When Moroni Benally signs the paperwork to run for Navajo Nation president, he giggles. Moroni For President, a charming documentary profile of his 2014 campaign, captures the high stakes of the race to become the leader of the Navajo Nation, the largest Native American territory by landmass and population. Moroni,...

Phebe Schmidt Photography
In the hands of photographer Phebe Schmidt, everyday objects are set against backdrops that make one do a double take. With a refined and polished style, she highlights ideas of consumerism and stylized beauty through the recontextualization of mundane props as well as the exploration of "plasticity", or the ability of an object to shapeshift with its environment. The resulting works feel curious, having an effect similar to staring at something for so long that it begins to feel unreal by nature, its fine details becoming confusions within the mass of its existence. "My aim is to draw the viewer in with bright cheesy colours and curious props; on second glance, they realise that something is not quite right -- floating razors or a melting block of cheese often placed together with a profiled product," explains Schmidt, who gathers a number of props specific to each shoot, chosen both for their aesthetic and conceptual values.
Phebe Schmidt Photography
Forward-thinking and striking to behold, Danish design is known around the world for its clean lines, simple shapes, and its refined attention to experimentation. With such ideas naturally engrained into the cultural identity of the country, it seems only natural that photographers like Denmark's Torkil Gudnason, now a transplant to New York City, would extend such aesthetic qualities into his portrait and still life photography, which explores the many contours and colors of human and floral forms."America is an artistic playground for the world," says Gudnason, who relocated to the United States in 1978 and describes the Danish style as "very ascetic and minimal". In his photography, Gudnason loosens his grip on that style by turning a colorful eye away from the dark Scandinavian winters but never quite forgetting about them. "When I came here, everything was new, but somehow [I found] déjà vu through various media. My work is still quite minimal, even in the more complex images. It's more a way of reduction than addition."
From Gudnason's Body Vase Series, which is inspired by "The need to work on a form that gives birth to the continuation of mankind. A fascination of how close the feminine body is to nature."
Like a subtle play off its name, dichotomies are rich within True False, a series of photographic works by Brooklyn-based artist Brian Vu. It's a confusing series, to be sure; first glances and even repeat glances make one question why each of its individual images are indeed a part of the larger series, for the unifying thread is indistinct and absolutely evasive. While some symbols reemerge and some photographs find similar compositional articulations, the common denominator between each and every image is vague -- a shared quality that sits on the end of your tongue, eternally waiting for the right descriptors. The images in True False seem to lie in an unspoken state of being and unbeing: human subjects and body parts exist in somewhat impersonal states, often unidentifiable; and on the opposite end lie still lifes that feel so freshly composed that one can almost see the lingering human touch...
Brian Vu Artist InterviewBrian Vu Artist Interview
"I usually have some sort of idea in mind. I have needs for things I want to photograph, so I have to make it happen. The worst part of that is that it usually works like 25% of the time. It's all about the accidents that happen once you're actually shooting with a camera. It's all so exciting when you get a photo you can be proud of. It's a thrill that I'm addicted to." - Brian Vu, on his creative process
ENGLISH TEXT & INTERVIEW BY VIVIAN HUA
In line with my persistent belief that an artist’s creative output is reflective of who he or she is as a human being, I have to admit that I was a little bit nervous to meet Seattle photographer Frank Correa, and it’s because of pre-conceived judgments. Correa’s images almost always feature well-dressed and attractive models that American Apparel would approve of, often placed in awkward poses that Vice in the early 2000s would definitely approve of. They could easily be considered “hipster” by any stereotypical or isolated viewing. With my only hints into his personality being our overly-friendly internet communications and his off-the-wall photographic work, my mind reeled through possible iterations of what Correa might be like. By most accounts, I gathered that he would be fairly friendly – but I must shamefully confess that I was torn on whether or not Correa would be genuine in his artistic pursuit – and considering his extremely definitive style, my sometimes docile self also wondered if he might be bigger-than-life and over-the-top, or pretentious and intimidating. As I wait outside of Correa’s apartment in Capitol Hill, which he shares with a member of Seattle electro-noise band Crypts, the feeling of nervousness persists. Correa arrives minutes after I do and greets me through the thin cloth of a purple shirt, its attached facemask pulled up past his nose. Mysterious. Inside, though, Correa quickly makes it obvious that he is hiding nothing; he raises the blinds immediately, to shine light upon the impressively sparse and tidy living room, which also serves as a creative workspace. Lining its walls is an analog modular synthesizer rig for his roommate, and for Correa, a desktop and giant TV screen doubling as a computer monitor. He immediately proves himself a thoughtful host. He offers me Perrier on the rocks almost as soon as I sit down… and as I easily and comfortably settle in, I note to myself that I am a douche. Previous checklist of reservations? Completely off-base and unwarranted. Correa’s animated, yes – and talkative, extremely – but intimidating or over-the-top? No. Genuine? Without a doubt.
SPANISH TRANSLATION BY TANYA E. ORELLANA
De acuerdo con mi constante creencia de que la producción creativa de un artista es reflejo de quien él ó ella es como ser humano, tengo que admitir que estaba un poquito nerviosa de conocer al fotógrafo de Seattle Frank Correa, en mayor parte debido a nociones preconcebidas. Las imágenes de Correa casi siempre muestran modelos atractivos y bien vestidos, del tipo al que American Apparel le gustarían, muchas veces puestos en poses fuera de lo común, de las que la revista Vice al principio de los 2000s definitivamente hubiera aprobado. Podrían ser considerados “hipster” por cualquier visión estereotípica o aislada. Siendo mis únicas pistas de su personalidad nuestras conversaciones súper amigables por internet y su extraordinario trabajo fotográfico, mi mente imaginaba las posibilidades de como podría ser Correa. Por lo que había escuchado, parecía que seria lo suficientemente amistoso – pero debo confesar de que no estaba segura si Correa seria genuino en su propuesta artística – y considerando su estilo extremadamente absoluto, mi lado dócil se preguntaba si él podría ser un tipo de personalidad exagerada y desmesurada, o pretencioso e intimidante. Mientras espero afuera del apartamento de Correa en Capitol Hill, el cual comparte con un miembro de Crypts, un conjunto de electro-noise de Seattle, mis nervios persisten. Correa llega minutos después de mi y me saluda a través de la delgada tela de su camisa morada, la cual incluye una máscara que le cubre la cara hasta la nariz. Misterioso. Pero adentro, Correa hace obvio que no esta escondiendo nada; abre las cortinas inmediatamente para iluminar una sala impresionantemente vacía y limpia, la cual se presta también como espacio y taller creativo. Decorando las paredes se encuentra una instalación para el sintetizador modular analógico de su compañero de apartamento, y para Correa, un escritorio y una pantalla de televisión gigante que también funciona como monitor de computadora. Inmediatamente me demuestra que es un anfitrión atento. Me ofrece Perrier en las rocas casi inmediatamente después de sentarme… y mientras me voy acopiando de manera fácil y cómoda, hago una nota mental a mi misma de que he sido muy mala onda. Mi previa lista de dudas? Completamente fuera de lugar e injustificada. Correa es animado, si – y hablador, al extremo – pero intimidante y exagerado? No. Genuino? Sin duda.

