Murray Ballard is a photographer based in Brighton, England. His series The Prospect of Immortality is the product of five year’s unprecedented access and international investigation into the practice of cryonics: the process of freezing a human body after death in the hope that scientific advances may one day bring it back to life.
Ballard takes us on a journey through the tiny yet dedicated international cryonics community; from the retirement town of Peacehaven, England to the high-tech laboratories in Arizona, United States, through to the rudimentary facilities on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia. Approximately 200 people worldwide are currently suspended in liquid nitrogen, with a further 2,000 signed up for the process after they die.
Whilst members have often been ridiculed for their views, Ballard takes an objective stance, allowing the viewer to decide whether they are caught up in an unethical fantasy world or are actually furthering genuine scientific innovation. Alongside fascinating representations of the technical processes, Ballard sensitively portrays the people involved, offering a human dimension to his account of this 21st century attempt to conquer the age-old quest for immortality.
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Fulvio Bonavia is an award-winning Italian photographer. In 2010, he was selected Photographer of the Year by the Mobius Awards. He has shot ad campaigns for a wide range of international clients, such as Adidas, Heineken, Swatch, Jaguar, BMW and Audi. Prior to establishing himself as a photographer, Bonavia worked as a graphic designer and movie-poster illustrator. In 2008, Hachette Australia published A Matter of Taste, a book featuring Bonavia’s conceptual photos of food as fashion. A French edition of A Matter of Taste was published in 2009, and a selection of images from the book was exhibited at the La Grande Epicerie in Paris. Bonavia is represented by Stockland Martel.
Gustav Gustafsson is a self-taught photographer from Oskarshamn, Sweden. His photography brilliantly captures the tranquility and beauty of Scandinavian life. Gustafsson’s photos are full of vibrant colors and geometric forms and can be best described as “silent” or “still”. The settings for his photographs are both suburban and rural and seem to point to man’s impact on nature and the world at large. Gustav’s series “13 New Photographs” alternates between lush trees and desolate buildings existing in a place not exactly the suburbs but not quite the city either.
Jinyoung Yoon studied photography at Arizona State University and is now based in Seoul. Of this project she says, ‘I seek what is at the boundary of grotesque and beautiful. The ambiguous feeling that is both repulsive and attractive at the same time, reminds me of the predicament we face in everyday life including the relationships we get involved in. In “Metamorphosis II” my focus is on the life of discarded things that are left out because they are unedible. The fleshes of fish and octopus are removed and the rest are cut into pieces, but still the sense of liveliness remains. The intestines and the cut out eyeballs have the texture and color peculiar to natural living organism untouched by human hands’.
‘In order to collect the material to be photographed, I look into the waste baskets at the fish market and try to save creatures that catch my attention. The act of handling the fish is similar to that of cooking or dissecting it; however my intention is to visually react to what is left and remember that they once lived and they were worth living’.
Matthew E. Clowney is working on a project of Family Portraits, considering the contemporary American family-at-large, and focusing especially — but not exclusively — on outstanding families who have some “non-traditional” quality about them. Of the series, he says: ‘I’m stretching this concept extremely thin, so this may not apply to every family who participates, but it could mean mixed-ethnicity families, same-sex parents, unmarried couples with children, unusually large families with many adopted children, families with more than two parents, groups of people who aren’t legally recognized as family but who consider themselves family. I know there’s no such thing as a real “normal” family. That’s the point. I’m interested in what makes a family, though, particularly in the greater social context of contemporary American society’.
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Scott Pommier’s interest in photography began when he started using his mother’s semi-automatic SLR to take pictures of his friends skateboarding. Since then, he has shot covers for every major skateboarding publication and now divides his time between his position as a senior photographer for SBC Skateboard magazine, a variety of editorial and commercial jobs, a book project to be completed next year, and spending more hours either behind the wheel or in front of the computer than he ever imagined possible.
Your photographs have a timeless quality about them. Which photographers or eras do you look to for inspiration?
‘I feel like I’ve picked up little lessons, or perhaps truisms is closer to the mark, from a lot of photographers. I’ve never studied the history of photography. I only really know what I’ve tripped across. A few years ago, I was at a friend’s place and he had a beautiful book of photographs by Deirdre O’Callaghan called Hide That Can, about a hostel in London. Looking through it, I realized that although I had a pretty good understanding of the mechanics of photography, I wasn’t really attuned to the subtleties. Looking back, that was a turning point in a couple of different ways. For a start, I decided I wanted to get a lot more comfortable shooting available light photographs. And also, I don’t think I’d really thought about journalism as art until that point. I was already a senior photographer for an international skateboarding magazine before I started to figure out how I wanted to shoot pictures and even before my pictures began to mean anything to me. It wasn’t until then that I actually felt like a photographer. This is all actually pretty recent. I wanted so badly to be a child prodigy, but I think I’m a late-bloomer.
