I’m Over Facebook

FB Photo Walk

We did a private, exclusive photo walk at the top of Facebook with some FB Employees. Here’s a highlight video!

Daily Photo – I’m Over Facebook

Check out this photo! It was very difficult to make. Oh, this is over the Headquarters of Facebook south of San Francisco, where the entire roof is an enormous garden.

First, we had to get permission to even fly the drone here. That wasn’t easy. Luckily there is a good “celebrity management” team there at FB that was able to help out. (Note I don’t really think of myself as a celeb). Anyway, once I finally got up, I did a vertirama. This was stitched together out of 5 different vertically-oriented shots.

I’m Over Facebook

Photo Information


  • Date Taken2016-12-20 16:44:49
  • CameraFC6310
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/40
  • Aperture3.2
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length8.8 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

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The Forgotten History Of The Koreans Of Mexico And Cuba

To many it might come as a surprise to learn that there are Korean-Mexicans and Korean-Cubans, though with this revelation it becomes imperative to come to terms with the largely forgotten tragedy which befell their ancestors. In 1905, 1,033 Koreans boarded the SS Ilford to Mexico. It was imagined and portrayed as a journey towards prosperity in the new world—a departure from what was then an impoverished country, and in the same year was already falling into the clutches of Imperial Japan. The reality that awaited these migrants was a life of indentured servitude in the Henequen plantations of Mexico, harvesting an agave that was then known as “the green gold” of Mexico. Many fled to Cuba with dreams of getting a foothold in the then lucrative sugar cane industry, though by the time they arrived the industry had already plummeted. Their homeland already a Japanese colony, they were again destined to hard labour in Cuban henequen plantations.  Argentinian-American-Korean photographer Michael Vince Kim pursued this story as a natural progression from his previous work focusing on language, identity and migration, entitling the series Aenikkaeng, (Korean for ‘Henequen’).

The artist arrived at his previous project documenting the Koryo Saram, the Koreans who were forcefully deported to Central Asia from East Russia as part of Stalin’s ethnic cleansing programme, as a consequence of carrying out fieldwork his final dissertation while studying Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. Though the creation of this photo documentary might seem somewhat fortuitous, a familial connection to this demographic’s story is also evident. “My parents grew up in post-war South Korea and migrated to Argentina in the 1970s in search of a better future”, he writes. In a conversation with his father, the story of the Koreans in Mexico and Cuba was brought to his attention; the photographer elaborates: “it’s one of those tragic episodes of modern Korean history that are often overlooked and increasingly forgotten in recent generations. Considering the economic and cultural success of South Korea today, it can be odd for the outside world to link the country with war, poverty, and tragedy, but people as young as my parents lived through this”.

Arriving in the Americas, the first port of call for the Korean migrants was Oaxaca on Mexico’s west coast. From there they continued by train to Veracuz, from which they boarded a cargo steam boat to Progreso in the Yucatan peninsula. The shorter train journey from Progreso took them to their final destination, Merida, “there they undertook physical examinations” writes Michael, “and, to their surprise, were divided and sold to the highest bidders among henequen plantations. They were practically sold as slaves”. The disparity between the advertisements that depicted an idyllic life working 9 hours a day in Mexico and the reality was startling. The Koreans worked from dawn to dusk in the excruciatingly hot and humid Yucatan climate, cutting and processing the spiky agave known as henequen, “the promised incentives, such as education for the workers’ children and free medical care were inexistent”. Their meagre salary was in a currency that was only accepted in the hacienda where they worked, thus worthless if they were to escape. Michael spent most of his time in Merida, and in smaller surrounding towns where the haciendas were based. He also made multiple trips to Progreso.

Among those who boarded the SS Ilford were farmers, military men, aristocrats and beggars. Transport fares were included and other incentives were offered as part of the supposed 5-year contract. The workers anticipated returning to Korea after completion, but the ill-advertised contract meant that none of them were financially able to. Many were left owing debts to the plantations, their income not sufficient for basic survival. “Some men escaped the plantations, sleeping on trees to avoid jaguars, roaming in the Yucatan jungle” he writes, “others embarked on another journey with further aspirations for wealth, though this destined them to yet more work in henequen plantations in Cuba”. Continuing work on the story in Cuba, the photographer spent time in Havana, Matanzas and Cardenas, the cities with the biggest Korean communities in the country.

