Heather Cassils And Three Other Artists Present Alternative Narratives Of Female Sexuality And Identity

Heather Cassils

Heather Cassils

Laura Aguilar

Laura Aguilar

Aimee Hertog

Aimee Hertog

In the digital age and generation of the selfie, a spiraling and often disorienting importance placed on consumerism and commodities permeates even the most remote of regions. Through the billboard jungles and beehive of mass media, images relentlessly promoting youth and sexuality haphazardly depict ideals of femininity. Creating a wormhole of inadequacies, the female form has found itself in a constant tug-of-war in either defending its natural state or scrambling to correct propagated notions of aesthetic shortcomings. As Barbara Kruger famously stated on one of her notorious gelatin silver prints from the 1980’s, “You Are Not Yourself”.

The following artists featured turn these preconceived notions on their head while reconstructing a refreshing narrative of female sexuality and identity. Featured artists include  Laura Aguilar, Aimee Hertog, Heather Cassils, and Marina Santana.

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Jason Houge’s Intimate Look At The Lives Of Feral Cats

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With the help of their local Cats Anonymous organization, photographer Jason Houge and his girlfriend have been feeding and caring for a colony of 30 (for now) feral cats that occupy the couple’s rural Wisconsin property. When they first moved into to their home, cats would come and go, but in 2012, one family of cats stuck around longer than a season. Thus began the start of Houge’s cat family, a family that he has recently been documenting via Instagram“There’s not a lot of understanding of cats, even when they live in your home,” Houge says. “I was mostly interested in seeing how they lived and interacted within a colony.” Houge’s photographs capture the wildness of the feral cats, the use of black and white emphasizing outdoor light and shadows from which the cats emerge. There’s an intimacy to these photographs that could only be captured with the cats’ trust of the photographer.

Noting how quickly a cat population can increase, Houge explains, “It’s likely most people have heard stories of hoarders who live with hundreds of cats. It only takes two intact cats and two or three years to get to that point. A female can have an average of five kittens three times a year and can become pregnant at about six months of age.” (via feature shoot and lens)

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Walter Schels’ Haunting Photographs of People Before and After Death

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At the end of life: a camera lens, desperately recording and archiving the fears of the dying. For the series Life Before Death, the photographer Walter Schels captures the terminally ill in anticipation of the unknown and again in the moment after death. These intimate portraits are the last of a lifetime, documenting the body after some ineffable human essence has vanished. Informed by the words gathered in interview with the subjects by Schels’s partner Beate Lakotta, the haunting shots imagine the invisible, giving form to the most unconquerable human fear.

Schels’s portraits, in their silvery black and white tones, are reminiscent of Victorian post-mortem photography, presenting the dead as if sleeping, their eyes closed and brows gone slack in seeming comfort. These images are poignantly juxtaposed with the interviews, conversations in which even the most mundane, peripheral things of daily life are assigned significance; beside wizened and terrified eyes and coupled with existential wonderings are thoughts on fridge-freezers and local football teams. The banal works against and in service of the tragic; when confronted with death, a burial site and a cup of coffee are equally potent reminders of our mortality.

At the turn of the 20th century, it was believed that the eye recorded the last sight seen by the dead, that with careful study of the ocular nerves, we might reconstruct the moment of death. Schels’s subjects, pictured with gleaming eyes and contained within unrelentingly tight frames, seem to stare into the viewer as they confront inevitable passing, as if to implicate us or to say, “You are the last thing I saw.” (via The Guardian)

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Arthur Tress’ Haunting And Mythological Childhood Dream Interpretations

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Published in 1973, Arthur Tress‘ photo book, The Dream Collector, features visions of childhood dreams and nightmares. Tress began shooting these dream scenarios in the 1960s, first speaking with children about their dreams and nightmares, then staging an interpretation of the children’s visions via photography. During the 60s, staged photography was a rather new development within the photography medium; most photographers were taking shots on the streets. Over the next 20 years, Tress developed his trademark black and white, mythological, surreal photography. The Dream Collector collection represents Tress’ particular style while expressing “how the child’s creative imagination is constantly transforming his existence into magical symbols for unexpressed states of feeling or being.”

