Last Tuesday, the militant extremist group ISIS released a video threatening to kill two Japanese hostages, journalists Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa. They requested a $200 million ransom of which Japan refused to pay (Yukawa has said to have been killed). The Japanese public has responded to these threats by using Twitter to mock ISIS with Photoshopped memes. While this isn’t exactly art, elements of design, digital collage, and illustration are being used for political and social reasons. The images, viewable with the hashtag #ISISクソコラグランプリ, translates to ISIS crappy collage grand prix. This popular tag presents exactly what it says – the terrorists, rudimentarily cut/pasted/drawn on, are seen in spaceships or cartoon characters. One image even features Mickey Mouse.
While the hashtag has received criticism from some, many see this parody as a way to react to the threat without bowing to terrorism. Peter Payne, owner of the online shop J-List, sums the hashtag up up by tweeting, “You can kill some of us, but Japan is a peaceful and happy land, with fast Internet. So go to hell.” (Via Dazed and Buzzfeed)
Superheroes and toys, clever photography and computer magic, familiar figures and surreal scenes—Ottowa photographer Daniel Picard may have found the perfect recipe in his series “Figure Fantasy.” Using items from Hot Toys and Sideshow Collectibles, he sets up scenarios on location and shoots them, making the 6” to 12″ tall toys look like they are full-size.
“Seeing Superman stop a train in danger is quite common, but making him take a selfie while doing it is something new and quite silly and that’s how I try to approach my photos: I take these characters from different books and movies and mix them up and make them do things that we’ve never seen them do before because that’s the freedom I have in using these awesome poseable figures and they’ve truly become the perfect ‘actors’ for my scenes.”
The photos feel like a very well executed glimpse behind the scenes. It turns out that when the cameras are off, even Darth Vader has to pee. Batman is a snitch, the Joker is building his own LEGO Gotham, and the IG-88 Assassin Droid practices yoga on the beach. Picard’s childhood interest in comic books serves him well here. From the very first, impromptu, photo of a robot in a field holding a blue balloon, the images have been funny, sometimes scary, sometimes wistful, and always cool.
“I see places and think of photos, scenes and angles in my head, then [I] come home and sketch things out while looking at my collection to see who could be cool to use and how to pose them.” (Source)
Picard has recently teamed up with Sideshow Collectibles for some as-of-now unannounced projects, using their 12” figures as well as their statues. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook for updates and new photos!
French artist Celine Artigau is never really alone. In her series of manipulated photographs, “Goodbye Childhood”, she inserts spectral neon figures into photos of places with personal resonance. She says:
“These luminous characters are the souls of these places and ghosts of my childhood. They are like some lonely and abandoned imaginary friends that still follow me and haunt my life.”
Sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, the figures are simple outlines rendered with a neon glow. Their simplicity is what makes them work. Photoshopping “ghosts” into images—copying and pasting figures from one photo to another and lowering the opacity—has been done and done. With Artigau’s lost souls, the artifice is intentional; these wandering ghosts are meant to look illustrative and not realistic.
“Concerning the process, I use Illustrator to create my character and then Photoshop to integrate it into my picture. For my light effects, I use a mixture of layers and blur effects but the precise process is always different from one project to the next.” (Source)
In this series, Artigau has resurrected her childhood imaginary friends, allowing them to live in the in-between places and shine their light.
Dave Engledow is the world’s best father. He even has the book to prove it. Engledow’s ongoing photo series “documenting” life with his daughter Alice Bee is dangerously charming. Initiated in 2010, when Alice Bee was about six weeks old, Engledow has Photoshopped the pair into absurd, perilous, and touching scenarios. His wife Jen helps with every shoot, sometimes entering the frame.
“It’s funny-my initial intent with these images was to create something a bit darker that subverted the cutesy, overly-poignant clichés you see in a lot of traditional baby portraiture. I never intended for this project to be a heartwarming, feel-good story. Ironically, what a lot of people tell me they take away from these images is the obvious love that I have for Alice Bee-people see beyond the silly, satirical character I portray in these images and instead see a father who has decided to spend his precious free-time creating something special and unique for his daughter. I guess that’s pretty cool, if unintended and unexpected.” (Source)
To create the images, Engledow shoots Alice Bee first, a process that can take anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour. He then photographs himself and digitally combines the images, which takes between 5-15 hours depending on the complexity of the shot. The series first gained attention in 2013 when Kickstarter featured his campaign to turn the photos into a calendar. Confessions of the World’s Best Father, the book, followed in May 2014.
“The character I portray in this series is intended to be a parody of the father I hope I never become–distracted, self-absorbed, neglectful, clueless, or even occasionally overbearing.” (Source)
Part perplexed, part demented, Engledow commits to his role as bumbling dad. The result is a labor of love that captures the unique bond between father and daughter.
Melbourne-based artist Catherine Tipping uses an analog way of working to depict digitally-minded portraits. Blurring the line between what’s on the screen and off, she uses wool to stitch human faces that are partially pixelated, glitchy, or generally just obscured through Photoshop. They are sewn onto a gridded canvas, which is not unlike the the pixels that we see on screen. These similarities make for a compelling series titled Filter that meditates on identity and the way technology has totally changed our culture.
