Diane Arbus: Photographing Freaks Or The Costumes We Wear Year-Round

Diane Arbus - Photography

Diane Arbus - Photography Diane Arbus - Photography

Diane Arbus - Photography

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.

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Sara Cwynar’s Photographs Still Lifes Made of Junk

Sara Cwynar - Photography

Sara Cwynar - Photography Sara Cwynar - Photography

The exact color of that Ginger Ale can is important to artist Sara Cwynar. Her work revolves around the careful curation of both fantastic and banal objects. She arranges and later photographs these assemblages, which range from color studies to chaotic interpretations of old works of art.

You might be familiar with 16th and 17th century Dutch Flower paintings. If not, then they are exactly as they sound; Still life paintings of flower arrangements. They are colorful and realistically rendered pictures. Their realism is almost boring, until you find out that these paintings were meant to brighten up the interior of homes during the winter months when real flowers were dead. In her Flat Death series, Cwynar took old reproduced pictures of these flowers and overtop placed it with the likes of cheap plastic toys, fake leaves, rolls of tape, and dish gloves.  A sophisticated painting is recreated out of junk, creating a cognitive dissonance.

Color Studies is another still life series. Instead of parodying of an already existing work, Cwynar gathers objects of a similar color. They include old marching band uniforms, encyclopedias, lemons, old slide film, cigarettes, and so much more. Photographs feel really dated, like a teenager’s room in the 1970’s. This is Cwynar’s intention. In an interview with Lavalette, she states:

I thought a lot about the aesthetic patterns you see in these pictures – a particular lighting, a slickness, a high level of detail. I’m also trying to recycle and subvert conventions of product and commercial photography by using elements that aren’t normally associated with these genres – objects that are now discarded or forgotten, intentional scuffing, not glossy at all.

It’s easy to be intrigued by Cwynar’s work. She utilizes conventional objects and through assemblage, allows us to experience them in a new way.

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Aldo Tolino’s Folded Photographs Transformed Into Geometric Sculptures

Sculpture

folded photographs

photograph sculptures

Austrian artist, Aldo Tolino, creates sculptural objects out of printed photographs. The printed-photograph-turned-sculpture is then photographed, and the end ‘result’ is what you see here.

The folding techniques vary and so do the photographs; this is what makes the work interesting, as there are infinite number of permutations that will work for this purpose. The redundancy of the project is much like a philosophical argument, one that loops around and is at some point, unanswerable.

The fact that the folded photograph is photographed is also an interesting factor, as it creates and thought-provoking dialogue between both the precision and the inaccuracy that the medium of photography inherits through time.

Besides being an artist, Tolino is also a philosopher and he is currently working on a book project called Interferenz, which precisely deals with the themes explored here: paper, folding, image, object, sculpture, texture and recursion. (via IGNANT)

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Filip Dujardin’s Fictional Photographs Of Real Buildings

Filip Dujardin - Photograph

Filip Dujardin - Photograph

Filip Dujardin - Photograph

Filip Dujardin photographs buildings that are post modern and mundane. They are nondescript and unassuming. He has a way of spicing things up, though. With the help of Photoshop, Dujardin uses these photos and remixes them into structures we’ve never seen before and could never exist in our world. His series of images, titled Fictions, is just that, but done so seamlessly and with such mastery that we might think they are real.

Dujardin’s work contains some spectacular things. Buildings are labyrinths and Escher-eque in their construction. You could travel the same path over and over again, but never get anywhere. Oh well, who cares? You probably can’t even get inside. They don’t have entrances; they are simply a mass of siding and concrete.

Dujardin’s architecture is a mass of things that we love looking at buildings.  Surface decoration is more important than structural integrity. Take, for instance, the windows. In multiple photographs, he’s adorned building with all different factory-style windows.The varying color and size is a design decision, and he places them in clusters. Likewise, he uses the repeating of balconies, ducts, and vents to create patterns. Metal siding is collaged based on color combination than anything having to do with an actual building.

We can try to apply logic to Dujardin’s structures. We’re probably familiar with these types of buildings, and expect them to look a certain way. But, with Dujardin’s doctored photographs, we cannot. Instead, we can admire them for the fantasy that they are.

After gazing at Dujardin’s work for awhile, it occurs to that this series was probably a lot of fun to create. It’s the digital equivalent of playing with Legos. There are a lot of pieces, and with the help of Photoshop you can cut them up, flip them, and arrange them however you wish.

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Andres Serrano And Three Other Artists Make Work About Death

Andres Serrano

Andres Serrano

Tereza Zelenkova

Tereza Zelenkova

Berlinde De Bruyckere

Berlinde De Bruyckere

Death becomes us all eventually, as we are exploring in the works covered in this two part article.  In light of the Halloween season, and the historical implications of death of this season, we are highlighting artists who create work that addresses or is informed by death and dying.  Part 1 included and discussed the works of Damien Hirst, Doris Salcedo, Angelo Filomeno, Konrad Smolenski and Joel Peter Witkin.  Here we examine the work of Andres Serrano, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Tereza Zelenkova and Oskar Dawicki.

