Spooky Portraits Capture Death And Ecstasy

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Through careful manipulation, Silvia Grav‘s ethereal black and white images capture a psychological realm where death and fear lurk around each corner, a world beyond the material where rich blacks and blinding white tones evoke a heightened anxiety and ecstasy. In her spooky portraits, the self is blurred by smoke and transparency, as if transported from the page by some unknowable force.

As with the works of the prolific photographer Francesca Woodman, Grav’s images are often set against the backdrop of the domestic space. The house, associated symbolically with the female, is no longer seen as safe or comforting; deteriorated walls and filthy floors cannot protect or contain inhabitants, and a woman rises ghostly towards a lit window. In another eerie image, the sleeping female is disturbed in sleep, her delicate floral bedding overcast by a foreboding shadow whose presence forces her to cover her breast and frightfully clasp at her back. Later, she is shown to be levitating, reaching out for the comforts of her mattress.

Within the terror of the images lies a sort of ecstasy, a dreamy surrender to instability and fright. The woman subject, surrounded by smoke clouds that seem to melt away her flesh, clasps her skeleton hands in rapturous prayer. Her nighttime slumber is seen in mysterious light, and she basks in its warmth, seeming to wriggle with delirium so that the majority of her body is pulled out of the frame.

The impressive work seems to invoke the memory of troubled women artists who came before. In one poignant image, the artist seems to mirror the famous profile portrait of Virginia Woolf by the photographer George Charles Beresford, down to the dark, pulled-back hair, the white blouse, and the ominous shadow below the eye. Contributing to the dialogue on femininity and mortality began by the likes of Woodman and Woolf, Grav adds a unique and potent modern voice. (via Colossal)

America’s Abandoned Malls Are Places Of Nightmares

Dixie Square Mall: Harvey, Illinois via  Detroiturbex.com

Dixie Square Mall: Harvey, Illinois via Detroiturbex.com

Dixie Square Mall: Harvey, Illinois via

Dixie Square Mall: Harvey, Illinois via Detroiturbex.com

North Towne Square Mall: Toledo, Ohio, via Flickr: Binkled

North Towne Square Mall: Toledo, Ohio, via Flickr: Binkled

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North Towne Square Mall: Toledo, Ohio, via Flickr: Binkled

If you’ve ever been in a mostly empty mall, you know how strange it can feel to walk among a space that’s only half alive. But what about when a mall is completely abandoned? That’s even more surreal. As more and more of these once-booming retail centers close, the Dead Malls Enthusiast Facebook group has mapped many of them throughout America. Adventurous photographers have captured the aftermath of of these departed spaces.

Many of these abandoned malls were built in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and it shows. The interiors and decor look dated, tacky, and claustrophobic compared to the open-air shopping that’s popular today.  Some have fared better structurally than others. Photographs depict buildings that’ve been closed for years and have demolished ceilings and broken glass. Many of the malls have dead plants that have long since lost their leaves.

These abandoned places are apocalyptic and frightening. But at the same time, they pique our curiosity and we wish were there exploring for ourselves. (Via Buzzfeed)

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Malika Favre’s Animated Kama Sutra Alphabet

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In 2011, illustrator and graphic designer Mailka Favre was commissioned by Penguin Books to illustrate the new Deluxe Classic Cover of the Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana. Using the first 7 letters she illustrated for the commission as a starting point, Favre decided to develop the full set of the alphabet, resulting in a racy Kama Sutra typeface. After creating the designs, Favre worked with animators to turn her images into actively coital gifs. Inspired by the everyday design and fashion she encounters in London, Favre’s aesthetic is bold and colorful, with clean and simple lines and curves. Favre admits she often wears the colors she uses in her designs, and she’s unsure which design choice influences which. Because her designs are so simple, Favre has to approach her work with a strong concept, something that is elegantly evident in her Kama Sutra alphabet. Each letter of the exhibition is available for purchase as a limited edition of 25 screenprints, numbered and signed by the artist.

Emotional Images On Body Dysmorphia, Weight-Loss Surgery, And Self-Acceptance

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weight-loss surgery

For the artist Maria Raquel Cochez, her body is both her subject and medium; choosing to undergo and photograph 3 weight-loss surgery procedures, she catalogs a complex relationship with body image. For this series, titled “Life Performance,” and subsequent videos, paintings, and photographs, the artist courageously addresses the difficult ways in which women are expected to conform to physical ideals.

For “Life Performance,” Cochez relinquishes all control, surrendering both her body and her camera, leaving others to cut, transform, and document her as she undergoes a breast reconstruction and implant and gastric bypass. Each photograph poignantly blurs the line between performance and experience, boldly welcoming the public into a profoundly private emotional space.

Four years after “Life Performance,” Cochez presents “Belly,” a gorgeous video capturing the effects of surgery and life on her midsection. Seen floating in a full bathtub, her excess flesh is seen as touchingly soft yet powerful; isolated from the rest of her body, it seems to breathe independently, rising from the water and sinking back again. On the righthand side of the frame, a child plays with the female belly, innocently exploring the space that gave him life. He kneads it like bread, then strokes it carefully.

The work is painfully moving for the artist’s total surrender to her craft and audience; as viewers, we bear witness to her insides, to folds of her naked skin. For this reason, her impressive body of work seem less like an exploitation of the self than a miraculously intimate confessional. Despite their potentially painful content, her creations are strangely warm and generous; for example, in Life Performance No.1, romantic black and white images of her smiling face and her soft backside gently bookend the frighteningly colorful photographs of her surgery.

