Gruesome Yet Tender Portraits Of Dead Animals Will Leave You Breathless

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Stung by the human desire to avert one’s eyes from death and decaying bodies, Emma Kisiel presents Down to Sleep, a series of images that—-like her other series At Rest forces us to kneel in mourning over the bodies forgotten dead animals,. As she happens upon an animal, she crouches down, fixes each within a compassionate and gentle frame, immortalizing each in a way evocative of Victorian post-mortem photography, each appearing as if he is merely asleep.

Kisiel’s subjects, their lives affirmed and dignified despite their tragic and lonesome deaths, are afforded a painfully loving final farewell. Through their passings, their bodies are sectioned off and dissected by the artist’s frame, leaving only the most poignant physical markers of a meaningful life; with each patch of fur, each tooth and eye, each clasped claw, the viewer is permitted to examine the creature with a balefully sensual intimacy.

Viewers are invited to engage with each animal in a funerary ritual free of any artifice that might make their demise more palatable; they aren’t embalmed, stuffed, or even buried. The are left, haloed in nature’s humble offerings of grass or pebbles, in the exact place and time at which their lives were taken; as time passes, we recognize that these sleepy bodies will disintegrate.

Each animal subject, shot in natural light, offers an honest rendition of death, for as hard as the Kisiel’s camera might work to give meaning to a life lost, it also relentlessly reminds us that discarded bodies will inevitably be vanished and consumed by the earth. But perhaps this is the most compassionate way in which we can examine the dead, as eventually forgotten yet eternally potent reminders of the preciousness of life; in these happenstance grave sites, a simple but meaningful meditation on existence take place. (via Lenscratch)

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Provocative Images Of Transgender Youth Examine The Nude Human Body

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After her decades’ long work exploring androgyny, the photographer Bettina Rheims saw a shift in the way cultures view gender, and she was inspired by transgendered youth. As transgender issues are only recently beginning to receive the attention they deserve, her 2012 project Gender Studies aims to give voice to the most intimate thoughts on the gendered self. Using Facebook, she reached out to any and all people who “felt different” in regards to gender; with responses from those who identified as male, female, both, or neither, the diversity of her subjects is staggering, and they serve to remind us that feeling “different” may be the only thing that unites us all, regardless of our genders. In the series’s original show, the artist played audiotapes of her sitters, allowing their own voices to inform each work.

The portraits reveal strength in vulnerability; the bareness of the nude form does not speak to intrusive questions about specific physical characteristics but rather to a more meaningful revelation of selfhood through movement. As pure white clothes melt from bodies, each subject reveals bandages, tattoos, freckles, and other marks of universal human existence. All definitions and judgements give way to ethereal and blossoming beauty, elevating the spirit of the body and deeming theoretical, academic, or impersonal definitions of gender irrelevant. Simultaneously humanizing and worshipful, this is portraiture at its most powerful, lending the human form and soul a more murkily transformative sexual and emotional authority. What do you think of the images? (via Bust and Slate)

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Human Teeth And Hair Replace Gemstones In This Perfectly Grotesque Jewelry

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Imagine a ring encrusted with finely sterilized teeth—or chunks of imported hair— and you have the work of jewelry designer Polly van der Glas. To the artist, these works of wearable art aim to address notions of beauty; as part of the overall gestalt of the human form, hair and teeth are signifiers of vitality and virility, but when ripped from the gums or snipped from the scalp, they become morbid, reminding us of the fragility of youth, beauty, and the body.

Van der Glas’s pieces speak to the allure of all jewelry. The ring itself carries iconographic weight; the idea of the wedding engagement ring—and even a promise ring— pivots around its circular shape, which serves as a vaginal symbol as well as one of eternity. The magic of van der Glas’s work lies in this tension between the sensuality and permanence of precious metal jewelry and the morbidity and temporality evoked by the deconstruction of the body.

