Smithsonian Magazine Announces 10th Annual Photo Contest Finalists

Jason Hatfield

Vo Anh Kiet

Raul Amaru Linares

Colin Hutton

Colleen Pinski

Md. Akhlas Uddin

Giang Hai Hoang

Nathan Carlsen

Neal Piper

Bob Bush

Smithsonian Magazine just announced the finalists in their 10th Annual Photo Contest. This year the competition saw 37,600 photo submissions from photographers in 112 countries and Smithsonian’s editors selected 50 finalists organized into their usual five categories: Altered Images, Americana, The Natural World, People and Travel. Like last year the photos are open to a public vote through March 29, 2013 and a ‘Readers Choice’ award will be announced along with the rest of the winners in June. Here are ten of my favorites by take some time to go see the rest.

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Trippy Animated GIFs by Matthew DiVito aka ‘Mr. Div’







With over 100,000 followers on Tumblr, Boston-based motion graphics designer Matthew DiVito (aka mr. div) is probably one of the most popular artists making animated gifs today. DiVito works with a combination of After Effects and Cinema 4D to create each image which appear to be inspired by 1970-80s era motion graphics with a distinctly modern twist. These are just a few of my favorites, but you can see dozens more right here.

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A Frosty Morning on the Rhine Photographed by Patrick Hübschmann







German photographer and graphic designer Patrick Hübschmann recently captured this great series of photos on a freezing morning on the Rhine in Southern Germany. The trees and grass are completely covered in a thick layer of frost, conveying an uncanny sense of stillness in each shot. You can follow more of Hübschmann’s work over on his blog. (via behance)

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Mädir Eugster Perfectly Balances a Feather Atop 14 Giant Branches




When you first begin watching this clip from Japan’s Kamiwaza 2013 talent show, you’ll notice a fair amount of dramatic lighting, deep breathing, and plenty of showmanship from Swiss performer Mädir Eugster of the Rigolo Swiss Nouveau Cirque. He carefully rests the feather on a small tree branch and then grabs another slightly larger stick and another and another. Fast forward ten minutes and the act miraculously continues, sweat pouring from the top of Eugster’s head down his bare back until a series of 14 enormous sticks zig zags from the performer’s lifted arm like a massive wooden Calder mobile. If you have any doubt of how precarious this might be, wait until the very end when he removes the feather. I’ve also included another video above of Lara Jacobs (Eugster’s daughter!) of Cirque Du Soleil’s Amaluna performing the same act. Pretty amazing.

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High Voltage Erosion: 15,000 Volts Travels Through Wood

Pratt student Melanie Hoff connected cables carrying 15,000 volts of electricity to a large plank of wood and then documented the results. Surprisingly the areas around each contact point don’t simply catch on fire or burn in a circle, but rather traverse outward in a fractal-like pattern, like lighting in slow motion. Watch it all unfold above. (via colossal submissions)

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Meditating Machinery: Mechanical Buddhas and Other Religious Icons by Wang Zi Won









South Korean artist Wang Zi Won constructs intricate mechanical figures of Buddha and bodhisattva that appear to be lost in meditation or enlightenment. The electrically-powered figures are fused with numerous mechanical components which at times resemble halos or lotus flowers and simultaneously move the humanoid figures through repetitive motions (see videos above). The artist says his intention is to examine a future where humans and technology merge, something he views in a particularly positive light. Via Shin Seung-ho of Dukwon Gallery:

The artist predicts that in the future humans will evolve and adapt themselves to enhanced science and technology just as men and animals in the past evolved to adapt themselves to their natural circumstances. He sees this future as our destiny, not as a negative, gloomy dystopia. His work is thus based on neither utopia not dystopia. Wang represents the relations between man, technology and science through the bodies of cyborgs.

The artist considers it important to escape from human bondage in order to achieve harmony between men and machines. He thinks this harmony can be achieved through the process of religious practices and spiritual enlightenment. In Buddhism, the Bodhisattva of Compassion helps people attain enlightenment, Arhat is a spiritual practitioner of asceticism, and Buddha is a being who reaches the highest level of enlightenment. Through them, the artist intends to follow the path of enlightenment, breaking away from anxiety, agony, and pain. The artist has no intention to emphasize religious connotations through these Buddhist icons but to reflect his own or our own existence between utopia and dystopia.

While it may be difficult to grapple with the artists intentions I find the figures and their motions to be really quite beautiful and indeed meditative, somewhat reminiscent of the robots used in Chris Cunningham’s amazing All is Full of Love video for Bjork. If you have some patience (the site loads quite slowly) there are many more examples of Wang’s work and several more videos over on his blog and you can learn more at Art Nova and Hanmi Gallery.

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Picturesque Chinese Landscapes are Actually Disguised Photos of Landfills






Take a few steps back or perhaps just squint your eyes and these images by artist Yao Lu might resemble traditional Chinese landscape paintings of cliffs, waterfalls, and mountains. Look a bit closer and your perspective may change. Lu digitally assembles each of her images using photographs of landfills and other aspects of urbanization draped in green mesh to mimic idyllic scenery. Similar to the recent work of Yang Yongliang featured on this blog just last week, Lu seems to be making a thinly-veiled commentary on the encroaching ecological threat of urbanization. See much more over at Bruce Silverstein Gallery. (via beautiful decay)

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