Documentary portrait photographer Probal Rashid captures the dark side of labor in his recent series Innocence Lost. Profiling the underage workforce in Bangladesh, his candid snaps focus on children who must earn what little money they can in order to provide for their families. The jobs range from brick-chipping, construction and refuse collecting, and are all low-paid jobs. The minimum age for employment is 14 years of age, but because a majority of the work is carried out in small factories, workshops and on the street, laws and guidelines are almost impossible to enforce. This means that some labor is even unpaid. Rashid explains more about the situation:
Children are paid less than adults, with many working up to twelve hours a day. Full-time work frequently prevents children from attending school. Long hours, low or no wages, poor food, isolation and hazards in the working environment can severely affect children’s physical and mental health. (Source)
The portraits of the children are simple, stark and striking images situated in their place of work. Surrounded by the objects they manufacture, you can get an accurate sense of just how long the children labor away for. All framed similarly, and as close ups, the hardships they experience are evident in their faces.
Rashid is a long time advocate of the people of Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. He captures the unspoken side of local life, spirituality and economy in those countries. His past series include Faces In Black Oxide (a further exploration into the workforce, this time in the iron oxide manufacturing industry); Life, Death and Salvation in Varanasi (about the pilgrimage to the Ganges); and Faces of Climate Survivors (portraits of some of the 154 million Bangladeshi who have been affected by natural disasters between 1990 and 2009).
Sculptor Monica Piloni creates surreal, multifaceted versions of the human body from resin, hair and different plastics. Whether it is a triptych of herself, melded at the hips, with multiple breasts, three legs and conjoined heads, or a double tailed horse, she has the ability to make something gruesome seem commonplace. In her work Ballet Series, she assembles body parts to look quietly surreal and unassuming, yet elegant. Figures lie on beds, as if exhausted from a recital, literally collapsing on themselves. Piloni places her models in a graceful manner, toes pointed and muscles tensed as they would be mid-dance. The poses and gestures of the bodies conjure up the drama of French Romantic oil paintings, where humans were depicted expressing a whole range of emotions with their bodies.
In her work Concave & Convex, she piles dismembered body parts up on themselves to form a human landscape. Similar to Louise Bourgeois’s ambiguous sculptural forms, Piloni fragments the human shape into abstraction, and in the process dismantles her, and our, understanding of identity.
Her sculptures are captivating because of their simplicity and fluency of movement. Even her more challenging pieces (modified women with exposed genitalia) have a gentle symmetry that reassures, rather than revolts. See more of her beautifully gruesome work after the jump. (Via Sweet Station)
Aleah Chapin‘s oil painting series The Aunties is an intimate, realistic, immodest look at a women’s world, as seen and experienced by a woman. The models featured are actually the artist’s mother’s friends, women who she has grown up with, and with whom she has a personal, unadulterated knowledge of. Chapin hasn’t spared any detail in her oversized portraits – we see the female figure in all of it’s beauty. Breasts are saggy, stomach rolls are bunched up, stretchmarks are on full display, pubic hair untamed and exposed, and thighs are dimpled with fatty cellulite.
Full of tender moments between mother and son, or groups of friends, her work is a strong counterpoint to the idealized and unrealistic female body images we are confronted with daily. She says about the subject:
Most women have issues and I’m not immune to that. We’re told that our bodies are supposed to be a ‘certain height, certain size, certain weight’. But the pictures we see are completely unrealistic; they’re very Photoshopped. We all know it when we look at them in magazines and yet, we still compare ourselves. That’s why we need images that show all sorts of bodies – so we can accept every size and shape. (Source)
Chapin paints women in a playful, relaxed, completely natural state. She tries to capture a childlike spirit, which is in all of us, no matter our age or gender. She says:
We generally care more what we look like – probably too much at times, me included. Young women are still trying to fit in. I think when you get older you care less –that’s not a negative thing at all. You’re just more accepting. When you get past a certain age you become invisible – and that’s a whole other problem. For me, it’s about finding beauty in every imperfection. (Source) (Via Hi Fructose)
Photographer Amy Friend‘s series Dare Alle Luce is a visual interpretation of the Italian saying – ‘to bring to the light’ (in reference to birth). She has birthed new light (literally) into something old. Sourcing vintage photographs from markets and online, she has pierced them with hundreds of holes, tracing around silhouettes and filling shapes with delicate perforations, flooded by light. Initially starting the project by embroidering the images, she found the effect of hundreds of little needle holes more interesting and decided to pursue that technique instead. Instilling new life into these images from the past, Friend has created hauntingly mysterious objects that exist in between historical and contemporary worlds. She says of her motivation:
I aim to comment on the fragile quality of the photographic object but also to the equal fragility of our lives, our history. All are lost so easily. By playing with the tools of photography, I “re-use” light by allowing it to shine through the holes in the images. In a somewhat playful and yet literal manner, I return the subject of the photographs back to the light, while simultaneously bringing them forward. (Source)
She goes on to say:
In my work I gravitate towards ideas relating to time, memory, impermanence, and the fluctuations of life…. In my practice I tend to work within the medium of photography, however, I am not concerned with capturing a “concrete” reality. Instead, I aim to use photography as a medium that offers the possibility of exploring the relationship between what is visible and non-visible. (Source)
Italian photographer Giampaolo Sgura has put together a whimsical, colorful photo shoot for the December/January 2015 issue of Vogue Paris with supermodels posing as lifelike Barbie dolls trapped in commercial packaging. He has turned the idea of Prêt-à-porter into something quite literal – into a pre-packaged sartorial commodity that you can carry away. The idea of purchasing a look or an outfit from a catalog is now conceptualized as something that it has always been – a highly stylized and idealized situation amplifying our fantasies and desires.