The most notable cultural element that these Korean communities have retained is kimchi, the essential Korean small dish, usually made of fermented cabbage, red chilli pepper flakes and a variety of seasonings. Without the same ingredients they were used to in Korea, the migrants adapted their recipes to use local ingredients. In Mexico, some Korean-Mexicans use the ubiquitous jalapeño pepper in their kimchi; the Cuban variety is notably less flavoursome due to the availability of fewer spices.

The Korean language soon disappeared as the Korean-Mexicans and Korean-Cubans integrated into their new communities, their names too assimilating into Latin culture—for instance the Korean surname “Kim” often became “Kin”, and “Ko” became “Corona”.  In recent years the Korean government has made attempts to reintroduce these Korean descents to the language and cultural heritage of their forefathers through cultural exchange programmes in South Korea. Michael also encountered some Korean-Mexicans who professed that they identified more with Yucatec Mayan culture than they did with general Mexican culture, “in fact, many have told me that they don’t feel Korean or Mexican for that matter, but Korean-Yucatec, since most descendants of Koreans also have Yucatec Mayan blood in them”.

Perhaps the most distinctive contrast between this series and the artist’s last is the time that passed and the inevitable reimagining of memories. While in Kazakhstan he met survivors of the 1937 deportation who could recount firsthand experiences, enabling him to illustrate the past in a more direct manner. “The migration to Mexico took place over 30 years before that, and the first generation has already passed away” he imparts. He took long walks around places of relevance to give life to these orally transmitted stories. “The result is a bit more surreal and poetic, perhaps, but this was not really a conscious decision”.

All images © Michael Vince Kim

The post The Forgotten History Of The Koreans Of Mexico And Cuba appeared first on Feature Shoot.

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Redefining the Image of Black Masculinity

In our recent Instagram contest, Aperture asked photographers to submit images that redefine the black male experience. Inspired by the prolific, Jamaican-born street photographer Ruddy Roye, who has worked on the #BlackMaleReimagined project, the contest was organized with the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, a national network that seeks to improve the lives of black men in the U.S. In a recent interview, Roye, who was also featured in Aperture magazine’s “Vision & Justice” issue, spoke about the importance of complicating the visual narratives surrounding black men. “When I first came to this country, I met all of these stereotypes: That black men were never fathers, we were never teachers or educators,” Roye said. “By showing these images, I inspire other other black men to say, ‘I can be that person.’”

Here are the winners of the #BlackMaleReimagined contest, selected by Ruddy Roye together with Aperture’s editors, and accompanied by each photographer’s personal reflections.

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Ken McFarlane, Erik & Erik II, Philadelphia, PA, from the series From the Root to the Fruit, 2016
Courtesy the artist

1st Place: Ken McFarlane

“Despite the ongoing narrative that black men are absent from the home, I have intimate knowledge of a different narrative. My grandfather was in the home with my father. My father was in the home with me, and I am in the home with my son. I’ve known Erik, an entrepreneur and business owner in Philadelphia, for a number of years. When I met his son, Erik II, the reflection of father in son was so bright that I knew I had to add their reflections to my project From the Root to the Fruit. My mission was not to reimagine the black male, but to reclaim the image of the black male. We have the power to shape our own collective image in our own authentic reality. We can amplify our voices using images of strength, dignity, pride, and success to drown out the cacophony of negative imagery surrounding the black body.” —Ken McFarlane (@365ken)

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Christian Padron, blindé, Los Angeles, CA, 2017
Courtesy the artist

2nd place: Christian Padron

“My friend and I had been discussing the idea of masking pain. Tendencies toward denial, withdrawal, and self-isolation are common in reaction to deeply felt emotional pain, especially for black men at this current time. My friend—the subject in the image—even discussed feeling trapped in his house sometimes because of events happening across the country. I tried to capture a creative way of representing this isolation. The title of the photograph, blindé, translates to ‘shielded’ in English. I think these images matter today to provide more accurate context for the black experience. It’s important to debunk stereotypes and create new definitions of black manhood that include emotional responses to trauma and pain.” —Christian Padron (@gangitmo)