Somehow, though, the work is not entirely grotesque. The careful treatment perfectly rounded teeth is reminiscent of a child’s play with the tooth fairy fantasy; shining locks harken back to romance tales in which locks of hair are gifted as promises to forbidden lovers. In this way, the work is playful and young, but set within metallic frames and coated with dark metal, that innocence veers into a dangerous realm, reminiscent of violent helmeted warfare. As it turns from gentle to wicked, from everlasting to painfully mortal, each piece invites us to examine and grasp onto the most precious and poignant treasures of our own jewelry boxes. (via Oddity Central, Ecouterre, and Gold Delicatessen)

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Lisa Swerllng’s Tiny People With Pubic Hair Make Bold Emotional Statements

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Trapped behind glass cases, the miniature human subjects of Lisa Swerllng’s Glass Cathedrals unabashedly perform daily rituals normally veiled from the outside world. The stunning pieces afford viewers with a whimsical type of voyeuristic indulgence. Like children before a set of dolls, we are invited to examine the many mundane moments that compose adult life, breathing life and meaning into each dollhouse-like setup with our own imaginations.

With its feet firmly planted in childlike curiosity, the series is unafraid to veer into tragic emotional spaces; caught staring into endless amounts of white space, many of the figures appear lonesome and fully aware of their smallness. A woman scrubs at a dizzyingly vast array of tired floors and walls, incapable of completing her work for her own tininess and permanently fixed position. Similarly, a man stares at his cow, a sole companion who does not return his gaze.

Though humorously seen, Swerling’s models are at times bitterly unaware. A group of people stand before a glass case containing the figure of a generic ghost labeled “god” with a sign stating, “In case of emergency break glass,” not noticing that they themselves are encased in glass, searching for meaning in the touchingly absurd. The viewer, in turn, is forced to face his or her burning existential yearnings within this magically adult dollhouse.

The idea of domesticity as it relates to femininity shines through in Swerling’s work in unexpected ways. A piece titled “A woman’s work is never done” features a woman sweeping pink glitter, erasing the suggestion of the usual portrayal of the home as unfulfilling; here and in a piece that features a woman serving dinner at the head of the table, glitter serves as a surprising and ecstatic symbol of female self-actualization. From the woman who examines herself before a mirror to an unwaxed redhead standing nude before circle of nuns, Swarling’s women embrace their activities unabashedly.

Hitting poignant notes that remind us of the power that lies beneath human smallness, isolation, connection, and actively defined identities, Glass Cathedrals serves as an alter at which we may worship our own condition. (via Foodie Bugle, Catto Gallery, and Lost At E Minor)

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Stretched Skin And Gruesomely Flattened Bodies Reveal Human Truths (NSFW)

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What story would your flesh tell if it were splayed and flattened, digitally altered to appear as a work of art, caught between the angled sides of a camera frame? For his stunning series of photographs, titled Skin, the photographer June Yong Lee manipulates portraits of nude bodies, arranging their torsos in such a way that defies the limitations of the muscular skeletal system.

Despite the artist’s deliberate omission of common indicators of visual identity—facial features, body shape, and race—the images are an authoritative and legible document of selfhood. Pointing to the human desire to express what cannot be conveyed with language, Lee’s camera reveals tattoos, tired milky breasts, freckles, and scars.

For the artist, skin operates as a visual diary of experience. Without the guidelines of a more recognizable human form, memories— that range from the mundane to the sexually charged— are kept only through marks etched on flesh. He writes, “our skin never forgets [our past].”

The ideological tensions between body and mind are subverted as the skin organ is compressed; as if they were flowers held between the heavy pages of an encyclopedia, mounds of sin become something to be studied and read. The careful framing of each piece enhances this idea; positioned in relation to a central axis of the navel, the bisected torsos appear bound down the middle like some sort of corporeally historical book.

The phenomenal work is so poignant because in some ways, it confirms the unreliability of a subjective human memory: tattoos are faded or unreadable, and scars are healed. The images seem to blend the antique tonal richness of early Victorian photography with a morbid sense of modern forensics; as if recovered from an ancient autopsy, the slabs of flesh are somehow mournful yet objective and scientific. Our memories erode, and we die; yet through some miraculous marriage of science and art, fragments of our forgotten moments might be archived. (via Feature Shoot)

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Linda Kuo’s Startling Portraits Of Illegally Imported Animals Will Tug At Your Soul

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With her recent series Displaced, the photographer Linda Kuo examines the illegal importation of exotic animals into the United States; her subjects, some torn from their habitats and others unable to adapt to their environments in captivity, give voice to the 300 million animals similarly brought to the states as pets.

