Gonzalo, turned 22 during his trip as an undocumented person in Mexico. His family in Honduras hopes that he’ll make it to the U.S. He left a message on this board for his wife and 9 month old daughter: “Lorena, Rafaela, I miss you a lot. Back soon ” – Ixtepec, Oaxaca, 2011
The Backpack of Salvador Santo. Salvador Santo, 21, has written inside the phone number of a relative in Honduras. The need to hide information arises to prevent abductions and extortion of family while he crosses Mexico. According to the National System of Public Security (SNSP), abductions reported to the Attorney General in 2013 were more than 3,600 cases compared to 1,259 in 2012. – D.F., Mexico, 2014
Wendy fled from Honduras with her three children (Jared of 18 months, Jazmin of 3 years, and Eduardo of 8) because of the attempted murder she suffered by her husband, a member of the Mara Salvatrucha 18, one of two of the largest gangs in Central America. The complaint filed against her husband for domestic and sexual violence towards her and their three children had no solution in Honduras due to corruption. – Tapachula, Chiapas, 2014
(pictured left) Armando, El Salvador. His destination was the United States, but he was deported in Baja California while riding in the cargo train crossing Mexico. He wanted to retry the trip as undocumented via Tenosique, Tabasco. This time, while trying to get on the train, he fell and the very train amputated his arm. He awaits the document certifying him as a refugee. – Tapachula, Chiapas, 2014. (pictured right) Celso’s prosthesis. Celso, Honduras, 31, victim of an accident while riding the freight train they call the Beast. – Tapachula, Mexico, 2014
Photographer Nicola Okin Frioli has been documenting the heartbreak, failures, misery, grief and victimization of thousands of migrants over the past twelve years. Having extensively traveled and documented his way through Northern Mexico, India, Pakistan, Kashmir, and Sardinia, Frioli has seen the desperate measures people will go to in order to create a better future for themselves and their families.
His latest project, titled Al ‘Otro Lado’ del Sueño / The Other Side of the American Dream is a harrowing reminder of the many hardships people face while chasing what seems like an impossible goal. This series focuses on men, women traveling alone, the elderly, and children, all of whom come from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua and are attempting to get to ‘the other side’ – across the American border. The extent of these hardships are often underestimated: not only is there exploitation, discrimination and abuse from migration authorities, but also from gangs (Maras Salvatruchas) connected with smuggling and protection fees. Frioli says:
The intention of this project is clear: to gather documents and testimonies of the complaints and all of the abuses the migrants suffer; to be more knowledgeable about the abuse and corruption that the Mexican border authorities direct against Central American migrants; and to use pictures – painful and touching images – to reveal the physical scars, the pain, and the humiliation of those who at one point allowed themselves to dream of something better. (Source)
In Maria Jose Garcia Piaggio’s “Through the Window,” she appropriates found images as part of her investigation about cybersex. A project in two parts, the images of men capture them watching though free portals; the women’s photos are taken from live shows where the viewer has to pay to participate.
“I want to be able to show these scenarios that we all know are there but we keep hidden, deconstructing it from the virtual context and taking it to other scenarios to show these two groups to the viewer.”
There’s no mention in the project description of consent, so it’s unclear whether these voyeurs and provocateurs are willing participants in this project. Likewise, there are no descriptive texts or photographer/videographer credits available. Since these are found images, Piaggio serves less as an artist and more as a curator of these experiences. The images she’s chosen are interesting in their variety: the men’s and women’s faces are both alternately fully exposed and hidden. Rooms are revealed in the background, or left darkened and unspecific. Some subjects smile into the camera, others seem unaware that they’re being photographed.
It’s a broad subject and a provocative one, and Piaggio’s notes indicate that this is just the start of the project. She says, “I reflect about the body, the pose and the clichés.” In continuing to compile these images, Piaggio has the opportunity to push past the expected and reveal more about the proclivities of the watchers and the watched.
UK-based artist San Pierre has a slightly unorthodox method when creating his work. Instead of displaying a simple image in a frame, he draws designs over top of the print with threads that are secured with nuts and bolts. These intricate, criss-crossing strings form delicate shapes that alter how the viewer interprets the image. Depending on the depth and color of the strings, the artwork might appear diffused or distorted with geometric fragments.
Pierre’s use of thread adds not only a physical layer onto his work, but a conceptual one as well. His piece titled Discontent No. 6 (top two images) features a dark figure who looks as though they’re trying to gingerly find their way. With the technicolor strings, however, it now reads as a barrier or a wall. Instead of freedom, this being is trapped. (Via My Amp Goes to 11)
Interested in transformation and inspired by his local landscape, Portuguese photographer Tito Mouraz captures the manmade metamorphosis of his surroundings in his book and photographic series, Open Space Office.
Over the course of three years, Mouraz documented an increasing number of human-driven changes to a landscape once familiar to him. Railroad tracks bisecting boulders, tires sitting in murky runoff, and electric cords lining rock formations are just a few examples of the interrupted environments chronicled in Open Space Office, which the photographer describes as “completely and irreversibly transformed.” He explains:
. . . The work presented aims to portray a reality that suffers an ongoing daily process of rapid transformation. Therefore, the pictures show a temporary reality inserted in a natural landscape undergoing progressive transmutation. They are unique and imposing spaces with an undeniable visual impact which bestows on the images a strong formal and plastic content.
