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The Magical, Mystical Muses of Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas. Racquel Reclining Wearing Purple Jumpsuit , 2015.
Rhinestones, glitter, flock, acrylic, and oil on wood panel. 96 x 144 in.
The Rachel and Jean-Pierre Lehmann Collection

Mickalene Thomas. Racquel: Come to Me , 2017.
Rhinestones, acrylic, oil, oil stick, and glitter on wood panel. 108 x 84 in.
Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Look, but don’t touch, just imagine how it feels as your eyes caress the surface of a work of art by Mickalene Thomas. Painting, photograph, and collage commingle effortlessly as sequins, rhinestones, and glitter every hue imaginable make their way across the picture plane. Spellbound, you stand there and breathe it all in, taking refuge in the infinite glory of the sublime.

At the heart of Thomas’s work is an intoxicating sense of intimacy, a sensual embrace that that seems to embody the very air we breathe. One is immediately seduced and disarmed, overwhelmed by the feeling of being welcomed into this milieu, a space that suggests a boudoir filled with velvet and lace, with veils that cover and reveal, of secrets to be shared.

At its very center, it is about relationship, about the dynamic that exists between artist, model, and viewer that dances into the timeless sunsets of an infinite land. It is rooted in the connections Thomas holds with the women who inspire her to create a wonderland.

Make a Stunning Photo Book with This Great New Tool

I’ve loved photo books ever since I was a kid, so when I learned about Motif Photos, a native extension for Photos on macOS, I knew I had to make one of my own. Motif uses cutting-edge technology to simplify the process of putting together a top-of-the-line photo book, card, or calendar; in minutes, anyone and everyone can use this tool to design the perfect holiday gift. Whether you’re a professional photographer or a hobbyist, this new extension makes it easy to build a beautiful collection of your favorite images.

I quickly downloaded Motif Photos from the App Store, and then I let my creative side take over. The concept for the book was a seasonal collection of winter landscapes from photographers all over the world. I didn’t want anything typical or overly cheery; instead, I imagined a book that reminded me of that sort of pleasantly melancholy feeling I get on chilly December days. I spent hours searching for some of the most magical and surprising images I could find, and in the end, I had a curated collection of almost forty images. Once I launched Motif, it took me less than five minutes to bring my book to life! The extension took care of all the hard work, and it was smooth sailing for me. Let’s take a look at the process.

Tip: Before you get started, it helps to view everything in full screen.

Once you’re ready, open up the album you want in “Photos” and click “File > Create > Book > Motif”.  Motif has hardcover and softcover books in all different sizes. Each of them is affordable, with the least expensive softcover starting at $9.99. I chose a 10 x 10 hardcover for its durability, good size, and trendy square format.

From there, Motif instantly creates your project. They have tons of themes to choose from, ranging from the classic and chic to the hip and unexpected. I almost went with “Pretty in Pink” because the color complemented some of the images I’d curated for the book, but in the end, I settled on “Gold on White” because I wanted to keep everything as simple as possible and bring the images to the fore.

If you, like me, don’t have graphic design experience, I highly recommend you opt to “Autoflow” your book. The Motif technology understands images and formatting, so I trust it to do that part better than I ever could. Don’t worry: they’ll even help you edit your photos! If you have a bunch of images that look similar, like I did, they’ll pick out the best ones for the book. Motif will also analyze every image for printing quality to make sure it’ll look great in the final book.

When it came time to design the cover, I knew exactly what image I wanted to use: a pensive horse seemingly lost in a paradise of snow. I titled my book Winter Landscapes, and while I loved the sophisticated gold, I mixed it up a bit with a deep green for the text to match the trees in the cover photo. The font was perfect for what I wanted, so I didn’t change it.

Here’s where the fun really starts. Motif is amazing when it comes to sequencing images for you, but you can easily change any detail with their intuitive and interactive image tray. The image tray tool is like your own personal photo editor, so you’ll see your best photos have been noted with a checkmark and sequenced beautifully according to their colors, atmosphere, and composition.

When it came to the first page, I went with a classic Icelandic scene. I deliberately chose a few images with an “on the road” theme (i.e. snowy streets, misty railroads) because I wanted readers to feel as though they were “traveling” through the book. From there, we visited a pastel vista from Luxembourg and a lovely polar bear from the Arctic.

