Michael Gessner’s upcoming book, “Masse” was conceived over 4 years as a sociological exploration of mass behaviour in the digital age, to invite contemplation on the myriad ways in which individuals are monitored – and in which they monitor themselves – as they transition through the blurred boundaries between the digital and the physical. The book is available for pre-order through drittelbooks.com
From 2013 through 2019, I explored America’s real and imagined images of itself through the lens of my camera. As a Canadian-born photographer raised on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, my early proximity to the United States along with a steady diet of mid-century American cinema instilled in me a fascination for commonly-held concepts of “Americanness.”
Now living in Pennsylvania, I hold a deep interest in identity—its roots, and its perceptions within a culture and across time. Photography, as my vehicle through this exploration, allows me to focus on small, striking moments and to create images that carry a persistent, quiet optimism. I find that the way I choose to frame the content of my photographs: to leave out what I want but also to include what I want can create a sort of displaced experience, an alternate reality both for myself, as the photographer doing the composing, and for the viewer doing the looking. The resulting image becomes a portal, allowing for a flexible experience of time.
“For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man—when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back.”
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Edifice is a visual journey back to a time most people would like to forget. Pałka documents buildings that have survived the Communist regime, which years ago rolled over Central and Eastern Europe. The photographs show the interiors of the Polana Hotel, a closed holiday facility once owned by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, and the now disused office building for the management of the Nowa Huta Steelworks, a fine example of Socialist Realism, once visited by Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro.
Karol Pałka builds the Edifice in the title to tell a story about power and its impermanence. The Edifice provides shelter, security, peace, and at the same time, gives a sense of strength. However, the feeling is just an illusion, and the power - contrary to what those who wield it think - is not given once and for all, but only for a moment. The spectre of demise is near, lurking just round the corner, just behind the cold and thick walls of grandiose ideas.
Karol Palka (1991) is a Polish photographer graduated from the Krzysztof Kieslowski Film Department in Katowice University and Wajda School in Warsaw. Currently has been pursuing doctoral studies at the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow. Member of the Association of Polish Art Photographers. His works has been awarded at New East Photo Prize 2018, Lensculture Emerging Talent Awards 2017, PDN Photo Annual 2016, La Quatrieme Image - Young Talents 2017, IPA Awards, and published in magazines such as British Journal of Photography, The Calvert Journal, GUP Magazine, L’Œil de la Photographie.
Since 2007, I’ve been creating a photographic archive depicting North America’s rich trove of wild edible flora. By employing a system that makes it easy to identify both the plant and its edible parts, the images function as reliable guides for foraging.
Beyond functionality, I try to construct images that operate on multiple levels theoretically and perceptually. Upon longer viewing the botanicals begin to transcend the initial appearance of scientific illustration – they writhe and pulsate trying to communicate with you about their edible parts while hovering over an infinite black expanse. To achieve a layered aesthetic the photographs are meticulously crafted and constructed. I photograph multiple specimens of the same plant and combine the best elements from each to create an archetypal rendering. By judiciously rearranging, scaling, and warping I can vivify the plant and turn the ground into infinite space.
This work offers a dose of something palliative for the ills of alienation – a sense of connection to a certain place and a certain ecosystem. With this goal in mind, I plan on continuing the survey until I’ve amassed an expansive enough cross-section of the botanical life on the continent to mount biome-specific exhibitions anywhere within the continental United States. I hope the photographic survey can serve as a historical archive during an era of extreme change, and provide viewers all over the country an opportunity to feel a type of numinous bond with their landscapes that will encourage health, engender wonder, help identify free food, and most importantly, inspire greater concern for environmental issues..
According to the future laid out in George Orwell’s 1984, the English language will be decimated and reduced to only a small list of government approved words known as Newspeak. There is no beautiful, no marvelous, no wonderful. If something is deemed better than “good,” it’s simply referred to as “plusgood.”
These images were conjured as a way to take refuge from dread, with a desire to seek more goodness in the everyday. For me, this feeling of “better than good” can be traced back to specific memory blips from boyhood, centered around my Nana’s pool in the warm hug of the Georgia sun. This series is an ode to my own happiness, a celebration of the moments when it was first discovered, and the moments today where it still shines.
I’m Chiara, 29 and I came from a little country place near Bologna in Italy. I spent the last 8 years living “la vida loca” in Spain, one year ago I met Matteo and together we started to travel around the world.
Loneliness is a recurring theme in my photos; desert, signs and abandoned houses. I love to confront the authentic with the surreal, emphasizing color and composition. My goal is to convey a mental state of serenity with my photographs.
Chris Boyne is a photo-based artist living in Montréal & Halifax. His new photo-based project titled In Search of… the Eltanin Antenna at Occurrence Espace d'art et d'essai contemporains in Montréal. The show opens May 9 and runs until June 15.
The Eltanin Antenna was picked up by fringe and UFO devotees and labeled an out-of-place-artifact. Seven years later, the object was identified as a rarely seen deep-water carnivorous sponge called Cladorhiza concrescens first identified in 1888. By 1964, knowledge of the sponge had already existed for 76 years. It is unclear why the researchers aboard the USNS Eltanin were not aware. The fringe has held to the idea of the Eltanin Antenna to this day creating complex mathematical equations to support their theories.
For the project In Search of... the Eltanin Antenna I made a series of fruitless attempts to document the Eltanin Antenna. I tried to photograph the object in St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia using an obsolete underwater camera sourced from a Federal Government surplus auction. Operating the tethered camera remotely, I blindly photographed at a maximum depth of 54.5 meters in the deepest waters of the area- only 1% the depth the Eltanin Antenna was first photographed at. I chose to photograph using uncommonly sensitive film with no added light hoping that this clandestine approach might help me find the antenna. The resulting image does not immediately appear to show the Eltanin Antenna or a Cladorhiza concrescens specimen though to the fringe enthusiasts, there could be something in the grainy shadows and shapes...
