French photographer and director Romain Laurent (previously here and here) started making portrait-based GIFs as a way to produce work outside his commercial jobs, a spontaneous project that would encourage him to produce consistently for himself rather than clients. Each GIF is simple in its concept—a snap of the finger, a twist of the hand—yet is elegant in its composition of muted colors and subjects often centered squarely in the frame. Although GIFs often incorporate the whole subject, Laurent’s work highlights one or two specific movements, isolating gestures rather than animating the whole image.
Laurent studied product design at the National School of Applied Arts in Paris before realizing photography was his medium of choice. Laurent nows works in New York City and has collaborated with clients such as Reebok, Hermes, Lacoste, Nissan, Google, and GQ. You can see more of his inventive portraits on his Tumblr, and access his GIFs directly on his Giphy page here.
English artist Ed Fairburn (previously) uses vintage road maps and star charts as canvases for drawn portraits. Cross-hatched patterns and shaded regions inside roads, borders, and rivers assimilate into the contours of faces, as if the images had always been secretly hidden in the map’s topography. “In his hands, both built infrastructure and natural phenomena echo the organic human form,” shares Mike Wright Gallery. “National highway systems become capillaries, and the tangle of Paris’ alleyways become the wrinkles that give the face history and individuality.”
For her latest series Shake Cats, Portland photographer Carli Davidson trained her high speed camera on a parade of flittering felines, capturing each cat mid-shake in an explosion of fur, skin, and spit. You may recognize Davidson’s work from her previous portraits of shaking dogs and puppies. This new series proves to be equally humorous—if not more so—and is accompanied by an equally fun video, seen below. She even managed to get a cameo of famed internet cat Lil Bub.
The most frequent question Davidson gets about the series is how she coaxed the cats into shaking. The assumption is that she simply dumps water on them, but the answer is much more humane. After acclimating to the studio, some cats shake when simply pet by a human hand dipped in water. In other instances the cats were photographed during a standard ear cleaning using Epi-Otic ear cleaner applied by an animal care professional.
Most of the 61 cats appearing in Shake Cats are rescues, and Carli also had the opportunity to shoot regular high-quality portraits for each animal to encourage online adoption (which in most cases happened almost immediately). A portion of Davidson’s advance from the book will support three Portland shelters who provided its subjects.
Chicago-based photographer Freddy Fabris has worked for years on commercial projets for clients like Leo Burnett, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Ogilvy & Mather, but it was a recent decision to focus on a personal project exploded into a bevy of awards and accolades. Fabris, who has a background in painting, had long been ruminating about how to pay tribute to the works of classic painters like Rembrandt and Da Vinci using his camera. While accompanying a friend to a cluttered auto repair shop, inspiration suddenly struck. Fabris would pose the mechanics in the style of classical portraits, and in tableaus reminiscent of Philippe de Champaigne’s The Last Supper and Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. As he shared the idea with colleagues and collaborators, everyone quickly jumped on board and the Renaissance series was born.
While the photos are admittedly absurd, the staggering amount of craft and skill present in each shot is undeniable. From the careful composition of bodies to the striking use of light to illuminate the face of each subject, the portraits in particular are strangely dignifying. The photos have since won the 1st Place International Color Award, the One Eyeland Silver Award, and an APA Conceptual Award. You can explore more of Fabris’ work on his website.
In a fine balance of sculpting, painting, lighting, and photography, Madrid-based artist Irma Gruenholz (previously) creates portraits and still-lifes that could easily be mistaken for 2D images found in storybooks. Gruenholz refers to her pieces as clay illustrations, and works with a variety of materials including modeling clay and plasticine to achieve different effects. Her work appears in advertisements, books, posters, and magazines around the world, and three of her portraits were selected for the Society of Illustrators 57th Exhibition in New York earlier this year.
Gruenholz just shared a new series of illustrations over on Behance, and you can read a recent interview about her process on Brown Paper Bag.
Fine art photographer Kirsty Mitchell’s (previously) award-winning series of conceptual portraits titled Wonderland will soon be available as a book by the same name. Wonderland began as a small project in 2009 when Mitchell decided to explore childhood stories shared by her mother, an English teacher, who died from cancer several years earlier. Models dressed in lavish costumes were shot against natural settings like deeply wooded forests to evoke the elements of mystery and fantasy enjoyed by Mitchell’s mother. While portraits from the series are extremely detailed and vivid, they remain intentionally ambiguous enough for readers to project their own stories onto them.
The success of her first few photos drove the artwork into uncharted territory as the photoshoots grew into increasingly ornate endeavors where costumes and props for each image were sewn, painted, and assembled by hand, requiring up to five months of prep for a single shot. Mitchell recounts the series’ evolution in an essay on her website. The full collection of 74 storybook images will soon be available in an actual publication currently funding (with wild success) on Kickstarter.
With a dizzying flurry of oil paints, watercolors, silkscreen & monotype printing techniques, charcoal, and ink, artist Nelson Makamo captures the daily life of South African children as reflected in their charismatic faces. Based in Johannesburg, Makamo prefers to refer to himself as a storyteller or narrator of what he encounters everyday. “I document each day visually because for me each day is a blessing, being able to capture movements and feelings of people who live around me.” His portraits depict hopeful faces filled with laughter and confidence, awash in spirited dashes of color. Via Salon Ninety One:
Key themes informing Makamo’s practice include the city of Johannesburg with its dizzying dynamism, portraiture, the narrative of the artist’s personal history – an unpolitical archive of personal experience, as well as themes of migration, urbanization, identity, masquerade and the transition from childhood to adulthood. Makamo ultimately strives to communicate a universal experience, which viewers can relate to and access through his artwork.
Makamo has exhibited in numerous group and solo shows in South Africa, France, Italy, the U.S., The Netherlands and Scotland over the last few years. You can see more of his artwork at Candice Berman Fine Art or follow him on Instagram. And just in case you were wondering, his shoes. (via Lustik)