In Männikkö's work the onlooker is confronted with the miserable conditions under which most of these people live. This theme is not the photo series' principal objective, however; first and foremost the pictures are about a particular approach to photographing people.

Männikkö's photographs repeat documentary photography's registration of the world in a direct and uncompromising form which takes into consideration the people's wishes to appear as a part of their environment.
Männikkö's photographs are not snapshots but meticulously composed pictures that stage the people they portray. This gives Männikkö's pictures a certain resemblance to the type of photography that is based on an ostensible neutrality but which essentially are carefully composed sections of the observed reality.

The construction of the picture's meticulous composition is so striking that it really is a question of choreography – a recurring feature of Männikkö's art and one that evidently discusses photography's asserted neutrality. For example the wide-angle lens in Männikkö's panorama format gives the onlooker access to the surroundings constituting Barbarita's home, making them an essential part of the narrative presented by the portrait.

In addition the wide-angle and Männikkö's inclusion of dynamic and rotating shapes such as wheels reveal his interest in the subject's formal aspects, particularly colours and conspicuous forms.

Männikkö found the picture frame himself in a local junk-shop. Thus the portrait does not end with the depiction of Barbarita but continues into the frame which also informs us about the place. It becomes an integral part of the work. Thus the work ends up a synthesis, extended into the exhibition room.

Männikkö's art in general
The lodestar for Männikkö's art is the everyday, our surroundings and the conditions in our lives. He seeks out marginalised groups living outside the attention and interest of the authorities in areas marked by material scarcity. The portraits include the immediate environment around the subjects, typically their homes or surroundings.

Using his camera Männikkö explores the social and geographical periphery from the inside. He stays for extended periods of time in the areas where he finds his subjects, reaching a level of confidence and intimacy with them.

That confidence makes it possible for him to present sides to them that would have been impossible otherwise. Thus he employs the anthropology inspired strategy that is characteristic of areas of contemporary art. An extended field work affords him a deeper knowledge of his 'objects of study'.

By portraying people in domestic settings Männikkö reveals that which characterises their day-to-day lives and makes them who they are. The portraits are honest and free of any inclination to sentimentalise or heroize.

Männikkö's pictures concern themselves with questions of national identity and affinity. He scrupulously selects objects, interiors or exteriors that testify to the particulars of the place and the persons’ lives.


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