I also began to look elsewhere for the Eltanin Antenna. I thought I recognized it in Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) a herbaceous perennial wild plant and also in the foil wrapper of an 85% cocoa chocolate bar. I looked for the antenna in my darkest deep-water negatives, the ones made at such depth that no light fell on the film. I believe I found the faintest outline on two negatives as though the energy of the antenna had left a mark. I highlighted these findings with pinprick holes. I also found the antenna in documentation of fremont style petroglyphs from Sego Canyon, Utah and made a small sculpture of the antenna hoping to gain some insight by working through its’ physical form. Lastly, I went to the furthest reaching of sources, a homespun fringe website full of blinking GIF adornments and last updated in 2002 to appropriated a computer-generated image. I believe the image was made to show the Eltanin Antenna as a powerful force in the universe; something to be feared or worshipped.
The project concerns itself with notions of fiction and fabrication and creation of photographic content. I am interested in mirroring the impossibility of the fringe conspiracies in the impossibility of my attempts to document the antenna in the deepest, not-so-deep waters of an unrelated bay or in wild plants, chocolate foil or conspiracy websites. Through this collection of bizarre images, I hope to reveal higher and more-real truths in the story of the Eltanin Antenna.
We connected with Ella Wylynko from GOSHI, a youth artist collective in Perth, Australia to discuss the current state of youth activism and their guide to Playing the System. A video series exploring how youth are playing the systems they’ve been left with while searching for positive change in the state of the world.
Youth around the world are becoming more and more mobilized politically. Climate change and its implications tend to drive the dialogue. Is that a big part of the conversation in youth culture in Perth?
Isolated, alone, lacking culture and incredibly conservative all seem to be the general descriptives used when referring to Perth. While this may apply to the older generations, I can say for certain this is not the climate that surrounds the youth of Perth and the conversations being held in classrooms, bars, skateboard parks, beaches and cafes. This is not the conversation being held on stages, in lectures, in youth committee groups and on youth boards. This is not the conversation in the slightest.
While some youth remain disengaged from politics and social activism - and lets be fair not everyone needs to be - most young people in Perth, and most young artists specifically are taking a stance against the current federal government and are articulating their discontent and satisfaction with certain positions being taken. Climate change, following the Same-sex marriage vote, has really started to enter the picture.
Perth is environmentally unique. We live on stolen land, resting on a culture never granted sovereignty, reliant on our perfect seasons and unfortunately mining companies that support our economy. However, due to the growing movement towards animal rights, environmentalism, sustainability and conservation and due to the incredible capabilities of social media, young people are growing increasingly aware and agitated at the snowball of issues that aren’t being resolved surrounding our environment.
Climate change is over-taking the conversation.
Playing the System brings up an idea about a new kind of activism, where you change the system from within instead of directly confronting it. As youth slowly infiltrates this system, where do you think this will take us?
Playing the system is about infiltrating the systems already in place; making them work for us and changing them to be more ethical and sustainable. This can occur from the minute to larger scale liberalism, capitalism and nationalism. So what is the end goal? To encourage (as ad-busters puts it) a ’new world order’ in which we use our democratic system of government to stand for the people properly and recognise and respond to the voices in a positive influential way, rather than to just get votes. But we want to stay smart about it, rather than create a greater divide between generations but unite it instead. As so many social justice movements fail to harmonise both sides and further create a gap between them. The final goal is to live in a world that doesn’t favour those who happen to be born in to certain circumstances. One that lets everyone thrive. Be heard. Be recognised.
The desire and need for drastic societal change is definitely in the air around the world. How do you think today’s youth can change things to guide us to a more sustainable future?
Sustainability comes in many forms; environmental, economical and political are the three largest. Todays youth are recognising the need for a uniting of these three realms and are vowing to educate themselves and others about how this can occur. Of course there are still those pursuing STEM subjects, but they are equally as important for informing the decisions being made, along with an understanding of the arts. As we move towards a more interdisciplinary world we are crying for a mindset that is about collective decisions rather than independent ones. I see us changing the future through our respective fields, but personally I believe art will be the biggest driver. Not in a philosophical, pretentious sense; in a ‘design influences your mindset’ ‘advertisements persuade you do buy/do shit’ ‘articles, films, artwork all make you feel, make you think, make the inaccessible ideas accessible’. Art will showcase exactly what is wrong, all the views, all the ideas, all the possible solutions and guide us towards being more sustainable, more ethical and more appreciative of the beautiful world in which we are lucky enough to inhabit. That is what GOSHI stands for.
What do you say to those who think it’s too late to change and that we are doomed to fail?
You’re probably right.
No, I’m clearly joking. However, this does seem to be the overshadowing cloud that is starting to encompass us all. But, as many people within the older generations say and history tells, humanity has never and will never be perfect so we are all just progressing as fast as we can. Progression itself is a mindset that didn’t exist in ancient indigenous cultures as such. Progression is another world view. But it’s the most positive and powerful one we have. Personally I believe the scariest thing we have to face is technology progressing so fast that is transcends the progression of our consciousness. So until that happens, it’s not too late - we start changing our old ways, implementing new ways, learning to live lifestyles that we haven’t before and making more conscious, self-aware decisions. And of course we start playing the system on a personal and global scale.
