Juan Madrid On Boris Mikhailov’s Gruesome Photography

Boris Mikhailov. Untitled, from the series Case History. 1997–98. © 2011 Boris Mikhailov

Boris Mikhailov. Untitled, from the series Case History. 1997–98. © 2011 Boris Mikhailov

The High Dive, in Prospect Park, is a fine, little bar in Brooklyn. In the back, there are two pinball machines that glow the color of orange-red. Popcorn is free to grab. And Brooklyn Lagers are served $5 a can on most days. In short, it’s not a bar you’d go to if you’re expecting to talk all night about the Ukrainian provocateur Boris Mikhailov. Grotesque, dark, and brutally honest—Mikhailov’s work picks at a scab covering middle-class sensibility (above is one of his photos).

Two weeks ago, I invited Juan Madrid, co-founder of the Free Lunch Cartel and a VICE contributor, for drinks at the High Dive. I wanted to finish a talk we were having over email about Mikhailov. A photography savant, Madrid combines a single-minded focus on all things photo with an ego so large that it doesn’t exist. I thought he’d be the perfect guide to introduce Boris Mikhailov’s work to the blog.

That night at the High Dive, I began to realize that I led Madrid to a sad, sad joke. A couple of Brooklyn Lagers had failed to tune out a neon-lit gloom. Madrid and I exited, in hopes of another bar. There, he showed me two of his photobooks and catalogue of an exhibition he co-curated at the Center for Photography at Woodstock. We switched to Tecates and lime. At one point, Madrid looked at his reflection in a window and summoned the golden ratio. In some of his photos, he said, he had found its hand, his photographs laid out like the spirals in nautilus shells, unaware he captured its composition. We drank, talked photography, and drank again.

This interview is from the questions and answers Juan and I sent back and forth over email.

Continue reading →

Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-night-light-city-Hide-Obara

What Is Photography: Art Or Science?

I think all art is about control – the encounter between control and the uncontrollable. – Richard Avedon

photgrap

Image courtesy: fstoppers.com

While Edgar Allan Poe dubbed the invention of photography to be ‘the most extraordinary triumph of modern science’, Charles Pierre Baudelaire pronounced photography to be the biggest mortal enemy of art.

And yet, centuries later the classification of photography under an either/or section of art and science hasn’t been reached.

Is photography an art or is it science or is the lovechild of both?

In 1853 photography was argued against being an art form for it lacked the ability to elevate the imagination. But in 1858, the South Kensington Museum held the first ever photography exhibition.

Labeling photography as more of a documentation technique to capture a moment without stimulating the imagination is the most frequently given justification for it being a form of art. But how does one hem imagination within a practical checklist approach? How does one say that there are certain requisites to trigger the imagination, and photography doesn’t fit the bill?

Imagination is mainly personal while one may see the literal meaning of a picture, someone else might spin an untold story that the picture reads only to them.

To loosely describe art, it is something that has an aesthetic appeal, something that holds beauty. Aren’t camera-clicked images beautiful? Didn’t you ever see a picture and was in awe of how pretty it was?

There is definitely science involved in everything from composing to editing images. There’s calculation involved in taking picture – whether it is adjusting the shutter speed or manipulating the ISO – it’s a lot of math but so is art.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s collaborator Luca Pacioli said: “Without mathematics there is no art”. Whether it is the Golden Ratio that artists adhere to or the Fibonacci Circle, so by the same admission, paintings too should not be called art then.

p2

The golden proportions determine how the table and them emblem on it would be placed in the painting.

Some say that photographs aren’t created but captured. While an artist creates, a photographer is just a recording medium. Because where an artist creates a scene – even if it’s a replica of a still object – they still do so stroke by stroke but, a photographer merely takes a picture, without creating anything in the literal sense.

But most photographers today echo the idea that clicking great pictures is a combination of being well-versed in the technical aspect and having a vision.

You might be able to work out the settings but what to expect from a photograph, what does an artist see and aims to capture is his vision. And how is he not creating that? His vision, his interpretation of even something banal and mundane steps into the picture, how is that not creation?

