Juan Madrid On Boris Mikhailov’s Gruesome Photography

roadkill photos - 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 photo books and catalog 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.

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What Is Photography: Art Or Science?

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

science behind photography - photgrapy art or science

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?

Science Behind Photography

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.

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Shae DeTar’s Dream Worlds

hand painted photography - butterlyport

In her late teens, Shae DeTar a hand painted photography expert 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.

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

portrait photography tips - 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.

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

Christaan Felber, one of the best New York based commercial and portrait photographers, who has worked with, among others, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and Esquire, admits that his job is tricky, even uncomfortable.

christaan felber - portraits

“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 Christaan Felber over email about his thoughts on photography and his work.

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

Jeff Brown photography - Jeff Brown

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.

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Photography Website

A to Z of a Photography Website

Digital photography and web development have progressed parallelly. 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 building photography website that rocks the house.

Photography Website

What are the characteristics of an excellent photography site?

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

contemporary photography artists - Rachel Roze

Nearly true but not truth, almost life-like and real but utterly false: There’s nothing neutral in how Rachel Roze one of the well-known contemporary photography artists 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. 

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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, latest photography trends are 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 the photography experts…

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

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A Guide To Clicking Exceptional Landscape Photographs

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.

Landscape Photography - techniques for landscape

 



Image courtesy Pete Piriya

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 →