My name is Domonkos Varga and I’m a 20-year-old fine art photographer based in Budapest, Hungary. I’m doing conceptual artworks, mostly staged and fine art photography projects about the affections of contemporary social trends and modern society on the individuals. As an artistic skill set, it is important me to use different visual narratives and viewpoints related to my series to visibly express a wide range of emotions which has a unique impact on the viewer.
In general, I like to make phenomenons and social tendencies and other invisible notions visible, throughout the medium of photography. For me, it is important to use the tools of staged, editorial, studio and architectural photography all combined in my series to make a visually varied atmosphere filled with hidden references, motives and double-meanings. I’m currently studying at Moholy-Nagy University Of Arts and Design (MOME) in Budapest as a second-year Bachelor participant at the Photography Department.
This particular ongoing conceptual work represents a metaphoric narrative related to the appearance of materialist perceptions in modern societies. In my belief, materialist ideas (in its philosophical definition) are now in a conquering tendency which process affects the universal demands connected to our contemporary social mentality. We live our life hand-in-hand with certain objects which create virtual dimensions and new systems such as our smartphones and computers. We are standing in front of the opportunity of creating new and unknown platforms, even artificial realities and also fully developed Artificial Intelligence. They do not only help us to manage our life easier but sometimes cause deformation in personal relationships and social interactions as it generally changes the individual role of a persona in this rushing new world. But the limits of human development tend to raise constantly higher just like our symbolic architecture. In addition, spirituality and idealism as a way of thinking are slowly starting to lose its importance nowadays as we excessively concentrating on technological and scientific development. Referring to contemporary philosophy, this train of thought contains the ideas of new materialism (in continental philosophy) and reductive materialism (or scientific materialism / in analytic philosophy. What is the real role of humanity in this new digital era? How will we cooperate and race with artificial problem-solving possibilities when our brain has a limited capacity? How will we describe the conception of an ideal relationship in the upcoming years? Will our attitude to emotions change in the upcoming years? Are we going to change the general perception of humanity? These are just a few of my questions which supported the idea of my main theme. My work shows my vision of this progressing and still forming social procedure. I believe the outlined phenomenon will have a great impact on us. The title of the project refers to a Latin phrase which means 'material thing'.
Since 2016, Aristotle Roufanis has been creating super-high-definition images of urban landscapes that are an intimate look into the lives of city-dwellers and their loneliness. The large composite images of his Alone Together series are the result of dedicated observation, as he photographs the cities he visits from dusk till dawn: after setting up his equipment on a high-rise or hill, the artist proceeds to patiently capture the city below click by click, in a process that can take several hours. In Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, the angels are constantly listening to the voices in the city; in Alone Together, the photographer is silently peering into the city’s concrete body with his lens as it sleeps.
“The bigger the city, the lonelier we feel”, comments Aristotle, who recently moved to London from another bustling urban centre, namely his hometown of Athens, Greece. “In a big city, we are very efficient in covering all our consumerist needs, but we forget our need for companionship. It is important for people to understand that although lonely, they are not alone. Individuality does not equal to alienation.”
Apart from it being a feat of technique and skill, the sheer size and extreme amount of detail seen in Roufanis’ images have a very particular emotional impact: they make the urban landscape clearly visible all across their surface, which is something we cannot experience when looking at a vast expanse with naked eye. That also makes the images lose their depth and become flat, like a veil that protects the tender humanness hidden behind it. It is said that Pythagoras of Samos taught his initiates from behind a black veil, so that they would focus on his teachings rather than his image. In a similar way, we need the intricate black veil of these images to help us shift our focus from how the city appears, in order to focus on what it tells— that is, to actually feel the intensity of the many soliloquies that are being spoken behind its dark walls.
To make each little light visible within the vast urban jungle, Aristotle has deployed a technique of super high-resolution photography, which is then complemented by meticulous digital editing that can take up to one month for each photo.
The images for the Alone Together series, when presented in an exhibition context, are shown in extremely high-resolution prints that are at least 160 cm and up to 5 metres wide, in order to convey as much detail as possible. This enables the viewer to explore different areas of the image, and perhaps identify with particular lights or even people seen in the photos: the resolution of the images is so high, that tiny figures can sometimes be seen standing in the windows, perhaps contemplating the city outside or doing everyday things in their home.
London, Paris, Hong Kong, Miami, Athens: for Aristotle, urban habitats and the loneliness of city dwellers are surprisingly the same wherever you go. By isolating only a few illuminated windows in each photo, the artist seeks to both raise awareness about the epidemic of urban isolation in big cities and take a positive stance about it. Composition and balance here are less about form and colour than about organization of content: which windows are kept illuminated within the sea of dark anonymous apartment buildings, and what do they contain? A sofa, a painting, a person behind a curtain: all these glimpses of an otherwise uneventful evening after work (or maybe the last excruciating minutes of a long sleepless night) are transformed into dramatic events full of emotional tension.
Cities are not fragile. They are cruel. How on earth did this unloving condition become the habitat of choice for humans? Some say that we build cities because we have always lived together and need each other’s company. But probably it’s the other way around: being close to each other is how we survive the city and its trappings in the first place. The softness of human relationships nestles within the city like when a mollusk finds shelter in a rock. And sometimes we need a kind observer to raise the mirror and show us how we live, in order to realize just how bright a lonely light can shine at night.
Hotel Motel 101
Brett Patman is an Australian photographer with a soft spot for Motels. His project, Hotel Motel 101 is a compilation of photographs from one hundred and one different roadside motels within a 170 KM radius of Sydney, photographed late at night or very early in the morning, highlighting the variety of appearances from place to place.
The collection covers the whole spectrum of roadside motels from the beachy pastel coloured boutiques, to seedy, unkempt establishments with some shocking accounts in the TripAdvisor reviews.
