In a powerful series of black-and-white portraits entitled The Unknown Soldier, New York-based photographer David Jay captures the devastation of war and the marks it leaves on individual lives. The project began while David was shooting The SCAR Project, a documentation of breast cancer survivors. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were in full tilt, and David decided that the public needed to see the intimate, bodily consequences of a system that perpetuates the mass injury and destruction of human lives.
Photographed at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Brooke Army Medical Center, The Unknown Soldier features men and women who have been shot, struck by roadside bombs, and severely burned — stories of trauma which are bravely told by their scars and amputations. The essence of the photos, however, lies in the enduring strengths conveyed in each face as the individual confronts the viewer with their experience. In a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay, David explains the greater aim of his project:
“[U]ltimately, The Unknown Soldier is not about war. It is about many things: Humanity, acceptance, responsibility. An understanding that [what] we do matters. What we say, what we think, matters . . . and [it] has repercussions that quite literally change the course of history.”
In a world where media coverage often turns injuries and deaths into abstract numbers, David has brought human subjects deeply into focus. Seeing these surviving soldiers evokes a sense of social responsibility that extends from the people we know in our immediate lives to those engaged in war. The Unknown Soldier reminds everyone that soldiers are not faceless causalities, and even though people may feel distant from such violent events, there exists a vital responsibility to examine and criticize a system and media that imperils and objectifies human lives. As David continues:
“I hope the images transcend the narrow and simplistic confines of ‘war’ and encourage us to examine the way we engage each other — both friend and stranger — at its most basic, day to day level, as it is these subtle, seemingly innocuous interactions that will ultimately lead us either to peace . . . or the continuum and carnage of war.”
Deni Dessastra recently won Beautiful/Decay Apparel’s t-shirt design competition. Dessastra hails from Jakarta, Indonesia and is a self-taught designer. We loved his fleur-de-lis embellished all-seeing eye erupting a cacophany of spirit animals, rainbow lightshows and visions! This shirt is limited edition and printed on a one-time only run- so pick yours up before it sells out!
Keri Oldham‘s collections of watercolors are studies in familiarity and restraint. Each mark is deliberate, yet still manages to accidentally wander, bleeding and pooling into the next, happening upon a recognizable form.
Kris Knight’s portraits are presented in such a settled and graceful manner, yet underneath the surface of the subjects in question, he is able to portray various feelings of awe and mystery. Who are these characters who candidly stare back at the viewer? Such hidden emotions are portrayed through a muted color palette and calculated brushstrokes, giving the viewer plenty to look at, yet with a feeling of wanting to know more.
Announcement! Beautiful/Decay friend Jessica Hische‘s first font, entitled Buttermilk, is now on sale at myfonts.com. The font is good for “magazine headlines, book title type, initial caps, holiday cards, wedding invitations, you name it.” In related news, a shirt Jessica designed for B/D Apparel will be coming out soon!
Turkish photographer Yonca Karakas used to want to be a genetic engineer due to her attraction to the idea of cloning. Somewhere along the line she became a photographer instead, but this fascination with mass produced identities is all too present within her work. Her work, which is polished and waxen, features symbols and people styled, and nearly de-stylized, to look mute and plasticine.
Karakas utilizes symmetry to her artistic advantage. She manipulates framing by organizing her props to dramatize the exploitation of whatever symbol: meat, or the cross, she is working with. Her characters are emotionless; colonized by the future, they are clean, well groomed, and the antithesis of squeamish. They wear meat, their religion is sugar coated. When thinking of her work, she recognizes that she is in the business of constructing dreams:
“I don’t like to define every frame I shoot or say ‘that is exactly what I tried to tell’. Once it’s all done that’s when I think why I shot it, I go back and say I might have been influenced by this or that movie. And by going back I can see my concerns and try to solve them. The Box is influenced by Ray Bradbruy’s novel Fahrenheit 451. It’s about a despotic future in an oppressive community where books are burnt by firefighters, televisions broadcasting brainwashing shows. I believe we are more or less facing the same situation now. We are burying ourselves in our tablets and phones, looking at ourselves and making others watch us too. It’s like we really like that, don’t we?”
(Excerpt from Source)
Penny Byrne transforms vintage porcelain figures and other found objects into work that makes a humorous or political statement. Though the themes of her work are dark and heavy, the lightness and treatment of the porcelain contrasts this, formulating a new perception of these themes. As a respected ceramic conservator and restorer, she claims that what she is doing with these “sacrosanct” found figures is quite inappropriate with respect to her field of work. Byrne lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.