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Brandon Stanciell, Thinker of Tender Thoughts, Skid Row, Los Angeles, CA, 2015
Courtesy the artist

3rd Place: Brandon Stanciell

“The vision for this picture was influenced by a poem, ‘Thinker of Tender Thoughts,’ by Shel Silverstein. In the poem, a man appears to have flowers growing from his hair, and when he approaches society, they laugh at him. He then goes back home and cuts the flowers off his head. In this portrait series, I encourage the viewer to keep the flowers growing. It’s easy to have your ideas and yourself be tainted by the opinions of your peers, but don’t let it destroy you. People these days have this idea that all black men are hypermasculine, aggressive human beings, when we’re not. We feel, too. We cry, too. It’s okay to look soft, it’s okay to be soft. Images like this help people to see black men in a more sensitive and relatable setting.” —Brandon Stanciell (@themanwholovedflowers)


 

 

Honorable Mentions

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Craig Bernard, from the series #SWEATANDHYPE, Notting Hill Carnival, London, 2016
Courtesy the artist

“The picture is from a project I’ve been working on for a while called #SWEATANDHYPE. It’s from London’s Notting Hill Carnival, which has been going on since the early 1960s. I’m a chef by trade, and when I have time, I go out and make pictures. This past year, it’s been quite unstable politically and socially. I responded to this by taking my camera to various marches and protests in London. There have been several marches under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter, antiausterity, anti-Trump, and many others. When I made this picture, I saw two people embracing. It wasn’t until a few days later, when I was editing, did I realize that there was maybe a bit more weight to the picture—a relevance to the times, you could say, in terms of black men and black women coming together, and that fear of having that togetherness cut short because your life is seen as having a less-than-positive relevance. Maybe the #blackmaleimage can include black women.” —Craig Bernard (@craigobernard)

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Richard Louissaint, Okai and Naima at La Caye during BAM DanceAfrica, 2016
Courtesy the artist

“Okai is a friend and musician I have been documenting for a while. This picture came about spontaneously, as I had set up a photo booth as part of From Haiti to Africa last year during the BAM DanceAfrica street festival. He came by with his wife and daughter. Given that his daughter is a ball of energy, getting her to pose was difficult, so I just grabbed three frames and this one stuck out the most. This is the image of men I see in my life—cousins and friends with their sons and daughters enjoying their time. Mainstream media has shifted very little in its portrayal of black men. You have to look to alternative programs and online to find nuanced portrayals, or to a film like Moonlight that breaks through and was created by a person of color.” —Richard Louissaint (@haitianrich)

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Dana Scruggs, Vince Harrington, 2014
Courtesy the artist

“I’m enamored with capturing black men and the black male form. As a black female photographer, I thought that I would have a unique perspective to contribute. There aren’t as many of us working and being recognized in comparison to white male (and female) photographers that dominate the art, commercial, and fashion photography industries. The idea that black men are violent, lazy, and absent as fathers is a stereotype that permeates our society. The belief that they are different and less valuable is the reason why black men (and women) are being killed by the police at higher percentages than any other demographic. Creating positive depictions of black men is important because, essentially, we need to reimagine the black male experience for people who’ve only viewed it negatively.” —Dana Scruggs (@danascruggs)

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Joni Sternbach, 09.08.24 #4 Len, Montauk, NY, 2009
© Joni Sternbach

“In my series Surfland, I often go to beaches and randomly meet people who are curious about my project and agree to be photographed. Len was one. We met by chance at Radars, a surf break in Montauk, in 2009, and he agreed to participate. Images of black male surfers are scarce and rather unconventional, even in this day and age. In addition, breaking stereotypical molds of who is a surfer is important. So much of our world is defined by imagery, and beliefs are often reinforced that way. Creating ambitious and positive imagery of black men puts the word out there.” —Joni Sternbach (@jstersurf)

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Fourth Wall: Locked & Remain

Left: “Locked”, 8×8 inches, Edition of 3 | Right: “Remain”, 8×8 inches, Edition of 3

I created these two images as some of the last in the series. I had gone through my mess-ups and test shoots and everything falling apart with the set and putting it back together. And then, like magic, these two images came together so easily.