 

February 14th is known to many -- whether they are coupled or single, in love or without it -- as a day for amorous celebration, through intimate experiences and the exchange of roses, chocolates, and kisses. But beyond the major consumer holiday of Valentine's Day lies a global activist movement of a similar name, called V-Day. Violence against women and girls can take many forms, and V-Day draws special attention to rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sex slavery through a worldwide network of regionally-supported performances, documentaries, plays, rallies, and a variety of other events.
To call attention to this cause in our own way, we have decided to use the delicate work of Romanian and United Kingdom photographer Dana Popa as a foundational point. After learning of the horrible realities of the sex trafficking trade, Popa set about to unveil the stories of its former victims, all of whom were around seventeen years of age and in various stages of recovery when Popa met them. The result of Popa's genuine quest was a piercing series called not Natasha, “Natasha" being the generic name given to Eastern European sex slaves. Many series about sensitive topics shock one into sympathy. Not so with not Natasha; its images are often profound in the most mundane of ways, focusing not only on the women themselves but on the things that they leave behind -- while, in Popa's own words, capturing "a glimpse of their souls". It is beyond the photos themselves where the heart-breaking tales often lie, in the form of deception and betrayal from former lovers, neighbors, and friends, and of societies that allow women to be sacrificed to patterns of abuse and pain. In the full Q&A interview to follow, Popa recounts incredible stories -- some of which are difficult to believe -- while motivating us with powerful imagery. For more details on how you can be involved in V-Day events, please visit their website, or see more of Popa's work on her website.
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"This work is dedicated to Dalia and all the girls who allowed me to have a glimpse of their souls and dig up a hidden, painful past. I hope I did it in the most delicate way."

 

What circumstances led you to the not Natasha project? What triggered my work was purely finding out what sex trafficking really means. At the time, there was not much visual coverage of the illegal trade. Sex trafficking is the most profitable illegal business since the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union; it's a form of violence against women from my society. Little do people realise what this illegal trade is and how big and profitable it has become. So I decided to try and get a closer look at sex trafficking and record what it means for the women to survive sexual slavery. I chose to have a glimpse of their souls -- which at the time seemed very difficult to do, but that is what I was most interested in. After having heard their stories, I wanted to look at their traces -- at what women who had disappeared for years and who are believed to be trafficked and sexually enslaved leave behind. This became essential angle and part of the narrative. After being involved with this project I realised that its beginnings might have been triggered by my interest and knowledge of the woman's position in societies like the one I was born in. I acknowledge this story as a way of standing up against the societies that know what happens to their women and hide it without even doing anything about it.

