Sean Scheidt Photographs Before And After Burlesque Transformations

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Everyone loves a Before and After, and Sean Scheidt’s photography series “Burlesque” is a wonderful example of the power of makeup, costume, props, and attitude. Scheidt has captured the transformation of burlesque performers from street clothes to stage wear in his behind-the-scenes images.

“I use basic lighting and a black backdrop. Black is emptiness. You place a person there and they are who they are. The interview process is really as much about getting the person comfortable as it is about getting to know them. As the shoot progresses, they transform into the persona they portray on stage. I do ask them, ‘What defines you on stage’ but otherwise try to stay back and let the narrative develop.” (Source)

Bawdy, provocative, confrontational — burlesque has been enjoying a revival, fronted by pop-culture celebrity Dita Von Teese who began performing in 1992. Though the acts include nudity, it can almost be beside the point. On stage, the larger-than-life personas use their time to make people think.

In his portraits, Scheidt captures the virtually nondescript everyday face of the performers. These are people who, aside from the occasional colored hair, look, well… normal. In Scheidt’s description of the work, he says that they tended to be quite reserved at first, which made the transformation into their characters all the more transfixing.

“Capturing those moments, I believe, helps to humanize these performers. If you were just seeing the “after” shots alone, you might make certain pre-conceived judgments about the person behind the make-up. I hope this series gets people to think about their reactions to these men and women.” (Source)

Not unlike drag, burlesque exaggerates, forcing us to examine society’s standards of beauty, sensuality, gender, and power. Scheidt has unmasked the people behind the performance by presenting them in more clothes, but with less artifice.

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Carl Beazley’s Surreal Distorted Portraits

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The faces in UK artist Carl Beazley’s portraits are twisted and multiplied, clearly surreal, yet based on real faces with their pores and blemishes. Completely self-taught, the 26-year old artist credits his unique point of view to being able to find his own voice absent the outside influence of teachers or mentors.

“….by not going to University and not studying the all different painting techniques from history, I feel it has given me the freedom of learning from trial and error. I am always trying to look for something new and original that’s never been done before, and although I love the paintings of the old masters, it is important to me to look to the future so that in a hundred years from now we have our own history, not just a regurgitated version of the generation that came before us ……if we don’t try to take art to the next level by looking forward, we will just end up going in circles.”

It’s an interesting view of an art education, especially in light of the fact that of the artists whose works are influential to him, Picasso attended several art schools and Francis Bacon was an art school tutor. For all of the interesting ideas and successful execution of his work, it’s clear that Carl Beazley is just starting out in art, and in life.

“I’m fully aware that I’m only at the very early stages of this artistic journey and I have a hell of a lot of experimenting and searching to do before I’ll be totally happy. In fact I don’t think I’ll ever be content with my work, which is a good thing because it keeps you going! In a weird way, I’m content in not being content. (Source)”

It will be interesting to see how Beazley’s art progresses, and to follow his career to find out if he ever finds any value in learning from the past to change his view of the future. Perhaps he’d find that an excellent art education is more than landscapes and art history and color theory. His work is very good—maybe allowing outer voices in could help make it great.

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Manipulated Photos Of Perfectly Symmetrical Faces Question Conventional Beauty

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Photographer Alex John Beck uses photo manipulation to explore the idea that symmetrical faces are the most beautiful in his series “Both Sides Of”. After taking portraits of a diverse collection of people, he digitally divides them. He then duplicates each side, matching right half to right and left to left, creating two new portraits of perfectly symmetrical faces. The original portrait is not shown.

It’s not a new idea—Julian Wolkenstein’s 2010 series “Symmetrical Portraits” is very similar. Wolkenstein’s website, echoism, also allows users to upload their own pictures to be made symmetrical by an open source program on the site.

Turkish photographer Eray Eren does a version as well, though his include a third, non-manipulated shot for comparison.

