Last week, Paris Photo, the prestigious fine art photography fair now in its 17th year, brought together 136 galleries and 28 booksellers/publishers representing 24 countries under one roof in the exquisite Grand Palais for a celebration of photography from the 19th century to the contemporary. Though there was an overwhelming amount of amazing work, we managed to compile a short list of some of our favorites.
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fine art photography
By using a combination of portraits and still life elements, I have been able to create an exploration into the idea of identity and imagination, providing an insight into what it is like to live out your fantasies in everyday life. Spanish pirates, Venetian noblewomen and 11th century Vikings have escaped out of the darkness of the past and are now living in the future, placed on a stage for all to see. Laden with armor, treasure chests, maps and lore, these fantasies show the power of our imagination and what we can create if we dare to dream.
— Amber McCaig
Australian photographer Amber McCaig explores when history and storytelling converge in the colorful and elaborate world of Medieval and Renaissance reenactors. The Society for Creative Anachronism is an organization where thousands of dedicated people are committed to researching and recreating the arts, skills, and traditions of pre-17th century Europe. Members feast, fight, and dress all in the era of their choosing, often using the transformation to alter their own personalities and temperaments. Here one can choose who they wish to be and often craft a ‘hyper’ version of themselves in a way unavailable in everyday society. McCaig’s interest in this transformative identity plays out in painterly photographs full of dark, deep tones and stoic poses. The mixture of portrait and still life act as potential clues to who these characters may be and every detail is constructed with great care. Unlike the every day social struggles and pretensions, Imagined Histories is a world where the past and future can be all one’s own.
Imagined Histories is currently showing from November 6-23 at the Edmund Pearce Gallery in Melbourne, Australia. McCaig also recently won the Ballarat International Foto Biennale portfolio review prize for the same work.
Insula spans across a decade of shooting (2003-2013). During this time I continually made photographs as a means to document the emotional difficulties of living with a chronic mental health disorder, as well as using photography as a tool for recovery. Whilst receiving medical treatment has been beneficial, it is the act of making photographs that address my moods and interrogate my sense of identity that has been extremely valuable in making sense of chaos.—Daniel Regan
Recently graduating from the London College of Communication with an MA in Photography, Daniel Regan chose to exhibit a body of work that has been both his muse and catharsis for nearly ten years. The images are raw and brave, each betraying the deepest of emotions without actually revealing the person before us. A mixture of self portraits and domestic objects, Regan’s everyday surroundings become a stage for struggle and abandon. The dimly lit photographs have a quiet submission even through the pain; time slowly ebbing away to a hopefully brighter dawn. Bound as a small, intimate book, Insula’s diaristic journey is one artist’s method of recovery through the photograph.
Insula is showing at the London College of Communication MA Photography Exhibition November 14th – 21st, 2013.
Greek photographer Penelope Koliopoulou plays dueling lovers by transforming herself into both halves of various couples in her series Self Portraits. While working towards her degree at the London College of Fashion, Koliopoulou became irritated with the cliche storylines in romantic comedies and desired to explore what happens after “guy wins girl” and the credits roll.
Self Portraits is humorous and strange, the tiny domestic dramas of everyday couples made even more entertaining when we realize the artist is impersonating both people present in the image. Koliopoulou exaggerates the positive and negative in relationships while simultaneously dealing with issues of personal identity and abandonment. Although a couple is in some ways a union of two souls, Self Portraits toys with the notion that the baggage, insecurities and expectations of each individual are the actual protagonists at play. No matter what the relationship, perhaps we are always simply in a struggle with ourselves.
Graduating just this year with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, photographer Olivia Locher has already made a name for herself with her masterful use of color and playful sensibilities. In her ongoing series I Fought The Law, Locher turns unusual still-existing laws in the United States into quirky, absurdist photographs full of candy-colored grit and humor. The flagrant disobedience of these bizarre laws make the series even more good fun and we’re happy to report that Locher intends to defy rules and regulations across all 50 states.
Photographer and Indiana University Northwest professor Jennifer Greenburg has been gathering vintage negatives for years. In her work Revising History, Greenburg appropriates these black and white images by digitally inserting herself as a main character, mimicking the gestures of the moment and the clothing of the period. By circumventing someone else’s photographs and calling them her own, Greenburg exhibits the innately false nature of memory and the family snapshot.