How did you become a Motel connoisseur? What made you pick them as your subject matter?
I don't know if I'd go so far to call myself a motel connoisseur, I just thought there was a good idea in something to do with motels but wasn't really sure what it was at the time. It's an idea I've been sitting on for a while but never really knew where to start, then one night I was watching Mindhunter, and there were these cool looking motel scenes and that was more or less the catalyst, I went out the next night and just started shooting and it all went from there.
Why did you feel it was important to document these places?
In all honesty, I didn't feel a sense of importance other than to create art, it was purely a creative outlet for me to do this, but looking back I guess the days of motels are numbered with the rise of things like Airbnb, so in that sense I think it is a record of a way of life that won't be around forever, and that does have some importance.
How long did you spend on the road hunting for motels? How did you find the ones you wanted to photograph?
I think I spent about 3 or 4 weeks shooting motels every second night or so, sometimes consecutive nights too. Regarding finding them, it was just a matter of putting 'motel' into google maps and then making a list of every single one I could find heading in any given direction, I'd then compile that into a run for that night, and that's really all there was to it. I didn't care what they looked like, as long as they were a motel and no people were hanging around, I'd shoot it.
What is it about motels that make them so enduring in our popular culture? Are they as ingrained in the public psyche in Australia as they are in North America?
There's this specific element of mystery with motels, who has been there, who is there now, what are all these people doing here, where are they going, none of which you're likely ever to get an answer, but it's intriguing all the same. I don't really know how they are viewed in the American psyche compared to Australia, but from what I gather it is probably similar. Most Australians have a connection to motel stays in one way or another, everyone recalls summer holidays along the coast in a dank motel, but everyone still has fond memories even though the physical attributes of a motel are pretty tragic.
Did you run into any odd situations? Anything memorable from the visited places?
I was probably the odd situation myself in most cases. There was one motel where I encountered someone who questioned what I was doing. It was late at night and was around the back taking a photo of the accommodation entrance. Almost straight away, a security guard emerged from the shadows and said: "You can't do that mate, this is private property" I responded, "Oh sorry I was just taking a photo of the sign, I'm going now anyway." He had this completely bewildered look on his face. He looked at the sign I'd just photographed, paused, looked back at me and said, "Yeah, but it's private property" almost like he was asking a question. I said, "Oh sorry I didn't realise it was private property, I just wanted a photo of the sign, I'll go now". With a furrowed brow and a totally perplexed look on his face, he shook his head and walked away.
Did you do some personal research and stayed in some of the pictured establishments?
Other than looking up places to shoot and reading the reviews (sort by least stars every time) I didn't research a lot beyond that. I've only stayed in one of the motels I shot, but that was almost exactly thirty years ago to the day.
How accurate are the reviews on TripAdvisor? You must be an expert by now.
I'd say they are pretty accurate. You get a pretty good feeling of how bad a motel might be just by looking at it, of course not all things present themselves in this way, but if it looks like hell on the outside, you can be sure it's not going to be better inside.
Temples of an Atheist State
The first time I saw these bunkers was on my way from Macedonia to Tirana, the capital of Albania. I read about them before and saw a documentary, but the view from the bus window was exciting. I faced bunkers in the most unexpected places - backyards, cemeteries, playgrounds. They were odd buildings along the road, which to me resembled the abandoned ruins of ancient temples that sometimes surrealistically supplemented the urban or rural landscapes of the country. They were temples, in a sense: the temples of an atheist state.
Albania, under the leadership of Enver Hoxha, was declared the world's first atheist state in 1967. Every single place of worship had been destroyed or converted into other uses, such as cinemas, warehouses, or sports halls. Enver Hoxha strongly admired Joseph Stalin, and, like Stalin, he persecuted and subjected religious institutions and believers to reprisals. However, it was not a question of the complete destruction of religion in Albania. The law prohibiting all religious practices was adopted, possibly under the influence of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. On the other hand, in the period from the 1960s to the 1980s, Hoxha carried out a programme of the country's "bunkerisation", which resulted in the construction of a total of 750,000 bunkers in every corner of Albania.
“The bunkers are our cathedrals, our scars," an old Albanian once said. There is a widespread belief that Hoxha was paranoid. After the death of Joseph Stalin, he broke with the Soviet Union and gradually isolated the country from the rest of the world. Hoxha lived in constant fear of attack from outside. Therefore, the bunkers were intended to act as defensive positions across the entire country.The regime also desperately tried to militarize civilians. From the age of 12, Albanians were trained in bunkers to repel any invaders' attacks. Contemporary research indicates that six small and one big bunker were built per square kilometre. This meant that every citizen could defend against invaders wherever he happened to be in case of attack: from his backyard, workplace, or any public place.
The bunkerisation programme was stopped after Hoxha's death in 1985, and the bunkers were abandoned following the collapse of Communism in 1990. In recent years, the government has been pursuing a policy of bunker liquidation. It is difficult to find abandoned bunkers in big cities today. A few of them have been turned into artistic objects; the rest were simply destroyed. I have learned that a lot of the bunkers are being put to new use as cafes, restaurants, and for other purposes. I found places where they were, but now all of them are closed and demolished. It wasn't all bad, in the neighbourhoods and villages there are still many bunkers untouched since communist times. For two weeks I travelled around Albania, looking for bunkers and people who live near them. In Albanian cities it's easy to find people who speak English, the situation is entirely different in the countryside. At best, older people can remember a few Russian words they learned in school under communism. Mr. Bregu, the roadside cafe owner, who drinks homemade wine in the backyard of his cafe in my photo, talked with me for a long time, showed me mountains, river, road, sun, recalled their names in Russian and was happy that I was able to understand him. Fortunately, I always had a piece of paper on me which the owner of a hostel kindly explained my goals in Albanian.
