Photographer Millicent Hailes recently completed a two-month stay in Los Angeles where she traversed some of the city’s finest strip clubs. “You can find the erotic anywhere, you just have to look for it,” Hailes told Dazed, and her journey included spots where Courtney Love danced pre-grunge era.
Hailes was on the hunt for a club that breaks away from the chauvinistic, clichéd joints that we’re used to seeing. She found a string of clubs where women hold the power, prostitution is low, and the women actually enjoyed themselves. In a place called Cheetahs, Hailes explains, “The girls each had a different style of dance and look, and each danced to a song of their choice,” she says. “It felt a lot more personal, and it was a lot of fun.”
To pay tribute to Cheetahs, Hailes began a project that mirrors the separation between dancer and customer. She placed a sheet of plastic between herself and model Nadia Lee. “The plastic sheeting is a metaphorical barrier between the model and the audience. She is pressed up against it, but you can’t fully see her or touch her,” Hailes explains to Dazed Digital. “I wanted the shoot to seem very ‘bodily’, and by having the body pressed against the plastic and capturing the breath creating a fog over the images, it feels a bit intrusive, but also has a distance because of the sheeting.” (Via Dazed)
Artist Yoon Ji Seon crafts her collection of self-portraits by intricately stitching photographs with a sewing machine. It’s an ongoing series titled Rag Face, and her facial expressions change with every piece. While they appear to us as similar-looking individuals, Seon changes it up with different colors and hairstyles. Despite these idiosyncrasies, each portrait has the same features. Most notably, these are hanging threads that mimic hair or tattered rags. The multiple layers of colors and stitches give these works a painterly effect, as if they are gestural and loosely handled; Seon obscures her images by working with her materials in this way.
In 2015, the artist will have a show at the Yossi Milo Gallery in New York City. They describe the her underlying concepts:
By sewing the photograph, a second image is generated on the back that is both a reflection of the front and a completely new image. The two images, combined with the original photograph as a third representation, recall the Buddhist theory that an object exists in many forms and there is no true form. Yoon Ji Seon’s work addresses Buddhist ideology deeply rooted in contemporary Korean society and confronts issues such as plastic surgery and suppression of speech. (Via My Amp Goes to 11)
It sounds cliche, but scars really do tell stories. They speak of things like accidents, turbulent periods in our lives, and the road to recovery. Sometimes scars have funny origin stories and other times tragic ones. Photographer Sandra Franco explores these permanent body marks in her aptly-titled series, Scars. The quiet, intimate images feature people with these blemishes on their bodies, which are now apart of their physical personal history. Some are more noticeable than others, and on backs, arms, and even the neck. Franco explains Scars, writing:
Memory can be fragile and people find particular ways of holding on to it. Due to their strong evocative power, there is an evident connection between photographs and memories which I find fascinating. In this sense I observe a few parallelisms between scars and photography.
They share not only an aesthetic value, both being affected by the idea of “beauty”, but also an organic quality. Film ages and changes its properties in a similar way our body does, more visible through the marks, wrinkles and eventual scars left in our skin with the passing of time.
Thus, while taking a picture of a particular moment in time, light “scars” the negative, which once developed becomes a reminder of the past event. Some dramatic experiences, positive or negative, leave a physical trace on our bodies made visible through scars.
For me, scars are able to bring experiences from the past to the present moment,acting like “prints of memory”, just like photographs do.
Chris Burkard is a photographer based in Central Coast, California. He captures lifestyle and action sports, and some of his most compelling works are these pictures of people surfing among the snow-covered mountains in places liked Iceland, Norway, and Alaska. There’s a cognitive dissonance that comes from viewing these photos – surfing is typically a warm-weather sport that doesn’t seem like it’d mix with the cold temperatures. But here, Burkard’s subjects are traipsing among glaciers and a white landscape in their head-to-toe wet suits.
Despite the initial reaction of “buuuurrrrr,” there’s a palpable bliss in Burkard’s idyllic photos. The natural beauty is undeniable no matter the temperature. Skies are clear, the water is blue, and it’s all made even brighter with the peppered throughout. Burkard purposely searches for wild, remote destinations, and, according to him, “portrays the humble placement of the human in contrast to nature.”
In San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood sits Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, a small, windowless locale that’s the only remaining gay bar in an area once known for its nightlife LGBTQ attractions. It features an evening-length drag queen show, which is the subject of photographer James Hosking’s intriguing images.