‘The way that I do things is a struggle. So I relate to other photographers whose work entails struggle. I love Sally Mann’s photographs, for instance. And when think about what it took to take them, I love them all the more. Joel Sternfeld’s book, American Prospects, made me realize how effective it can be to take a step back. Distance can change the meaning.
‘I bought a copy of LIFE magazine from 1968 and it looked like it could have all been shot by the same photographer. Even the ads. I like that era. There was craft to it, but not an overproduction. Depending on what I’m shooting, I’m conscious of cropping out a lot of the clues as to when a photo was taken’.
You were a skateboarder before you were a skateboard photographer. Do you think it’s necessary to really understand the sport and lifestyle in order to shoot it properly?
‘If your audience is a group of skateboarders, then yes, absolutely. If there’s an exception to the rule, I’ve yet to hear about it. A skateboard photographer has to balance a very particular set of requirements. You have to show the difficulty of what you’re photographing, so you have to be mindful that the angle you choose shows that the railing is very steep, the stairs are tall, the ledge is long, and so on’.
‘You also have to capture what a sports photographer would call the peak action. But the way that a skateboarder perceives that might be a bit different to how the rest of the world sees it. If you were shooting a baseball player hitting a ball, you might get a good shot of the batter with the bat cocked or the follow through after the ball has been struck. But if you shoot a skateboard trick even a hair too early or too late, the photo would never run in a skateboard magazine and the core audience would reject it.
‘Skateboarders are a suspicious bunch. It’s not a role they tend to trust non-skateboarders with. So, there’s a question of access. In principle, it’s possible. But clearing that many hurdles and adhering to that many caveats is really only appealing to someone who’s involved in the sport’.
It looks as though most of your photos are shot on the fly. Do you ever set up shots or do you rely more on instinct to quickly catch the moment?
‘My whole approach has changed in the last few years. I used to set up pretty much every shot. Now I usually only it set up when I can’t find a shot. A few years ago something really obvious would have had to reveal itself for me to abandon whatever plan I had in my head. These days I try and tread a little more softly. I don’t sprint to the finish line, I doddle a little, waiting to see if something suggests itself. And I try to be ready for the fleeting moments. You miss them all the time. But that’s part of it. There are always more to come’.
Thomas Sanders was born and raised in Sonoma, California. He took a high school course that provoked his interest in photography, which quickly grew as he took pictures of his siblings and peers. He was excepted into Cal Poly University in a noteworthy photography program where he continued his education as a student. Sanders lives in Los Angeles where he shoots personal, editorial, and advertising work for an array of clients. He is currently working on a series documenting World War II veterans which he hopes will one day be in a published book.
You’ve been photographing “The Faces of World War II” for the past two and half years. What made you embark on this series?
‘I was a senior year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2006, and one day after school I approached a local retirement community. I asked the executive director, Dawneen Lorance, if there were any interesting people I could photograph. She mentioned World War II Army Ranger hero, Randal Harris. I spent an hour getting to know Randal’s history and seeing what WWII memorabilia I could incorporate into the photograph before I pulled out my camera. Dawneen called me a few days later and said she would like me to photograph 15 WWII Veterans to display in honor of Memorial Day. I was 21 years old at the time, and quickly became humbled after hearing their stories. I realized my generation has had such an easy upbringing in comparison’.
Many of the veterans have a memento from the war that they are photographed with. Do you find this helps bring out emotions and stories?
‘I found that incorporating a memento from WWII adds to the story. The piece of memorabilia gives the viewer a glimpse into who these veterans were 65 years ago. It is my creative interpretation in telling the veterans how to hold or wear the memorabilia, but I keep it accurate to who they are and their stories. I feel it also adds mystery. When the viewer sees the veterans holding or wearing something from WWII it makes them look harder, and more questions are raised’.
How many people have you photographed for this project, and what is your editing process?
‘I have photographed 85 WWII veterans, ranging from soldiers, to engineers and women reporters. I not only want to photograph the soldiers, but the women who worked as riveters in America and the accountants in charge of supplies. It not only took our soldiers, but a nation to win the war. I keep the editing process quite simple. I use Photoshop, but I treat the images as if I am in the darkroom. I burn and dodge, color correct, clean up dust, brightness and contrast. I try hard to keep the images accurate to film. When images start to look over sharpened and too digital, it takes away from the photograph and appears less real’.
Belmont Village Retirement Communities recently commissioned you to photograph the WWII vets residing in their communities. How does this fit into your master plan for the work?
‘For the past three years, I’ve been photographing veterans strictly for personal work. Belmont Village has given me the opportunity to fully concentrate on this project for the next few months. In traveling to all of their communities, I have been granted exposure to hundreds of men and women I may not have otherwise come in contact with. My master plan is to create a book that, in a simple yet striking way, commemorates the sacrifices of WWII veterans and honors the lives they lived during and after combat’.