Still, the quality of these images is excellent, and they continue to evoke questions relating to beauty and character. It’s tempting to create a narrative for the “people” in these portraits—so similar but not the same—to look from one image to the other and measure attraction and interest. Both created faces are absolutely symmetrical, theoretically proving the commonly held belief that symmetrical faces are the most appealing. And yet, they’re not. The artist says on his website:

“The less symmetrical they are initially, the more different the characters suggested by each face. The more symmetrical faces betray their owners more subtly, however, one side proves clearer, the other more inward looking.”

Movie and video game animators have long struggled with the issue of how to make a realistic human face that can hold up to high definition viewing. It’s incredibly difficult to create faces that look different from all angles, in different moods, on different days. Often it’s the overly symmetrical features and consistency of appearance that make the characters obviously unreal. The asymmetry in our faces is what makes us human. (via Feature Shoot)

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Portraits Of Patients With Facial Paralysis Show A Terrible Beauty

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Sage Sohier spent three years at a facial nerve clinic, photographing people in the beginning stages of treatment of facial paralysis for her series “About Face.” The portraits of men, women, and children of all ages and ethnicities with varied causes and visible extents of paralysis are striking. Looking directly into the camera, directly at the viewer, the patients smile.

Most people I photograph are acutely aware of their imperfections and try to minimize them. Some have confided in me that, in their attempt to look more normal, they strive for impassivity and repress their smiles. They worry that this effort is altering who they are emotionally and affecting how other people respond to them.

In our image obsessed society, facial oddities can be difficult to live with. When we see images of celebrities with shaved noses and plumped lips, carving and injecting their way to plastic perfection, having a face twisted and pulled by nerve damage seems unthinkable. In an absurd twist, some of the patients are treated with Botox, which is a medical treatment as well as a cosmetic one. The strength of character it takes to allow a portrait when one’s face is so far from “the ideal” is astounding. The pictures that include loved ones show them touching, kissing, and connecting, illustrating how appearance doesn’t matter, that they person they love is still there.

As a visual artist, I find myself fascinated by the intensity of glimpsing two expressions simultaneously, a literal “two-facedness” that mesmerizes by its terrible beauty. At the same time, I hope these pictures bear witness to the incredible courage required to deal with medical afflictions, especially when they affect one’s primary appearance. Even minor facial problems challenge and potentially diminish a person’s sense of self; the poise and inner strength that it takes to deal with this, while at the same time presenting oneself to the world, is remarkable.

It’s important that images like these are taken, and even more that they are seen. These people have a medical condition, reversible to differing degrees, that makes them look different than what we expect. And this is what humanity is composed of—people who look like themselves at any given point in their lives. (via Design Taxi)

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Roberto Foddai Turns The Camera On Himself In His Dramatic, Erotic, And Comedic Self-Portraits

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It is the age of the selfie, and yet Roberto Foddai’s self-portraits feel like anything but. His images range from dramatic, erotic snapshots to costumed and posed portraits. The Photoshop manipulations he executes, notably in the “make it double!” series, are both subtle and transformative. He merges pictures of himself into the same frame, doubling the impact. Two Robertos laughing together, two lying on the same bed, and, memorably, one pleasuring his “other” self. The effects are transparent and the narrative in the pictures exists outside of their computerized genesis.

Why the costumes, the playacting and grimacing? Why two Robertos in the frame? He answers:

1. I like to be other people as I am often bored of myself.

2. It is easier to be boring in my daily life and dressing up in photographs fills the need I often have to be different.

3. I think, as Feminist and writer Carol Hanish said “The Personal is Political” so it is me in the pictures but they are often a political statement and maybe not as personal as they look.

We see Roberto Foddai as Freida Pinto. Roberto Foddai as a pink gowned ingénue. Wearing a necklace of shuttlecocks. In a swim cap, a nightgown. In underwear and red socks. Cindy Sherman’s self-portraits in disguise are called to mind, but unlike Sherman, Foddai makes very little effort to camouflage himself completely.

I always liked the idea of documenting my own life for myself. Keeping a visual diary of my life also gave me other ideas or other subjects I could work on. This is clearly a work in progress and without any doubt one of my favourite parts of my work. I often struggle with the way I look but it helps me to look at my life in a more objective way.