Each photograph captures the life of a creature being treated for illnesses or wounds at New York City Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine; placed within the sterile context of the hospital, the displaced beasts oscillate between confusion, curiosity, and lonesomeness. The emotional core of the work is rooted in each creature’s supreme isolation; a bird sits alone on a scale, searching for some sort of recognition. Simultaneously, a guinea pig resigns himself to the clean, white basin, and a bird turns his puffy green back.

Amidst this sorrowful sense of displacement emerges an unexpected warmth, fueled by the desperate yearning of both animal and man to feel safe. After a failed resuscitation, a yellow bearded dragon falls into a gentle set of female hands that tenderly enfold his delicate flesh in a bright blue towel. Similarly, a turtle is offered carefully diced vegetables, which he cautiously accepts from giant human fingers; a bird’s heartbeat is measured anonymously but tenderly. Amidst a chaotic world, the hospital is shown to be a respite for the animals, fighting for their wellbeing against the odds.

For Kuo, the series is personal; bullied as a child, she empathizes with those oppressed, alone, and out of their proper place. The work’s resounding message is one of compassion—for ourselves, for the earth, and for those we share it with. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot and Slate)

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The Plight Of Primates In Captivity By Ann Berry

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For her poignant series Behind Glass, the photographer Ann Berry traveled to zoos across the world, traversing Belgium and South Africa, documenting the sufferings and yearnings of primates in captivity. She hopes that her images of the stunning creatures, who alternately raise a hand or cast down shadowy eyes, will benefit non-profits fighting for the rights of animals to humane and just treatment.

The beautiful series vehemently avoids the high resolution color aesthetic of zoological photography, opting instead for a gaze evocative of early pictorialists, who strived to render the photographic distinctly unscientific and launched the then novel medium of photography into the realm of fine art. Within Berry’s jarringly ghostly and ethereal tones, each subject reveals a soulfulness so often hidden in photographs of animals; their struggle is urgently expressionistic, spiritual, dignified, and human. As the artist puts it, she hopes to “hear [the animals’] inner sound.”

The artist’s choice of title refers both to the glass cages and her own glass camera lens, furthering the tragic distance imposed upon animal and human; once captured in space, each primate subject is again captured and fixed with the photographic frame. The sensuality of their glittery eyes, downy beards, and calloused fingertips seduce the viewer, only to remind us that we are tragically separated from the beautiful beasts; only through glass and careful photographic printing may we strive to come together, to touch. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot and Lens Culture)

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Alain LaBoile’s Poignant Images Catalog Childhood Abandon

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When Sally Mann published a series of photographs of her children titled Immediate Family in 1992, she spotlighted childhood with a rich tonal backdrop of a Virginia riverside summer house, and she was met with accusations of child pornography. About twenty years later, caught in a starkly different contemporary artistic current, the photographer Alain LaBoile presents La Famillie, a series that for its distinctive silver gelatin aesthetic and subject matter seems to pick up where Mann left off.

 

LaBoile’s work, unlike Mann’s, lacks the suggestion of immediacy, binding viewers within the nostalgic frame of childhood play, entirely carefree and unabashed. Mann’s work is urgent: she reveals a haloed shot of her daughter, blonde hair dancing in pool of water like some inexperienced Ophelia, and she tragically subverts its innocence with image of the last nude swimming photo her son let her take. Childhood for Mann is something to be beautifully lost, but for LaBoile, it’s more of a constant realm, easily returned to with a flash and made blindingly undeniable by jarring accents of white.

 

The innovative power of this contemporary work relies upon oh-so-subtle symbols of purity and incorruptibility of youth; a boy digs himself from mud filled and grave-like abyss, resurrected in glowing white to a young girl who prances about the Edenic verdure. Similarly, another daughter remains preserved in a class case, safely nuzzled between fine china and a white cat. Bums innocently moon the camera like those of cherubs. A boy printed in a blinding sort of white appears to hang from a tree; yet upon closer inspection, he’s just climbing, playing the part of a-not-yet-fallen Adam for an onlooking sister. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot)

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