While the term “heroin chic” emerged in the 1990s as a droll description of the trendy androgyny and grungy-yet-glamorous look of contemporaneous supermodels, artists Loral Amir and Gigi Ben Artzi present the expression through a literal lens with their series, Downtown Divas.
Comprised of a short film and photographic series, Downtown Divas presents heroin-addicted Russian prostitutes as they don designer clothing and pose for a reimagined fashion spread. Juxtaposing bruised legs, tired eyes, and aloof expressions with luxury materials, trendy ensembles, and elegant silhouettes, the striking photographs appear disjointed and disconcerting. Though aesthetically startling and indicative, they paint a very different picture from the corresponding short film. Comprised of candid interviews, the poignant film surprisingly does not focus on each woman’s hardships; Amir and Artzi sought, rather, to “show a different side of the women and ignore that ‘drug addict’ tag that they carry around” (Bullett). By strictly avoiding questions regarding their drug use or experiences as sex workers, Amir and Artzi are able to instead focus on unseen—and often ignored—aspects of the women’s lives, including recurring dreams, childhood aspirations, lost loves, and favorite colors.
While many applaud Downtown Divas as a critique of the fashion industry and its apparent glamorization of drug addiction, contrary claims of exploitation and questions of the subjects’ ability—or inability—to consent have also emerged. Thus, while seemingly intended as a means to humanize the women, many hold that it instead achieves the exact opposite by exploiting them and taking advantage of their apparent afflictions and unwell mental states.
After viewing the photos and watching the video, what do you think of Downtown Divas? Humanizing social commentary, or exploitative agenda? (via Feature Shoot)
Los Angeles photographer Dan Busta has a couple very interesting photographic series exploring single-themed concepts at length. This one, Dots, is fairly self explanatory: naked women covered in dots, posing within rooms also covered in dots. What the images offer is part optical illusion and part good old fashioned sensuality. The natural beauty of the models stripped down to the most basic elements of form and pose. Through his exploration of this distinct concept, and through the manipulation of dot and background colors, Busta harnesses a unique way to showcase the beauty of these women in a flattering way.
Busta is no stranger to photographing people. He has photographed the rich and famous, his website is a yearbook of actors and celebrities we know and love. Another interesting project of his, Ghosts, shows a white-clothed figure standing in various settings. Busta’s exploration of themed projects continues to be a strong point in his work, and something that sets him apart as a photographer. It’s exciting to think of what he will do next!
Painter Joseba Eskubi’s lusciously-crafted landscape paintings have both an incredible energy and a certain mystique to them. The gestural brush strokes signify movement like the wind or temperamental weather, and they exist in these desolate locations with brilliantly-colored dark sky; it’s like the bluish-purple that marks the middle of the night.
All of Eskubi’s paintings feels like they exist in the same world, but each sets the stage different for its own strange happenings. A lot of these structures are reminiscent of weeping trees or their twisted branches. These lines create an interesting visual tension that doesn’t necessarily feel threatening at the moment, but it was at one time (or maybe in the future?). It’s an uncertain, post-apocalyptic shelter. But unlike the stereotypical gray landscape, Eskubi has created a place of visual splendor.
Tyler Orehek’s photographic interest lies in vintage-style photography, which he creates with his young son, also Tyler, as the subject of his portraits. Each scene is meticulously planned as Orehek selects the environment and props beside which he casts his son. It’s really enjoyable to see his son inhabit each character, and he does it well. Tyler looks like a shrunken man from the 1900s on, as a bookie, a boxer, a police officer, and more. It’s obvious that Orehek has done his research.
Orehek speaks about his love of vintage photography, and his reasoning for his approach in his artist statement:
My intent was not and is not to replicate existing vintage photographs but to capture the mood, feel and the visceral emotion of that period. Having a child in lieu of an adult in my work allows the viewer to focus on the “essence” of those past environments and professions with greater clarity through juxtaposition.
He’s right on that by including Tyler instead of a full-grown man, the scene seems fresher. The images are drenched in nostalgia, but they seem living because of the naïve air of his son, who is really making the part his own, while trying to emulate the moods his father strives for.
The women in Ewa Juszkiewicz‘s portraits have experienced a decapitation of an unusual sort: their heads replaced by a series of inanimate object from plants to mollusks.
“In my paintings I take critical view on the way women have been pictured in history of painting and other visual media up to today,” Juszkiewicz explains in her artist’s statement. “I work mostly in the field of portrait, which I intend to approach from a different angle that avoids focusing on the appearance.”
