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.
In the newly-published book titled Hollywood Frame by Frame, author Karina Longworth examines the contact sheet, a necessity in film making before the advent of digital technology. The prints were used by photographer as a way to review and edit their work, and the sheets contain small thumbnails of multiple shots. They were marked, scribbled on, carefully examined to find the perfect shot later used in advertising.
These sheets are alluring; not for how interesting and different each individual frame is, but it’s a tiny glimpse into what went on behind the scenes in famous films. You’re able to see what was and wasn’t chosen, as well as the outtakes. A description for Hollywood Frame by Frame describes it as, “…it’s often the photos not chosen that best capture the true spirit of their subjects and the life they lead after the director yells cut. This was never truer than in the classic Hollywood era, where behind-the-scenes photos were carefully vetted for marketing purposes and unapproved shots were never expected to be seen again.”
Some of the films included in the book are: Some Like It Hot, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Taxi Driver, and Silence of the Lambs. It was published by Princeton Architectural Press.
Photographer Gray Malin (@graymalin) takes us on a journey in his colorful, idyllic series titled Dreams. The sun-soaked images feature a herd of sheep whose coats are decorated with pink, purple, yellow, blue, and green pigment. Malin had the idea years before he actually made the work; he was inspired by a story about a Scottish sheep farmer who had colored the fleece of his flock in order to deter the thieves who had been stealing his sheep at night.
This powerful visual stuck with him for seven years. “I dreamed of creating a series where I could give these often overlooked animals a way to shine, bringing a rainbow of color to help inspire others to stand out and follow their own dreams.”
Malin consulted with a team of experts and eventually travelled to rural Australia where he worked hand-in-hand with a family of third-generation sheep farmers to make this series a reality. “Utilizing a non-toxic, vegetable dye that rinses off with water, the farmers misted each sheep with the same tool they use to administer a spray for ticks and lice,” he says.
Sheep yearn to be apart of a crowd; they prefer to blend in rather than stand out. So, each of Malin’s images are meant to encourage others to “wander from the flock” and go after their desires.
Vittorio Ciccarelli’s photographic series titled Invisible captures parts of the world that we pass by - what we look at, but don’t really see. The artist highlights fast food chain signs, lamp posts, factory windows, and more in these simplified and beautifully-designed images. Ciccarelli’s works feature vibrant blues, reds, and yellow hues, and it’s clear that he caught these places on a good day.
By zeroing in on just a couple of sets of windows or a portions of a sign, he creates abstract compositions. We now focus on the formal aspects of the work rather than where or what the image is of. Sure, we might recognize that the two lights are the top of a lamp post, but that seems secondary to the gorgeous shapes and how they interact with the cloudless blue sky. When you look at these places just so, as Ciccarelli has done, you see how peculiar the seemingly “invisible” things in the world really are.
Joel Parés is a U.S. Marine-turned-photographer who’s created a series titled Judging America that illustrates the prejudices we often have against people who are different from ourselves. As the old saying goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and that’s what you’re liable to when you first see these stylized photographs.
Each image is broken up into the two parts – a stereotype of a particular societal group versus who the character actually is. The tattooed, gun-toting gangster turns out to be a Harvard graduate, a decorated stripper is a buttoned-up widowed mother of three kids, and more. You get the picture here – Parés is demonstrating that talented, incredible people come in all different packages.
“Many of us judge incorrectly by someone’s ethnicity, by their profession, and by their sexual interest,” Parés told PetaPixel. “The purpose of this series is to open our eyes and make us think twice before judging someone, because we all judge even if we try not to.” (Via Bored Panda)