When I started the series I had begun collecting dead moths. I would search everywhere – literally – anywhere I went to try and gather them. It was a difficult task that was taking a very long time. Eventually I realized I would not be able to gather enough, and they were each so unique that I didn’t want to shortchange the image by manipulating it later in post. So, I gave up on the image (for now) and I set my sights on another picture.

They may not seem connected, but these two images were what I thought of in place of my grand moth image. The keys satisfied my desire to fill the room with 1,000 moths. Instead I ended up with 4,000 keys. The branches were my ode to nature which was missing from the series thus far and I felt was needed to satiate my natural tendency toward the great outdoors.

The keys were an interesting dilemma. I knew that, over time, I could procure enough keys to make the image happen. What I did not have, however, was the budget for it. At anywhere from $2-5 per key I found, and calculating enough keys to cover the space I was filling, my estimated cost for production would have been about $8,000+ (on the less expensive side!). It wasn’t an option for me. I was already breaking the bank creating this series that I didn’t know if anyone would even care about. I knew I did, but it isn’t always easy to justify an expense if it appears frivolous and self-serving.

I used five keys instead of 4,000. I photographed them in many different positions all around my frame and then edited them together in Photoshop until my computer wanted to lay down and die.

The sticks were much easier and I was very in my element. I went running down the street and began gathering every stick I could find. I brought some from my favorite spot in the forest and others were discarded in piles at people’s houses. Getting them arranged inside the box was difficult, but I made it out with only a few scratches and bruises.

I found these to be some of the simplest in the series not only for the visual component (the sticks) but for how quick the shoots were. They exemplify perhaps one of my greatest joys in the Fourth Wall series, which was combining how I naturally work with where I wanted my photography to go. These were images that felt very natural to me and simple in their thematic planning. After all, I have used sticks and keys extensively. The difference was the application. When I look at them, I can feel the forward progression of my work this past year, and that is priceless.

I hope you enjoy this new series which is on display and represented by the JoAnne Artman Gallery until February 18th. It is showing in New York City (Chelsea).

Very limited editions. Each print is offered at 42×42 inches with an edition of 2, and 8×8 inches with an edition of 3.

You may contact the gallery for purchase requests. Each print has been proofed, signed, and numbered by me, and comes with a certificate of authenticity.

Photographed with a Sony a7ii and a 25mm Zeiss lens.

Models: Kyna Lian (keys), self-portrait (nest)

Assistance: Kelly McGrady

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These Majestic Photos Capture a Disappearing Way of Life

In 2001, California-based photographer Oliver Klink embarked on a project to document the disappearing traditions and customs across Asia as modernization and cultural homogenization takes its toll. “When the Three George Dam was completed, the water level rose by over 100 meters (300 ft),” says Klink, and he saw the displacement of 1 million people from the edge of the Yangtze River. This proved to be just one example of how such communities are being affected by the change.

“During my travels,” says Klink, “I have found that as human beings we are intrigued by customs – what we feel is disappearing. Unfortunately, when we meet these people, they are presented to us as an “attraction”, which tends to make them loose their true identity.” The aim of Consequences, was to bring a voice to these communities undergoing change in the process of modernization, “sometimes against their will, sometimes for the better, but most of the time at a pace that are beyond comprehension,” explains Klink. In visiting the countries of Mongolia, China, Bhutan, Myanmar, and India, Klink witnessed the alarming pace of change as agricultural fields morphed into factories, villages into cities, and cities into megatropolises.

By spending time with the local people, Klink was able to discover places which still manage to hold onto their traditions, and are, as of yet, unchanged. Yet, even in these remote regions, he still witnessed how modernization was beginning to seep in, bringing with it new technology and Western clothing. Although the influx of new technology does bring with it practical convenience, Klink found the elderly (especially) were reluctant to part with their traditional items, but were soon forced to let go. And early on, while people did not believe in devices such as mobile phones, Klink points out that they have now incorporated them into their daily lives in order to keep track of time and communicate with family members, who have moved to urban areas. “Living quarters are the biggest challenge,” says Klink, as “apartment buildings are growing like mushrooms to lure locals to have a better life.”