 

Lansè Kòd (The Rope Throwers) 1996
Every year, Carnaval comes and goes across the entire world, tantalizing everyone with its fanciful costuming and celebratory antics. But beyond the tourist circuit of Carnival lies another Carnival, in locales with a connection closer to the festival's origins. Haiti is one of many countries that celebrates Carnival at their own pace, and over the course of many years, photographer Leah Gordon was able to capture the beauty of those festivities in Jacmel, a coastal town in the south. Kanaval is a black and white photographic series, true -- but it is, more importantly, a series on awareness, about culture, and inclusive of mythology. After this series was taken, Haiti suffered its devastating earthquake and Jacmel was completely decimated. Gordon's photographs, along with her heart-felt introduction to the series and the many oral mythologies passed down to her from carnival participants, can be viewed in the full post. Together, they forever capture a wonderful space in time and call attention to Haiti's creative and spiritual existence. We begin with a tale from Madanm Lasiren, which is just the first of many.
Madanm Lasirèn (Madame Mermaid) 2003

Madanm Lasiren Andre Ferner, 59 years

Lasiren is a spirit that lives under the sea and does mystical work there, she is a Vodou spirit, I dream of Lasiren all the time. That is the reason I do Lasiren for Mardi Gras. I chose Lasiren because my grandmother, father and mother all served the spirits, I love her & honour her. The baby that I carry in my arms is the child of Lasiren who is called Marie Rose. When I walk the streets I sing her song which goes ' I am Lasiren and I cry for Lasiren, when I work mystically in the night bad luck can come my way'. I prepare for Lasiren by putting on a hat, a mask and carrying an umbrella. I put on a necklace and gloves. This necklace is called Mambo Welcome, it is a fetish. Because Lasiren is a fish she has to disguise herself as a woman to be at Mardi Gras. My mask and hat cover her fish's head. And the dress she wears covers her fish's tail. The chain I wear is a sacred chain. Each year I change the disguise and fashion a new baby. In order to get inspiration I go to the place where the big beasts live and they instruct me how to do Mardi Gras. I have been doing this for 18 years. Before that I did another Mardi Gras call Patoko. This was a group of men who were dressed as women, with a nice dresses and high heeled shoes. We did a marriage between men and woman on the street. After that we had a group called the duck who carried brushes in their hands wearing blue trousers, white t-shirts, new sandles and a scarf around our waists. We swept the streets of Jacmel. I have always found a way of doing a Mardi Gras.
Kanaval will be on display for free at PHI Centre in Montreal (407, rue Saint-Pierre), from February 25th to April 27th, 2013. Opening night happens at 7:30pm on February 23rd, and its $175 ticket price (or a $400 VIP ticket) includes Haitian food, giveaways, and performances by Haitian dance groups, Haitian band Doody and Kami, and The Arcade Fire, who have a blog dedicated to their own trip to Haiti. All proceeds will go towards KANPE, a non-profit "born of a desire to play an integral part in the fight to help Haiti break free from a vicious cycle of poverty", through programs in health, education, agriculture, counseling, and other community services. Full event details can be seen at PopMontreal.
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In this back-to-back exploration of animal portraiture, the bleak reality of unwanted shelter dogs contrasts sharply against the vividness of exotic animals set against brilliant backdrops. Ultimately, both celebrate life and humanity's relationship to the animal kingdom, though in vastly different ways. The full post includes personal summaries on what each artist hopes to accomplish with the series. (12 IMAGES TOTAL)

 

Karen Knorr

In Karen Knorr's India Song series, she digitally inserts rare and wild animals, from cranes and tigers to elephants, in ornate north Indian buildings. Where Yun-Fei Tou's appeal to human nature is more obvious (below), Knorr's is more veiled and steeped in cultural knowledge. According to her website, "The photographic series considers men's space (mardana) and women's space (zanana) in Mughal and Rajput palace architecture, havelis and mausoleums through large format digital photography."
The Queen's Room, Zanana, Udaipur City Palace

Yun-Fei Tou

For his Memento Mori series, Taiwanese photographer Yun-Fei Tou has taken over 40,000 portraits of dogs just hours away from euthanization. By seating the dogs in upright, human-like positions, they become almost human-like, giving viewers more to relate to. "I believe something should not be told but should be felt," says Tou, in an interview with Huffington Post. "And I hope these images will arouse the viewers to contemplate and feel for these unfortunate lives, and understand the inhumanity we the society are putting them through."
12:09PM, 10/24/2011, Taiwanese Public Animal Shelter, Time until Euthanized: 1.9 Hours

 

World-renowned photographers Claudia Rogge and Spencer Tunick possess artistic visions large enough to fill city blocks. By orchestrating large-scale installations, they create visual interpretations of order and chaos, comprised not of inanimate objects, but of human beings obediently adhering to another's direction and vision. Rogge and Tunick's props at times engage actively like sentient beings and at others detach like stones. And despite the fact that they are frequently unclothed, the sheer number of individuals involved and the overarching aesthetic quality of each photograph makes every human component important only inasmuch as it forms a significant piece of the whole.
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Claudia Rogge

These images below are primarily from Rogge's 2007 - 2008 series, Dividuum.

Spencer Tunick

A smattering of images from Tunick's Wilderness, Adornment, and Large-Scale installation series.