Noted portrait photographer of the 1800s, Julia Margaret Cameron always maintained that her photographs were an expression of her knowledge and perception of art.

p3

And what about edited images? Even if we were to undermine a photographer’s claim of it being art on the absence of ‘creation’, aren’t edited images created through distorting, restoring, and altering through editing applications like Photoshop?

What do we call that then?

Everyone’s a photographer today with the advent of the camera-enabled smartphone. And the primary purpose (besides getting tons of likes on Instagram) is to express their creativity. Photography is categorized as a creative profession for it expresses the photographer’s own understanding of the subject.

But even then a lot of people justify photography not being art, based on the fact that a picture still comes from something while art could be completely imaginary and abstract. If you’re a painter and you have a vision of something, you can paint it out of nothing, but as a photographer with a vision of what you want to capture, you would still need physically existing elements to base it upon.

So maybe photography has a big part of the artistic features, but it isn’t strictly art?

But where does it define art to be something that has to be borne out of something else? Art has just come to be synonymous with anything creative.

When it comes to ascribing pictures to be artistic, it needs to have a creative aspect. And one of the basic essentials of a good picture is creativity.

And there’s no dearth of creativity in modern-day photography.

p4

Image courtesy: http://www.studentartguide.com/articles/creative-photography-ideas

What qualifies anything to be termed artistic is also its capabilities to evoke emotions. And photographs do conform to this requirement, pictures are not just capable of capturing emotions, but also bringing them out in the viewer.

This again is subjective, what one chooses to see in a photograph defines what emotions they feel surfacing. While someone might see an old ragged teddy bear, someone else might see a childhood companion forgotten or lost, they might glimpse into the feelings of the child who might have lost his toy, and the melancholy associated with this for it could be even metaphor of a kid trying to find his way in the big bad world, alone.

p5

Image courtesy: http://evelin17alejandraslhs.blogspot.in/

But a lot to do with photography is undoubtedly science. From the make of the equipment to developing pictures, everything involves some science. Even clicking pictures do; the law of reciprocity that governs exposure by adjusting aperture and shutter speed is science. Selecting lenses to fine-tuning the focus, it’s all science.

So while all photos are by default a work of science in action, are all photos passable as art? Maybe some do adhere to the general ‘principles’ of art and are therefore artistic, while some might be a part of the in-between land. For instance, if you go around clicking passport size photos, that possibly won’t be called art, right? But if you go around clicking passport size photos of refugees who spent close to three months on sea and their pictures show their first reaction of relief and hope they feel. Would a collection of such powerful emotion-conjuring pictures not qualify to be called art?

Shae DeTar’s Dream Worlds

butterlyport

In her late teens, Shae DeTar gave up on an acting career—she was auditioning professionally since she was eleven—because of advice given to her by her acting coach. Her coach believed that actors must first “conquer” Shakespeare before considering themselves fit to act. Unhappy with her own progress, DeTar decided to quit. “Ever since then I’ve held this dream-world within me,” DeTar told me. “I wasn’t being fearless.”

DeTar, who works with paint and photography to make large-scale photo illustrations, now believes she’s fearless with her art. “I guess it’s because I am older and feel as though I have nothing to lose,” she said. Making her own photographs—which she has began only recently, in her early thirties—is a process that leads directly back to her photo illustrations. Hardly any of her unpainted photographs are on her website. Instead, photography is a way to gain more control over the collage, creating the visual parts that become the whole. “I like to re-imagine what I photographed and bring it to a new place with no boundaries.”

I spoke to DeTar over email about her process and about her thoughts on photography.

Continue reading →

Olaf Blecker on His Portrait of Jenny Hval for The New Yorker

Jenny_Hval

The series of questions that follow were inspired by the above photograph. This photograph is a portrait of the Norwegian singer Jenny Hval that was made by Olaf Blecker, published by The New Yorker, in its June 22, 2015 Issue. It’s an odd portrait. Certain expected givens of any photograph—facts about time, place, or story—are obscured, darkened to the point of falling into a void, represented here by a surrounding blackness.