As Klink was not able to speak all the local languages (there are approximately 2,200 languages in Asia), his first job was to find a guide who could speak the local dialect. Next, there was the job of building trust with the local people. The photographer found that sharing stories and images was an ‘attention-grabber’ and generated interest in people to partake in the project, and he soon became known for his “smile” and “bobbing head” in the villages he visited.  In addition, Klink describes how he frequently returns to the places he photographs, finding the return trip is usually more productive.

These black-and-white images capture a way of life which is sadly on the demise. While his images celebrate the cultural identity of these people, their rituals and their customs, the series is also undeniably, an elegy.

Oliver Klink was selected by Photolucida as a Critical Mass Top 50 2016 Photographer.

All images © Oliver Klink

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Sunrise in Half Moon Bay

HDR Tip with Quadcopters

I’m using the Phantom 4 Pro now, but I’ve stopped autobracketing. I’ve noticed that whenever I take multiple brackets into Aurora (or Photomatix) that they get very noisy. So now I just bring a single RAW photo in and it seems to work fine.

All I can gather is the small sensor size (Even though the P4 Pro is 4x it’s lesser cousins in size) still has a bit of micro-noise that adds up when you combine multiple photos.

Daily Photo – Sunrise in Half Moon Bay

I had really bad luck weather the whole time I was here at Half Moon Bay. On the final morning before the family flew to Denver, there was finally a good sunrise. I had been planning to get out there with my quadcopter to get this kind of a shot. It was very windy, but it was able to hold steady enough to get a few good shots! By the way, this is the beautiful Ritz-Carlton there. The night before, the bagpipe player came out at sunset while we all at smores over the firepit. How awesome!

Sunrise in Half Moon Bay

Photo Information


  • Date Taken2016-12-11 07:33:33
  • CameraFC6310
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/200
  • Aperture5
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length8.8 mm
  • FlashNo flash function
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

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Turning an idea into an image

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Alienation and transience in Prague, I

Today’s article has proven to be another one of those significant challenges to write, once again for reasons of limitations of language to describe visual elements. On top of that, there are three conceptual leaps that have to be made: abstract idea, to descriptive language/ elements to characterise and quantify the specific unique traits of that idea so we conceptually understand it, then the final translation to a visual idea that can be understood by a wider audience than just the creator. There are really two questions at hand here: firstly, what is the idea, and secondly, what’s needed to convey it – and what do we need to avoid overdoing that results in dilution or confusion?

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Alienation and transience in Prague, II

The whole concept of what’s being discussed here is I think a core fundamental of taking photography beyond the purely reactionary or observatory. There are fundamentally only two types of images: the kind that are captured as an instinctive or semi-reflex response to external stimuli that appeal to us at a subconscious level and trigger enough interest to motivate us to capture; and the kind that must be consciously created and are the result of an idea that in itself may or may not be triggered by a response to external stimuli. The key difference here is one of consciousness and deliberation: yes, it’s a continuum of degrees in that at one end might sit an image that contains one single element that’s of interest to the creator, and the other is a film set in which everything has been deliberately included/excluded/positioned/lit with a single overarching objective. Both are very different to the ‘I’m-here-so-I-should-just-take-a-picture’ mentality of the former.

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Alienation and transience in Prague, III

I think of the image creation process as:

Observation > Idea > Distillation > Execution and Presentation.

The observation phase is what we’ve just discussed: it isn’t necessarily even direct observation of a scene, but it could simply be the subconscious synthesis of a whole lot of other things we’ve seen and slowly gel together in the background – for instance, spend long enough in a certain place and you will probably be able to specifically describe a few things that uniquely identify that place. In Prague, for example, that might be cobblestones, trams, ‘clean’ pastel buildings, those bulgy red street signs affixed to walls, an art deco feel to the more modern elements, gothic spires, and light that’s always at an angle due to the latitude of the country. There are of course the more famous landmarks, too. Have most of these and we’re pretty much there, but you might need all or a certain few in combination to really move things beyond doubt.

