In reaction to a story by NPR’s Planet Money team about the financial collapse and its effect on Southwest Florida housing market, the The Big Picture photography column at Boston.com spent some time scouring Google Earth to document exactly how man-made structures and development planning has altered the land, coast and the way we cover that natural beauty we desire so much.
The resulting pictures show, in stunning simplicity, just how alien the natural landscape of Florida (or most of the Earth for that matter) has become. Ranging from densely-packed communities to barely finishing plotting, the photographs show the natural beauty of the land being lost, and mostly replaced by poorly-planned, short-term solution living situations. They also simultaneously insinuate humanity conquering nature like a plague of locusts, as well as demonstrate our efforts being over-run by nature, like every civilization of the past. (via boston.com)
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Artist Saint Hoax’s series War Drags You Out imagines prominent world leaders dressed as drag queens. The digital illustrations depict the likes of Obama, George W. Bush, Vladamir Putin, and even Osama Bin Laden getting dolled up. Animated GIFs show the primping process, which includes drawing on eyebrows, contouring the face, and adding fabulous accessories. And of course, like any good drag queen, they have stage names, too, like Putin’s “Vladdy Pushin,” and Bin Laden’s sassy moniker, “Ossie B.” The idea for this work came from Saint Hoax’s first visit to a drag show. They explain:
…I was struck by the richness of this glamour oriented culture.
I took a minute to actually look at the faux queens and deconstruct their main components.
The recipe for an iconic queen:
1- Flamboyant name
2- Fierce persona
3- Defining outfits
4- Personalized hairdo
5- A trademark feature
6- One hell of a PR team
I then realized that it takes that same exact effort to make a leader.
A rush of images containing Hitler’s mustache, Bin laden’s headgear, Obama’s campaigns, Saddam’s narcism crossed through my mind. It got me thinking that behind every “great” man, there’s a queen.
While Saint Hoax’s unique project is over the top, it’s had some serious consequences for the anonymous artist. Before the Osama Bin Laden painting (first in the series), was to be shown, they released a Youtube video announcing where the work would be displayed. Because of the video, Saint Hoax received over 70 death threats, and the painting was destroyed at the airport while in transit to its location. (Via Huffington Post)
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)
Photographer and grad student Kaija Straumanis has created a playful self-portrait series in which her image is captured right at the moment a random object seems to be thrown at her face. A pumpkin, book, dodgeball, boot, and even a mojito smash into Straumanis’ head, smooshing her face and glasses into an awkward contortion. Despite the impact of the objects, in each photo, Straumanus stares a seemingly unaffected gaze into the camera lens. The collisions are set during everyday tasks and among familiar environments, resulting in a humorous series of striking moments. According to HLN, Straumanis creates the photographs by layering images into a composite and artfully manipulating them until they appear seamless. She practices mashing objects into her face, looking into a mirror to create the perfect pose, then layers images accordingly. “I feel like it’s disappointing that I’m not actually getting beat up,” Straumanis admits. “I’m duping the Internet!” (via bored panda)
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)
Barbara Wildernboar, a South African photographer and sculptor, creates a series of altered books that are visually reminiscent of organic, sea-like organisms. Some emulate the visually striking legs of a star fish, others are reminiscent of wild, but beautiful jellyfish- but most of her work imitate the very beginning of any type of live being, a very basic but important part of life as it is- the shape of an atom or a mitochondrion found in eukaryotic cells.
Wildernboar strictly uses books that she buys in flea markets while she’s abroad; usually, she uses books that are dated and redundant- however, there seems to be a pattern to the kind of books she picks- almost all, if not all, have to do with earth/physical science or biology. This specific detail could or could not be relevant, but the ways in which she shapes and manipulates the paper within the book tells us otherwise. She states the following about this speculation:
Although my work has strong ecological themes, I do not see myself as an activist for environmental change, nor is the body of work to be seen as a green campaign. It is rather a reflection on my personal response to climate and environmental issues that can often leave one feeling overwhelmed and distressed.
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)