I think a lot of artists collect old photographs as there is a sort of mystery and unknown to them. What made you decide to insert yourself into someone else’s memories?
“When I look at someone else’s life though the lens of someone else’s camera, I create my own stories. I have done this as long as I can remember. Usually when someone shows you their photographs, they cannot help but narrate the images. I ignore that narration. Instead, I make up a fantasy in my own mind. I idealize everything– becoming quite nostalgic– even if the subjects in the photos are completely unknown to me. I prefer a wistful interpretation. Photography is an interpretation of what is in front of the lens. Yet, as a culture, we rarely acknowledge that. We still believe that what we see in a photograph is truthful.
“The fantasy of all photographs is what I am commenting on through my work. By placing myself in a time and place that could not possibly be real, I address the concept that the lens does not hold much, or any, truth.”
You have said that Revising History is about the fantasy of family snapshots and the way we remember past events. How do you feel your work illustrates this?
“I know that memory is often replaced with something the photograph has sold to us. I have a vivid memory of something that happened to me when I was 6 months old. I could not possibly remember that moment. It would be developmentally impossible. The clarity of this memory is most likely something my mind generated as a result of seeing photographs of that moment. The photograph created a memory that wasn’t really there.
“Another example is when you take photos at a party. You want to take some photos to remember where you were, and who you were with. And what happens? No one wants to have their picture taken. You take one or two, and then you lose your audience. Your friends want to go back to their conversations, not continue to take pictures. Yet, when you post them on social media the next day, everyone wants to see all of your photos and asks, ‘Didn’t you take any more?’ The lackluster attitude is quickly forgotten, and so are the actual details of the party. Maybe the party was actually just ok. But if the photos are good, the party will go down as the greatest party that was ever held.”
You disappear flawlessly into these vintage photographs. Talk a little bit about the process and technical aspect of inserting yourself into photos that are decades old.
“Discussing the technical process is a detraction from understanding the work and looking at the actual images. The concept I am working with is hard to come to terms with for viewers. You mean you can just remove me from my own photographs? Though the images are funny, they are also somewhat disturbing. To escape the hard truth, everyone wants to know about the technical process. Somehow, it’s believed, that if you knew how I did it, it would make the concept easier to come to terms with. This is not something I want to facilitate.”
My Funeral is an image that reminds me of when Tom Sawyer fantasized about dying under his young lover’s windowsill and the mournful events that would follow if he were to die. I think we all have envisioned what that day will be like. What made you choose that image?
“The history of photography is filled with post-mortem portraiture. When the camera was in its earliest stages, the exposure times had to be very long. Making clear photos of live humans was nearly impossible because people could not sit still enough for a long duration of time. Photographs of people in their coffins could be made easily because of course the body was no longer in motion. Often, the only clear photo taken in a person life was taken on the day of their funeral. I wanted to reference that history. Revising History is filled with small references and winks at the history of photography. Me, modeling the latest fashions for Russeks Department Store, 2012, is a nod to Diane Arbus because her father owned Russek’s Department store, and the department store is where she met her husband Alan Arbus.
“I also chose to make, My Funeral, 2012, because it is the most deceptive of all the images in the series. It is the one that could not possibly be real. Again, people get very uncomfortable with this work. Individuals who believe that I have not actually used found photographs interrogate me regularly. My funeral, 2012, is the one that is undeniable. It is both dark and completely absurd, which is a combination that I quite like.”
via Filter Photo
Maine-based mixed media artist Shoshannah White makes basic everyday ingredients look bold yet beautiful and delicate. With this series, White chose domestic food items that have been stocking pantries for years to explore how these items sweeten, preserve, and decay. White uses encaustic over photographs, shooting the images with an analog film camera, scanning, retouching and digitally printing the images before painting over them with a hot, molten wax to create a soft and ghostly, glowing effect. The wax is translucent and somewhat reflective, so the work changes as you shift your viewing angle, hiding and revealing different areas of the photographic image.
Brooklyn-based writer Sarah Goodyear wrote a poem, Recipe, to accompany White’s work:
If you would keep your beloved, you must feed her.
Sugar, yes, that melts on the tongue and leaves desire behind.