Hosking first visited Aunt Charlie’s in 2009 after moving to the city from New York, and he was drawn to the older entertainers there. What was their connection to drag when it was “illicit and less accessible,” and why do these people continue to perform? “They open themselves to ridicule because of their age, yet they seem to relish the opportunity for provocation and confrontation,” the photographer told Slate.
Hosking’s curiosity played out by photographing three performers at Aunt Charlie’s during 2013 – Collette LeGrande, Donna Personna, and Olivia Hart. He also teamed up with journalist Jeremy Lybarger for a story published in Out Magazine, and completed a documentary about the drag queens titled Beautiful by Night.
It’s in these gritty candid photos and film that we see just how laborious performing is. Putting on makeup, wigs, and costumes can take time a lot of stamina that only gets harder with age. And with all that effort, audience members can sometimes be disrespectful, Hosking tells Slate, “But, for the most part, I think the joy comes from the audience’s excitement and pleasure, which creates a feeling that everyone is there to have a good time together. I imagine that makes all the bullshit worthwhile. The tips don’t hurt either.”
Check out the documentary to hear the drag queens talk about their experience and to see the transformation process take place.
Melbourne-based artist The Black Math (TBM) changes the meaning of portraits by adding simple line art to the subjects of the photographs. This fusion results in a unique style where parts of a model’s face is completely obscured by black or white shapes and different symbols and markings are drawn over top. It shifts the emphasis from fashion and lifestyle and to something that has an entirely new narrative. Now, there’s something mystical and mysterious as we try to make sense of what TBM has drawn.
All of the photos that the artist altered are of conventionally “beautiful” people, and he transforms them into something we don’t recognize. They’re made especially eerie when the pupils are removed from the eyes. At one point these people’s aesthetically-pleasing appearance probably sold some sort of product. Now, given an entirely new voice and meaning, they are saying something entirely different, which doesn’t necessarily pertain to consumerism.
Tattoos, historically, have been on the bodies of sailors and prisoners. It’s only in relatively recent years that they’ve entered mainstream society and lost some of their negative social stigma. Arkady Bronnikov collected photographs of tattooed Russian prisoners between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s. The amount he obtained was massive – 918 images worth – thanks to his position in the government. As a senior expert in criminalistics at the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs for over 30 years, part of Bronnikov’s duties involved visiting correctional institutions of the Ural and Siberia regions. He interviewed, gathered information, and photographed convicts and their tattoos, which gradually helped him build this comprehensive archive.
The images were later acquired by FUEL, a London-based design group, in 2013. Some of the photographs and official police papers authored by Bronnikov from the Soviet period will be published by FUEL in two volumes, the first of which was just released. Now, they are part of a current exhibition titled FUEL present: Russian Criminal Tattoo Police Filesat Grimaldi Gavin in London until November 22 of this year.
When these photos were taken, Bronnikov wasn’t concerned with composition or style. They were meant to act as a record and served a purely practical purpose. The gallery explains, “Their bodies display an unofficial history, told not just through tattoos, but also in scars and missing digits. Closer inspection only confirms our inability to comprehend the unimaginable lives of this previously unacknowledged caste.”
In 2010, photographer and conservationist Robin Moore set out on a global quest in search of frogs and salamanders that were last seen between 15 and 160 years ago. The undertaking was accompanied by over 120 scientists in 21 countries and took four years to complete.
It was worth the time and effort, however, and Moore’s journey produced some incredible rediscoveries, such as: the Ventriloquial Frog from Haiti, capable of throwing its voice, and the Borneo Rainbow Toad, which was unseen in 87 years. And, amusingly, a new species from Colombia was introduced called the “Monty Burns Toad,” which is reminiscent of the cartoon villain from The Simpsons.
From this quest came a book titled In Search of Lost Frogs, which includes information about the project and shows over 400 gorgeous photos of Moore’s findings. The sizes of each creature, their variations in color, and image quality are crystal clear. When you compare all the different frogs and salamanders, it’s remarkable just how many variations there are. It is that sentiment- one of hope and wonder – that Moore wants you to feel; to motivate you to care about the amphibians and the potential loss of their species. He explains:
As conservationists we often get so caught up in communicating what it is that we are losing that we forget to instill a sense of hope,” Moore says. “We need to revel in the weird and the wonderful, the maligned and the forgotten, for our world is a richer more wondrous place for them. Stories and images of discovery and rediscovery can help us to reconnect with our inner explorer – they can make us feel part of a bigger, wilder world. Rekindling a connection with the world beyond our concrete boxes is the key to caring about the way we are treating our natural world.