Contrary to what these photographs might lead you to believe, the people in them are dead; they represent a special kind of funerary service that involves anything but laying down. Instead, the deceased are posed doing things that you’d see them doing while they were alive. Miriam Burbank is seen with a can of Busch beer and menthol cigarette between her fingers, while the body of Christopher Rivera is propped up in a faux boxing ring.
These strange and creepy displays aren’t anything new, although they are unusual. The phenomenon first appeared as early as the 1984 funeral of Willie Stokes Jr., a Chicago gambler known as the Wimp. He sat through his services behind the wheel of a coffin made to look like a Cadillac Seville. And even earlier than that are the post-mortem photographs of the Victorian era, where the recently deceased were captured while sitting in their finest clothing. While it’s not a funeral, they show how throughout time, we’re trying to remember those passed for how they lived.
Elsie Rodríguez, vice president of the funeral home that organized Rivera’s service, explains some of benefits of these situations, telling the New York Times, “This is not a fun or funny event; the family is going through a lot of pain. With these kinds of arrangements, “the family literally suffers less, because they see their loved one in a way that would have made them happy — they see them in a way in which they still look alive.” (Via The New York Times)
Canadian artist Andrew Lamb has been making updates to your average “neighborhood watch” signs, taking them from innocuous to noticeable. He does it with the help of some memorable television, movie, and video game characters.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of neighborhood watch signs, let me give you a brief explanation. They are traffic-sign-sized warnings to potential criminals that the residents of a certain area are vigilant and won’t let them get away with any funny business. Of course, they’ve been around forever, and the often-dated looking designs are now just apart of the landscape, meaning that no one probably pays attention to them.
Lamb’s wheat-pasted edits to these signs grab your attention, and are an amusing way to reinvigorate something that’s probably run its course. Bruce Willis, Buffy the Vampier Slayer, Mulder and Scully, and even Sailor Moon are all featured in these updates. So have no fear, because the Power Rangers are keeping an eye out. (Via 22 Words)
Baltimore-based artist Jordan Kasey creates large-scale oil paintings of surreal scenes that include monumental figures and objects. In these strange worlds, her subjects occupy entire compositions and are often distorted by a canvas’ constraints. Although they could seemingly exist anywhere, we see them fused with both the aquatic and natural landscape.
There’s an emphasis on hands and fingers in Kasey’s paintings. We’ll often see pair of hands hugging or carefully cradling colorful, rock-like objects. Fingers on opposing hands match up to form tiny arches that make her faceless subjects look as though they’re plotting something. It doesn’t feel sinister, though, but almost absent of any emotion whatsoever.
While some of Kasey’s works are devoid of identifying details, others replace the expected with the unexpected. Facial features are altered with aquatic rocks, coral, and sea plants. It creates an odd-yet-familiar place whose tightly-rendered subjects begin to approach a level of uncanniness. While we know Kasey’s work is fantastical, it looks realistic enough that we might try and apply logic to it.
For those who are not regulars at their local gun club, you might be surprised to know that shooting targets aren’t all the classic bullseye or silhouetted portrait. No, some of them are much more realistic, as the Amsterdam-based magazine Useful Photographyhas pointed out. The publication collects everyday images, and for issue 11 depicts several decades of targets from tens of thousands of shooting ranges in the United States. The results are disturbing, to say the least.
While traditional targets were once anonymous figures, they are now much more lifelike. You’ll find photographs of dictators, women, children, and everyday people pointing a gun back at you. It gives the target a personality, and you can practice your aim and get swept up in the grim, suggested narratives. Some manufacturers have gone too far, and which includes a line of targets called No More Hesitation that featured small children and pregnant women holding guns, and a bleeding “ex-girlfriend” (masquerading as a zombie). Both were pulled off the market.
Erik Kessels publishes the magazine and explains to Fast Company:
We found that shooting targets in the U.S. are getting more and more bizarre with what they show. Our biggest question on the topic was what scares a nation–gunman who hold children ransom or infamous terrorists? In this age of high impact gun crime, are the participants seeking protection or accelerating the violence?”
He goes on to say,
“By taking these images from their original context and putting them together in a magazine we hope that people start to look at them again.”