Tipping explains the concept behind her work in an email to The Huffington Post, writing:
I was learning about Modernism and how technology changed society culturally back then. I saw how the Digital era has had a similar affect on our culture. Now that we are in the second decade of the new millennium, we rely on the efficiency of digital technology. Recently, in some aspects of society, it appears there is a yearning for the handmade. Maybe now is the time when digital and handmade mediums can be combined and embraced by society. I see this bridge in my processes by using a digital image with all its pixels and hand stitching it.
Depending on how you’re looking at them, they can resemble digital renderings or traditional fiber work. Tipping intersperses bits of both worlds within a single composition, creating one whole work that’s a combination of influences. “I am interested in cultural identity on many levels; societal, sub-cultural and personal,” she writes to The Huffington Post. “I like considering the distinctive visual traditions of different eras and outside factors that shape them. These portraits may appear distinctive of our current era or not, I sometimes wonder if we are becoming so anachronistic that we are indistinctive of a time.” (Via The Huffington Post)
Judy Miller’s Imaginary Dioramas series is the kind of work that makes you think, “Wait, what?” The famous faces in the photos are recognizable, but off in some subtle way. The backgrounds are ambiguous, and the combinations of celebrities and scenes, “Outakes” as they’re titled, create curious narratives.
It’s almost a relief to find out that these artists and celebrities, whose faces we’re so familiar with, are actually wax figures photographed at Madame Tussaud’s and Photoshopped into scenes. The strangeness abates, but only briefly. It’s not only the waxy visages that are uncanny, but the situations as well. Most of the celebrities are not named or tagged, which presumes a certain amount of pop-culture familiarity in the viewer. Some photos only include a part of a face or body, making the identification even more difficult.
Robert E. Knight, Executive Director of the Tucson Museum of Art, writes, “Judy Miller does not create her work in the isolation of a studio. She researches, travels, photo¬graphs, and then brings her images back in-house for final editing. Culled from the photo files of celebrity wax figures the artist has compiled over the years, Miller cleverly inserts her figures into fantasy settings with the finished composites ranging from humorous to odd, and compelling to camp. … Resembling excerpted film stills, the discordant emotional separation of Miller’s figures are in¬triguing in their awkward uncertainty. They truly have become actors in her play, and they’re just waiting for their cue. Even titling her images as “outtakes” references the artist’s interest in, and respect for, the influence films have had on our society.
What, for example, are Einstein and Picasso doing dressed alike, deliberately avoiding eye contact in a round room with many windows in “Newton’s Nightmare”?? Seemingly less bizarre is “Outtake #22, Exit Left”, which shows Jacqueline Kennedy facing front in the foreground and Marilyn Monroe’s red sequined back in the background. It’s easier to find context for this work but no less thought provoking. What if the two women really did meet? Each image poses unanswerable questions, which is Miller’s intention.
My goal is to create a dynamic juxtaposition of elements that spark individual interpretation.
In her series “Flower Power,” photographer Sophie Gamand has overcome her childhood fear of dogs by photographing Pit Bulls—wearing flower crowns.
“This project started as an excuse for me to discover more about pit bulls, and to see for myself what the debate was about. Were they really all crazy and dangerous? Or were most of them simply the victims of a generalization? … ‘Flower Power’ is about challenging myself to approach pit bulls with a fresh perspective and an open heart. I invite the viewer to do the same.”
The term Pit Bull designates an appearance, not a breed, and until fairly recently Pit Bulls were considered America’s Dog. What happened? Some states and counties have introduced breed specific legislation and outright bans to make it illegal to own a dog that even looks like a pit bull. They can be killed based on the way they look regardless of their temperament or previous history.
Though Gamand shares her concern with other Pit Bull defenders, for example Pitproject600 which also uses photography to show the gentle side of these dogs, the soft-focus, Photoshopped backgrounds of the dog pictures and the sweet flower crowns are an inventive and charming concept.
“The imagery associated with these dogs is often harsh, very contrasted, conveying the idea of them being tough. In my opinion, this feeds the myth that these dogs are dormant psychopaths. So I decided to take the other route and portray them like hippies, soft fairy-tale-inspired characters, feminine and dreamy.”
Thirty percent of the total dogs admitted to U.S. animal shelters are labeled as pit bulls, and 86.7 percent of pit bulls admitted to open admission shelters end up being killed. With her fairy-tale photos of dreamy eyed dogs, Sophie Gamand wants to give these dogs another chance. (Via Fast Company)
Double exposure portraits by Spanish-based artist Antonio Mora (a.k.a. Mylovt) blend human and nature worlds into surreal hybrid artworks. Mora works with images he’d found browsing through online databases, magazines and blogs, and then fuses them together using skillful photo manipulation techniques. His seamless way of mixing various concepts together leaves the viewer with mind-tricking illusions.
“I want people to feel inspired when observing my artworks, and that is what I long for. I often look at images hundreds of times without finding anything, and then the spark just arrives. It’s a bit like fishing, a matter of patience and intuition.”
Mora describes his artworks as cocktails, mixtures of ordinary elements merged into forceful and expressive daydreams. According to the artist, his inspiration is provided by the limitless Internet itself and he feels as a medium between the two parallel worlds: real-life and the Web.
Antonio Mora originally graduated from graphic design. Right after his studies, he started a personal design studio which turned him into an art director for 15 years. Gradually, artist decided to concentrate on his art solely. Mora is one of the artists whose instant fame relies on social media: “Social networks, especially Pinterest, have been an important vehicle to spread by artworks”.
His mind-bending photo manipulations are very accessible to the public, as Mora offers anyone the chance to have their own portrait turned into an astounding work of art. (via Writeca)