And although this void is mute (it’s a void after all), it is also roaring. It’s perhaps the first thing you noticed. If you did give it recognition, you did so automatically. And it vanished just as quickly. The blackness would have been replaced by a flash of gold in one sudden blow and expelled. Hval’s discreet smile would then mount the stage above or beneath this blackness. The void is neither background nor foreground. Fingers of shadow hug her torso, embracing her form; where her legs would be you find it again. It is also empty space.

This void can signify ignorance or chance or a gap between this world and a purer one. But is it enough to know that Jenny Hval was photographed in her apartment in Oslo? Or that Olaf Blecker was on his way to shoot another commission when he received a call from Joanna Milter from The New Yorker? Maybe this void is the force that compelled Jenny and Olaf to meet and exchange words on life influences. “I wanted to find out more from her,” Blecker told me. “We discussed more than her music and this shoot.” Maybe the void is why Olaf calls this portrait his “broken birdie” photograph. Or why he describes her wavering, almost indeterminate movement as “gliding.”

I spoke to Blecker over email about his portrait of Jenny Hval.

Continue reading →

Christaan Felber Interview: Clear-sighted Portraits Arising Out of the Moment

christaan-felber-portraits copy3

Christaan Felber, a New York based portrait and commercial photographer, who has worked with, among others, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and Esquire, admits that his job is tricky, even uncomfortable. “I think the nature of capturing someone’s image in excruciating detail is simply a loaded process,” he explained to me. There’s an element of disclosure in creating a portrait. What the sitter wishes to see may not be what the photographer reveals. “That breaks my heart every time: seeing potential and being unable to convince the other person of that potential,” he noted.

It’s perhaps this acknowledgement of a photographer’s bag of tricks that allows Felber to shoot portraits that seem honest and off the cuff, ones made in the spur of the moment. He prefers a centered composition that comforts the eye with balance and symmetry. Action is either avoided or frozen in the middle—where a single gesture or one signature look completes the story of a frame. Together with his straightforward composition, this plunge toward the middle connotes an evenhandedness. Felber is able to find balance and make work that feels impromptu but never unnatural.

I spoke to Felber over email about his thoughts on photography and his work.

Continue reading →

Jeff Brown Interview: Heads of State and Industry in Fluorescent Hues

MitchMcConnell_1120

Some photographers use light as a means to an end. Others like Jeff Brown perform with it. What may overwhelm somebody with an ineffectual sense of light’s fantastic, potent power seems to excite Brown. Constantly risking absurdity, he performs a high-wire act of vision, adding what may be three or four lights at any given time.

Many of the people Brown photographs are rich and famous, important and pretty, or all four and then some. They live their lives publicly. And they have public images to uphold. It’s no wonder why, when sitting for a portrait commissioned by a magazine or a newspaper, they perform a rehearsed self. But what’s going on in the portrait of Mitch McConnell above? Does Brown realize he’s illuminated the Senator from Kentucky down to the bone? Captured him as he is at the moment of a portrait: actor playing politician in what looks like a semi-ordinary grocery store, set in a fictional Kentucky town, where beer and sandwiches and pig-stuff are bought and sold.

While other portraits read as a profile of a person—capturing what’s simply given—Brown’s portraits wink at you, tipping you off that something else is happening. Because of the ridiculously energetic way he plays with light, color, and shadow, he creates portraits that somehow, someway feel more honest. They’re naked. Though not bare. You know you’re looking at a portrait made in the act. It’s as if you’re getting both the final photograph and a behind-the-scenes sketch. And if reality is increasingly judged by appearances, why can’t the truest portrait be the one that’s commissioned, rehearsed, and performed?

I spoke to Brown over email about his work and about his thoughts on photography.

Continue reading →

Photography Website

A to Z of a Photography Website

Digital photography and web development have progressed parallely. Showcasing photos on your website is the best way to acquire a following. Building your own website is pretty easy nowadays, with tools such as Flash, Dreamweaver and content management systems like WordPress at your disposal. Sourcing content from social networking sites like Flickr, 500px, and Instagram onto your website is the best way to make it the hub of your online presence. This article aims at giving an insight into creating a photography website that rocks the house.

