As we wave goodbye to Halloween, let’s take a minute to mediate on the innately striking work of Diane Arbus and her unbiased approach to documenting not just the spookier side of humanity, but even more so, the masks or costumes we present to the world as a species, as human beings, as ourselves . . . year-round.
Now, when I use the word “unbiased” here I am not suggesting Arbus’s eye is roaming and invisible. Quite the contrary. Her eye is always distinctly there: focused, from one frame to the next. This “unbiased” quality has more to do with her indiscriminate examination of each subject in the same oddly intimate and unflinching way– regardless of class, age, gender, sexual preference, or race. In other words, a child with a toy hand grenade in the park looks equally as strange as the a woman lounging next to a toy poodle or a handful of residents dressed up on Halloween at a home for the mentally retarded. No one person, group, or act is more privileged. No one is all the more beautiful. We are all playing dress-up as far as identity and image is concerned.
By seeking out each individual’s innate desire to present him or herself and critically or creatively twisting that into her own perception of costume in each person’s presentation, Arbus became not just a photographer, but an alchemist, shifting our ideas of self, reality, and personal intention. Whether you are a part of celebrity culture or a more marginalized society spread out along the fringe, Arbus’s certain way of looking did not glorify one way of living over the other.
In his new book, Across the Ravaged Land,photographer Nick Brandt features petrified animal remains found along a lake in Northern Tanzania that contains lethal levels of alkaline.
Brandt explains, “I unexpectedly found the creatures – all manner of birds and bats – washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania. No-one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake’s surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake. The water has an extremely high soda and salt content, so high that it would strip the ink off my Kodak film boxes within a few seconds. The soda and salt causes the creatures to calcify, perfectly preserved, as they dry.
I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in ‘living’ positions, bringing them back to ‘life’, as it were. Reanimated, alive again in death.” (via gizmondo)
The photographs of Jan Erik Waider seem to turn natural formations into abstract sculptures. His series Ice on Black captures icebergs in stark black and white photography. The textures, movement, and shape of the floating ice is surprisingly sculptural. The graceful masses of ice juxtaposed against the larger field of open sea nearly seem like a painterly decision. Waider is a graphic designer by trade, but his passion if for photography and the northern landscape. He specifically captures the majority of his photographs in and near Greenland and Iceland.
Street Artist Joe Boruchow is an expert at manipulating positive and negative space. His work intertwines stark black and white graphic cut outs, often cleverly playing each off the other. Boruchow’s street art compositions are made up of simple but powerful images, wheat paste posters in public spaces. He interacts with his work, much like a stencil or etching, indeed, frequently creating corresponding cut paper pieces of his posters. While adeptly balancing positive and negative space in each poster, Boruchow also give careful attention to the postivie and negative space of the city. His posters can be found filling empty areas of doorways, windows, and walls.
It may take a few glances to realize the work of Juan Carlos Manjarrez are paintings and not photographs. Manjarrez captures an amazing amount of detail and realism in his work. His black and white palette coupled with a photographic sensibility only add to his paintings’ hyper-realism. Amazingly, Manjarrez is a self-taught painter – though he has attended graduate school, he majored in architecture. Manjarrez has been exhibiting professionally for the past twenty years.
Brazilian street artist Claudio Ethos creates huge black and white murals often cover entire buildings. His unique highly detailed style resembles wildly enlarged drawings. However, this isn’t entirely far from the reality of Ethos’ process. His pieces often begin as meticulous ball point pen drawings. Ethos’ talent isn’t only in his creative imagery or drawing skills, but his ability to replicate these drawings on an enormous scale. The resulting style is one that is large in size without being imposing, personal as if you were holding the page yourself.
Kathryn Mayo and Doug Winter, a husband and wife photography team based in Sacramento, collaborate with their models to create vintage portraits, seemingly of the past, using the traditional wet plate collodion process. This type of photography was born in the 1850s, but soon faded from the foreground, due to the proliferation of more practical, less time consuming processes involving dry gelatin emulsion.
However, in today’s fast-paced iPhone app culture, where formatting is clean, easy, and instantaneous, ironically, the slow painstaking process is exactly what this artistic pair prefer about collodion. Mayo elaborates, “Each image takes about 15-20 minutes to complete from focusing the camera, coating and sensitizing the plate, exposing, and processing. So, models need to have patience as not each image comes out perfect, and it takes a few to get one we like–sometimes, there are times when the chemistry isn’t working up to par and we don’t get anything at all.” Regardless of outcome, their passion is not just about product, but discovery and investigation. Mayo continues, “I love the idea of using a process steeped in history and with the ghosts of photographers who have come before me. It is a process that is wholly addicting.”
Young Hungarian photographer Noell Oszvald creates elegantly surreal images. Her black and white photographs resemble mid-century fashion photography as much as it does the work of her surrealist influences. Severe contrasts between light and dark create graceful lines and a definite composition for each piece. In this way each image is intriguing, not only for its dreamy content but also because they are simply pleasing to look at. Perhaps what is most surprising, though, is the fact Oszvald’s relationship with the camera is relatively new. Only twenty-two years old Oszvald has only been using the medium for a little over a year. [via]