Supermodels Magdalena Frackowiak and Elisabeth Erm take the place of childlike dolls, dressed up in highly fashionable clothes, surrounded by desirable products and placed in boxes labelled with luxury labels such as Dolce and Gabbana, Chanel, Valentino and Miu Miu. They seem to bring the concept of fashion full circle in that they are now animations of the thing they are selling. Fashion photography has always projected an idealized representation of how one could live in the clothes it markets, this time we are shown the truth of the illusion.
As Alfred Stieglitz once said,
In photography, there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality. (Source)
And that is exactly what Sgura’s photography is. It is so real it becomes surreal. It is a stark commentary of the commodification of fashion. He captures the reality of the representation of modern women in modern times – not just as consumers of fashion, but also as objects. (Via Design Boom)
Tully Arnot has a great sense of humor. His sculptures, installations and videos all have a subtle sarcasm to them, and are all a clever commentary on the man/machine connection, and the part technology plays in contemporary society. His latest sculpture in particular (Lonely Sculpture) is a amusing look at the current online dating app Tinder. Setting up a mechanical finger tapping mindlessly away at nothing, Arnot just places a mobile phone underneath the finger machine and proceeds to interact with other humans on the internet. Luke Letourneau sums it up perfectly in his essay about Arnot’s work:
[Lonely Sculpture] is a piece of technology that reflects the way we interact. Dating apps like Tinder are an aspect of socialization that allows for isolation: it reduces identity and demands judgement. The work heightens an absence or disconnect that already exists with this form of interaction. However, Lonely Sculpture does not reserve judgement. The artist’s mechanized silicone index finger taps yes to every dating profile that appears on the screen, even when the screen is loading new profiles the finger keeps unconsciously tapping, anticipating, longing. (Source)
Lonely Sculpture is not the only display of Arnot’s cynical sense of humor. As part of a larger show at Wellington Street Projects called Uncanny Residues, it is one of many pieces. All are concerned with the line between reality and the digital world, humans and technology, and how we interact and utilize different interfaces. Tuley definitely gives us something to think about next time we reach our fingers out to touch the screen.
Sydney based photographer Petrina Hicks produces large scale, hyper-real, glossy images reminiscent of advertising catalogs or billboards. Simple, graphic and highly stylized, her work is sensual and glamorous. Her latest series called The Hippy And The Snake explores the relationship between women and snakes throughout literature and art, but with a decidedly Australian twist. She has placed women either smoking behind a wall of unnaturally bright foliage, lying in a tropical rainforest, hiding behind dripping wet leaves, or floating on a background of unbelievably bright blue, and scattered snakes throughout. The whole atmosphere of the series is one of a sweet teenager meandering through a sugary dreamworld, but one where there is always danger lurking behind the next leaf. It is a seductive setting and Hicks uses this unease purposefully.
There is a tension between the organic and synthetic. Ambiguity and duality is something I often aim for. On the surface, I use images that have an advertising aesthetic to explore its own language and codes, but it is the subtext in the content that works in opposition. (Source)
Hicks uses her background as a commercial photographer to her advantage. The models have blemish-free perfect skin, not a hair out of place and clean silhouettes. Using simple compositions, minimal props, and no unfussy details, Hicks’ aesthetic is as seductive as the snake is in her narrative.
Artist Sheida Soleimani has translated her frustration with her home country Iran and it’s politics into a captivating and symbolically complex photographic series called National Anthem. Her parents fled the country in 1979 after the revolution that overthrew the pro-western Pahlavi dynasty took place. (Both parents were targeted for actively opposing the regime – her mother tortured, and her father escaping across the border.) As a political refugee in America, Soleimani observed her country transition through several fundamental changes and decided to express her disdain visually. Each photographic scene is an exploration of cultural themes and symbols all representing different aspects of the last 35 years in Iran, and the many different dictators and leaders the country has seen. Soleimani says:
In my photographic scenarios, cultural symbols and signifiers are appropriated to create a narrative in regards to my position as an Iranian-American viewing the Middle East from an outside lens. The usage of specific colors and political figures form a symbolic lexicon that runs throughout the series, while party supplies hint at the doctrines of ‘political parties’. Each of the photographs addresses a specific time in Iranian history, while alluding to how both the East and West have responded to societal occurrences. Through incorporating multiple layers, the lexicon can be read and refashioned by the viewers’ ideologies, creating images that remain coeval, while acknowledging former origins. (Source)
Combining collage, installation, performance and object assemblage, Soleimani creates powerful, emotional art-as-activism. The fierce mark making, scrunched up images, burnt candles, and mutilated cultural objects all have the hand of an aggrieved survivor. Managing to turn her deeply personal history into a series of clever, sarcastic visual puns, Soleimani’s artistic therapy is beneficial to us all.