Ultimately, the work reads as a richly nuanced love letter to the human body, one to which all humans, regardless of experience, can relate. Take a look at Cochez’s paintings, videos, and photographs after the jump, including her uncomfortably, painfully seductive self-portraits of eating binges.

Paul Koudounaris’ Photos Of Human Skeletal Remains Adorned With Opulent Costumes, Precious Jewels

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The photographer Paul Koudounaris has made a name for himself by photographing the mysterious dead: mummies, skeletons, ossuaries.The enchanting subject of his recent project Heavenly Bodies are the never-before photographed relics of Europe’s Catholic churches, said to be the bones of Christian martyrs. At their discovery in 1578, these remains were taken from underground tombs and enthroned as objects of worship in place of earlier saintly relics ravaged by the Protestant Reformation.

The opulent adornments that surround the remains (i.e. wigs, gemstones, gold lace) reflect the decadence of the late Middle Ages, when churches ornamentation became more elaborate and extravagant. Dressed like royals, these saints suggest an afterlife filled with heavenly pleasures. Against rich, dark fabrics, the precious metals shine brilliantly; within a tight frame, Koudounaris shoots from below, simultaneously capturing the splendor up-close and elevating the sacred remains to a slightly higher plane.

Although he exalts his subjects in this way, Koudounaris’s images remain touchingly human; while some images capture gigantic, enthroned figures with the utmost deference, others focus on small, humble details. A gap where a tooth once sat or a clenched skeletal hand serves as a poignant memento mori, reminding viewers of the human deaths that happened long ago. The mysterious remains, of whom no one knows the full story, are seen ambiguously, both as a suggestion of an enraptured afterlife and a morbid recognition of mortality and decay. Take a look at the mesmerizing images below. Heavenly Bodies is available in print here. (via Colossal and Hyperallergic)

Photos Of Heavy Metal Guys With Their Cats Shows The Soft Side Of Metal’s Darkness

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Heavy Metal cats

Heavy Metal cats   Heavy Metal cats

Cats often get a bad reputation because of their strange, idiosyncratic ways and moody temperaments, but are nowhere near as misunderstood and misjudged as the metal music community. A new book, Metal Cats by Alexandra Crockett, looks to change both of these stereotypes simultaneously, and show both Metalheads and feline’s cuddly sides.

From a feature on Bored Panda“The people posing in these photos represent bands with names that are anything but cuddly – Napalm Death, Cattle Decapitation, Murder Construct, Skeletonwitch and Lightning Swords Of Death. But despite these fearsome band names and their black leather, spikes, tattoos and muscles, it’s clear that they share a close relationship with their loveable animals just like the rest of us.”

The musicians featured are also playing a series of benefit concerts at four cities along the United States’ west coast, with proceeds (as well as a portion of the book’s sales) going to no-kill animal shelters at each respective city visited. (via boredpanda)

Disturbingly Erotic Paintings Capture Growing Up And Innocence Lost

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For her frightening and beautiful portraits, the artist and designer Tamara Muller uses her own face, pasting it atop various haunting figures. Within the context of these crudely drawn bodies, her features, seen over and over again, take on an uncanny, trance-like quality, allowing them to collectively span her entire lifetime from girlhood to the present. Within this expressionistic realm, the barriers between childhood’s innocence and the guilt of adulthood are disturbingly blurred to create a narrative where play and fear work in tandem.

Muller’s faces leap dizzyingly through the ages: baby, child, adult, blurring the lines between male and female in the process. A seemingly incomplete rendering of the bodily form appears to the post-Renaissance eye as primitive or childlike, creating a cognitive and visceral tension with the heavily weighted heads, which are given a disproportionate depth and dimensionality. For this reason, the fleshy, flushed faces seem dangerously precarious, as if they were too psychologically burdened to rest comfortably on a naive and doll-like body.

In a realm where child self and grown self live side-by-side, an uncomfortable eroticism emerges, carrying with it the guilt of innocence lost. In one image, a woman bears her naked breasts, her head taxed with the weight of a baby face robbed of her body. In another disturbing piece, a young girl sits on a rabbit, normally a symbol of fertility and sex, baring her disturbingly youthful genitalia. A woman holds a younger version of herself, and the latter’s body wilts, rag doll like. In these powerful images, it’s unclear who is haunting whom; is the grown self plagued by her childhood, or is it the other way around? Take a look. (via HiFructose)

James Mollison’s Poignant Photographs Of Children’s Bedrooms Around The World

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English-born photographer James Mollison was asked to come up with an engaging project that was powerful enough to bring awareness to Children’s rights. Given this thought, Mollison was compelled to capture the more private side of children all over the world- he photographed their most personal and private possession, the place in which they sleep.

“It occurred to me that a way to address some of the complex situations and social issues affecting children would be to look at the bedrooms of children in all kinds of different circumstances”

Where Children Sleep, a book in which he published these photos along with an extended caption that tells the story of each child, shows a variety of space and a variety of children – some are living in abject poverty, lacking basic food and sanitation, while others are more fortunate by being born in a country where those things are guaranteed and usually taken for granted.

“From the start, I didn’t want it just to be about ‘needy children’ in the developing world, but rather something more inclusive, about children from all types of situations.”

You can purchase the book here. (via Pulptastic)