A national park is the reflection of the “original” nature.
An image of a national park masks and perverts the “original” nature.
Sharing images in different contexts masks the absence of the “original” nature.
The image bears no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum.
Joel Karppanen's image and eco-critical series examines Finnish nature images. The iconic landscapes that the golden age artists popularly painted have since been repeatedly exposed by wildlife photographers and the social media accounts of trekkers. Images of crown snow load and the Northern Lights taken from the regions of Koli up to Enontekiö are pictures that all Finns recognize. Commercial images also convey and maintain the same message of mythical unspoiled nature, even though man-made land-use pressure continues to grow and less than three percent of our remaining land area is natural forest.
Our way of seeing is conditioned by visual culture: our concept of nature is no longer based on real natural experience, but on the adopted paradigm of images. When applying Jean Baudrillard's simulation theory, it can be concluded that nature photographs are simulacra – copies without an original. What is the added value of travelling to national parks if viewing the landscape at the actual site merely brings to mind the thousands of Instagram images shot through similar filters that one can easily view at home? Do we need more generic images of our natural environment?
For his works, Karppanen has travelled to the national parks remotely. He has photographed national romantic paintings and generic nature photographs he found on the internet using a Polaroid camera, and used these images to create collages, a kind of travel diaries. Another method is image transfer technology where an image printed on a specially coated film on an inkjet printer is transferred to a gravure printing paper using an alcohol gel. The original image is lost behind multiple layers, and the finished works function as simulacra models.