Unique and revealing, the 24 images presented in Mouraz’s Open Space Office offer a striking glimpse into a transformed landscape and, ultimately, convey the enduring—albeit complicated— relationship between man and nature.
Elly Heise is a commercial and fine arts photographer who’s created a series where daughters do their mother’s makeup. Some of the results are close to conventional makeup application, but for the most part the girls were very creative. Children, in art and evidently makeup, are always able to think outside the box. It’s exciting to see what they can come up with.
What’s a bit strange about the series is that the portraits are quite serious. In many the mothers look sad, and in combination with makeup that in some cases resembles bruising, it sends a mixed message.
Heise states of her fine art photography:
“My artistic practice often involves psychological inquiries I make concerning our identities. I see photography as a potential medium that can represent the outer physical identity of a subject while simultaneously expressing their natural drives. I hope that my work will cause my audience to consider the natural and unnatural influences that affect the formation of their own identities. I aspire to make images that give voice to the photographic subject’s realism and the humanity existing behind their masks.”
The #daughterdoesmymakeup series deals with themes of mask and identity. It highlights the absurdity of makeup as a mask with which to hide our natural beauty. It also demonstrates the creativity of a mind not yet strongly influenced by standardized beauty.(Via 123 Inspiration)
Italian illustrator Virginia Mori uses black ballpoint pen and pencil on paper to create strange, lady-centric compositions. The minimal drawings feature long-haired women in surreal situations. Heads are often seen severed or parts of the body are fused with furniture. Although they are weird, Mori’s work isn’t gruesome. Even when a umbrella handle is coming out of a character’s mouth, there’s no blood or guts. It’s simply a surreal scene.
Mori separates mind from body, in both literal and figurative ways. Heads are rolling, they exist on different levels, and are obstructed by hair. It represents the idea that we can “disconnect” our mental from our physical self, and that this separation can feel like two entities. But in Mori’s illustrations, what causes it? Mystics? Physical ailments? Lessons not learned? The sparse compositions allow for multiple interpretations.
Sacha Goldberger‘s done it again, capturing the spark of magic realism in a world similar to his Super Grandma series. This time, his photographs look like snapshots from an alternate super-history: one where Captain America poses for a 17th Flemish painter, the Hulk is super fancy, and Wolverine struggles mightily to dress himself in the morning. The series, called “Super Flemish,” shows a softer side of iconic childhood heroes and villains. Rather than valiant, Batman strikes a contemplative pose; beside him is a stoically dignified Robin. Alice of Wonderland fame seems grown up and wiser, perhaps having taken some of her own advice. Hands folded modestly, Wonderwoman looks almost docile.
“The collection demonstrates the use of 17 century techniques counterpointing light and shadow to illustrate nobility and fragility of the super powerful of all times,” reads the artist’s statement. “… The superheroes often live their lives cloaked in anonymity. These portraits give them a chance to ‘fix’ their narcissism denied.”
Goldberger’s photo series reframes modern heroes in a way that’s almost mundane but still removed enough by a handful of centuries so as to seem magical. Instead of fighting world-eaters and galactic villains, one could imagines them instead taking tea in the garden and brooding over their eighth praline — or whatever it is that’s hip in the county of Flanders.
He also pulls back the mask to show something undeniably human. “As science fiction meets history of art,” Goldberger says, “time meets an inexhaustible desire for mythology which is within each of us.”
Portland painter Hickory Mertsching has a penchant for life, death and nature: both wild and man-made. His still lifes, done in oil, showcase a confluence of symbolism with many conflicting elements. Throughout his work, one sees a running commentary of environmental negligence, and human impact through littering and deforestation. Animals juxtaposed with crushed beer cans and chainsaws showcase not only the symbolic reference of destruction but also the aesthetics of defacing the environment through litter and clear-cutting. The animals interact, oblivious to the objects, as in real life: nature cannot defend itself nor comment on our treatment of it.
It is hard to view Mertsching’s paintings without feeling a paroxysm of guilt toward existing and participating in a time of such extreme usability; within a culture that bulldozes through natural resources, sidelines scientific research in the name of profit and economic interests, everyone meets a moment where they have to wonder just how bad their impact is on the world and what they could be doing differently.
Even so, Mertsching’s paintings focus on a larger set of paradoxes than just that. There is the implied confusion within viewing the animals, of which it is uncertain whether they are alive or dead. Many of the landscapes, some on fire and under immediate threat, are not fully realized and hover curiously within the white, negative space of the canvas. The direct confrontation between life force and waste, is beautifully arranged and painted in such a light that the garbage gains an antique presence, a glowing look, one that only highlights the ridiculousness of how we treat our environment.
Mertsching’s words on his own work:
“My paintings are about illustrating and presenting unavoidable natural realities by utilizing mundane objects as symbols. The realities constantly challenge our existence and are powerful enough to be beyond our control, always offering more to wonder and question. Such as the rise and fall of a garden in the span of summer it offers sustenance but requires toil for any reward of consumption. Within this cycle all allegorical manners of life occur, crossing paths, pursuits of enlightenment, conflicts of survival, and the passing of time.”