“The children would be asked means of acting out their visions or to suggest ways of making them into visual actualities,” Tress explains. “Often the location itself, such as an automobile graveyard or abandoned merry-go-round, would provide the possibility of dreamlike themes and spontaneous improvisation to the photographer and his subjects. In recreating these fantasies there is often a combination of actual dream, mythical archetypes, fairytale, horror movie, comic hook, and imaginative play. These inventions often reflect the child’s inner life, his hopes and fears…”

The Getty Museum recently acquired 66 of Tress’ photographs from two collections, including images from The Dream Collector. (via juxtapoz and gothamist)

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Shelly Mosman’s Intensely Personal Portraits

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The strength of the portraiture tradition, and what separates it from documentary photography, lies in the skill of the photographer to attach meaning and the essence of the person in a simple image. Using metaphor, subtlety, and open-ended but vaguely familiar narrative, photographer Shelly Mosman is able to imbue an intensely personal and soft-spoken beauty to her photographs. Drawn to subjects for reasons she says she often cannot immediately describe, Mosman spends a great deal of time with her subjects, waiting for key moments when their personality is revealed through action, or the subtlest of looks or gestures. “Portraiture relies on the smallest mannerisms and expressions to offer narrative,” says Mosman, “I rely on the spontaneity of circumstance.” 

The Minneapolis-based portraitist continues:

“In my photographs I negotiate and characterize the balance between my own vision and the unknown and often powerful potential given by each portrait’s subject. I am drawn to certain people for the simple reason that I know shooting them will give me an image I could never have created on my own, and because my camera can reveal something they may not have known was in themselves.  It becomes a synthesis of us both, captured in a single photograph. These connections with each subject are often too straightforward and immediate to be conscious, but rather they are something that is felt immediately, coming straight from the gut, which is the home of our instincts.”

Mosman is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for an upcoming exhibition titled Mercury. The show will feature new black and white works, printed with a long-standing (though rarely used) silver gelatin contact technique, overseen by a master printer. They will then be framed in a specially designed cast resin frames, the results of a collaboration with two sculptors. For more information or to donate, click here.

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Forensic Series Captures The Inside Of Homes Where Domestic Homicides Occurred

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Angela Strassheim is photographer who used to capture crime scene images for forensic study. Her series, “Evidence,” documents the inside and outside of homes where domestic homicides have occurred. While the homes’ outside images ring familiar in a non-intimate way, the black and white, long exposure images of the homes’ insides offer a haunting glimpse into a more intimate space. The most unsettling aspect of these images are the noticeable physical traces of disputes – the bright, white flecks and splatters observed in the photos are the result of “Blue Star” solution being applied to surfaces to activate the “physical memory of blood through contacting the remaining DNA proteins.”

Of her series, Strassheim says, “Perhaps we have all processed a question in certain love relationships: Could we be a victim of violence or perform an act of violence against a loved one out of our immense capacity to feel jealousy, anger, rage, and desperation in a moment of extreme emotion?  These photographs allow for the viewer to entertain the idea that this situation could involve anyone of us…The crime scene is presented on two levels; it is both an accurate, tragic, and dramatic transcription of the event and a mysterious backdrop onto which one can project their imagination.” (via it’s nice that and women in photography)

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Daan Botlek’s Silhouetted Street Art Figures Escape From An Abandoned Building

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Daan Botlek‘s trademark figural painted works always evoke a certain one-off kind of narrative, but his latest series, Escape From Wuhlheidecarries this idea even further. Based in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, Botlek (previously here) was exploring an abandoned and graffiti-filled building in Berlin, when the idea of painting an escape came to mind.

While wandering through Wuhlheide looking for some spots to paint the idea arose…to make some sort of storyline of an escape.”

The story in Escape From Wuhlheide reads like a cartoon rendered in real life, blending street art, animation, illustration and painting. Each ‘cell’ of the escape is painted individually, depicting two blanked-outline characters making their way through the dilapidated space, peeking around corners, crawling up walls and climbing ladders. Each ‘cell’ is then photographed, documenting their run away. (via colossal)

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Andy Prokh’s Playful Series Captures Love And Friendship Between A Girl And Her Cats

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Russian-based photographer Andy Prokh captures images of his 6-year-old daughter, Katherine, and her pet cat, LiLu, as they grow up together. With the recent addition of a new feline to the Katherine and LiLu friendship, Prokh has now been photographing the friends as a trio. The threesome play chess, do homework, have tea, and play games with each other. Each photograph tells a story, each story resonating with childhood’s creative imagination. Prokh’s use of black and white enhances the whimsy and nostalgia evoked by his images. Prokh says he takes photographs of the friends because he loves them and believes “a photographer must love what he shoots.” Equally as impressive as his playful, fine art aesthetic is Prokh’s ability to stage and pose his pets, as cats are creatures not generally known for their obedience of human commands. You can check out Prokh’s full gallery of this series on his website. (via my modern met)

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