Photography Website

What are the characteristics of an excellent photography site?

- Graphic Design: It’s an art of combining graphics and text into a visual message in the design of product packaging, posters, banners, brochures, logos, etc. A graphic designer should use and arrange elements on different types of media with the utilization of a graphics software program such as Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator.

- Easy to Navigate: For any photography website, navigation is an important characteristic for the success of your website visitor’s experience. The website’s navigation system is like a map to different sections and information available on the website. One should able to go to any page on the website.

- Simple and Efficient Design: The concept of keeping it simple is the primary goal of any website. Users are not on a site to enjoy the design, but they look for the information despite the design of the site. From the visitors’ point of view, the best website design is a useful and simple text, without any advertisements that match exactly the query visitors used or the content they’ve been looking for.

- Screenshot: Screenshots enables us to share moments and stories taking place on the screen. It is the most efficient way to speed up communication with the website visitors. Screenshots can be used in a lot of different ways, situations, and scenarios.

- Dramatic Splash Screen: The splash screen is an introduction page that is displayed as a program. For example, when a Windows computer starts, Windows splash screen is displayed while Windows is loading. An initial Web site page used to capture the user’s attention for a short time as a promotion.

- Minimalist Design: Minimalist design has been described as design at its most basic elements, colors, shapes, and textures. Its purpose is to make the content stand out. From a visual point of view, minimalist design is meant to be calming and to bring the mind down to the basics.

- Background Music to Photos: When creating a photo slideshow, try and consider to add background music that can enhance the vibe of your photo slide show. Background music can be added with the flash slideshow creator, to synchronize music with photo slides.

- Warm Colors in Website Design: Warm colors in website design are considered to be energetic and vivid. They can make the surroundings of the photograph seem bigger, more open and more inviting. Warm colors are stimulating and connect emotionally to warmth.

- Flash Based Website: Flash is a software technology for managing and creating interactive multimedia web applications like animations, movies, games, advertisement banners, and websites. It gives an unlimited option in the design of your website pages.

- Slideshow on the Homepage: This feature allows you to add a slideshow to your homepage that helps in promoting fresh content at any time whenever you want on your website. The best part of homepage slideshow is that you can upload slide images from your own computer to select the transition style and speed to your liking.

- Blog-like Design: A photography blog on your website can give you an opportunity to showcase the best work and to promote your products and services. Blogs on your website also have SEO benefits as they can create the personal connection with your visitors and customers. When you regularly publish new articles and glimpses into your photography projects, your customers and visitors will trust your website and keep coming back for updates.

- Flash movie at the top, photo galleries, blog for personal anecdotes and tutorials, stock photo gallery

- SlideShow with moving strip of thumbnails that are links to the articles (WordPress Powered blog)

 fashion-person-woman-taking-photo

Now, how would you setup your own photography website?

As a photographer, there are many choices that one can make to create a website. Your photography website is the baseline of your business; it’s the first point of contact for visitors and buyers.

- Purchase basic hosting – Choosing a WordPress host for your photography website is the first thing to do.

- Install WordPress – An attractive and relatively easy way of building your website.

- Download a professional theme (Grandstand by CyberChimps is a great portfolio theme) Once you have finished installing WordPress to your site and accessed the admin panel, it is time to change the default theme.

- Customize the theme – Based on your business goals, a customized photography website can be much more efficient than using existing themes/templates. Customize your theme according to your choice to make sure it builds a strong brand identity for your photography business.

- Use a slider plugin to create slideshows for your portfolios (SlideDeck is a handy slider plugin with 15 social media platforms from where you can source content, 14 strikingly attractive slider skins, and options to make fullscreen, full-width sliders with Parallax, Ken Burns or the lightbox effect)

Updating your website with relevant content is what makes it SEO ready. Regularly configuring the web admin with latest features and updating the design makes it more appealing in the long run. And of course, regularly uploading new photos as well as dabbling with different genres.

