Pieter Hugo’s Portraits Reveal Skin Impurities To Comment On Race And Beauty

Federica Angelucci, Cape Town, 2011

Federica Angelucci, Cape Town, 2011

Ulrica Knutsdotter, Cape Town, 2011

Ulrica Knutsdotter, Cape Town, 2011

Rob van Vuuren, Cape Town, 2011

Rob van Vuuren, Cape Town, 2011

Pieter Hugo, a South African photographer, plays with color channel manipulation to create portraits that highlight the impurities on his subject’s skin to make a statement about race, the colonial experiment in South Africa, and contemporary ideas of beauty.

There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends entails portraits of the artist’s friends- all whom call South Africa their home. Through the manipulation of color, Hugo emphasizes the sitter’s blemishes and sun damage making them look darker than they would normally appear without the editing process.

In these portraits one sees how the sitters’ environment, a place where there is incredibly harsh sunlight, has started to ‘corrode’ our epidermis. This speaks to me about the South African colonial experiment – all these people from all over the world, thrown together within the confines of a nation by the forces of history. The damage left by the sun and the environment becomes allegorical of the burden of South Africa’s tempestuous and fraught past. History leaves its marks on us. It eats away at us. We cannot escape its heavy weight.

Besides the political allegories found in the work, Hugo is also interested in highlighting the errors of racial distinction by revealing that beneath it all, beneath our skin, we all look the same. As the critic Aaron Schuman writes about Hugo’s work, “although at first glance we may look ‘black’ or ‘white’, the components that remain ‘active’ beneath the surface consist of a much broader spectrum. What superficially appears to divide us is in fact something that we all share, and like these photographs, we are not merely black and white – we are red, yellow, brown, and so on; we are all, in fact, colored.” (Images via Stevenson)

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Selina Roman’s Burqa Project Offers Viewers Lateral Perspectives

Growth

Growth

Memories of Childhood

Memories of Childhood

Pink Float

Pink Float

The Burqa, full-body cover up worn primarily by Islamic women of faith, has been subject of much controversy for decades, especially in Western societies. Many say that the garment oppresses women, leaving them astray and without a voice in a world were men dominate them.

Selina Roman‘s Burqa Project takes the Burqa and turns its literal meaning around through the medium of photography and visual composition in order to challenge the viewer’s mainstream knowledge of it.

Roman, a former reporter, hopes to offer her audience a different view point, a new way of seeing, she comments on her artist statement.

Although the Burqa is shrouded in religious significance, I take it out of this context in an attempt to explore these other attributes. Instead of showcasing it as an oppressive garment, I place the Burqa in idyllic Florida landscapes to let it float and billow. In turn, it becomes an ephemeral and weightless object removed from its politicized context.

Apart from Roman’s obvious emphasis on the beauty and femininity that these garments project,  she also wants to shed light on the qualities that we often forget to acknowledge. There are many interesting characteristics that the Burqa provides to any that wears it- i.e anonymity, security, and power.

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Joseph Parra’s Manipulated Photographs Are Braided, Folded, Cut, And Scratched To Reveal The Unseen

Joseph Parra - Digital Print Joseph Parra - Digital PrintJoseph Parra - Digital Print

Joseph Parra is an artist working with the human portrait and figure. While he obviously draws and paints very well, Parra is not necessarily concerned with perfectly replicating what someone looks like. He finds this notion limiting to an artist; after all, a photo or realistic painting can only go so far. You’ve made someone look like their outward appearance, but now what?

Parra strives to delve deeper into the figure or portrait and reveal what is unseen. His work questions what it means to be human using a couple of different methods. One way is through layers. Aside from a portrait, he adds of media that distorts the face or the body. Parra scrapes, pricks, and sands his subjects. In his words, this is “acting as reminders that we are merely a union of ideas.” Additionally, he will cut, braid, or fold paper as a way to express the complex nature of humanity. Oneself (directly below) is the same portrait but manipulated in three different ways. It references the fractured, multiple, and twisted ways we often view ourselves. Some days we think we’re great, while others we are loathsome.

