Being on vacation in Arizona has given me the chance to flex my wildlife muscles a little… well, as much as possible with the limited kit I brought with me. Hummingbirds are definitely a challenge and a half given their tiny stature and how fast they move.
I think it’s fair to say that every photographer, at some point after they first pick up a camera with try their hand at landscape photography, it’s a deceptively easy first step into the photographic world though truly mastering it is far from easy given the over saturation of the genre and too many over excited attempts at HDR.
Kim Keever‘s Landscapes are quite possibly the most unique I’ve come across because really, they’re not even landscapes and yet they clearly are.
Constructed as dioramas in and around a 200 gallon fish tank Keever creates stunning, dramatic cloudscapes with paint and carefully controls every detail of the small scale landscapes she photographs. There’s something to said for such carefully crafted photographs, while the medium is at times looked down on as something anyone can do (which it certainly is to an extent given the accessibility of it and that is not a bad thing at all), work like Keevers elevates it to a craft and art form that deserves to recognized as such.
In an interview with Faith is Torment, Kim explains:
What makes these dioramas unusual is that they are created in a 200 gallon tank filled with water. Though I sometimes build a scene in front of and behind the tank, most of the “action” takes place in the tank with paint injected into the water for cloud formations. I use whatever materials I can find on the street, in stores and on the internet that might add to a perception of reality that is not quite what it seems.
Whether you enjoy the a good Big Mac and fries or consider it a scourge of the modern world there’s no denying just how ubiquitous those golden arches are. New York based Nolan Conway’s latest work ‘The Many Faces of McDonalds Customers‘ does exactly what it says on the tin, depicting people from every walk of life in the US who are united by one thing, a meal at McDonalds.
As documentary photography goes it’s work like this that I think resonate most significantly with audiences at large. We’ve all been there, regardless of what we think of the food and Conway’s work illustrates just how varied their customer base can be. Visiting 150 of the 14,000 McDonalds restaurants in the US across 22 states Conway deftly illustrates what a significant part of modern life such huge chain restaurants are and what a social leveler they represent. The images require little explanation but at the same time they speak volumes about modern life and the reliance on convenience as well as much deeper issues such as food deserts which effect great swathes of people in the US, especially those belonging to less affluent social groups. It’s this I think that makes work like this so important to modern documentary photography, because it’s capturing a big but everyday part of modern life we may never really notice the significance of otherwise.
I was lucky enough this week to attend a lecture by Peter Kennard. While I’ll admit to not being massively familiar with his work before hand it’s always fascinating to get some insight into the art and photograph world from those who’ve been around it as long as he has. Coming from a painting background and having been a photography teacher at Royal College of Art Kennard has a bit of that old art school vibe about him, even if it’s in that very punk way of someone who was active during the 60’s and 70’s.
The majority of Kennards work and that which he’s most known for is his photomontage work which drew a lot of attention during Vietnam and the protests surrounding the war. It’s interesting how much of his most iconic work like ‘Haywain with Cruise Missiles’ (1980) has had something of a resurgence in recent years, being reused and recycled in more recent anti war and anti missile protest.
While most of Kennard’s work was done with the intent of spreading the anti war message I find it interesting that he’s so into the idea of showing work at galleries, seeing it as important to do so but given that his work is generally most at home on a protest placard it’s almost subversive to do so but I suppose that’s the point.
The rough and ready, crudeness of much of his work which attests to the pre-photoshop world it was created in isn’t visually to my personal taste but I certainly agree with Kennard’s view that we in the west are in a unique position to freely produce political work and challenge our government so aligning our artwork with our politics is almost a responsibility. If that’s your sort of thing of course.
Personal taste side there’s no denying just how prolific Kennard’s work is and how it has inspired younger artists for years, including but certainly not limited too the likes of Banksy and the positive impact of his work is obvious. Kennard considers his work to be about encouraging people to think and critique the world around them as opposed to selling an opinion and that’s an important distinction. Being able to question the world around us is important if we ever want to affect positive change.
After some too and fro over where our work would actually end up, Sarah McCall and I are happy to announce it’s up and ready to go as part of the Contact Photo Festival, you can find us up at the Georgian Mall in the Merrion center in Leeds (we’re in what used to be Fabrication).
While the location itself isn’t exactly ideal being a little out of the way we’re incredibly excited about the space itself as it affords us plenty of wall space, spread on two floors. We’ve learned several important things while putting the exhibition up though. 1) Never trust vinyl cutters when you’re on a deadline. 2) damp walls are an issue when you’re only allowed to stick things too them instead of hang them with screws and 3) two pairs of hands make spirit levels easier to handle when hanging work.