Photography Website

How to reach out to your target audience?

- Email marketing – It helps in finding new customer prospects and converts them into customers. The main advantage of email marketing is its appropriate communication mechanism for lead nurturing; that helps create many small touch points with your customers over the period.

- Writing relevant blogs – The primary function of WordPress is blogging software. The major benefit of WordPress for photographers is that it allows you to update and publish existing and new photos or new blog posts whenever you want.

- Exit popups with freebies for signing up – There’s no denying that popups, especially exit popups, work. A well-designed exit pop-up encourages a conversion or the other page view on your site. Free giveaways have been a standard marketing tactic for decades. Exit popups work well on any website because a free giveaway comes at no cost to the vendor especially if you offer subscription tools or services.

In this way, you can setup your photography website. Use the best features to make it look slick and have a better outreach.

Rachel Roze Interview: Sicily Captured in An Uncanny, Surreal Light

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 5.33.35 PM

Nearly true but not truth, almost life-like and real but utterly false: There’s nothing neutral in how Rachel Roze uses her camera. Like any photograph, one of hers may appear like a document, one that seems willing to tell the truth, but in reality is put on. Another may seem unreal and strange but, when looked at for a while and taken in, seems closer to life than any photojournalist’s reportage.

As though caught in the charms of an impostor, you believe wholeheartedly in what you feel but know something is off. Working in a space between truth-telling and narrative gives her photos room to breathe. Here, a photo of a statue can hover between a casual snapshot and a deliberate staging. Was it her intention to make the statue’s eyes, lightened in a burst of flash, seem alive and knowing? Even the spidery way it holds its crucifix registers between two states: is this a motherly embrace or an intentional letting go?

“I think people should take everything with a grain of salt,” she says, “Rights and wrongs are blurred when it comes to art.” There are other photographs like this one in her We Were in Sicily series but most are simple captures: There are landscapes of Sicilian alleyways cut between dawn or dusk, kind portraits of young, carefree children, and blunt scenes of intimacy. Roze never reveals what’s romance, what’s ruse. It’s all made to look real.

I spoke with Roze over email about her photography.

The introduction was edited from what was originally published. 

Continue reading →

What Will Photography Be 10 Years From Now?

Photography is evolving over and over again. It has too many lovers; some are professionals; some have photography as their hobby; while some are just enthusiasts. Somehow, photography is hitched with many if not all. While keeping demand of its lovers alive, technology is playing a great role in shaping the future of photography. Cameras & lenses are becoming more sophisticated and easy to use, no matter if you are experienced or amateur.

While I was stuck at what more could be to photography in coming 10 years, I was quick to reach out to some of photography experts…

Let’s hear it out from our experts on what they think photography could be in 10 years from now…

Jon Phillips from Contrastly

jon phillipsWith camera technology moving so fast, I think it’s difficult to predict what the world of photography will be like in 10 years, or even just 5 years from now. But, my guess is that we’ll see more and more smaller cameras with larger sensors, as well as emerging technologies like computational cameras that feature multi-aperture and multi-lens systems, but that are still lighter, smaller, and that can be carried around much more easily. Convenience is the new black.

Chris Lin from SLR Lounge

christopher linIn 10 years, we will see a continuation of the major changes we see today: 1) smaller cameras, 2) improvements in video and stills combos, 3) improvements in mobile phone video and photo features, 4) advancements in image processing software.  Though there will be lower barriers to entry and more competition among the “weekend warriors” and part-time photographers, established professionals with a distinct style, creative vision, and sound mastery of lighting, posing and other photography fundamentals will still be able to charge a premium for their services and continue to run lucrative businesses.  However we will see a rise in studios that offer both photography and cinematography.  Offering full resolution downloads will be the standard and the “in person print sales” business model will continue to diminish. This may force many b2b album and print companies to open up their services to every day consumers and potentially lower their prices. In post production, the improvements in Lightroom and other image editing software will give photographers more creative tools and significantly speed up their workflows. Lightroom will adopt even more of Photoshop’s features and only high-end fashion, fine-art and composite photographers will need the consistent use of Photoshop. Of course, these are all guesses. I guess we’ll see!

