Esko Männikkö (b. 1959, Finland) has been nominted for his retrospective Cocktails 1990-2007 shown at Millesgarden, Stockholm, Sweden (1 September - 4 November 2007).
Born in the small town of Pudasjarvi in the northern part of Finland between the forests of Lapland and rural eastern Bothnia, Esko Männikkö documents the lives of those who inhabit the periphery. Initially a hunter, his passion developed from this to taking photographs in the early 1980’s. When Time Stops Still (1982), his first project, was a series of black and white portraits of a family continuing to survive without electricity on the outskirts of his village.
Männikkö then became widely known for The Female pike (!990-1995), which featured colour photographs of bachelors living isolated lives in the Finnish countryside - forestry workers, hunters, fishermen and the jobless - alongside still-life studies, panoramic landscapes and portraits. In this series, as well as the more recent work Mexas (1999), produced on the border between Mexico and Texas, his sitters are depicted in an informal manner within their personal domestic settings. Often surrounded by home-made objects, they are quiet and reserved, each photograph instilled with the peculiarities and unique characteristics of the individual,
Other projects include Organized Freedom (1999-2005), where Männikkö focuses in detail on the battered front doors and porches of abandoned country cottages marking their slow corrosion by the forces of nature. This melancholic but beautiful sense of deterioration returns in series such as Flora & Fauna (2002), and his most recent and ongoing series, Harmony Sisters (2005-), taken in farms and zoos around the world, where abstract photographs of animals are rendered as still-lifes.
Männikkö presents his photographs in assorted found or hand-made wooden frames, weather and aged by time, butted up closely together - his trademark style of exhibiting his work. The faded glamour of the frames acts as a stark contrast to the boldness and immediacy of his photographs but also lends them a timeless, almost painterly quality.
“I am a photographer of fish, dogs and old men”, Esko Männikkö once said. Interested in bringing to attention small stories which might carry a more universal poignancy, Männikkö shows us a world where animals, objects and people are all portrayed and treated with the same mutual respect and childlike wonder.
In 1995, Esko Männikkö was awarded The Young Artist of the Year Award by Tampere Art Museum, Finland. His books have included Mexas - Esko Männikkö (1999), The Female Pike (2000, to be republished in 2008) and 100% Cashmere (2003). Solo exhibitions include Portikus, Frankurt am Main (1996); White Cube, London (19997); Kursaal, San Sebastian (2006) and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York (2006). His retrospective Cocktails 1990-2007 is currently touring across Europe. Esko Männikkö’s work is included in numerous museum collections. He lives and works in Oulu.
Extract taken from Deutsche Börse photography prize, Published London : Photographers' Gallery 2008
Photographs by Esko Männikkö, from the Deutsche Börse photography prize book, Published London : Photographers' Gallery 2008