The process of organizing and negotiating for our own space as well as working around restrictions like being unable to drill into the walls and needing to leave the space in the condition we found it was a challenging one, frames where forgone in favour of mounting my work and quite literally sticking it to the wall and the size and number of prints was a critical decision but all together I’m extremely happy with how everything looks. My only regret is not having time to put together a book, since while I’ve narrowed the final cut down to seven shots there are countless more that I shot that I thing lend just as much to the project but had to be cut in the name of space. We live and learn though, my hope is to continue the project and shoot more LARPers if I can and eventually produce a collection of work that will put this exhibition to shame.
The Contact Festival runs from 16th – 25th of May so if you’re in or around Leeds be sure to come and check out all the great work that’s going to be around the city.
In some ways Mike Brodie could be described as the photography world’s newest sweetheart, his work documenting young American’s train hopping and living rough having gone viral in recent months. Brodie is everywhere and it’s for good reason.
Formerly known as The Polaroid Kidd, Brodie, as the name suggests, used to work almost exclusively with polaroid film but given the rise in cost over the years was forced to abandon the medium.
His return to photography is certainly welcome considering the unapologetic, harsh, yet somehow free world he shows us is an example of some of the most real travel photography I’ve personally seen and he executes it in such an effortless way that it really draws the viewer in. It’s obvious his subjects are comfortable with him and with the dangers they put themselves in on an apparent daily basis and it’s such a hidden part of America one can’t help but want to know about these kids, why they’re there, and if their lives really do hark back to the days of Bohemia.
As part of this years Contact Festival in Leeds I’m going to be exhibiting my final photographic project for my BA which is entitled ‘In Character. The festival’s going to be running between 16th and 25th of May throughout the city center so if you can make it down you should definitely come and check out the work on show.
As part of my ongoing fascination with geek culture the aim of In Character is to focus on the escapism of our hobbies and LARPing in particular. Thanks to the gracious and fantastic people at GOSH I’ve been shooting them for a couple of months now while they play out their campaigns. The entire project was very much inspired by this this quote from Simon Pegg:
“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.”
Pegg articulates something I think is central to geek culture and the people who engage in it. I count myself among them and proudly so because while the mainstream may frown at our antics or admonish us for being childish, there’s a very simple but very fundamental happiness to be had from just having shameless fun and emoting about something you’re passionate about. Like the dolls and their owners I photograph and countless other hobbies LARPing is about escapism, it’s about putting the real world aside for a little while and engaging the imagination.
While there’s a whole lot more to the LARP world that I’ve yet to experience I’m thankful for the glimpse I’ve had so far as well as the chance to engage with such a fascinating group of people. Often, the prevailing stereotype of a geek is a quiet, awkward, basement dwelling thirty something who hasn’t grown out of his teens and while I’m sure people like this exist the vast majority of people I’ve encountered in the LARP community as well as the BJD and comic collect worlds represent a broad spectrum of personalities, ages, relationships and so on.
Things like the recent reboot of the Star Trek franchise and the success of movies like the Batman trilogy, Avengers and Captain America have gone a long way to bringing characters and stories that where once reserved for nerds to the collective embrace of a mainstream audience, the fantasy and escapism these movies provide on a mass scale has been embraced by Table top playing, role play writing, action figure collecting geeks for decades. Perhaps it’s the extreme to which we take our passion that raises eyebrows but there’s very little difference at the end of the day between loosing oneself in a book and running around the woods with a replica sword, except maybe a few bruises. My only hope is that my photographs go some way to communicating this idea, that geeks and their escapism is no different from anyone else’, it’s all about loosing oneself in the moment and just having ab it of shameless fun. I guess we’ll see.
Engagement shoots have become a popular way of personalizing save the dates and wedding announcements as well as an opportunity to get to know your photographer and capture that pre-wedding buzz. I’ve picked out some gorgeous examples of engagement photographs to share and hopefully inspire. Like with wedding shoots I think the most important part of capturing shoots like this is getting across the couple’s personalities and a lot of the examples below do so beautifully as well as being technically well shot and crafted.
As with any art or work I think it’s important to experiment and sometimes those experiments don’t work out but the experience is still valuable. As part of an on going attempt to hone my skills and get more experience I decided to take the plunge into club photography. Going into a club environment, equipped with just a camera and flash gun, shooting club goers who might’ve had a little too much to drink was certainly an experience. The club night I chose for my first attempt was at The Wendy House (described as Dark alternative party club nights) is a monthly club night I’ve attended in the past so I had a bit of an idea of what to expect but still, it was a challenge because club photography, as I discovered is a genre that looks easy but definitely isn’t, especially if you’re feeling a little shy about approaching club goers.
One thing I did pick up on in going into the club with my camera (prearranged and on the guest list of course, I wouldn’t recommend just showing up to a club with an SLR) was just how many other photographers where around. It’s something I’ve never noticed before when just going to a club for an night out but it certainly feels like everyone with a big camera and lens fancies themselves as something of a club photographer. I think I may just leave it to them in future. I’m glad I tried it though as it was certainly an experience, just not one for me I think.