Andres Serrano has built a reputation creating imagery that is shocking and confronts the viewer with heavy content, unapologetically.  His series on death takes this to the next level. Each image, a close-up intimate composition of the deceased subject, is titled according to the cause of death.  The Death Series functions as a mirror of our own mortality, delivered rawly and beautifully in rich colors and blank stares.

The work of Berlinde De Bruyckere is rough and organic, abstractly anatomical and animalistic in delivery.  The artist’s sculptural work emanates a quality that lies somewhere between a murder scene and a meat locker.  De Bruyckere’s pieces have a realistic quality of flesh torn apart yet are executed with fairly common artistic materials such as wax, wood, iron, cotton and wool is captivating.

Tereza Zelenkova created a series entitled Supreme Vice during a journey through the deserts of the Southwest.  Captured in the bleakest and most barren of environments, Zelenkova’s photographic works meditate on death through a poetic narrative that seems to address a spiritual continuum that overlaps life and death and creates a bridge between the two polarities.  The black and white series, that spans grey areas of mortality, is bound in a book, also entitled Supreme Vice.

The obituary series by Oskar Dawicki which was first exhibited in 2004 in a show aptly titled “The end of the world by accident” is far more ironic than the previously mentioned works.  The photographic works capture collages Dawicki assembled of actual obituaries he discovered in the newspaper.  The names of the deceased in the images appear to be celebrities and other famous figures at first glance.  The works toy with the spectrum of perception of significance in the value of human life and death.

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Mark Dorf’s Beautiful Juxtapositions Of Technology And Nature

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Photographer Mark Dorf‘s photoseries //_Path is an exploration of how technology and encroaching singularity affect our relationship and place in the natural world. The Brooklyn-based artist notes “…there is barely a single situation that is not influenced by digital technology and communication through the World Wide Web – the Internet and digital technology has been integrated into nearly every part of our lives and will only continue to become more and more present in our daily routines.”

//_Path seeks to explore this integration in its most visual form; combining bucolic and lush photography with images from collage, digital photographs and renderings, and early 3D scanning techniques. These symbolically-loaded, technologically-sourced alterations serve to represent a “…synthetic form to contrast against the landscape in which they are manifested; a comparison of language.”

Though Dorf is certainly not the only artist working with juxtapositions of technology and the natural world, his work specifically calls attention to the psychological and sociological damage our dependence on the tools we depend on, which once served us and now control us. Acknowledging that this dilemma too is human nature, Dorf seems to call for a combination of understanding: an existence both within the frameworks of our digital lives, and within our natural environment. Dorf explains, “It is no longer about logging on or off, but rather living within and creating harmony with the realms and constructs of the internet for our newest generation of inhabitants.” 

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Jeffrey Stockbridge Photographs Philadelphia’s Urban Decay

Jeffrey Stockbridge Urban Decay

Urban Decay Photography

Urban Decay

During the 19th century, Kensington Avenue in North Philadelphia was a symbol of abundance and prosperity. It once was nationally recognized as one of the leaders in the textile industry. Today, Kensington Avenue is abundant in prostitution, drug lords, drug addicts, and poverty.

Photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge, intrigued by Kensington’s history and current situation, creates Kensington Blues, a collection of photographs that capture the essence of the infamous North Philly Avenue and its urban decay by focusing on its daily activity, its inhabitants, and its cluttered,dirty landscapes in decay.

Stockbridge deliberately chooses to work with a large format (mostly used in early photography), not only for its obvious perks in quality, but also, it seems, to juxtapose the histories of two very different times in Kensington Avenue. With a 4×5 camera, Stockbridge slows down the current hectic and toxic flow in Kensington in hopes of shining a light onto his subject’s day-to-day struggles and their surroundings- making us, the viewers, reconsider our quick judgments about them and what they do on a daily basis.

The photographer records new found observations though images, audio recordings and journal entries. (Via Ignant)

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Angelo Merendino Photographs His Wife’s Battle With Terminal Cancer

1cancer battler

death by cancer

Five months after being wed in Central Park, while most couples are settling into a new blissful life together, Angelo Merendino and his wife Jennifer received troubling news: Jennifer had breast cancer.

Of this diagnosis, and the journey that ensued, Angelo states, “With each challenge we grew closer. Words became less important. One night Jen had just been admitted to the hospital, her pain was out of control. She grabbed my arm, her eyes watering, ‘You have to look in my eyes, that’s the only way I can handle this pain.’”

Angelo took his wife’s request seriously and his photographs, collected here, document not just her struggle with cancer, but also a certain compassionate way of looking– a presence from behind the lens that is not exploiting nor agenda-driven. Each black and white image from Angelo shows the necessity of bearing witness or being a vulnerable presence that is sharing in the difficult and very human experience of love and loss.

Angelo additionally notes, “We loved each other with every bit of our souls. Jen taught me to love, to listen, to give and to believe in others and myself. I’ve never been as happy as I was during this time.”

For those of us touched by cancer, we can relate to Angelo’s statement — sickness is not just about the disease, it’s about relationships: how we deepen with one another by practicing empathy and how this feeling palpably echoes long after someone passes. Capturing this feeling in art, the way Angelo has, connects not just two people, but many millions more.

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