Around three years ago, Brooklyn-based photographer Lauren Renner began her project, “In Others’ Words,” a series that captures the vulnerability with which people self-identify. During a period of transition wherein Renner began to date women, the photographer started to notice people treating her differently, trying to categorize or label her because of her sexuality, even though she didn’t feel like a fundamentally different person. She found this observation fascinating and she began to wonder how others were stereotyped in accordance with their bodies and relationships. Renner’s project captures these intimacies by shooting her subjects in open, public spaces as well as having her subjects become vulnerable to strangers, allowing them to inscribe stereotyped descriptors onto each others’ naked bodies.
Renner says, “When it comes down to it, no matter who is labeling you, all of those words and constructs become a mish-mash inside of you, and seem to inform each other. Words carry a tremendous amount of power, which is why breaking away from some and holding onto others can feel so insurmountable. On the flip side of that coin, I think people tend to become very comfortable in the ways in which they categorize others, to the point where they may not even be aware that they’re doing it in the first place. ”
After all, at the end of the day we put people into boxes because subconsciously it makes them easier for us to mentally digest. Seeing people view my work for the first time was a huge experience for me because I got to see how people reacted when the boxes they were accustomed to had been taken away.”
Informed by his education in biochemistry, photographer Linden Gledhill concentrates his work on the beauty of small, natural objects. With a fully automated macro focusing rail called StopShot (created by Cognisys), Gledhill is able to capture a high resolution macro image stack that is accurate down to 0.01 mm. With this specialized lens, Gledhill explores the structures and textures of butterfly and moth wings, exposing the shimmering and glittering form of the wings that almost look like textiles or flower petals. Beautiful patterns emerge from Gledhill’s photography, ones that mirror large and familiar patterns found in the world around us. You can see much more of Gledhill’s incredible macro photography on Flickr. (via slow art day)
In Vietnamese cities, a motorbike is the preferred method of transportation, even when hauling many large items. In 1991, photographer Hans Kemp visited Vietnam where he was overwhelmed and captivated by the streams of motorbikes rushing to prepare for the Vietnamese New Year. “I couldn’t believe my eyes…There were entire families on a bike, guys in suits, girls dolled up. I stood there mesmerized, intoxicated by this all-permeating scent of petrol mixed with perfume, sound, color, and motion. There was an incredible vibrancy to it all,” Kemp tells Slate.
In 1995, Kemp decided to move to Ho Chi Minh City from Hong Kong, and in 2000, a commercial client of his commissioned him to photographs some of the loaded motorbikes. Though Kemp found it difficult to capture all of the motorbikes he wanted because of safety, speed, or traffic concerns, he kept up with bikes’ paces pretty well.
His incredible book documenting these ambitious motorbikers, Bikes of Burden, was published in 2005. (via slate)
The University of New Mexico’s digital collections host an extensive archive of vintage cutaway illustrations of nuclear reactors from around the world. These illustrations first appeared in Nuclear Engineering International as inserts in the magazine from the 1950s to the 1990s, and were often on display in nuclear engineers’ offices. Upon noticing the degradation of the illustrations over time, one engineer named Ron Knief decided to pursue the digitization of all 105 diagrams published by the magazine. The resolution of these images is incredibly sharp, and you can get a closer, more detailed look at the illustrations by visiting UNM’s archive, where you’ll also find many more colorful and thoughtfully designed posters that shed light on and satisfy some curiosity about these controversial energy reservoirs. (via gizmodo)
Rose-Lynn Fisher – whose anatomical bee photographs we have previously featured – has recently completed a series of images she calls “The Topography of Tears” that represent a study of 100 types of tears photographed through a microscope. During a difficult time that yielded a copious amount of tears, Fisher began to wonder if her grief tears looked the same as onion tears when viewed under a microscope. Using her own and others’ tears, Fisher was able to create a varied landscape of tear structures, demonstrating the diversity to be found within tear types. Fisher’s images almost resemble aerial views, these tear structures fractally resonating with larger scale structures found in the world.
