woensdag 2 februari 2011

ESKO MANNIKKO: 100% CASHMERE Mirelle Thijsen's Choice of Company Photobooks Photography

Mannikko, Esko (Photographer) & Simona, Segre (Contributor). ESKO MANNIKKO: 100% CASHMERE. Ballantyne, Scotland: Ballantyne Cashmere, 2003. Hardcover. First Edition/First Printing. 80 pages.  

Collection of color photographs. One of the most beautiful photography books of the new century. The first and only edition. Privately commissioned, the book was not widely distributed or sold. An elegant production by Esko Mannikko and Petri Kuokka: Oversize-volume format in oblong shape. Sturdy brown leatherette pictorial hard boards with photographic reproduction pasted on cover and pale-blue titles embossed on cover and spine, as issued. Photographs by Esko Mannikko. Essay by Segre Simona. Printed on thick uncoated stock paper in Finland to the very highest standards. Without DJ, as issued. Commissioned by The Ballantyne Cashmere Company as a commemorative photographic record. Presents Esko Mannikko's photographs of the Scottish factory workers of Ballantyne Cashmere in Innerleithen, Scotland. 

"Made In Scotland" cashmere is regarded as the finest cashmere in the world, just as cashmere itself is regarded as one of the most beautiful fabrics ever invented by Man. The words, "sheer" and "pure", come to mind when one speaks of cashmere. Like genuine cotton and silk, the finished product is 100% handmade, every sweater a product of an artisanal tradition and a labor of love. Esko Mannikko's focus are on place and people. 

In "Mexas", he showed how the place was characterized by its Mexican-American inhabitants, and vice versa. He does the same here, with quiet yet dazzling effect: The suite of various workers whose lips perilously hold a needle from which a colorful thread hangs amounts to one of the most moving and brilliant portraiture in contemporary art and photography. Most photography is inherently about travel, comfort, leisure, sensuality, relaxation, and luxury. There are very few great photography books (Bill Owens' "Working" comes to mind) about work. Mannikko is an exemplary anomaly: His work thus far is about work, specifically work that is deeply connected to the land. Even when he is Abroad, his interest there is in the place's roots, craft, and centuries-old traditions. Mannikko's lifelong subject, the decline of rural Finland, is off-putting, even depressing, something people say they do not want in their lives, as if it were ugly or toxic (an accusation that the American writer Annie Proulx had to endure all the way to "Brokeback Mountain"). This is ironic because Mannikko's work breathes whereas most contemporary art and photography are lifeless exercises in Mannerist cleverness. Mannikko is a Classicist, a rarity in our shallow "post-modern" art world. It is important to be reminded that in a world saturated and choking with derivative images from glossy magazines, he is the real, original thing, a great artist: His impeccable compositional sense and formalist use of color as well as his aesthetic rigor and faultless eye are not just "world-class". They set Mannikko apart from other living photographers, and make him an artist in a class of his own. Mainstream recognition of his genius is long overdue. 

Esko Mannikko's "Naarashauki: The Female Pike" was selected as one of the greatest photography books in "The Photobook". 

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