The flesh of every fruit that grows.
Soft slices of cheese with rind that blooms in the dark.
And salt, of course. Salt.
Which flavors all, and holds back the decay that still one day must come.
If you would keep your beloved, feed her thus.
It was late night, completely dark, but the space was big-there were about 20 children peacefully sleeping in incubators-and suffused with little lights and beeps. I asked the doctor to give me a few minutes to look at this amazing space.—Reiner Riedler
The Lifesaving Machines is a project by Austrian photographer Reiner Riedler that was sparked by complications during his son’s birth. Riedler recalls an inspiring moment in the quote above; as he sat in the neonatal intensive care unit alongside his newborn son, he was overcome with gratitude for the advances in medical technology and equally fascinated by the surrounding machines that simulated the human body. Riedler’s series explores the challenging topics of illness, medical crisis and death, but at an intentional and thoughtful distance. He respectfully chose not to include people, instead capturing these important machines and components in a neutral way.
Riedler is represented by the Anzenberger Agency.
Long familiar with the cultures and relationships of southern Africa, photographer Jackie Nickerson examines the juxtaposition of man and earth in her newest series Terrain. Inspired by environmental questions about our connection with land that surrounds us, Nickerson uses the human form to create sculptures from her subjects. Although she officially started shooting in 2012, Nickerson began the process a year earlier, allowing the images themselves to move the project forward without having a predetermined idea in mind. We recently spoke with her about the series.
Where did you find your subjects?
“In 1997 I was living in Harare, Zimbabwe and began work on my first series, FARM, which focused on individual identity through improvisation. That series featured farmers and farm workers all over southern Africa. As a starting point, I went back to a few places I had been before. I asked if they wanted to work with me, and I was invited to go to Kenya and other countries to continue my work there.
“Contact with the person I’m photographing is always on a one-on-one basis. Everyone is different—some people like having their picture taken, other people don’t. It’s a personal choice. I always work without any management present, as I don’t want my subject to feel any coercion.”
What are the subjects doing?
“They are photographed where they work. The crops include a vast variety of different foods. The subjects can be reaping, weeding, planting—anything that needs doing. This is the starting point. I stop, have a chat, and explain what I am doing. I ask them to suggest real scenarios in their place of work. Most of the images are spontaneous and come about by hanging out and waiting and watching for the right moment.
“Terrain is very visually specific and concentrates on a particular kind of representation. The lack of personal identity in the photographs is a very deliberate question mark. I want to challenge the viewer to ask, ‘what is this about?’ We’re becoming deaf to political messages like global warming, sustainable development and labor issues because of crisis fatigue. I believe that we have an indelible link to the earth but we’ve begun to undervalue it—even forget about it.”
Terrain is soon to be published as a book by TF Editores in November 2013. Her solo exhibition will run from November 19th to December 31st at Brancolini Grimaldi, London.
Feature Shoot Contributing Editor Carolyn Rauch is the Director of Photography at Newsweek.
Heathrow 23 July 2002 – w4m – 40 (Terminal 3 Air Canada Flight)
I waited for you this July 23st just incase you were able to make it. I have posted messages for you on missedconnections.com and Craig’slist Ottawa so I hope you get one of them.
I am yours forever.
American ex-pat and photographer Andrea DiCenzo contacted and photographed dozens of people who posted on ‘Missed Connection’ sites in New York and London. The result is a collection of heartbreaking messages and obscured portraits, both leaving the viewer desiring more to the story. From searching soul mates to clandestine break-ups, In Defence poignantly weaves a tale of love and loss without exploiting the authors who penned them. We spoke with DiCenzo about feeling isolated in a multitude and the courage it takes to send a note into the void.
Black woman who does post-production for Discovery Channel
Sorry for the super-specific headline, but I wanted to be sure it caught your attention. Thank you for helping me find the pub on Foley St. a couple days ago. You were really sweet, quite pretty, and we share a common interest in video production. In case you helped several people find Foley St. that day, I was the American one
I think most everyone has read the ‘Missed Connection’ posts at one time or another. Where did the inspiration for the work come from?