Also, among elderly Albanians, there are many people who remember communism with nostalgia. One of them picked me up when I hitchhiked. "Are you a communist or a capitalist?" - He asked before opening the car door. He used to work as an English teacher, so his English was very good. "My dear capitalist friend," - he told me, - "You need to pay for the fare. Now is not the communism time." However, it did not prevent him to ply me with a coffee and rakia later.
Albanians grew up surrounded by bunkers. Since childhood, the bunkers have been part of their daily lives. They were an integral part of the scenery. Young and elderly, Albanians often asked me wondrously - "Are there really no bunkers in other countries?"
The time of communism has passed along with the prohibition of religions. Now all the places of worship have been returned to their former value - mosques and churches. Hoxha's temples, forgotten and no longer needed by anyone, are gradually disappearing from the face of Albania. They are temples of war, which, fortunately, were never used for their intended purpose.
The series “Make Believe” pairs original photographs with reconfigured text from Donald Trump’s 1987 book The Art of the Deal. Each image title derives from one specific page via a Dadaist “cut-up” approach, in which words and phrases are decontextualized, reordered and repurposed. While Trump’s personality and reputation certainly form a considerable presence in the work, the images and the titles are not meant to refer specifically to the President or the present political climate. Rather, the imagery and text are often intended to lampoon the braggadocio and surliness of the authorial voice. In other instances, images evoke human qualities that I identify as absent or lacking in the book: a capacity for wonder, humility, and a recognition of one’s shortcomings. Ultimately, I intend the series as an antidote and corrective to unbridled egotism and nationalism.
Our recent curation with Marlène Meyer-Dunker for her popular feature on our Instagram feed (#reppinkselects) inspired a new space where we aim to bring you short essays, musings and notes from artists in our community while digging into some of their most personal work. The goal is to uncover the creative process, the very personal journey to find inspiration. Scott Behr's work depicts everyday life in a striking, magical and simply uplifting manner. As humble as he is about his approach to photography, he has achieved visual mastery and a massive following on social media as a result. Here is his entry into Creative Spark:
As far as photography goes, I'm a relative newcomer to it.
I only started it with any focus or serious practice since 2013. Before that I used to take random shots that interested me with my budget Canon digital camera, mostly while walking around or traveling. Just a way to fight off boredom.
The inspired moment came after spending the night on my apartment roof with an old friend, talking about what it would take to become more creative on a regular basis in our daily lives. And from that conversation, we both realized that the simplest way to achieve that was to force ourselves to take at least a photo a day(more if possible), no matter how busy we were or how we felt, good or bad. It was all in the repetition and practice and that's the basis of where this all started for me.
My inspirations are constantly changing, just as they do for everyone. There are a few that linger more than others. I always seem to come back to the work of William Eggleston, Nan Goldin, Saul Leiter, Diane Arbus and Robert Frank. They each embody different aspects of what I'm chasing in terms of my work: light, color, subject and composition. Nothing earth shattering at all in my choosing them, many people look to them as teachers and with good reason. I was attracted to their work from my beginning as an artist & just moved forward from there.
Music and movies have been on my mind lately as sources of inspiration. I think because I tend to withdraw inwardly more during the autumn and winter; both keep me sane during the long stretches of darkness that come with the seasons. And because of that, music and film seep into what I'm shooting - not that it would be obvious to anyone but me. I watched the film Tokyo Drifter again this winter and was mesmerized less by the plot and more by the use of color and cinematography. Seijun Suzuki carefully built up an incredible palette for that film. It's playful and provocative, but what struck me most was it made me want to incorporate more weird colors in my life. So I began shooting with more vibrant stocks of film, Ektar, Velvia, expired stock that I would find online for sale. I would shoot and get the results back, and that only made want to achieve even weirder results because it was fun. Seems like we are living in an era that undervalues fun and that's just unacceptable to me.
Music is always present in my work
Everything else can fade away but music is the constant. I listen as soon as I wake up, in the car, at night, etc.
Funny enough, I'm never listening when I'm out shooting, too distracting for me! But it's there, the soundtrack is playing as I snap away like an idiot. Lately it's been nothing but old punk rock and American Jazz from the 50's & 60's. Blue Note label, Impulse, Riverside, Miles, Monk, Coltrane, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Sunny Murray, Archie Shepp and lots more. The way these guys practice and improvise is the main takeaway for me. Constantly evolving, never giving up or being fearful of the difficult work or emotionally challenging situations. I have more respect for these artists than I could convey in words but they represent the high mark for me in terms of dedication. And I always want that same spirit in my own work as well.
I was drawn to making double exposures with film almost as soon as I started shooting on a regular basis. This comes directly as an inspiration from the experimental cut up work of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Deconstructing a painting or text through the use of randomly cutting up words or visuals to form a new work or making clear a previously unexamined aspect of an existing work. Personally I can't think of a better explanation of a double exposure. They provide a way of getting yourself unstuck when you’re feeling like you’re in a rut. I enjoy making double exposures as often as possible, mostly because it's a lot of fun.
This time in Artist Talk, we converse with Nathalie Basoski, currently making moves in Brooklyn, New York. Nathalie’s work “explores the thin line between fashion and fine arts and thrives in street photography as an anthropological study of the places she visits” as stated aptly on her gorgeous website. This couldn’t be a more accurate description of her airy, effortless and soul filled photography. We wanted to see how she does it.
Your work sits very comfortably at the intersection of fashion and street photography. It has a very intimate feel, yet it’s very observational. How did you find your approach as a photographer?