One of the page layouts literally made me smile. The image tray tool paired the deer photo with a gray-muzzled golden retriever. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to pair these two animals together, but seeing them there on the pages, I couldn’t ignore the similarities between their expressions. There was also something vulnerable about both of them; the deer looked like he was hunkering down for a harsh winter, and the pup had clearly reached his golden years. They somehow belonged together in a way that was both heartwarming and poignant.

Motif surprised me again with a stunning layout of five images: on the left, a misty swamp, and on the right, a group of images that together formed tapestry of greens and whites. These photographs images were perfectly paired, and they shared similarly moody, wild, and ethereal atmosphere. It was a stroke of genius for Motif to couple the Swedish landscape with an abandoned waterslide; I only realized the parallel lines in these photos when they were presented side-by-side.

Next up were pages 14 and 15. The cutting-edge technology over at Motif paired up two vertical frozen landscapes, which I had hoped for from the start! That layout was followed by two sublime and mysterious photos in which all shapes and forms seemed lost in blankets of fog. From there, we went straight into another Icelandic vista across and a serene forest, and I decided to add an almost abstract crop of tree branches into the mix. As we drew to the end of the book, I wanted the images to start to feel airy and delicate, as if we were heading into the eye of a blizzard, and Motif helped me tap into that vibe.

Before checking out, I gave myself a full run-through of the entire book to make sure it was just right.

I eagerly awaited the arrival of my book, and within a few short days, I found it right outside my doorstep. The packaging was beautiful, and the book itself knocked my socks off. I grew up looking at art books, and this one instantly stood out as pretty and sophisticated. The colors came to life on the printed page, and together, the images helped tell a story about frosty and enchanted winter days. I made a cup of hot tea and spent quite a while thumbing through the volume over and over again.

Winter Landscapes is now proudly displayed as the pièce de résistance of my bookshelf, and I know I will return to it many times throughout the upcoming months, curled up on the coach and watching the snow fall outside my window. I also created a Motif Photo book for my husband, and the process was so intuitive and quick that I know I’ll be making more in the future. Using Motif was such a fun, easy experience from start to finish, and I am delighted by the results.

Cecilia Has a New Line of Camera Bags Out Now

Mercator Camera Backpack

Tharp Camera Messenger Bag

The team at Cecilia has outfitted photographers for five generations; in fact, the legacy of this family-run business dates all the way back to 1848, less than a decade after the introduction of the camera itself. This year, Cecilia has launched a brand new line of bags specifically designed for photographers and explorers on-the-go.

The Beauty of the Aging Body, in Photos

Merle Sparlin

Ione Buie

Warren Dalton

Over the course of nine years, the Missouri-based photographer Anastasia Pottinger has worked with models over the age of one hundred years old. She’s spent time by their sides, listened to their stories, and recorded the details of their skin in black and white. Now, you can find her photographs of fourteen of these centenarians collected in the new book 100: What Time Creates, published by Marcinson Press.

Honoring Those Who Give Their Lives to Fight the Power, in Photos

2015, Justice League NYC’s “March 2 Justice” from New York to Washington, DC,
in protest of police brutality.

Congressman John Lewis at Justice League NYC’s “March 2 Justice”
from New York to Washington, DC, in protest of police brutality in 2015

On November 27, Ferguson activist Bassem Masri was found unconscious on a bus in suburban St. Louis. Just 31 at the time of his death, Masri is the latest untimely death of local activists who have passed in sudden and mysterious ways.

Many will remember the murder of Deandre Joshua, just 20 years old, when his body was found with a gunshot to the head inside his car, which had been set on fire during the height of the protests against the extrajudicial assassination of Mike Brown at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson.

Then in 2016, the body of Darren Seals, 26, was found — the same manner of killing exacted upon one of the most prominent activists in the movement. But the deaths did not end there. In 2017, Edward Crawford, 27, was found shot to death in the backseat of his car, and just as recently as October 17, Ferguson activist Melissa McKinnies discovered her son, Danye Jones, 24, lynched in her backyard.