Much of Parra’s work is screen prints and digital prints, which I think enhance his ideas and again parallels the human experience. We see these images mutilated and/or distorted, and they look very textural. Yet up close, they are mostly reproduced images and have a smooth sheen – the rawness is kept contained. I compare it to having a friend who appears very put together on the surface, but beneath you know they are a mess.

Parra was featured last year on Beautiful/Decay, not long after graduating college. Since then, he’s created more work that focuses on the braiding or manipulating of paper, which are some of my favorite pieces. I’m looking forward to seeing where Parra goes from here.

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Petros Chrisostomou’s Photographs Trick Your Sense Of Scale

Chrisostomou, Photography

Chrisostomou, Photography

Chrisostomou, Photography

Petros Chrisostomou, a New York based photographer, plays with scale, mass-produced and ephemeral objects, and hand-crafted mini architectural models in order to challenge the viewer’s visual certainties, and visual signifiers of contemporary mass culture.

The multi-faceted works resemble lively assemblages of what seem to be large-scaled mundane objects in exaggerated interiors – some resembling wreckage, and others referencing the extravagance of a Rococo palace.

Christosomou’s photographs become the field for mixing the high- and the low-brow, mass culture and genre painting, the luxurious and the expendable, as indications of social class distinctions. At the same time, the relations between the real and the imaginary in his oeuvre are a commentary on the mediated images of contemporary mass media that distort the natural and immediate dimension of our relation to reality, determining, among other things, the conditions for viewing and receiving art. 

The relevance of this body of work does not completely rely on its technical complexities, and cultural commentary, but also in its visual power. We know that the artist is not fabricating monumental sculptures resembling stiletto shoes, instead he is fabricating small-scaled architectural spaces- that play out with the objects, making them look bigger than they seem. It is important to notice, as curator Tina Pandi points out that “the alteration of scale and reversal of the relation between object and environment, between imaginary and real space.”

(Photos via Ignat Quotes via Artist’s Website)

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Clarissa Bonet’s Somber Reconstructions Of The Urban Landscape

Clarissa Bonet

Clarissa Bonet Photography

Clarissa Bonet Photography 1

Everyone has a different perception of the city, to some it might feel luxurious and culturally rich, to others it might appear to be dirty and smelly, and to many natives, including Chicago based artist Clarissa Bonet, the city is this somber, anonymous, and emotionally charged space.

Bonet’s acclaimed on-going series, City Space, captures her personal perception of the urban landscape and its relationship to the ones that inhabit it.

“The Urban space is striking. Its tall and mysterious building, crowds of anonymous people, and endless seas of concrete constantly intrigue me,” the artist says.  

Her images are reconstructions of her perceptions/past experiences in the cityscape. Some may seem overly dramatic- as her play with lights and darks and muted colors, as she mentions in her artist statement on her website, are both visual strategies she is interested in working with.

On her artist statement, she also mentions that she reconstructs “the city as a stage to transform the physical space into a psychological one. The images […] do not represent a commonality of experience but instead prove a personal interpretation of the urban landscape.”

One of the most interesting elements in this body of work is her ability to transfer what would seem to be a mundane act on the streets to a scene that speaks of the human psyche, and emotion in general. Her subjects, most with their head down or covered, seem to purposely appear anonymous, giving the viewer a sense of them not being there, as they blend with the rest of the composition. Could this be cultural commentary/criticism on behalf of the artist? That is not out of the question, as these powerful and somber, yet beautiful images do make the viewer question contemporary living in the cityscape.

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Photographs Reveal Before And After Transformations Of Drag Queens

Heidi Glum

Heidi Glum

Vivienne Pinay

Vivienne Pinay

Adriana LeGlam

Adriana LeGlam

Leland Bobbé, a New York based photographer, has compiled a series of stunning and complex images that further examine the drag queen persona, what it consist of, its controversies, and multifaceted physical aspects.His ongoing project, ‘Half-Drag . . . A Different Kind of Beauty’, has made a huge impact. Consequently, landing the photographer several awards and features in international art fairs.