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Alienation and transience in Prague, IV

Taking things to the next step, generation of an idea is preceded by the observation of something that’s of personal interest to us – emotional investment, I guess – which in itself is a product of our own preferences/biases/experiences etc. It’s probably interesting because it’s either very different to anything else we’ve seen previously, or it’s very similar but in an unexpected place. (Anything else tends to not really make the radar; arguably even more so in the current media-heavy environment we live in.) The first step of ideation then tends to be rooted in similarity or difference: we must therefore figure out which it is, and how we can strengthen the visual impression of either the former or the latter by highlighting those similarities or differences. This is actually the easy part: you just have to consciously include as many elements are possible that are unique to that place, or consciously exclude them to the point of anonymity.

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Alienation and transience in Prague, V

The next bit is harder: in a lot of cases, the idea goes beyond simply location and similarities or differences; there’s a metaphorical or conceptual element that requires further translation. For example, the images in this post are around the idea of ‘alienation and transience in Prague’: this is both simultaneously defined and open to wide interpretation. The only part of this idea we’ve really addressed so far is the ‘in Prague’ part: images need to have some identifiable elements that are unique to that location. The concept of ‘alienation and transience’ implies a whole host of other things which we must then distil into something that can actually be translated into visual elements. My interpretation of the concept centres around separation between individuals and their environment; we must therefore have both identifiable individuals and something that serves as a visual barrier between them and the rest of the frame, which must in turn be recognisable as the environment of Prague. This could be a purely visual or metaphorical element (e.g. a change in color, a shadow, a line projected, or a convenient alignment of framing that surrounds and isolates the subject from the rest of the composition) – or a physical/real one, such as a wall or a door. Either way, the element is identifiable as a boundary of sorts, and does not physically be alienation, but may merely represent it.

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Alienation and transience in Prague, VI

‘Transience’ suggests some feeling of impermanence must be conveyed. We can do this visually in several ways: firstly, by using the photographic properties of time and freezing dynamically unstable motion for a longer period than the actual event (e.g. something falling, exploding, or more simply, mid-stride or suspended in mid-air) and using common knowledge/experience that such events must be temporal. Alternatively, we can again use physical elements that metaphorically represent transience – methods of transportation, locations associated with transportation, visual cues for motion (such as walking). Finally, there are the tools that are completely subject/element independent and a product of the execution process only: a visual method of making something seem impermanent or less ‘solid’ or defined than it might otherwise be. We’re of course talking about shallow depth of field, transparency, reflection, motion blur etc.

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Alienation and transience in Prague, VII

An important thing to note is that translation of the idea itself requires breaking it down into smaller individual logical chunks, and then parsing those into either physical, metaphorical or photographic elements: there are only those three methods of translation. The physical of course represents the literal, ‘real’ world: a person is a physical being but could also represent an individual, an emotion, or the presence of humanity – for example. The metaphorical are conceptual elements we associate with things that cannot be physically and visually represented – e.g. freedom, separation, impermanence, temperature, smell. Finally, the photographic elements are the properties of the medium which we need to learn to use to our advantage: things which we can use to suggest concepts but are not necessarily visually possible with the naked eye.

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Alienation and transience in Prague, VIII

In this particular example, we can combine those three elements – ‘alienation’, ‘transience’ and ‘in Prague’ – and their physical, metaphorical and exceptional interpretations in a wide range of combinations that result in different interpretations of what may well even be the same subject matter. Execution then becomes a matter of consciously looking for those elements and then figuring out how to frame and compose them in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing (and/or different), uses the fundamentals of vision and The Four Things to crate the clearest distillation possible, and preferably with a little something extra. If anything, there’s still too much open-ended possibility here, and we would have to further curate the result down to something with higher consistency – around subject, mood, style, light etc. or a combination of several of those. I’d put the final bit of the process – presentation – into this bucket, too. The method of execution is inextricably linked to the presentation method: if immersiveness in large print is the objective, then there are very different considerations to solely viewing on mobile social media. The possible range of differences here is probably not as large in the grand scheme of things – but it is still enough to make a difference to what kinds of images ‘work’ at higher or lower (i.e. smaller physical size) total information levels – landscapes, for instance, don’t really have enough room to breathe on Instagram.