On December 3, HBO premiered Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, a documentary film that asks, “What really happened to Black Lives Matter activist Sandra Bland?” In her death, Bland became a symbol of all that the government has done — and the ways in which the true story is hidden from view.

An Intimate Look at What ‘Home’ Means In the American West

Derrick Washington & Kurt Gramm, Los Angeles, CA © Erica Deeman

Terina Taulogo, St. George, UT © Ricardo Nagaoka

You’re likely to get a different answer each time speak to someone about what home means to them. To some, home is where they sleep at night. Whilst to others, home is a feeling within – often linked to where they spent their childhood.

For the first time since their foundation, The California Sunday Magazine, in collaboration with Aperture Foundation are bringing their December issue to life in the form of an exhibition. Through a series that includes intimate portraits and personal stories, the work aims to get to the core of what home means to residents in Western America.

At Home: In the American West opens from December 6th – January 4th at the Aperture Foundation Bookstore and Gallery. Featuring the work of emerging and established photographers, the exhibition displays emotional and moving experiences, told by a variety of individuals, friends and families.

Ahead of the opening, we spoke to The California Sunday’s Director of Photography, Jacqueline Bates, to learn more about the project.

Gynecological Tools Throughout the Years, in Photos

Fergusson’s Speculum, Duke University’s History of Medicine Collections, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, c. 1880.

Birthing Stool, Private Collection, c. Unknown.

Vaginal Tube & Wire Work Speculum, Duke University’s History of Medicine Collections, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, c. early 20th century.

In the last couple of years, Lindsey Beal has found herself in some of the country’s leading medical libraries, where she’s examined gynecological tools dating back centuries. “I was often required to wear surgical gloves when handling the items, as if I were using the items medically,” she tells me. “[That] directly connected me to the history and use of the items by placing myself in the shoes of the practitioner.” But Beal isn’t the typical researcher; she’s not a medical historian but a photographer, artist, and educator, and her project Parturition provides an intimate visual account of women’s health throughout the years.

David LaChapelle’s Stunning “Letter to the World”

State of Consciousness, 2018 Impression pigmentaire/ pigment print. 163 x 111 cm

A New World, 2017
Impression pigmentaire, negatif peint a la main / hand-painted negative pigment-print.
162,2 x 242,5 cm

“By three methods we may learn wisdom,” Confucius observed. “First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

In the 2,500 years since Confucius wrote these words, his observation of human nature has been proven true countless times — but time is now working against us, as the first fifty years of the Antropocene Era dauntingly reveal. We see it unfolding before our very eyes, but we are far too deep in the thick of it to pull ourselves free, as all systems of progress are moving toward the future as though it were a fait accompli.

Yet there is always possibility embedded in the existence of hope, of the final force unleashed from Pandora’s Box. It is how we move forward despite what foresight suggests in the study of the human condition and the prophecies that it brought forth. It is the answer when there is none. A flash of light in the darkness to remind us, all has not been lost. It is the spark that shines and reflects: there is a better way.

Timeless Photos Capture the Poetry of the Human Form

Edward Weston wrote more than once about photographing the “quintessence” of every subject, whether it be the human body or a botanical specimen. Exploration of sensuality and melancholy–A State of Nature, a new project from the photographer Daniel Dorsa and the producer Tina Michelle Chen from the ROOT Creative team, is a contemporary look at the timeless principles artists have grappled with for generations; decades after Weston, they set out in search of those elusive but “quintessential” truths about our bodies, our relationships, and our desires.

A Breathtaking Portrait of Women Amid a Primordial Landscape

From Where We Came

Utero

“At dusk and dawn, the edge of slumber and first light, these figures awaken out of the darkness and live in the hours when others dream,” LilIi Waters writes in the artist statement for her disquieting series, Others Dream, which features women amid an otherworldly landscape that is equal parts foreboding and curious.

Photographed across Western Australia, the images from Others Dream offer a mystical, mythical portrait of the primordial essence of life that begins in utero before being launched upon the earth. They offer themselves as wordless poems, silent revealing secrets to us, offering a moment of meditation where we can escape the artifice that civilization demands and return to something infinitely simpler albeit impossible to fully comprehend.

Here Waters shares her journey, revealing the path that brought her to the creation of this body of work, offering insight on the effortless synergy of life and art.

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