The collection provides the viewer with an interesting perspective. These photographs, composed and stylized through the power of hair and makeup, are captured in one snap, and are not digitally composed- which is a lot to take on, knowing that the process could have been much easier having used Photoshop or other editing programs.

I think that Bobbé artistic choices say a lot about the points he is trying to convey with this collection of images. Moreover, there would only be this much vulnerability and honesty if the images were captured this way, and in this way only. Having his sitters pose with their two identities up-front and exposed is one hell of a statement. The sincerity, humble approach of the photographer and sitter alike, lets us in on the queens’ little secret and questions gender constructs, current law, human right initiatives and the possible lack-there-of.

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Ellen Jantzen’s Arresting Photo series ‘Disturbing The Spirits’

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Ellen Jantzen‘s newest photoseries, Disturbing The Spirits, explores the photographers recent interest in the healing power of nature. In her series’ statement, the St. Louis-born photographer questions, “As human actions impact the natural environment, can artists heal nature? Does art bring “special powers” to the table? If so, what are they? What is ‘art’? What is ‘nature’? What needs healing?

Focusing on the cameras ability to record fleeting elements of natural elements, Jantzen hopes to bring attention and connection to our environment, often represented in the series by trees. The artist explains, “In “Disturbing the Spirits” I am using imagery to convey my feelings about the state of nature, the nature of trees, and how to express their connection to past, present and future.” The added element of digital manipulation, pulling the image into sheets of linear veils both obscures the focus, yet creates an alluring, gossamer magnetism. Jantzen continues, “By obscuring a portion of the image through a veil, I strive to heighten the remaining reality through discovery and reflection.” The work is made more convincing by using these digital aftereffects, bringing attention to the necessary connection (and beauty) possible when both human and nature coexist. 

Although many of the photos present human-altered versions of bucolic landscapes, forests and watery reflections, Jantzen’s work does not seem to say that the natural world is perfection. Rather, the images she depicts are impermanent, and simply reconnecting with nature is not a remedy to our human condition. Instead, the transience (if respected and protected) is the beauty, and will continue to regenerate forever if allowed. Jantzen acknowledges this, stating “(trees) are seen as powerful symbols of growth, decay and resurrection….a tree’s longevity can lull us into a false sense of immortality. It is this very impermanence that I long to understand through my photographic explorations. There is an ineffable natural beauty…. too great to be expressed or described in words.” (via lancia trendvisions)

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Uta Barth’s Photographs Quote The Lightness In Her Own Life

Uta Barth - Photography

Uta Barth - Photography

Uta Barth - Photography

Uta Barth uses photography to capture her own personal dreamy moments with light, and in doing so, exposes its environmental power over our solitude and romance . . . or romance with solitude.

As a viewer, I find myself drawn to the window, the curtain, and the wall in each piece, not only because it’s illuminated accordingly with sharp visceral attention, but also because I’m intrigued with how the mundane awakens. It feels childlike, reminiscient of a world without technology and other busy distractions. Ironically, or maybe not so, it also feels wise– close to death. There’s drama in the little details as the hand pulls back the curtain or the camera approaches the glow. It’s not so much about being a voyeur as it is about being here and being still– sharing the space where light opens into mood and reflection.

Of her work, Barth notes, “In most photographs the subject and the content are one and the same thing. My work is first and foremost about perception.”

To say these pieces are only about composition: space or pattern, would be to ignore the aura around the intention of these images, which are all shot inside her home– there’s a depth that resonates with an almost intrinsic documentary feeling. Unlike James Turrell, she does not appear to be mathematically immersing us in the immediate moment of light and awareness; instead, she’s quoting from the lightness in her own life, and we are privy enough to bear witness.

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