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Alienation and transience in Prague, IX

The images in this post have been deliberately chosen and curated to this idea: note that whilst there was a general sense at the time of capture that most of the work would go in this direction, it wasn’t a fully defined theme. Part of this is because if you are working in an environment where you do not control all the elements, it isn’t always possible to find the kinds of images you are expecting – but at the same time, this doesn’t mean one should let other opportunities go. If anything, capture and curation must go hand in hand – I think of it being an iterative cycle where one sharpens the other, and we only stop when we feel there aren’t any elements left to add or remove, and the idea has been fully explored to the extent we understand it. The sequence of presentation matters, too: in this case, in order of increasing luminance vis-a-vis clarity and definition if idea. Of course, in practice, this seldom happens because the entire environment is continually changing; practical factors such as time, resources and audience attention span for the final presentation must also factor in. And on that note, I think it would be useful to finish with a quick explanation of how/why the images translate the idea. MT

  • I: Most of the frame is dark, with only a single row of light bulbs providing illumination (clarity, purpose, idea, warmth etc.) – it suggests that there’s more darkness than light, and the light is at risk from the dark. This is further reinforced by a number of the bulbs themselves being blown or missing. The building isn’t specifically Prague-esque, but taken in consideration with the rest of the series – there is passive reinforcement that we aren’t somewhere else in Europe.
  • II: Humanoid forms are present, but a longer exposure has rendered them vague and indistinct – and deliberately somewhat like the stereotypical alien. Note how none of the forms overlap, and they exist projected only against the yellow wall. We have more suggestive cues to location, too: cobblestones, a hint of castle, some graffiti.
  • III: Our humanoid forms are relegated to deep shadows and silhouettes: once again, anonymous and lacking in identity or definition. We have a metaphorical ‘cut’ happening: a statue with what appears to be a lightsaber (but is actually a backlit contrail at dusk). The bridge can only be Prague.
  • IV: The discomfort of the individual is reflected in both pose and location: their style of dress and body language is completely at odds with the location; there’s a sense of wanting to leave for not fitting in but not really being able to.
  • V: None of the individuals are looking at what they came to see: they all have bodies facing right and suggesting an overall flow of motion. The environment – St. Vitus Cathedral – stays, but the people do not.
  • VI: Kafka’s head is a large mirrored rotating art installation that continually presents a changing and distorted view of the environment as the individual mirrored segments turn and reflect different portions of its surroundings; the small windows on ‘solid’ reality presented (again, with cues as to location beyond the statue itself) are warped and isolated from the rest of the statue, which reflects nothing but sky.
  • VII: The tram – Prague again – contains nine individuals, but only one is identifiable for reasons both photographic and physical (e.g. shadow, occlusion); she looks out and away from the others, whom each also do not appear to have any relationship or contact with each other. There is emotional separation here that’s only enhanced by the physical separation.
  • VIII: History – the landmarks – have been turned into something of a theme park (lower foreground). Nothing lasts forever, and one generation’s reverence is another’s light entertainment. 
  • IX: The tram and individual are both moving and out of focus, lacking definition; the city stays defined and ‘solid’. Even so, the image of the tram and individual itself has a hint of both reflection and transparency, hinting at questioning permanence of the present and immediate moment.

For further examples of the results of this process, see also the Verticality, Idea of Man, Anatomy of the Quotidian, Venetian Nights, Forest, Crucible, Over Australia, Wimmelbild and Dreamscape series.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here

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Fourth Wall: Fragile

“Fragile”, 42×42 inches, Edition of 2

When I began this series, I didn’t pull a lot of themes from my life personally. There were a couple here and there, and I believe that each of them touches our lives in some way, but only one that was truly me in every sense. I wanted to portray a fear that I have for “Fourth Wall” so that I could create it as a self-portrait and truly feel the moment of creation.

This was that image. This was a deeply personal piece to create. It started with a big ceramic egg in the hallway of my studio, which was part of a whole building of studios. I don’t know who made the egg, but there it was, sitting in the hallway. My friend brought up how neat it would be to do a photo shoot with eggs. I kept the idea in my mind. And then it hit me that I had to do it, because it so perfectly illustrated something I feel.

The only problem? I don’t buy eggs since I practice a vegan lifestyle. So, instead of buying a couple hundred eggs, I made them out of plaster. I blew up some balloons with a little bit of air so that they were still tiny, and then I mixed some plaster in a bowl. Once the plaster was the right consistency, I dipped the balloons inside and laid them out to dry. I popped them when they were firm and what was left was an eggshell.