I think it's an interesting combination of everything I'm attracted to, I don't like labels like ‘street photography’ and ‘fashion photography’ because when labeling your work like that you have to remain in the frame of what ‘fashion/street photography’ is expected to be like. When I like taking my favorite elements of composition and design from fashion and implement them in my street photography. Then take the spontaneity and freedom from street photography and implement it into fashion. By not secluding my work from other genres I can compose images with all the elements I like. The best thing I’ve learned from my own experience is trying out all other art mediums and especially all genres of photography.
Do you have a favorite piece of photographic equipment you can’t live without for street photography?
Honestly, street photography changed for me when I got the Sony a6300. It’s a cheap, small, simple mirrorless camera that does everything I need it to do. The extremely fast focus and cute little pop-out screen are great for the unpredictable nature of the streets, but also the dynamic range of the Sony sensor keeps blowing my mind every single time. I shoot everything on the same sigma 30mm 1.4 lens.
Since I started shooting film I’ve been using the Canon Elan IIe with the nifty fifty I’ve had since 2012. It does everything I need a camera to do - being able to adjust shutter speed, aperture and autofocus. √
But my all time favorite must be my phone, I always have it with me and I can get really close to people, camera’s have become an intimidating piece of equipment on the street, people constantly tell me not to take pictures, even when i’m just holding my camera. But with a phone you can do anything, it's a really cool spy tool and everyone is already holding one themselves so it's not as suspicious
Do you have any photographic heroes, influences?
Alex Webb and William Eggleston are my street photography heros. Tho I get most inspired by artists I know personally, I'm surrounded by some great photographers, check out turnaroundcancel he is my current fav.
How do you feel about the rise of social media and what does it mean to you as an artist?
Social media is a great platform to get your own audience and learn about yourself through the feedback. I also use it to reach out and meet artists myself to absorb their creative flow and visions. Though spending too much time on social media can warp your perception of yourself once you start losing yourself in the number of likes and followers, which is unhealthy.
What’s your favorite city to photograph and Why?
I’ve learned that change is what inspires me the most, no matter how great a place is, you gotta leave and come back to it, then you really learn about a place’s energy when you can see it with fresh eyes. This counts for every single place i’ve been to. Though I must say New York City is still my all time favorite and I’m lucky to be living there.
We sat down with Alba Giertz from Sweden to talk photography, inspiration, and social media. Alba is a talented young photographer and her work is increasingly making waves on and off the interweb. We were interested to find out what drives her, and what her secret is to getting, -needless to say- well deserved attention in today's increasingly crowded world of photographers.
How did you first get interested in photography?
When I was little, or around eight I think, my parents built me a darkroom under the stairs where I learnt to develop film. I shot mainly friends around that time.
Wow that’s such a young age to take this so seriously!
I can’t take credit for it because it was my parents that were cool and encouraged me. I remember the feeling of just having shot a roll of film. It felt like you had a treasure sort of. Being able to capture visuals was very special back then. More special than it is now.
Were your parents involved in photography?
No my parents worked in television. My Mom had this crazy wardrobe because she was a host for a talkshow and I used to borrow her clothes and dress up my friends. We had wigs on and it was super dirty. If it would have been anyone else shooting those pictures it would have been very wrong. (Laughs)
Do you still work on film?
Yes I do. I’d say about 20 percent of my work is shot on film.
What’s your format of choice for film? 35mm or Medium format?
I like both. Since quite recently I have been using a Mamiya 7 which is a medium format camera. 35mm and medium format provide different ways of shooting, it’s almost like they shouldn’t be compared.
You have a very recognizable style. Using dramatic light, and mixing ambient and often stark artificial light. How did you develop your voice as a photographer?
It’s really hard to narrow it down because I’ve been doing photography for a long time. You experiment to find something you like and then you just evolve that. It’s all quite abstract for me. It’s all about the emotions I sense while shooting or while looking through the batch (and of course being almost too late) that pushes my work forward. Consequently it can be hard when one’s work relies on a gut feeling, because you can’t control your emotions. Sometimes it’s simply not there, and I’m forced to be passive.
You don’t plan your work or your shoots?
Yes I do, but it depends on what it’s for. If it’s for a job, or I’m working with other people, I plan more, or like a lot a lot a lot more. I’m generally quite nervous, hence I prefer to try the lighting and everything back and forth. And if I can, I will go to the location a few days before to plan. However when I go on set, I can break free from that and do whatever.
What I meant to say was that your work feels very instinctive.
Well, yes I guess I try to be malleable to the scenery. It’s about having your eyes open to what unfolds. You know good natural light here can last for like a second. You see it, and then it’s gone. Sometimes I see something and I literally run with my camera to capture it before it’s lost.
Who are your influences, and why?
I think it also goes back to when I was younger. I used to read and collect foreign fashion magazines as a kid. Which was not a very good thing for my mental health because of the beauty standards. I think it’s deep down in me now whether I like it or not, and I still take a lot from that time, mentally and in my work. Now as an adult, and this is going to sound a bit narcissistic but, I’m not that into looking at what other people do. I think it’s important to know what comes from yourself because as soon as you see something, you pick it up subconsciously and it does affect you. In that aspect, Instagram for example has not been the best platform because it’s like it’s too much photography and you can lose yourself in it. I find it funny when people are like -oh you are a photographer, and they talk about some famous photographer, I’m like: Yea.. Most of the times I have no idea who they’re talking about. (Laughing)
Your work has been widely featured on many platforms, printed and digital. How do you feel about the rise of social media, and Instagram culture in particular and its effect on your work?