Joshua Cripps from Joshua Cripps Photography
Contact Joshua Cripps Photography   Joshua Cripps PhotographyI believe that in 10 years we’ll see the robust development of a trend that is beginning today with cameras like the Light and the Lytro, along with software like Lightroom and Photoshop. With every step forward digital imaging technology removes more and more technical barriers to photography and puts more emphasis on the creative. That’s an idea we already take for granted because of post-processing; I don’t really need to understand exposure because I can easily fine tune exposure in post to match my artistic vision. Now that idea is beginning to be applied to other aspects of photography. I no longer need to understand aperture and depth of field because I can correct and change it after the fact. I can imagine that more aspects of photography will begin to follow suit: in 10 years perhaps I won’t need to understand shutter speed in the field because some piece of software can simulate different effects in post. Or imagine this: a piece of software that combines multiple shots of the same scene to allow you to recompose completely after the fact. Intriguing!

Thomas Kettner from Thomas Kettner Photography
At this stage, we are reaching the climax. New things happen in smaller steps. There is still development in speed, in quality and in performance. I think that in 10 years from now, technology wise it will be not very much different to now. Maybe cameras will become smaller, even faster, maybe there will be no more “still-photography“ but only motion pictures – there you will choose your frame and print a single fraction of a second for a still image.

The question is, if we will need “still-images“ or if we will proceed to moving pictures? Interactive images will be the way of communications and selling. So resuming my thoughts – I think that a photographer will be much more a cinematographer in future. A camera will be a multipurpose tool. Printed paper will become a rarity.

Of course we will have the sentimental tiny fraction of „real“ photography – maybe even on film…The only thing that will not change – or become even more important is the photographer as an artist, as a person with an unlimited amount of phantasy!

Marissa & Kimberlee from The Boudoir Divas
Contact Us   The Boudoir Divas   San Diego PhotographyWell I am more of a portrait photographer, so I will answer from that stance. I think with more competition in the photo world, the best portrait photographers will step up their game artistically. Creating images that really make a bold statement and say something. I look forward to working with my client’s vision and together coming up with an image really grabs the viewer and pulls you in.

Dan Hostettler from Dan Hostettler Photography
dan hostettler   Google SearchDigital flow, social media and smartphones democratized the creation and distribution process of photographs and makes it much easier for everybody to claim being a photographer and entering the so-called “industry”. In consequence, fees and earnings dropped to zero, 90% of actual working “photographers” don’t make the cut. That’s actually not bad!

The more average people snap and share mediocre and unthoughtfully executed images, the more boring this visual art gets in its overall perception. The unrestricted growth of crap flooding the world’s retina every second is utterly perfect for (unconsciously) creating a new awareness and longing for impactful quality. This will separate the wheat from the chaff and in 10 years from now one shines and stands out not only because of an excellent unique photography style, but mainly because of knowing how to position, market and connect with clients, campaigns and audience.

Oh wait, it just crossed my mind: That’s already the case today. Oh, and that was the situation 40 years ago. Hmmm, if I remember correctly: That’s always been the case. Right…! It’s the personality behind the lens that makes the difference – today, in the future, and ever since.
It’s not the gear – neither in the past, today nor any near newly-added-billion-pixels future.
Happy snapping!

 

A Guide To Clicking Exceptional Landscape Photographs

techniques for landscape

Image courtesy Pete Piriya

Literally put, Landscape Photography is a form of landscape art where the focus of the image is nature and natural landscapes. Usually what tourists would choose to be a scenic natural ‘background’ would be captured in its essence for it to be a landscape photo.

While a lot of people would just swap a picture of a lush green garden on their phones calling it landscape photography, all professional landscape photographers understand the importance of tuning their skills and knowledge – sometime for years – to master the art of clicking masterpieces.

And most of these photographers also agree with the need for such pictures to be taken from an environmentalism point of view. Continue reading →