It didn’t all go so smoothly. The plaster was very difficult to mix. If it was deep enough to accommodate the balloons, it would coagulate too fast and I could only get about 8 good balloons in a time. It required a lot of patience and re-mixing of plaster and frustrating eggs that were just too thick. After many hours of creating eggs I finally had enough to shoot with.

Since I created this one as a self-portrait, I decided to transform myself a little bit. I bought a bald cap, which was very funny to put on. I painted my whole body white which helped the bald cap blend into my skin and stick to my forehead. I stuck bits of “eggshell” on my body and onto the picture frames that I painted to be the same color as the eggshells.

This image meant a lot to me because of the theme: fragility. I have always been very sensitive to being thought of as fragile. It started with physical problems I have. I never wanted anyone to think I was less than capable. This resulted in many frustrating trips where my friends wanted to help me but I would refuse. It resulted in me hurting more than ever because I couldn’t accept help. It resulted in being more broken than I was. I have learned to shed that word in some ways. I accept help now. I try to remember that just because I can’t do one thing doesn’t mean everyone sees me as weak.

But it also stems from simple things that many people deal with, like being a tiny person. Generally I love it. For example, when I go to events I love getting hugs and being swung around in a circle. But sometimes, rarely, it rubs me the wrong way. The way a man will pick me up around my ribs without permission and comment on how tiny I am or how he could crush me, or the like. Sometimes it puts me in a position where I am made to feel out of control of my body.

I recognize that none of this is life-shattering, but it is something that I remain very sensitive about in many ways. I try not to be, I know I shouldn’t be, but there it is. So I created this image that deals with the theme of fragility. In doing so, I realized there is much more to say on this topic. I have been tossing around the idea of creating a new series as my next project in this vein. We will see what comes of it!

In the meantime, I hope you like this image. It is a personal favorite and I’m proud of how it turned out. It felt good to create from a personal place, since I don’t typically approach my art that way. It is also the first print that sold in the new series, and as such leaves only one left available at the large size. My gallery representative and I made the choice to print one of the editions as a triptych, furthering the fragile and broken theme, and I love how it turned out!

I hope you enjoy this new series which is on display and represented by the JoAnne Artman Gallery until February 18th. It is showing in New York City (Chelsea).

Very limited editions. Each print is offered at 42×42 inches with an edition of 2, and 8×8 inches with an edition of 3.

You may contact the gallery for purchase requests. Each print has been proofed, signed, and numbered by me, and comes with a certificate of authenticity.

Photographed with a Sony a7ii and a 25mm Zeiss lens.

Model: Self-Portrait

Assistance: Kelly McGrady

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Visions of Iceland from a Remote Sheep Farm

In her remote corner of Iceland, photographer Marzena Skubatz makes her home in a sheep farm and weather station.

She has no mobile phone reception, and her food arrives by boat. As a vegetarian in a community whose main source of food is meat and fish, she survives mostly on sweet potatoes and salad. When the wintertime draws to a close, she sees the animals birth their young.

“It is a quiet place surrounded by the sea,” the artist says. She lives for part of the year in Germany, but something always brings her back to Iceland.

Two thirds of Icelandic the population lives in Reykjavik and its surroundings, Skubatz explains, but her personal Iceland is not the Iceland in the tourist books. It’s out of the way, and life on the farm is strenuous and demanding, especially in the summer. “We do not run any touristic businesses,” she explains, “There is no time for that.”

The photographer spent her childhood on a farm in Poland, and in some ways, her arrival in Iceland has been a homecoming away from home. She grows sad when she goes for extended periods of time without contact with animals.

She carries with her the memory of the day an infant whale passed beneath her little fishing boat, its pale white underside exposed. “I think she was playing with us,” Skubatz writes, “It was a very emotional experience that I will never forget.”

Winter in Iceland is bitterly cold, and summer is wild and fickle. As of the time of this writing, Skubatz is once again en route to Iceland, where she leaves a piece of herself every time she goes.

Follow Skubatz on Instagram.

 

All images © Marzena Skubatz

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