Sara Angelucci’s intriguing series titled Aviary recalls the past to create strange portraits of birds that are superimposed onto anonymous nineteenth century cartes-de-visite (small, business card sized) photographs. It began by the artist studying the American Victoria area, and she connects its cultural, social, and ecological aspects conceptually to her work.
The nineteenth century was the United States’ colonial era when there was unprecedented expansion, exploration, and an interest in science and art. Family photo albums and commemorating memories were something new, as photography became increasingly common. The collection of cartes-de-visites were like trading cards, and the urge to collect didn’t stop there. People had cabinets of curiosities that included things like taxidermied birds, an interest that lead to the extinction of the passenger pigeon. Angelucci explains in a statement about the work, writing, “Made by combining photographs of endangered or extinct North American birds with anonymous nineteenth century cartes-de-visite portraits—they portray creatures about to become ghosts.”
She goes on to muse:
So how do we read these strange human-birdlike creatures? One could at once see them as manifestations of their time: a hybrid crossover of faith in science with a belief in otherworldly beings. As W. G. Sebald writes in Campo Santo, “[photography is] in essence, after all…nothing but a way of making ghostly apparitions materialize by means of a very dubious magical art.” And, what would it mean to embody another creature: Could one then see, feel, and understand its desire to live? Might we then imagine the Aviary portraits as chimera suspended in a state of empathy, and wonder what our treatment of other sentient beings might be if we could feel what they feel, or see what they see? (Via Observer: Design Observer)
If you’ve ever taken a road trip, you are probably familiar with tourist attractions (also known as tourist traps). Caves are not an uncommon destination for these off-the-highway places, and are often ostentatious with not a lot of intellectual substance. Large-format photographer Austin Irving travelled across America and East Asia photographing these places, which were developed for weary travelers. She titled the series Show Caves.
The caves feature unnatural lighting, revolving doors, public restrooms, and man made design elements. There are penguins, for instance, that line the path of one interior and feels like a disingenuous attempt at showcasing the wonders of the wonders.
There aren’t any crowds in these photos, which allow us to see the attractions clearly. It also showcases the fact that these places are not much different than some place like a suburban shopping mall. (Via Artlog)
Photographer Amelia Bauer’s series Burned Over showcases brilliant spectacles of light with a supernatural twist. The images are inspired by the deeply-infused religious history of the New York region, and the dark forests have an eerie light or haze that is concentrated in a tree or covered clearing. Bauer explains her photographs in an interview with Feature Shoot, stating:
My work is a series of discrete investigations into our cultural conceptions of the natural world. I examine my surroundings, specifically rural Central New York, through a lens of history and mythology. Aesthetic traditions are repositioned to create spaces that exist somewhere between our fears of the uncultivated wild and our romanticism of the ‘virgin’ landscape. In this way I explore the American experience of the frontier — the transitional landscapes at the boundaries of civilization.
In upstate New York, there’s an area called the “burned-over district,” where religious fervor tread through the landscape in the early 19th century. The territory was the birthplace of several early American religious and occult groups like the Shakers and Mormon, as well as the Spiritualists. It’s the Spiritualists who this series is really inspired by, and they believed that Mediums could interact with spirits via seances. They created photographic evidence of these meetings and used gauze, double exposure and darkroom techniques to produce their images. Bauer further explains:
Inspired by these photographs, I set out to make portraits of the landscape that hosted such religious and spiritual pursuits by those early settlers. Working with a pyrotechnics crew, custom fireworks were created specifically for the shoot, and hiked into the forests of rural upstate New York. The photographs that make up the Burned Over series reveal something felt but not seen about these forests, as though the land itself holds a presence we seek to uncover but fear revealing entirely. (Via Feature Shoot)
These surreal landscapes are a series titled Con/struct by South African designer and photographer Justin Plunkett. He compiles imagery into scenes of desolate or forgotten places, where often these structures are the tallest thing on the horizon amongst swirling clouds and dusty streets. They are patched together exteriors of slated roofs, windows, shipping containers with advertisements on them. An artist statement about this series gives insight to these unusual buildings:
Con/Struct is an exploration into the themes of empowerment and imagination. Plunkett, using his own photography, has created new juxtaposed environments that encourage questioning and exploration: inviting the debate around how marketing- induced aspiration and perceived value can empower but can also corrupt, how it can be both perverse and create beauty. At the same time, at the core of his work, he honours and applauds ingenuity and the creative spirit. (Via Colossal)