I feel a little conflicted about it, as it’s given me a lot. Being able to connect with people has been invaluable. I’ve actually met a few people from there and some have become really close friends. What I don’t like is that you have to please a wider range to make your posts be seen, especially now with the order of the posts not being chronological. I am really against that when it comes to art. Art should never be about being likeable. It should be about being able to tell whatever and do whatever you want and not be about thinking: are people are going to like this? Because if they don’t the post is going to disappear from your followers feeds, so you don’t just lose likes, you lose visibility too. You’re contrived to choose: do what you assume people generally like and be visible, or just do your thing and possibly disappear. The system and algorithm that gives you the rankings kick the already weak, unless you pay the platform not to be kicked at. As a result we become less brave and slowly we’re reshaped into similar subcategory moulds.
Another issue I have is the pace. Everything goes so fast. With that speed things can of course spread rapidly, but it also enables both your images, concept and ideas to get copied with the same speed. People often repost without giving credit. Eventually it just spins and no-one knows who the originator is. Before the internet, if you got published you were the creator and you were entitled to your work. But today, the same second as you post something, someone can go out and take a similar picture and upload it the
same day. If it’s a good visual idea, people will copy it until it’s impossible to track where it came from. It has taken decades for me to develop my style and sort of come to where I’m at today. I find it really important to not do what everybody else does. It’s to a point where I have to let go of work I’ve been refining for years, because I don’t want to be someone who is following a ”trend”. I perceive it as getting my identity stolen when someone imitates a visual concept I have, for it’s forcing me to abandon my concept, no matter how much I love it. I’ve conducted several hunts in the DMs during the past two years, which has made me rather unpopular. No one ever admits it anyway. Which must stem from that people aren’t even aware of that they’ve been influenced. I know this is a bit mental, and not very nice at all. Some of it might just be in my head too. Plus I’m probably guilty of doing the same shit myself.
What is your favourite piece of photography gear?
You know I really agree with the saying, the best camera is the one you have with you. I actually shoot with my phone a lot when I should be shooting with something more solid. And afterwards I’m thinking: why didn’t I just go and get my camera? I really think it’s important to bring your equipment with you everywhere you go, at the least for the period you set out to shoot. It can be kind of hard to relax constantly being on standby but afterwards you hardly ever regret it.
Any pro tips for aspiring photographers on how to get their work seen?
Firstly, well this is going to sound weird but: Don’t submit your work! Magazines run in the same direction as everyone else. If you get a good reach in your niche you will be contacted by magazines. If you submit your work, you don’t have the psychological advantage of being contacted by them and be this unattainable “thing” that they’ve found and want. You have to kind of be admired from a distance. If you submit and indirectly ask to get published, you may make the editors feel as if they are doing you a favour and not the other way around. This may not work for everybody, but honestly me ever getting published has never been a result of me submitting anything. Secondly, you have to have your own heartbeat. Let’s say you find a concept that’s already popular and you try to copy it, you’d have to beat everyone in that category to get attention. Though if you create something on your own which no-one else really does then
you are only competing with yourself. And eventually a lot of imitators...nah just kidding. (Laughs)
Follow Alba on Instagram and visit her website to see more of her photography at www.alba.giertz.com
From my first travel experience, India inspired me in my photography. This time I returned with a deeper perspective on the real life of people in India, a portrayal of Indian culture that is most intimate. A home is the soul of its owner and the most intimate place of a person. It tells a story about the residents living in it. Every home and its occupants have their own story of life to tell, in India the colours help to tell the rest.
I portraiture families, men and women, young and old people all living in different slum areas in the north part of India, such as Rajasthan and Delhi.
Most of the people in my work live a life at the edge of existence and are socially disadvantaged. In India, financially unstable families usually share a small house with up to six to seven members. It is a common scene of the slums. Most of these households have only one room, which is being shared with the whole family. One third of the slums are devoid of an indoor toilet. The ones that do have a toilet are not connected with proper sewage systems. Many generations are sharing life and dependant on each other. I want my work also to act as a reminder of the importance of family and shared values, which is a certain kind of wealth that even those who have less can cherish and enjoy.
A photographic diary by Anna Hahoutoff
This series called is called Americana. It is a body of work I started in 2014, while visiting a friend in California. I am a French / Russian photographer and most of my childhood has been strongly influenced by Russian culture, and imagery. It was my first time visiting the United States after more than two decades of dreaming about it. Though my visual references were Russian, my interest as a teenager was turned towards the great west and American commercials and movies imposing themselves in my visual dictionary, creating an aesthetic dichotomy between East and West. At this point, I was living in France, symbolically almost right in the middle. Visa in hand I spent a couple of weeks traveling through California but it was too great of a shock, I decided to spend more time there in order to document my version of the United States. I threw away my return flight and have been there on and off since then. I’ve traveled through more than 35 states so far, sometimes taking my time, coming back, sometimes just passing by depending on how much I loved the place.
This one was taken in California near Palm Springs. I was just coming back from a trip to Joshua Tree National Park.
I spent nearly an hour in this hotel courtyard taking pictures of the plants. This one stood out as my favorite. For some reason it makes me think of Japan. I don't know why, maybe the colors or the composition but every time I see it, Japan is on my mind.
I shot this one in Birmingham, Alabama. The house we stayed at was really dirty but this corner of our room looked so nice, so cosy I decided to immortalize it.
It makes it look as if our stay was really cosy and cute when in fact it was quite awful and I barely slept.
This was at the border between Nevada and Arizona. We had just left Las Vegas and we were driving really fast because we had to be in Phoenix before 3pm and we were running kind of late already. I insisted on pulling over on the highway because I was too in love with this tree.
