Olivier Valsecchi is a photographer with an eye for transforming bodies into emotional landscapes of strength and despair. We featured his powerful I Am Dust project last February. The series featured here, entitled Drifting, takes a different approach to human architecture; instead of majestic, stately nudes, we see men and women reclining alone and in pairs, arching their backs against bare tables and chairs with a baroque-style melancholia. The darkness surrounding the figures highlights their pale expressions of death and defeat, lending the illuminated flesh a cadaverous-yet-living quality. The series statement elaborates further on this bodily ambiguity:
“Straying the audience from their grounds of certainty, Valsecchi induces an unsettling doubt on whether his subjects are falling apart or withstanding paralysis. He investigates this tenuous and brooding space between inertia and the urge to go somewhere. His bodies appear to have been submitted to an exorcism, an epileptic trance, or a mutilation akin to a reptile being cut in two pieces — and yet still crawling.”
Drifting also channels the art tradition of still life. Posed to capture the wordless throes of pain and despair, the figures’ perfect configurations make them portraits of emotion. Speaking to the use of the genre, Valsecchi writes: “Still-life was the perfect fit for a post-war atmosphere. Beyond symbolizing the ephemeral nature of life, it relates to the notion of transitioning. I wanted to set bodies into an unfamiliar environment and infuse them with a feeling of disorientation, as if recovering from trauma or stuck in a vertigo.” Despite their static postures of grief and submission, Valsecchi’s tragic nudes tremble on the verge of healing, embodying and enduring the darkness so that they can overcome it.
We probably all have an image of Paris in our heads; a romantic, cliched view of a city most English speakers idealize and fantasize about. As a recent first-time visitor to the city of lights (affectionately nicknamed la Ville Lumière), I am also guilty of having this idea. I dreamed it would be full of tiny quaint shoebox-sized apartments covered with ivy, or snow (depending on the season); the cityscape full of scooter sounds zipping through the alleys, or cats screeching as they scampered over falling garbage cans. I’m not sure if I can say whether that vision was realized while I was there, or entirely imagined, but I can relive a certain nostalgia when I see the photography of Alain Cornu.
Cornu captures a theatrical side to the romantic city, illuminated in the moonlight. Focusing on the endlessly interesting rooftops of Paris, his images are a treat to look at. Full of so many angles, hidden corners, inviting skylights and alcoves that we would normally overlook, the images are like a sweet homage to the power of potential in the city.
Having previously worked in the genres of landscape, Cornu is well versed at turning his subjects into fascinating objects. His past series include trees, rocks, misty fields, piles of twigs, windows, walls, doorways, streets, beach fronts, and walkways. And while all of these things could potentially be boring and un-inspirational, they turn into something absorbing and engaging in the hands of this observant photographer.
What looks like a beautiful abstract watercolor painting is something else entirely. Cheeky artist Ross Sonnenberg lets out his inner wild child and lights fireworks in his darkroom to create these intensely colorful one-off photograms. Using photographic paper, gel, sand and light, he sets up the experiment and lets chance take it’s effect on the paper. Interestingly enough, the images he creates resemble galaxies, or close up views of our solar system. Full of different layers and textures, his work definitely looks celestial, and featuring a big bang of some kind. Sonnenberg writes:
I have always been fascinated by the planets and stars, looking through telescopes and wondering what these far off places might look like. With this series I have tried to create imaginary solar systems and super novas using different materials, and fireworks for my light source to make one-of-a-kind camera less images directly onto color and black and white photographic paper. Like the darkness in outer space, I work in the dark to create images that mimic the interstellar places that I always dreamed about going to as a kid. (Source)
His past two series featured the experiment on different scales – Color Bang features the technique on a smaller scale, using pieces that are quite small, and Long Bang involves using larger pieces of paper and stronger fireworks. Have a look at his technique in the video above, and if you are feeling bold, you could try it for yourself.
Common movie scenes are showing us police mug shots, incognito faces in crowds and wanted killer posters. None of these seem unnatural or chocking anymore, we are tamed by cyberculture and technology. We could not imagine having to go through an identity check other than with our passport, signature or a police officer physically present in front of us. Yet, we’ve already left those ancient methods and engaged with facial, retina and odour recognition; fingerprints and hand geometry. We’ve entered the biometric data era. Not always conscious of how fast the world evolves around us, Tony Oursler has set a mission to “invite the viewer to glimpse themselves from another perspective that of the machines we have recently created”. He has been exploring the link between the growth of our technological dependance and its effect on our psychology.
The artist has created magnified face images, some of them coated with a stainless steel panel embeded with video screens and others marked with geometric patterns of algorythmic facial recognition mapping. He is embarking us with a dash of humor into the disturbing technology’s effect on the human mind. Tony Oursler plays with the face. Starting with the eyes and going down into the neck, he is suggesting that technology will use every bit of skin and organ to study the daily behavior, emotions and rituals of humans in order to categorize them. The viewer when facing those giant profiles is left with the strange feeling of being watched. The artist wants to highlight how uncanny is the process of teaching machines how to observe only the external appareance and to pretend, from there, to understand human’s true nature.
The trendiest bananas are far from looking yellow. Dan Cretu doesn’t let them stay that way. He gets them ready to strike a pose by handcarving and handpainting each one of them with geometric patterns, textures and vivid colors. No second degree, no political message; just the brilliant idea of admiring creative and colorful images.
