Photographer and pop surrealist Dina Goldstein’s large-scale project titled Gods of Suburbia features a collection of deities and religious figures set within the context of modernity. Buddha, Mohammed, Satan, and others exist alongside technology, science, and secularism as it relates to living in the (anywhere) suburbs. Goldstein explains:
The series plays with narrative and religious iconography in order to communicate how organized belief has become twisted within a global framework driven by consumerism and greed. The project challenges the viewer — religious or secular — to embark on a journey of self-reflection as they contemplate the relevance of dogma in modernity.
Goldstein’s moody images highlight some less-than-stellar facets of our modern culture. Lack of compassion, unwillingness to learn/accept other beliefs, and bullying are just some of the themes that the photographer touches on. The series, while strange, is poignant and relatable as we read more and more bad news everyday.
Each photo in Gods of Suburbia features thoughtful and interesting explanations of how every figure relates to contemporary society. Read it on Goldstein’s website.
Photographer Polly Penrose’s series A Body of Work was produced over the course of seven years. Her intention was to take pictures of strong, powerful, and interesting nude portraits. So, how did she achieve that? By using herself as a model. Penrose explains in an email to Beautiful/Decay:
…I was always available, and then because I realised something interesting was happening. I could push myself further than I could other models, and by shooting myself the pictures became a visual autobiography. The pictures are very spontaneous within the space, I never plan them I just work with what’s there, it’s like a secret conversation between myself and the space, a bit of silent theatrics which I document. Looking back I can see that my state of mind at the time of shooting definitely feeds into the imagery, my choice of pose and the general mood of the picture.
Penrose sees A Body of Work as ongoing, and that this simply marks its first seven years. “…I want to keep taking them until I can no longer move to do it – it will be interesting to see my body age and how the poses and locations will change with it.” Her photographs showcase a long time, but still relatively short in terms of an entire life span. We see just some of the changes a body goes through in that time and are intrigued with what the next seven will bring.
British set designer and artist Nicola Yeoman creates optical illusions via temporary installations. The complex arrangements use well-scoped vantage points and specifically-lit sets that conjure fantastical scenes. She uses both conventional and discarded objects in her work and places these objects in unexpected locations.
Yeoman combines moody lighting and a variety of textures to make her works appear simultaneously flat and three-dimensional. This is especially visible in her letter installations. The “D,” for instance, is crafted by negative space with chairs that occupy the foreground, middleground, and background. But, you wouldn’t necessarily realize it unless you looked closely – this photo is shot at just the right angle.
While some of Yeoman’s work is as specific as the alphabet, other installations are more mysterious. Outdoor scenes obscured by fog fill the composition, and paper planes and a silhouetted car on a journey into the unknown. Her work has the power to go in opposite directions – didactic and dreamy – and the well-thought compositions, allow her to take the viewer anywhere. (Via Yatzer)
Photographer Millicent Hailes recently completed a two-month stay in Los Angeles where she traversed some of the city’s finest strip clubs. “You can find the erotic anywhere, you just have to look for it,” Hailes told Dazed, and her journey included spots where Courtney Love danced pre-grunge era.
Hailes was on the hunt for a club that breaks away from the chauvinistic, clichéd joints that we’re used to seeing. She found a string of clubs where women hold the power, prostitution is low, and the women actually enjoyed themselves. In a place called Cheetahs, Hailes explains, “The girls each had a different style of dance and look, and each danced to a song of their choice,” she says. “It felt a lot more personal, and it was a lot of fun.”
To pay tribute to Cheetahs, Hailes began a project that mirrors the separation between dancer and customer. She placed a sheet of plastic between herself and model Nadia Lee. “The plastic sheeting is a metaphorical barrier between the model and the audience. She is pressed up against it, but you can’t fully see her or touch her,” Hailes explains to Dazed Digital. “I wanted the shoot to seem very ‘bodily’, and by having the body pressed against the plastic and capturing the breath creating a fog over the images, it feels a bit intrusive, but also has a distance because of the sheeting.” (Via Dazed)
Artist Yoon Ji Seon crafts her collection of self-portraits by intricately stitching photographs with a sewing machine. It’s an ongoing series titled Rag Face, and her facial expressions change with every piece. While they appear to us as similar-looking individuals, Seon changes it up with different colors and hairstyles. Despite these idiosyncrasies, each portrait has the same features. Most notably, these are hanging threads that mimic hair or tattered rags. The multiple layers of colors and stitches give these works a painterly effect, as if they are gestural and loosely handled; Seon obscures her images by working with her materials in this way.