Her paintings, which are based on real historical portraits, seem to draw on some sort of surreal symbolism, perhaps meaningful partly because of their inscrutability. “I am interested in how the replacement of the face by different forms changes the perception of the human figure,” Juszkiewicz says.
In pursuit of that, she erases the identities of the women she portrays, completing their objectification literally. Her subjects are robbed of any sort of expression, instead gazing out at the viewer with an impassive beetle’s head or a shroud of cloth. (via Artnau)
Fluid, pliable, and sleek—Guido Argentini’s models are not only painted silver, they look to be made of the molten metal. In his series “Argentum,” Argentini has gathered over 100 of his images of women covered in shiny silver makeup, which he began shooting in 1995. The collection is printed in his book, also called Argentum, published by teNeues.
Evoking the luminous polished planes of the work of Brancusi and the verve of Degas’ ballet sketches, these photographs endow the human body with both the solidity of sculpture and the vivid energy of dance.
Using geometrical props Guido Argentini created a contrast between the human body and the archetypal forms of geometry: triangles, circles and squares.
The metallic full-body paint is reminiscent of Pussy Galore’s iconic murder scene in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger, as well as more recent images such as Kim Kardashian’s photo spreads in W. In Argentini’s feminine images the silver paint is used as an effect toward an artistic goal, not as the point of the photo, which is why they’re successful and memorable. “The skin, covered with silver paint, becomes an even, shiny surface and the human figure becomes more abstract,” Argentini writes. Without the distraction of skin tone and pores and body hair, the eye is captured by the models’ elegance and athleticism, their strong, contorted bodies juxtaposed against simple forms. The metallic sheen also heightens the contrast between highlights and darkness; we’re captivated by their agility and the sensuality of light and shadow moving across their bodies. (Via Scene 360′s Illusion)
Joseph McVetty must think it’s Halloween every day. His subtle pencil drawings are littered with groups of scantily clad people carrying out strange ceremonies and rituals. He sketches masked girls sitting on top of a circle of mushrooms, assisting a floating diamond deity. We see gatherings of people holding skulls above their heads in formation, trying to harness their collective power. There are also Shamans wearing skulls who seem to be about to begin some sort of exorcism or are absorbing energy from the people wearing skulls circling them. No matter the scenario, McVetty’s work is rooted in new-age spiritualism, occult ritual, and psychedelic culture.
Living in Portland, Oregon, McVetty’s work draws on his own experiences with rituals of being in the woods on the east coast. He talks of the powerful effect nature has on him:
I remember going to the Bagby Hot Springs with my wife soon after we relocated here and having a really magical experience. The very existence of these hot springs is a lovely idea to me, but being out in that old growth forest with all of the accompanying sights and smells was overwhelming. Then to come upon a group of strangers, naked, getting high, filling up those old log tubs and laying in that steaming water blew my mind. (Source)
He says even though his work is connected to these personal stories and memories, his drawings also are concerned with events from the wider world:
A perfect example is the recent wave of civil resistance movements central to the successes of the Arab Spring. These sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches and rallies are exactly the kind of energy gathering rituals that inspire me. (Source)
Hopefully you all are inspired to go and create your own energy gatherings this very night. Happy Halloween!
These stunning images come from photographer Mallory Morrison‘s latest series, FOG, and combine the unearthly nature of life underwater with the beauty of the human form. An experienced underwater photographer, Morrison works with models to push the limits of what is possible.
Poetic and succinct, her artist statement provides further explanation in the impetus behind her work on this series:
Our path is not always clear. Finding our way through life, figuring out what we what and how to get it can be like searching aimlessly through a foggy abyss. In FOG, Morrison captures feelings of uncertainty, desperation, and ultimate release throughout a journey to the water’s surface. These feelings also reflect Morrison’s artistic process of holding her breath underwater to capture each submerged form. The series tells the story of accepting the unknown: that which is on the other side of the surface and beyond the frame.
Her dive into underwater photography began when she was photographing dancers, and found herself constantly pondering how to eliminate gravity as the barrier keeping her from the shots she wanted. After trying trampolines and other tricks in the air, Morrison decided to try water instead. Seen underwater, the figures have an otherworldly mysticism about them. The reflective underside of the water’s surface shows a warped mirror image, and infuses each photograph with an intriguing symmetry. The colors are muted and few, but beautiful, nearly translucent.