Can you tell us about photographing the veteran with Hitler’s key?
‘The soldier Navy Bob Smallwood told me the story of being in Hitler’s mansion a few days before the war was over. The place had been taken over, and fellow American soldiers had been rummaging through Hitler’s belongings. Bob went into the most extravagant bedroom and pulled a key from the door and cut off a tassel from the window curtain. At first we tried having Bob hold the key in his hand, but it looked too small, and having him hold the key made the item lose power. He did not like the idea of holding the key in his mouth, but agreed to do it. It appears as if he is going to eat the key, and destroy it’.
Julia Fullerton-Batten was born in Germany and grew up in the United States and Germany. When she was sixteen, she moved to England. Since then she has travelled extensively throughout the world. These visits provided plenty of picture material as well as an insight into different cultures. After studying photography, she did work experience with Vogue Magazine, London. Then came five years of freelance assisting a wide variety of photographers. At this point she thought it was time to start looking through the camera herself as a professional, so she spent two months travelling in Vietnam. When she returned to London with some interesting still-live observations, she won a number of Awards with these images. This enhanced her marketing efforts and she got her first big commission: to shoot a cigarette campaign in Australia.
Your personal work, advertising, and fashion work blend very well. How do you achieve consistency while working in so many different areas of photography?
‘I think that the lighting techniques and emphasis on color that I use distinguish my photography. As I use similar techniques in most of my personal, advertising and fashion work, I achieve a consistency throughout all genres. As far as lighting is concerned, I have no fixed rules and use different lighting techniques. I frequently mix daylight and flash, and sometimes use up to twenty flash heads on a single shot. I enjoy varying the lighting to achieve uniqueness in the shot. Another of my favorite preoccupations on shoots is color. I choose the colors extremely carefully, in the props, the styling, or even the color of a model’s hair. In this way, I can impart to the scene something distinctive’.
You use non-traditional models for your work. Can you explain your method of “street casting”?
‘I used to approach unknown people on the streets in London and ask them to take part in my photo shoots. There are so many fascinating faces accompanied with wonderful personalities around. The freshness that street casted models have has also benefited my work immeasurably. I now don’t have the time to find the amateur models myself, but I hire a producer to source models for me’.
Where do your ideas come from, and what is your process once you have an idea you want to implement?
‘It could be one small thing that will spark me off, an episode in my daily life, a scene in a film, a painting, or something from a book. I develop the inspiration in my mind and visualise various scenes before proceeding further with the idea or rejecting it. When proceeding with the idea, the production part is just as important as the shoot itself. Firstly, I source the location. This often takes some considerable effort as the right location is important in my work. It’s like choosing the right backdrop in a studio, but far more complicated as it involves outside research and quite a bit of travel.
‘Next, it takes a while to find the right models, narrow them down, and then meet them in person. After that, there are meetings with my stylist who sources the clothes and props: this is something I also do myself. Charity shops are great for this kind of thing. The final stage of preparation is to book assistants, and make-up artists, hire the lighting equipment, and arrange travel details. Often, I will go with my main assistant to the location, where we take snaps, print them out, and I draw out my ideas on them. By the time it comes to the shoot, I know exactly where I want the models to be, how I will light them, and what feeling I want to create in the shot. Of course, I have to be open-minded as sometimes things just donâ€™t feel or look right and I need to make changes on the spot. Once I hired a huge studio in Germany for a shoot, but when we got in it, I just didnâ€™t feel happy with it, and we ended up doing the shoot in a small room adjacent to the studio’.
You spent four years assisting before you were picked up by an agency. How did this experience help you in your career?
‘After I finished my college course, I decided not to do a degree but to become an assistant instead. It was the best choice I could have made. My years as an assistant have been the springboard for my later career successes. I learned a great deal from all the various photographers with whom I worked. They were engaged in a wide cross-section of work: fashion, still-life, cars, portraits. All of them worked in a different way and used different techniques so that every shoot was a new learning process. I made notes, drew lighting diagrams, and kept the polaroids. On the advertising shoots, we then had the luxury of a film test and lighting day, which was great as we were able to experiment. I look back on my assisting days with fond memories. And, of course, I still meet a lot of the photographers that I assisted in all sorts of places’.
You’re known for a series of photos where you put normal sized girls in dwarfed environments. What prompted you to utilize this technique?
‘Firstly, these shots don’t use a technique as such. There is no manipulation of these images. The girls are standing in a real location, one of several model villages dotted throughout Europe. The idea behind this idea was to put teenage girls in an environment in which they had the feeling of power that they so much wished to have at that insecure stage in their development to womanhood. They dwarf their environment, but through their poses and demeanour still show their teenage insecurity’.
Brandon Pavan was born and raised in New Jersey, where he currently resides. He is enrolled at Parsons School of Design as a photography major having spent his youth in his father’s New York ad agency.
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