In 2015, the artist will have a show at the Yossi Milo Gallery in New York City. They describe the her underlying concepts:
By sewing the photograph, a second image is generated on the back that is both a reflection of the front and a completely new image. The two images, combined with the original photograph as a third representation, recall the Buddhist theory that an object exists in many forms and there is no true form. Yoon Ji Seon’s work addresses Buddhist ideology deeply rooted in contemporary Korean society and confronts issues such as plastic surgery and suppression of speech. (Via My Amp Goes to 11)
It sounds cliche, but scars really do tell stories. They speak of things like accidents, turbulent periods in our lives, and the road to recovery. Sometimes scars have funny origin stories and other times tragic ones. Photographer Sandra Franco explores these permanent body marks in her aptly-titled series, Scars. The quiet, intimate images feature people with these blemishes on their bodies, which are now apart of their physical personal history. Some are more noticeable than others, and on backs, arms, and even the neck. Franco explains Scars, writing:
Memory can be fragile and people find particular ways of holding on to it. Due to their strong evocative power, there is an evident connection between photographs and memories which I find fascinating. In this sense I observe a few parallelisms between scars and photography.
They share not only an aesthetic value, both being affected by the idea of “beauty”, but also an organic quality. Film ages and changes its properties in a similar way our body does, more visible through the marks, wrinkles and eventual scars left in our skin with the passing of time.
Thus, while taking a picture of a particular moment in time, light “scars” the negative, which once developed becomes a reminder of the past event. Some dramatic experiences, positive or negative, leave a physical trace on our bodies made visible through scars.
For me, scars are able to bring experiences from the past to the present moment,acting like “prints of memory”, just like photographs do.
Chris Burkard is a photographer based in Central Coast, California. He captures lifestyle and action sports, and some of his most compelling works are these pictures of people surfing among the snow-covered mountains in places liked Iceland, Norway, and Alaska. There’s a cognitive dissonance that comes from viewing these photos – surfing is typically a warm-weather sport that doesn’t seem like it’d mix with the cold temperatures. But here, Burkard’s subjects are traipsing among glaciers and a white landscape in their head-to-toe wet suits.
Despite the initial reaction of “buuuurrrrr,” there’s a palpable bliss in Burkard’s idyllic photos. The natural beauty is undeniable no matter the temperature. Skies are clear, the water is blue, and it’s all made even brighter with the peppered throughout. Burkard purposely searches for wild, remote destinations, and, according to him, “portrays the humble placement of the human in contrast to nature.”
In San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood sits Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, a small, windowless locale that’s the only remaining gay bar in an area once known for its nightlife LGBTQ attractions. It features an evening-length drag queen show, which is the subject of photographer James Hosking’s intriguing images.
Hosking first visited Aunt Charlie’s in 2009 after moving to the city from New York, and he was drawn to the older entertainers there. What was their connection to drag when it was “illicit and less accessible,” and why do these people continue to perform? “They open themselves to ridicule because of their age, yet they seem to relish the opportunity for provocation and confrontation,” the photographer told Slate.
Hosking’s curiosity played out by photographing three performers at Aunt Charlie’s during 2013 – Collette LeGrande, Donna Personna, and Olivia Hart. He also teamed up with journalist Jeremy Lybarger for a story published in Out Magazine, and completed a documentary about the drag queens titled Beautiful by Night.
It’s in these gritty candid photos and film that we see just how laborious performing is. Putting on makeup, wigs, and costumes can take time a lot of stamina that only gets harder with age. And with all that effort, audience members can sometimes be disrespectful, Hosking tells Slate, “But, for the most part, I think the joy comes from the audience’s excitement and pleasure, which creates a feeling that everyone is there to have a good time together. I imagine that makes all the bullshit worthwhile. The tips don’t hurt either.”
Check out the documentary to hear the drag queens talk about their experience and to see the transformation process take place.