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,” saysMosman, “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 portraitâ€™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. Â It becomes a synthesis of us both, captured in a single photograph. These connections with each subject areÂ 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.”
Sara Angelucci’s intriguing series titled Aviary recalls the past to create strange portraits of birds that are superimposed onto anonymous nineteenth century cartes-de-visite (small, business card sized) photographs. It began by the artist studying the American Victoria area, and she connects its cultural, social, and ecological aspects conceptually to her work.
The nineteenth century was the United States’ colonial era when there was unprecedented expansion, exploration, and an interest in science and art. Family photo albums and commemorating memories were something new, as photography became increasingly common. The collection of cartes-de-visites were like trading cards, and the urge to collect didn’t stop there. People had cabinets of curiosities that included things like taxidermied birds, an interest that lead to the extinction of the passenger pigeon. Angelucci explains in a statement about the work, writing, “Made by combining photographs of endangered or extinct North American birds with anonymous nineteenth century cartes-de-visite portraits—they portray creatures about to become ghosts.”
She goes on to muse:
So how do we read these strange human-birdlike creatures? One could at once see them as manifestations of their time: a hybrid crossover of faith in science with a belief in otherworldly beings. As W. G. Sebald writes in Campo Santo, “[photography is] in essence, after all…nothing but a way of making ghostly apparitions materialize by means of a very dubious magical art.” And, what would it mean to embody another creature: Could one then see, feel, and understand its desire to live? Might we then imagine the Aviary portraits as chimera suspended in a state of empathy, and wonder what our treatment of other sentient beings might be if we could feel what they feel, or see what they see? (Via Observer: Design Observer)
If you’ve ever taken a road trip, you are probably familiar with tourist attractions (also known as tourist traps). Caves are not an uncommon destination for these off-the-highway places, and are often ostentatious with not a lot of intellectual substance. Large-format photographer Austin Irving travelled across America and East Asia photographing these places, which were developed for weary travelers. She titled the series Show Caves.
The caves feature unnatural lighting, revolving doors, public restrooms, and man made design elements. There are penguins, for instance, that line the path of one interior and feels like a disingenuous attempt at showcasing the wonders of the wonders.
There aren’t any crowds in these photos, which allow us to see the attractions clearly. It also showcases the fact that these places are not much different than some place like a suburban shopping mall. (Via Artlog)
Photographer Amelia Bauer’s series Burned Over showcases brilliant spectacles of light with a supernatural twist. The images are inspired by the deeply-infused religious history of the New York region, and the dark forests have an eerie light or haze that is concentrated in a tree or covered clearing. Bauer explains her photographs in an interview with Feature Shoot, stating:
My work is a series of discrete investigations into our cultural conceptions of the natural world. I examine my surroundings, specifically rural Central New York, through a lens of history and mythology. Aesthetic traditions are repositioned to create spaces that exist somewhere between our fears of the uncultivated wild and our romanticism of the ‘virgin’ landscape. In this way I explore the American experience of the frontier — the transitional landscapes at the boundaries of civilization.
In upstate New York, there’s an area called the “burned-over district,” where religious fervor tread through the landscape in the early 19th century. The territory was the birthplace of several early American religious and occult groups like the Shakers and Mormon, as well as the Spiritualists. It’s the Spiritualists who this series is really inspired by, and they believed that Mediums could interact with spirits via seances. They created photographic evidence of these meetings and used gauze, double exposure and darkroom techniques to produce their images. Bauer further explains:
Inspired by these photographs, I set out to make portraits of the landscape that hosted such religious and spiritual pursuits by those early settlers. Working with a pyrotechnics crew, custom fireworks were created specifically for the shoot, and hiked into the forests of rural upstate New York. The photographs that make up the Burned Over series reveal something felt but not seen about these forests, as though the land itself holds a presence we seek to uncover but fear revealing entirely. (Via Feature Shoot)
These surreal landscapes are a series titled Con/struct by South African designer and photographer Justin Plunkett. He compiles imagery into scenes of desolate or forgotten places, where often these structures are the tallest thing on the horizon amongst swirling clouds and dusty streets. They are patched together exteriors of slated roofs, windows, shipping containers with advertisements on them. An artist statement about this series gives insight to these unusual buildings:
Con/Struct is an exploration into the themes of empowerment and imagination. Plunkett, using his own photography, has created new juxtaposed environments that encourage questioning and exploration: inviting the debate around how marketing- induced aspiration and perceived value can empower but can also corrupt, how it can be both perverse and create beauty. At the same time, at the core of his work, he honours and applauds ingenuity and the creative spirit. (Via Colossal)
Photographer Tim Dodd has long loved space, so when he happened to find a vintage Russian high altitude space suit on an auction website, he had to have it. The purchase has definitely been worth it. After owning it six months, he’s worn the suit at least 17 times to photograph himself in the series Everyday Astronaut. It depicts Dodd as an astronaut character that’s doing the everyday activities we all do, like walking the dog, cooking dinner, and grocery shopping, but all with a hilarious (and sometime tragic) twist.
In all of these images, the spacesuit is present. It’s the narrative thread that connects all of the Dodd’s stylishly-shot photographs. The character is an everyman, just going through the day like anyone else, except that he has this special suit. Does it give him super powers? No, but we get the sense that he might think it does, which adds a humorous touch to this series.
It’s impressive at the amount of details that Dodd included in each image. Every photo is an attribution NASA in some way, and some are more obvious than not. Like shopping for tang, watching Apollo 13 on TV, and even down to the bedding, take a look and see if you can spot all of the photographer’s carefully-placed references. (Via Fast Co.Exist)
There’s a new fashion craze that’s happening along Eastern China’s seaside city, Qingdao. Publicly-dubbed “Facekinis,” are protective head masks that are being worn by many beachgoers (mostly women). Photographer Peng Yangjun has documented them in a series of portraits that are set against the backdrop of the beach.
The colorful style is no doubt a strange one, and it’s reminiscent of luchadore and ski masks. This bizarre fashion trend has a more practical purpose, however, and that’s to protect swimmers from the sun, in addition to repelling insects and jellyfish. It’s often paired with long-sleeve bodysuits that help people maintain their natural complexion because bronze skin is often associated with those who perform physical labor in many Asian countries.
We’re often used to seeing swimmers wearing next to nothing or going completely nude. This style takes modesty to the next level, completely covering people up rather than stripping them down. It’s a surreal sight to see someone posed with bare arms and legs but a completely covered face; the photographs showcase an individual style but are devoid of the feeling and emotion we read from the face. (Via Flavorwire)
Photographer Anna Ladd’s poignant series, Things I Told the Internet, But Didn’t Tell My Mom, examines the way that blogging has impacted her life. The Philadelphia-based artist has been sharing her thoughts and feelings via this medium for the past six years, and it’s changed her conception of privacy. Intimate and revealing admissions are made to seemingly countless anonymous people on the web, but has never been talked about in person.
Ladd’s photos depict landscape scenes of backyards with concrete walls, scalloped awnings, and parked bikes. The everyday places are adorned with cut-out letters attached to strings that spell out a phrase that was directly taken from something that she posted online. Sentences, while obviously out of context, communicate sadness and the pains that come from things like loss of love, growing up, or some greater trauma.
There’s a peculiarity to these images, a cognitive dissonance of sorts. We first see the letters like you would at a party, like they are decoration. But a phrase like, “I want to puke and sleep for six days” is not something you’d celebrate. It could be a metaphor for the facade we put on towards the outside world, where we seem happier than we actually are. The anonymity of the web knows our true thoughts and feelings.