Although he was educated as an economist, Sebastiao Selgado understands the world most clearly in images, as demonstrated in his incredibly moving photography. His most recent series, Genesis, is his most ambitious and long-term project, spanning eight years as he visited 30 of the earth’s most pure and untouched sites. He was inspired to do the project because up until that point people had been the central subject of his work. He says that he “… wished to photograph the other animals, to photograph the landscapes, to photograph us, but us from the beginning, the time we lived in equilibrium with nature.”
His imagery is completely enthralling. It is obvious the time he spent for each one to capture just the right moment. The fact that his photographs are in black and white emphasizes their impact further, and creates a greater romanticism. What is truly incredible about Selgado is his investment that gives him such a great return in his artwork. For a while he was disillusioned by the world and his photography, having seen so much devastation as a photojournalist based mostly in Rwanda at the time.
Selgado returned home for his own health and sanity, to Brazil, where his parents had left him their land. It was almost completely cleared of the forest “paradise” it once was to him, and so he and a friend worked to replant the eco-system. This experience seems to have shaped Selgado’s view of the state of our planet as a whole. He has seen the atrocities we have inflicted upon it and ourselves, but he has also successfully restored a piece of it to its original strength and beauty. His images, therefore, are not caught in time as a momento of the world we were once a part of, but a reminder of what we might still participate in for the foreseeable future if we can recognize it as something worth reviving.
Selgado speaks about his practice and the Genesis photo-series in a TED talk that you can see here. (Quotations in this article from TED talk) (Via Dazed Digital)
Melbourne-based artist Catherine Tipping uses an analog way of working to depict digitally-minded portraits. Blurring the line between what’s on the screen and off, she uses wool to stitch human faces that are partially pixelated, glitchy, or generally just obscured through Photoshop. They are sewn onto a gridded canvas, which is not unlike the the pixels that we see on screen. These similarities make for a compelling series titled Filter that meditates on identity and the way technology has totally changed our culture.
Tipping explains the concept behind her work in an email to The Huffington Post, writing:
I was learning about Modernism and how technology changed society culturally back then. I saw how the Digital era has had a similar affect on our culture. Now that we are in the second decade of the new millennium, we rely on the efficiency of digital technology. Recently, in some aspects of society, it appears there is a yearning for the handmade. Maybe now is the time when digital and handmade mediums can be combined and embraced by society. I see this bridge in my processes by using a digital image with all its pixels and hand stitching it.
Depending on how you’re looking at them, they can resemble digital renderings or traditional fiber work. Tipping intersperses bits of both worlds within a single composition, creating one whole work that’s a combination of influences. “I am interested in cultural identity on many levels; societal, sub-cultural and personal,” she writes to The Huffington Post. “I like considering the distinctive visual traditions of different eras and outside factors that shape them. These portraits may appear distinctive of our current era or not, I sometimes wonder if we are becoming so anachronistic that we are indistinctive of a time.” (Via The Huffington Post)
There is always something wrong about Yvonne Todd‘s photographs. By utilizing the effects and techniques of commercial photography studios, Todd creates quietly strange images reminiscent of 90s glamour shots, or of head shots that always turn out looking amateur. Full of ill-fitting clothes, cringe-worthy props and awkward poses, Todd pushes the ideas of what is conventional beauty, and how quickly these norms change.
Her palette in itself is very rarely considered beautiful – saturated with sickly pinks, boring beige, flat creams, dull greys and flooded with unflattering light it is hard to find these images attractive.
The subjects appear confident at first glance, but there is an underlying sense of sadness, longing and an unease about themselves.
These people are reminiscent of trophy wives; of people obsessed with vanity and image; of compulsive individuals determined to be the best version of themselves. Men sitting uncomfortably, surrounded by objects they are unsure of; women staring into the mirror, practicing how to be seductive; girls striving to act above their age; amateur dancers trying to appear more skilled than they are. These poses are so often seen in modern advertising, and popular media. Todd says:
“My interest is a bit broader than beauty and artifice; I’m really interested in manipulating the conventional and familiar. I feel compelled to create “revised” photographic conventions drawn from advertising imagery, stock photography, catalogs, brochures, corporate portraits, mass-market fiction, religious cults, soap operas, show business, and the glimpses and fragments that resonate in my memory and imagination.”
These photographs may seem outdated and surreal, but could as easily be a reflection of all that is toxic in our modern day western capitalist society and our focus on image and representation of oneself.
Stefanie Klavens has a love for 20th century pop culture and Americana. In her articulate photographic series, titled “Vanishing Drive-Ins,” Klavens documents the disintegration of the American drive-in. Once a popular social and entertainment aspect, it has been slowly disappearing from the United States. As Klavens explains, “The drive-in has suffered the same fate as the single screen theater. Before World War II the drive-in was a modest trend, but after the war the craze began in earnest, peaking in popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960’s. Drive-ins were ideal for the modern family, everyone jumped into the car, no babysitter needed. ‘Car culture’ had officially arrived as a dominant force on the American scene.”
