Here at Beautiful/Decay, we don’t limit our features to art and design created by the human species. In large cities like Tokyo where there are few trees, birds may find it hard to come by nesting materials. Because of this lack, crafty crows have begun to use wire coat hangers to build their abodes, stealing them from nearby apartments. Crows’ nests are typically composed of interlocking twigs and some wire to create a sturdy structure for the birds’ eggs so it’s not hard to understand how hangers could be deemed appropriate materials by the crows. These wiry nests appear sculptural in their construction, their placements among tree branches marking a stark contrast between the natural and man-made. Crows are intelligent creatures and have been known to recognize human faces, bend wires into hooks in order reach food, crack open walnuts by dropping them from a height, and even memorize garbage truck schedules in order to track down food supplies. (via amusing planet)
Nearly 10 years ago, photographer Rachel Sussman began researching with biologists and traveling world to document forms of natural life that are at least 2,000 years old for her project titled “The Oldest Living Things in the World.” Part art, part science, Sussman’s project engages with the natural world in order to capture a brief moment in the organisms’ millenia-old lives; her photographs ask viewers to consider their own lives alongside these natural ones, some on the verge of extinction. Each of her photographs includes text below the image describing the subject, its location, and its age. In the preface to her project’s book, Sussman writes,
“What does it mean when the organic goes head-to-head with the geologic? We start talking about deep time and the quotidian in the same breath, along with all the strata in between. All of these organisms are living palimpsests: they contain myriad layers of their own histories within themselves, along with records of natural and human events; new chapters written over the old, year after year, millennium after millennium. When we look at them in the frame of deep time, a bigger picture emerges, and we start to see how all of the individuals have stories, and that all of those stories are in turn interconnected — and in turn, inextricably connected to us all.
The oldest living things in the world are a record and celebration of the past, a call to action in the present, and a barometer of our future.”
To fuel more intrigue, be sure to check out filmmaker Jonathan Minnard’s trailer for Sussman’s book as well as Sussman’s 2010 TED Talk about her project. (via brain pickings)
Last week, we featured remarkable photographs of snails by Vyacheslav Mischenko; the Indonesian-based photographer Nordin Seruyan takes similar yet wonderfully unique shots of the astonishing insect life flourishing in Southeast Asia. The magical images feature absurd little creatures that seem to spring from a budding daydream, and amongst brilliant pinks and purples, their spidery eyes and buoyant, spindly legs take center stage.
In their unknowingness, the beautiful creatures are movingly personified; Seruyan often positions his subjects slightly off of center, as if to amusingly suggest that they are simply dropping in for a portrait session. Beady eyes gape open expressively; antennae twitch thoughtfully, and wings brush against one another. Arachnids, normally pictured as frightful, carnivorous creatures, appear quaint (twee, even!) amidst soft, inviting petals that seem to blush bashfully with color.
The high resolution and vivid saturation of Seruyan’s photographs document even the smallest detail of the insect body: the space between a doubled set of wings, the articulation of twiggy limps, the coarsest fuzz that envelops the body. Within this magical miniature world, viewers are invited to imagine narratives for the creatures. Small as the smallest water droplet, a beetle bows his tiny head for a drink, balancing himself atop a weighted blade of grass. Moths mate amongst flower petals fit for the finest honeymoon bedchamber.
These tiny beings and their delightful goings-on serve to remind us of the wonderfully diverse, colorful, and textured planet we inhabit, and the artist entreats us that we might “discover the beauty of the little world.” Take a look. (via Design Taxi)
The photographer Vyacheslav Mishchenko spent much of his childhood in nature; following his father on mushroom hunting expeditions, he often crouched to the ground in rapt fascination with the tiny, slimy, and colorful wonderland of bugs. As an adult, he returns to this kingdom of imagination, cataloguing the daily lives of snails.
Breaking from the objectivity of traditional nature photography, Mishchenko’s soulful images read like a children’s storybook, filled with unexpected emotionality and suspense. The expertly-shot macro images frame the miniature snail landscapes in miraculous detail, seducing viewers into a world of Alice In Wonderland mushrooms and plump fruits. Shot from the vantage-point of teensy, unsuspecting creatures, the world seems vast and dazzlingly fertile.
The delicate creatures, seen so vividly, become startlingly powerful, their muscular bodies twisting and writhing around newly-budding stems. In this strange and enchanting visual narrative, snails become lovers who gently kiss, seemingly forming one long, sticky body in their embrace. They curiously extend towards succulent forbidden fruits that drip with raindrops; as if in some natural Eden, they hide their bodies in fantastic shells.