It is an incredible experience to finally wander through these images we think we know so well, and have a look behind the curtains of the American dream. I’ve spent years watching movies in which Russia symbolises the evil, the bad, the enemy standing in the way of freedom, happiness, and glory of capitalism. Now I was finally in the core of all this and it became soon very striking what the distance can do on our conceptions. Far from the joyful american dream, especially this past year, I was witnessing great distress, open racism, extreme poverty in some places, cultural void in most states, and global misconception of the world. As if the idea of dichotomy was supposed to stick to me, I started to develop a love/hate relationship to the country. In one hand, everything was disappointing, fake, sad and quite terrifying. On the other hand, everything was entertaining, excessive, gorgeous, and fascinating.
Colorado Spring, Colorado.
We stayed two nights there and the whole experience was kind of weird. The hostess was a bit socially awkward and pretty much attached to her tv the whole time. She had two or three cats maybe and sadly the place was a bit dirty, covered in cat hair and smelling strongly like cat piss.
On the last morning I wanted to have a picture of at least one of the cats before we left as I had so far photographed every pet we'd encountered during the road trip. I ended up with this photo which until now remains one of my favorite ever.
We were on the way back to California after two month on the road and heading to Lake Tahoe. We were exhausted and running a bit late but we stopped on the highway to rest for a minute and snack. We were under the most beautiful fruit trees ever. Fruits were everywhere on the floor, and kept falling while we were eating. They were gorgeous but they stunk.
A very strong memory actually. We had just arrived a few hours ago and I was feeling under the weather with a little fever but we were too excited to be in Louisiana for the first time so we still got out to discover the city a little bit. We were driving randomly as we like to do in smaller towns and ended up in this area. The sun was about to set and I started to rush to get at least a few pictures before dusk. We were actually in a tiny swamp but right in the middle of the town and on the university campus. I kept wondering how wonderful it must be to live on that campus. What a gorgeous setting. How exotic. I shot a lot of pictures really fast then an alligator showed up. On the campus! The more it seemed normal for everybody the more I was loosing my mind. An alligator. On a campus. The students who walked by us barely looked at it. I was literally loosing it by being way too excited. We stared at it until it was too dark to see anything. I still think about this moment every now and then thinking, God, maybe I should apply and try to get into that university.
I am constantly amazed to see the empire such a young country was able to build. Empire that is obviously declining right now. We are witnessing loud and clear the fall of the American empire.
Through my work, and far from ubiquitous road trip stories I wanted to create, to feed, a global imagery, very abstract and far from all these concerns, almost like a series of still lives or old paintings. I concentrate on textures, colors and shapes, and have numerous elements that are coming back from one state to another. Whether it is colors, angles or subjects I try to weave a coherent visual lexicon of my United States. Trying to gather the similarities and differences from every state I am in a way trying to find familiar elements in unfamiliar places. Nature is to me the most incredible thing to experience in the USA, and this is why I rapidly decided to focus on this aspect. The natural landscape. Far from all the ephemeral, the constructed, the simulated, nature remains to oldest part of this continent, and brings back to a part of history very neglected: the native americans. Getting lost in these settings definitely gives you a glance at what this country was before the invasion and how beautiful and glorious it must have been. I have always been close to nature but clearly after these years spent in America my relationship to nature has changed a lot and it became a necessity more than a treat. Having easy access to such landscapes is truly life changing. Though my work completely steers clear of political and social issues I thought it was very interesting to travel across so many states at such a heavy time. It was incredibly interesting to go from one town to another, one state to another and discuss with very different Americans about the state their country is in. Many things became all the sudden very clear, and I found answers to many questions, though I did not like or agreed with most of the answers.
We stayed there a couple of nights because accommodation in Salt Lake City itself was way too expensive. Everything was weird but in a wonderful way, the whole setting looked like a movie set, very quiet, very new, almost fake. We were just near the supermarket chain Harmon's and for the first time in months we were happy with what we ate. We kind of lost control inside the supermarket when we discovered they had fresh bread, truffle cheese, olive tapenade and Italian cured meats. The products were so good we came back three times a day for three days. Hands down best products I ever ate in the United States in almost four years
Remember when I was talking about going to Phoenix in a rush? Well here we are, first day in Phoenix we rushed like crazy, dropped the back and headed back to the desert to shoot some cacti.
The light was so perfect everything was so gorgeous. But every lovely moment seems to have a downside to it. It was also our hottest day ever, and after one hour of shooting my camera broke down from the heat. I was very panicked but after a few days of not touching my camera to let it rest it miraculously worked again. So at the same time one of the best and the worst evening of the trip.
I shot this one in Cincinnati, Ohio on our way to Detroit. We were exhausted and stayed home for the afternoon so I photographed almost every inch of the house. Then we stayed on the front deck for a while, watching the gorgeous sky while sipping Earl Grey tea.
I like the idea of documenting this quest through really contemplative images, very immobile, using soft colors as if I was completely disconnected from the reality around me.
Between 2014-2015 I did the northern states, and between 2016-2017 the middle and southern states. I believe that at some point, I was searching for a visual unity in my images in order to replace the one I could maybe not find in the states. I was answering the question: Are the United States united? The answer obviously is yes and no. There are countless major differences between all the states, but they unite around one idea, being part of the greatest nation on earth. The American nationalism seems to have no limits. I’m really interested in that, and what gathers nations in general, what unites and divides individuals.
I feel like I worked on this project with great pressure, as if I knew that I would not have the opportunity to come back, or at least, not anytime soon. Therefore, the whole experience has been kind of tainted by the fact that I was living behind my camera, shooting as much as I could and constantly trying to capture moments, leaving little time to actually live them.