Fisher says, “Tears are the medium of our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger, and as complex as a rite of passage. They are the evidence of our inner life overflowing its boundaries, spilling over into consciousness. Wordless and spontaneous, they release us to the possibility of realignment, reunion, catharsis: shedding tears, shedding old skin. It’s as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean.” (via smithsonian mag)
Here at Beautiful/Decay, we don’t limit our features to art and design created by the human species. In large cities like Tokyo where there are few trees, birds may find it hard to come by nesting materials. Because of this lack, crafty crows have begun to use wire coat hangers to build their abodes, stealing them from nearby apartments. Crows’ nests are typically composed of interlocking twigs and some wire to create a sturdy structure for the birds’ eggs so it’s not hard to understand how hangers could be deemed appropriate materials by the crows. These wiry nests appear sculptural in their construction, their placements among tree branches marking a stark contrast between the natural and man-made. Crows are intelligent creatures and have been known to recognize human faces, bend wires into hooks in order reach food, crack open walnuts by dropping them from a height, and even memorize garbage truck schedules in order to track down food supplies. (via amusing planet)
Designer and illustrator Allen Crawford has just released a beautifully illustrated and hand-lettered book version of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” an iconic poem included in the collection, Leaves of Grass. Inspired by his friend Matt Kish who illustrated each page of Moby Dick, Crawford completed this project over the course of 1 year in his basement. Crawford didn’t plan his illustrations for the poem he calls “an expression of primal joy”; he improvised each one by letting Whitman’s own words speak through him to create a tangible, visceral, and immediate visual interpretation of Whitman’s classic poem in keeping with the author’s sensibility. From Philadelphia, where Whitman spent his last decades, Crawford is intimately familiar with the settings and places Whitman describes in his work – this connection partly fuels Crawford’s affinity for the author’s writing. Because of Leaves of Grass’ status as a sacred American text that is inspired by Biblical verse, Crawford feels that a transcription of “Song of Myself” through illustrations and hand-lettering is fitting.
In his book’s introduction, Crawford writes, “I try to treat the poem as almost a landscape, in the sense that I’m exploring this unknown territory and I’m taking field notes from the mind of Whitman. He treats ‘Song of Myself’ as this broad, epic sweeping poem where he’s trying to include everything about American life he’s experienced. So it is a kind of landscape, a kind of world. It is a kind of continent in itself. And as you’re travelling through it, you have different impressions, your style will change, the type will change, sometimes the type will take the fore and you’ll get a very pictorial sort of a interpretation, or a symbolic one. Sometimes the image doesn’t necessarily jive, and isn’t depicting something that’s actually in the poem. I’m trying to provide a parallel narrative to Whitman’s in visual form.”
Nearly 10 years ago, photographer Rachel Sussman began researching with biologists and traveling world to document forms of natural life that are at least 2,000 years old for her project titled “The Oldest Living Things in the World.” Part art, part science, Sussman’s project engages with the natural world in order to capture a brief moment in the organisms’ millenia-old lives; her photographs ask viewers to consider their own lives alongside these natural ones, some on the verge of extinction. Each of her photographs includes text below the image describing the subject, its location, and its age. In the preface to her project’s book, Sussman writes,
“What does it mean when the organic goes head-to-head with the geologic? We start talking about deep time and the quotidian in the same breath, along with all the strata in between. All of these organisms are living palimpsests: they contain myriad layers of their own histories within themselves, along with records of natural and human events; new chapters written over the old, year after year, millennium after millennium. When we look at them in the frame of deep time, a bigger picture emerges, and we start to see how all of the individuals have stories, and that all of those stories are in turn interconnected — and in turn, inextricably connected to us all.
The oldest living things in the world are a record and celebration of the past, a call to action in the present, and a barometer of our future.”