Despite the rapid popularity of the drive-in, they simply could not stand the test of time. Klavens attributes their decline to the evolution of technology and altered views of land: “Over time, changing real estate values began to have an effect on the drive-in. Land became too valuable for a summer-only business. Widespread adoption of daylight saving time in the mid 1960’s subtracted an hour from outdoor evening screening time. The decline was further hastened by the advent of VCRs and home video rentals. In the 1950s there were over 4,000 drive-ins nationwide. Today there are fewer than 400.”
These photographs, with their heavily saturated colors and blurry prolonged exposures, showcase some of the few drive-ins that are still functioning with a romantic nostalgia. The structures and signage may be antiquated, but the car types and models are a dead ringer for our era.
In Enrique Gomez De Molina’s hands, animals become chimeras—multiple animals blended into one fantasy, nightmare creature. His taxidermied beasts are at once weird and wonderful, absorbing and off-putting. “I guess I like to play God, “ he laughs in a Thrillist interview. Two swan heads share a goat’s body. A nasty little crab/rodent sneers at the camera. Bird’s bills and fur, antlers and insects join seamlessly to make creatures that defy nature. Gomez De Molina says of his strange menagerie:
“The impossibility of my sculpture brings me both joy and sadness at the same time. The joy comes from seeing and experiencing the Fantasy of the work but that is coupled with the sadness of the fact that we are destroying all of these beautiful things.”
Ironically, Gomez De Molina may be indirectly contributing to that destruction himself. Arrested for illegally importing animal parts, he pled guilty in 2012 and received 20 months in federal prison for trafficking in endangered and protected wildlife. Though he declares the best of intentions for his actions—bringing attention to the plight of endangered animals—his purchases certainly created a deathly supply for his demand. Why take such a risk? His taxidermied chimeras sold for up to $80,000 before his arrest.
Gomez De Molina’s side is that he wants “to bring awareness to the danger faced by a multitude of species: nuclear and chemical waste, overdevelopment, and destruction of rainforests.” U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer doesn’t see it that way.
“For years, DeMolina illegally imported parts and remains of endangered and threatened species, including a cobra, a pangolin, hornbills, and the skulls of babirusa and orangutans, and used them to create taxidermy pieces. … Trafficking in endangered and threatened species, whether for personal profit or under the guise of art, is illegal.”
It remains to be seen whether Gomez De Molina will return to art now that his exotic art supplies have been confiscated.
Martin Feijoo’s drawings are inspired by what he imagines the clouds in the sky to look like. His blog offers an image of his own artwork alone, as well as a comparison between the original photograph of the clouds. It’s fun, if you can manage not to peak, to look at the clouds first and see what you see before looking at Faijoo’s images. His style is illustrative and bold, which helps to see his images quite clearly in the clouds on their own. He might pursue more play between the cloud and his image as he continues with this series, to blur the lines more between reality and his imagination.
Feijoo speaks about his inspiration to start the series on his website:
When I was a child I was told that clouds’ shapes were created by expert balloon twister clowns who live in the sky, so that they can keep entertaining children. On my last trip to Mexico I remembered this and I started to photograph clouds on the road. The result is Shaping Clouds, a series of illustrations where I drew the first thing that came into my mind when I saw these clouds that I imagine someone made for me.
These images are probably not what you think. Derek Paul Boyle‘s latest project is called “Drag Paintings”, and are a result of the artist weaving through traffic, holding a stretched canvas under-foot and allowing the different textures and surfaces of the roads to create the image. What results is a very visceral, tangible account of a temporary action that has been frozen in time. Boyle says about them:
The drags are performance that result in a painting – the physical becomes an imprint of the gestural.
The drag paintings are events as objects – abstracts of the physical grittiness and intensity of Los Angeles’s traffic infrastructure.
These paintings have an ominous feel, a beauty that emerges despite first appearances. They are a violent action made light and somewhat graceful. Boyle’s work always contains a sense of playfulness and humor. He enjoys challenging the expected state of something. Either by juxtaposing the use of an object, or the context in which it is used. The Drag Series is definitely a challenge to the tradition of mark making and action painting. He surprises us by producing something elegant through the act of destruction. Boyle goes on to say:
I am interested in the power of contradiction, objects as events, and incompatible states of the self – what was once bound is made free, the known made unknown.
Artist Seth Alverson paints the body in a realistic fashion, but not in a way that looks aesthetically appealing. Severed hands, bizarre contortions, and skin linked together like a sausage casing are just some of the ways he’s depicted the figure. It stands in stark contrast to the Old Masters traditions of life-like renderings, which are all about idealizing and hiding flaws. Instead they’re in-your-face in a way that it’s hard to look away from.
There’s a range of grotesqueness, from detached body parts (bloody ends and all) to oversized hands, and finally to things that aren’t shameful, but our society dictates they are. This includes cellulite on thick legs or sagging breasts. They seem to mock the airbrushed media and when compared with Alverson’s other more ghastly alternatives, definitely aren’t as bad. (Via Hi Fructose)