Reflected many times over in perfectly rounded dewdrops and in the artist’s own lens, the snails seem to verge on the point of self-awareneness. As if to evoke the metaphor applied to Helena and Hermia, the young heroines of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, two snails arch their bodies over twin cherries, ripe and red. It’s miraculous what goes on beneath our feet, and I cannot think of better set of images to get us in the mood for spring. (via BUST)
Danish photographer Torkil Gudnason lives in New York City where he is mostly known for his work in fashion photography. As a side project, Gudnason creates botanical still lives using soft, ethereal lighting for his series “Electric Blossom” and “Hothouse Color.” Gudnason constructs his shots so that brightly colored backgrounds accent the flowers’ rich spectrum of color and texture. Gudnason compares the emergence of springtime to an explosion, noticing the energy that bursts forth during the change of seasons. He says, “I’ll glance out the window of my studio, and see a flower blooming in a most surprising place. Such a contrast—like magic. I think about how the flower got there and how it survives, how strong flowers are.”
The bright colors and contrasts in Gudnason’s botanical photography nearly render the images unnatural, as if they have been digitally manipulated. This illusion of artificiality enhances the beauty of the photography by asking the viewer to consider the boundaries of the natural and man-made, and the role of the photographer in creating alternate perceptions of reality. (via cross connect and plant propaganda)
In order to shoot this incredible time-lapse video of fireflies, photographer Vincent Brady used every photography trick he could think of – image stacking, 360 star trail panoramas, and macro shooting. He even learned how to operate a pontoon boat so he could frame his shots just right. The idea for the project began while Brady was celebrating his mother’s birthday in Lake of the Ozarks in April 2012. He noticed there was an unusually high number of fireflies due to an irregularly warm spring. By the summer of 2013, Brady had dug deeper into the project, and captured the images that comprise this awe-inspiring video.
You can visit his site to find out more information about each setting and time-lapse series included in the video, as well as learning of Brady’s affinity for the flickering creatures: “If your significant other ever says, ‘Honey, we need to spray the yard, we have a firefly problem.’ Break up, divorce, and get a restraining order right away! Fireflies just bless you with their presence, light up, make love, and call it a life.” (via colossal)
French artist Gilles Cenazandotti constructs life-size animals out of litter he’s combed from beaches, recycling a variety of plastics and other detritus. Titled, “Future Bestiary,” this series of sculptures directly addresses problems related to throw-away culture and the waste that results from conspicuous consumption. When the creatures are inserted into natural landscapes, they almost appear digitally rendered because the contrast between natural and man-made elements is so pronounced. Of his work, Cenazandotti says,
“Impressed by everything that the Sea, in turn, rejects and transforms, on the beaches I harvest the products derived from petroleum and its industry. The choice of animals that are part of the endangered species completes this process. In covering these animals with a new skin harvested from the banks of the Sea, I hope to draw attention to this possible metamorphosis – to create a trompe l’oeil of a modified reality.” (via laughing squid and junk culture)
Kevin Cooley creates Controlled Burns, a series of striking images that showcase swirling and imposing clouds of black, white, and gray smoke. Inspired by the communicative purpose of smoke signals during Papal conclave, the series focuses on ideas and actions dealing with communication, specifically human interactions with nature.
Cooley creates and manufactures the images himself, the smoke is real, and so is the fire creating it, but the artist here is rendering an image, controlling it and taking charge of something that can potentially be uncontrollable. The project is indicative of something we are well aware of, particularly our impotence yet possibility to control natural, powerful elements in our world. The paradox makes us contemplate on something we know, but do not really think about often.
Fire is a powerful natural force that we harness for greater good, and it is the only Classical element that we can create on demand. Yet, when out of control, it has the potential for grave destruction. Controlled Burns is a visual representation of this inherit duality, symbolic of our desire to conquer and control, reminding us that sometimes we must fight fire with fire.
Beginning January 11th, 2014, the Kopeikin Gallery will present Cooley’s work in UNEXPLORED TERRITORY, an interdisciplinary exhibition that explores “the limits of human exploration and our desire to conquer and control nature.” Themes range from colonial exploration of the American West, harnessing fire in the form of combustion to launch rockets into space, to anthropomorphic actions of everyday objects such as box fans, and helium balloons.