Strangely enough they leave a taste in the mouth, the one of bananas of course, but with a twist of positivity and spontaneity. So many ideas to embellish a fruit, as we scroll down the “Bananametric Series” we can imagine that if the fruit was genetically modified by the artist we could end up with a large pallet of banana varieties.
Dan Cretu masters his art: by blending food sculpture with photography he offers the world a new idea of conceptual design. In his previous work he put together orange and lemon peels to make a camera. Due to its fragile nature, this process has to be done quickly as the fruits deteriorate. The peels, arranged in an unexpected environment rather than in a kitchen let’s say, generates in this case an eco-art visual identity.
That’s the purpose of Dan Cretu: “all objects and things around us daily are possible subjects for me. The challenge is to transform a common object that we don’t notice anymore into something unusual, alive, and appealing.”
Michael Massaia is a photographer from New Jersey whose black-and-white imagery has an uncanny way of making the familiar seem unfamiliar: ordinary scenes are transformed into stunning portraits of isolation, desolation, and mystery. Two series are featured here: Afterlilfe and Sheep Meadow: Vertical Abstracts. The former documents vacant amusement piers along the New Jersey coastline, and the latter comprises vertical portraits of people sleeping in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. While the subject matter is drastically different between the series — urban landscape photography and portraiture, respectively — both convey Massaia’s unique style: the haunting documentation of ordinary things that resonate with a deep sense of reflection and a yearning for connection.
Started in 2008, Afterlilfe features amusement piers in states of vacancy and ghost-like deterioration, photographed in the quiet hours between 4 and 6 o’clock in the morning. Most of the images were shot in FunTown and Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. In environments usually known for noise and elation, silence prevails; carousels lie dormant, and the architectural bones of roller coasters and ferris wheels loom against cloudy, darkened skies. Many of these structures were destroyed by hurricane Sandy in 2012. Shooting before and after the catastrophic event, Massaia’s unearthly photographs trouble us with their radiating atmospheres of stillness and absence.
Sheep Meadow: Vertical Abstracts is an extension of an earlier project titled Deep in a Dream. Massaia photographed people as they lay alone or in pairs on the grass. None of the subjects knew that they were being documented, allowing for candidly peaceful, reflective, and intimate postures. Vertical Abstracts sees photos of sleeping couples turned vertically and flipped backwards, making it appear as if they were floating or dancing through an otherworldly void. Massaia describes how the final prints “are gold-toned silver gelatin prints . . . [and] the grass is severely ‘burnt in’ to isolate and give the look of suspension to the subject” (Source). The strong contrast between the bodies and the surrounding darkness illuminates moments of beautiful (and strangely anxious) connection between the reclining couples.
Visit Massaia’s website and Facebook page to follow his hauntingly beautiful work. More photos after the jump.
Leslie Ann O’Dell is a self-taught photo-illustration artist from Denver who creates hauntingly surreal portraits of women. Recurring throughout her works are washed-out figures overgrown with flowers and foliage; patterns sprout and undulate in the place of eyes, and everywhere you look subtle details unravel through hair and across skin. Charged with an arcane darkness, O’Dell’s works summon the chilling, seductive beauty of vampires and forest spirits. With nature, the psyche, and the subconscious as some of the central themes, the portraits shift gracefully between reality and dreams.
O’Dell’s subjects are specters of both beauty and death: flowers bleed and adorn the women’s heads like funeral offerings, bodily contours putrefy into weeds, and sightless eyes gaze into an unseen abyss. In a figurative representation of death-becoming-life (and vice-versa), a bird stretches its wings inside an opened chest cavity (see “Hope”). Some of the images confront us with a more somber beauty — observe the ethereal and aloof figures in “Contemporary Monster” and “Sleepwalk.” Vacillating between delicacy and intense emotion, O’Dell’s works seduce and seize the imagination.
Are you ready for some shocking art? Somewhere between science and art, Marc Simon Frei tests their boundaries by combining these two worlds into a stunning series of photographs titled Tesla Sparks. The innovative artist creates electrical currents with a Tesla coil and captures their iridescent glow with his camera. A Tesla coil, invented by engineer Nikola Tesla around 1891, is an electrical resonant transformer circuit that produces both high and low voltage. Frei manipulates this electrical current in fascinating ways by arching a variety of different objects to the coil. This produces mesmerizing bends in the current, resembling tiny lighting bolts. In fact, Frei plays off this likeness by staging miniature lighting storms of his own. He creates clouds out of wool and constructs a scene so that these electrical currents seem to shoot out of his “clouds.”
To add an even more striking visual, he adds an element of color by illuminating his clouds with different colored LED lights. As if the bright, purple and blue glows erupting from the Tesla coil weren’t awe-inspiring enough, his eerily beautiful clouds fill you with a surreal wonder. The intense hue that the electricity emits captivates us, reeling us in to every frame. There is a powerful tension between the undeniable beauty of the many bolts of voltage lighting up each photograph and the known dangers behind high-voltage. We are drawn to its attractiveness, but are aware of its dangers. The photographer has created a unique, dynamic series that demonstrates spectacular colors and patterns made from electrical currents. (via This is Colossal)