In many of these self-portraits Foddai is not conventionally attractive. Sweaty, with decayed looking teeth, and testicles poking through his underwear, these images are raw and unadorned. And it’s that truth in the images, in the portraits, that makes it difficult to look away.

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Sexual Transgression Through The Eyes Of Neckface And Four Other Artists

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Often treading between reverence and ridicule, the mystifying allure of art that reiterates sexual transgression remains suspended within a deviating purgatory of the sacred and the obscene. Buoyantly drifting within the underbelly of normative culture, the erotic and transgressive create a synergetic relationship in a strike against societal conventions. Through a crude presentation of social perversions, the atmosphere created through sexually transgressive art permits an insight that challenges not only sexual precepts, but invites a critique of human behavior irrevocably influenced by social structures. In an explosive resurgence of suppressed sexual impulses, the following artists create frantic, tense and exquisitely obscene renderings of deviations and sexualized social distortions.

Featured artists include Tina Lugo, Aleksandra Waliszewska, Ventiko, Mia Makila and Neckface.

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SD Holman’s Portraits Of Female Masculinity In BUTCH: Not Like The Other Girls

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Photographer SD Holman uses her talent as a portrait photographer to capture women who fall outside of the traditional gender binary. In her series “BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls,” masculine women are not oddity or other. These are photos of women who identify as butch captured by a butch woman—they are women defining themselves. In this way, Butch has much in common with the current social campaigns stripping women of makeup, enhancements, and retouching and declaring them more beautiful without the artifice. This is part of Holman’s intent with the show—to use the Butch identity as an example of one of the classifications through which women are objectified. The difference though is the hate and fear that Butch women have faced as transgressors of societal constructs of femininity. Holman says:

“Butches and all gender variant folk walk in a world that is really hostile to them, so we tend to look inward.  I was inspired to show their beauty by my wife Catherine, a femme who loved butches, and encouraged me to do this when I started talking about it.”

The rich diversity of butch women is evidenced here. Just as there isn’t one way to be a woman, Butch includes women of all shapes and colors and styles. The fluidity of gender is apparent in each photo.

Holman is an artist. Her portraits are classically beautiful, with their artful lighting and dramatic contrasts. The subjects mostly gaze through the lens to the viewer, unapologetic and authentic. There is no contrivance in these images, no sense of willful provocation nor is there any sense of apology. Author Amy Bloom writes, “Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are.” These photos are intimate and groundbreaking, brave and matter-of-fact, beautiful and handsome.

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Andi Schreiber Documents Middle-Age And The Need To Be Desired

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Andi Schreiber refuses to disappear. In her ongoing series, “Pretty Please”, she documents life as an aging suburban mom in a youth-obsessed culture. “Middle-aged mom” must be one of the least sexy descriptors around, redolent of yoga pants and stretch marks and sun-damaged skin. Yet as the years have passed, Schreiber has continued to feel young and sexual, even as she’s felt that society has closed those roles to her. She says:

“When I was in my thirties I heard the expression “Invisible Forties.” I couldn’t imagine how sexually inconsequential I’d feel throughout this decade.”

The powerful documentary style photos in “Pretty, Please” beg you to look. Honest and vibrant, they are not always comfortable. Victoria’s Secret has trained us to expect sexy lingerie on a young, taut body, not on folded and stretched skin. And yet, why isn’t this just as beautiful? Grow old or die, those are the only options. Why can’t we appreciate the child-scarred body of a woman who wants to be seen?

Self-portraits are interspersed with images from Schreiber’s life. A drop of blood on the toilet seat symbolizes her ebbing fertility; the lit interior of her closet holds neatly hung clothes and shelves of shoes, but also, stashed up and away, naked kewpie dolls, whimsical and eerie.

“You get into your 40s and things are very different, your perspective changes, and the way the world looks at you changes as well.”

In “Pretty, Please” we’re looking at Andi Schreiber and she’s looking back. This is definitively her — her life, her body, her blood — and yet this desire to be seen, to be valued on her own terms, could also represent the scores of middle-aged women who chose family and stability and have had their sense of self sacrificed to their suburban houses, and diapers, and carpools.

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