“It was brought out of this fascination I had with city living, actually. I remember when my brother first moved to New York City back in 2005 and I was still in a sleepy college town on the coast of Northern California. He wasn’t having a bad time in New York, but he wasn’t having the easiest time either. He said something along the lines of ‘I’ve never had so many people around me, and I’ve never felt so alone’. It was almost the sheer quantity of people everywhere – above, below, next to – that sort of crystalized a feeling of isolation because there was not any real connection there.
“Moving to New York myself in 2007, I experienced what he was talking about first hand and understood how profound that feeling can be. I think a lot of people can experience disconnect anywhere, but it seems quite easy to put yourself in that emotional space in massive cities. Back then we did not have OK Cupid or Grindr or Tinder, but there was this rudimentary ‘Missed Connection’ part of Craigslist. It became this sort of strange way that people tried to re-connect with other people in their own environment. I just thought it was really interesting. And then slowly, I came to the idea of trying to photograph them and ask them why they wanted to use this form of communication.”
Can you tell us why you chose the title In Defense?
“Not sure if I really enjoy the title of the work now to be honest. It’s a bit base. But, I felt like most of the people that I met – whether they were just vain, or deeply moved, or a little obsessive – I saw it all of those initial reasonings to post an ad as an attempt to defend themselves from being isolated. ”
dimt – Charlotte Street – m4w – 35 (London)
Hi there. The odds on you seeing this are small but its worth a try. I came in to this restaurant at about 9:30pm with a friend of mine. You were sitting at the back of the restaurant, next to us, and possibly on a date. You clearly looked bored and I really wanted to speak with you but that would have been very uncool to him. Anyway, you are a tall, thin brunette who was wearing a very nice sun dress. I had my back to your table but kept turning around and you smiled at me when I left which made me melt. Really hope you just happen to see this. Thanks!
The messages shown with the work are extremely personal and intimate. How did you convince the authors to be comfortable enough to meet and be photographed?
“That was a challenge. More challenging then I thought it would be! I would reach out to hundreds of people. Honestly, I cannot remember how many emails I sent out. I don’t think that many of them were really excepting a response. They just wanted to throw their stories into the abyss of the Internet. I even sent emails out to the people who would post pictures of their penises and other taboo things (pretty glad none of them wrote back). I was just really upfront with what I wanted to do and how the project would be presented. First it was going to be portraits but I abandoned that idea at the end. We would meet in a public place and talk first. I’d ask them questions about the post. I would always have someone with me. I encouraged them to do the same. Then we’d just go from there if everyone was comfortable.”
To the cute guy who served me at the one stop shop just now
I couldn’t get enough of your eyes and your swishiness and as I walked away delighted from our flirtation I kicked myself that I hadn’t pounced…
Did you speak with them about the stories behind these posts? How did that affect the way you looked at the work as a whole?
“I did and most of the stories were extremely moving. I think the people that responded to me where just looking for a way to tell their stories, which in turn, made the photographs and work mean more to me. It was significant to me that they were letting me into their lives and allowing me to address this issue of disconnect. This one man that I interviewed and photographed was coming out of a break up. His post was really addressing her, even though he knew she would never read it. That one really stayed with me.”
What do you think In Defense says about loneliness in the age of technology and swarming cities? Are we more alone than previous generations?
“I don’t think that we are. I do believe that relying on technology can cause us to feel isolated though. But there is more of an understanding and discussion about how these new forms of technology/communication are effecting our levels of happiness and feelings of belonging. So I see it more as a constant form of development. I think the connectivity can be a really good thing, but I also think it’s something we are concerned about more than ever.”
Did any of your ‘Missed Connections’ find who they were searching for?
“Not a single one! That’s sort of sad, isn’t it? But I think that really was not the issue for most of the people I photographed. It was more just trying to create something for themselves beyond the longing to talk to someone.”
Bond st gal avoiding smoker – m4w
This is probably a long shot, but we were walking in opposite directions down Oxford St and you cleverly avoided a smoker exhaling, when we made eye contact and shared a very intimate smile.
Your thighs weren’t fat – m4w (London)
Hello. You were on the train to Waterloo with a female friend on Tues 5th in the evening. You were talking about how fat your thighs were and how disgusting it was, and how you couldn’t get jeans to fit. Well just to let you know, I was sitting on the other side of the aisle and I think you’re being hard on yourself. You have fine thighs and a fine body. In fact I think you were a fine looking woman generally.