Those of us who’ve been party to an awkward family photoshoot or embarrassing school picture have reason to feel envious of the birds Leila Jeffreys (previously) photographs. From a pair of stoic budgerigars to a yellow trio named “The Tweets,” the avian subjects are captured in sophisticated and graceful poses that highlight their most stunning features, from the curvature of their beaks to the singular barbs of their feathers.
Jeffreys often teams up with conservationists, ornithologists, and sanctuaries to determine her subjects before bringing them to a studio. When they’re together, the Australian photographer focuses on their personalities, hoping to capture their idiosyncratic tendencies. The result is intimate and engaging photographs at a human-scale, a choice that strays from traditional portraiture by centering a different species.
Many of the elegant portraits here are included in Jeffreys’ recently released book, Des oiseaux, and you can explore a larger collection of photographs available for purchase on her site. Otherwise, keep up with her feathered frames on Instagram and watch this arresting footage of the birds in action.
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Considering Complexity and Ritual, an Imaginary Universe Emerges from Psychedelic Digital Illustrations
Luis Toledo has a knack for building ethereal universes. The Madrid-based artist, who works under the moniker Laprisamata, digitally illustrates otherworldly scenes and composite characters formed from vibrant blocks of color, patterns, and mundane objects, like pineapples and leaves. “I am interested in working on the complexity of human beings and animals, working against the medical anatomy atlases that try to simplify living beings. Nature always develops complex shapes, and I try to imitate that,” he tells Colossal.
Psychadelic in style, the collaged renderings are part of a larger narrative relating to the rites, rituals, and beliefs of the Blue Desert, Toledo’s imagined world. He explains the fictional universe:
Most of these artworks take place in the Blue Desert. The Blue Desert or The Desert of the Blue Men is the place where the Iberians will live, an ancient sea where priests make rituals and sacrifices, and where the three-eyed skull and black felines are venerated. Land of Esperpentos where elms used to grow and where some olive trees, acacias, almond trees, and thyme now survive.
Toledo created many of the pieces shown here during lockdown, while he was confined to his apartment with little access to nature. “I needed the characters in my works to be located in large open spaces where there was nothing to prevent the sky from being seen,” the artist writes.
Eventually, Toledo hopes to compile these illustrations and develop the characters’ narratives in a graphic novel or book, an endeavor you can follow, along with more of his kaleidoscopic works, on Instagram and Behance.
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Elaborate Fashions and Hairstyles Explore Beauty and Power in Photographer Luke Nugent's Lavish Portraits
London-based photographer Luke Nugent (previously) captures a wide swath of beauty and expression through his powerful images centered on Black models. Often in commanding poses, the subjects sport evocative fashions and elaborately designed makeup. One model is covered in Kintsugi-style cracks and encrusted with glimmering gems, while others wear futuristic garments and lavishly styled hair. The deeply considered photographs are created collaboratively with makeup and hair artists, stylists, and creative directors.
Find more of Nugent’s photography on Instagram and Behance—where you can also see his recent EQUILIBRIUM series that was produced in collaboration with Melissa Simon-Hartmon—and pick up a print in his shop.
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Shelters of People Experiencing Houselessness Are Photographed within Affluent Residences to Demonstrate Inequality
Whether opulent or minimalist in style, the houses that Jana Sophia Nolle photographs are displays of wealth. Plush rugs cover hardwood, hardback editions line built-in bookshelves, and tall windows reach from floor to ceiling. Even the stark rooms with few sculptures and seats signify a choice, rather than a necessity, and demonstrate the ability to furnish a room with just significant objects.
Within these residences, though, Nolle reconstructs a contrasting shelter to illuminate a growing disparity. In her series titled Living Rooms, which culminated in a book published by Kerber Verlag, the artist situates the shelters of those experiencing houselessness within the dwellings of affluent folks in San Francisco. (Houseless refers to lacking a specific kind of structure, while homeless does not.) The single-occupancy structures often are formed with rain-resistant tarps, cardboard boxes, shopping carts, and other small objects.
Nolle started the affective series as a way to raise awareness about disparity, gentrification, and income inequality by explicitly comparing differences in living spaces, wealth, and security. “Art cannot, unfortunately, solve problems or change society: at least one work on its own cannot. It does not provide solutions, but it can wake up people,” she says. Although the photographs shown here were shot throughout 2017 and 2018, income inequality has only worsened. Recent reports state that while the wealthiest Americans have seen significant gains during the last few months, people with lower incomes have not rebounded to even pre-pandemic levels. According to the Federal Reserve’s data collected through the end of March, the richest 1% of Americans own 31% of wealth.
Nolle’s project is also empathy-driven, serving as a reminder of our shared humanity. “While working on Living Room, I noticed that unhoused people said that they feel invisible to the housed residents of the city,” she writes. “For most Americans, homeless people are barely visible, somehow on the edge of our vision in most urban areas.” Her time working in San Francisco was both arduous and gratifying and inspired her to join the Coalition for Homelessness. She formed bonds with about 15 people, who she later witnessed being forcibly removed by officials. “This was one of the hardest parts of the project. It is about people. It is about individuals’ lives.”
Prior to the pandemic, Nolle planned to replicate the project in Paris and Berlin. Her time photographing the French city was cut short by the lockdown measures, sending her to Berlin, where she’s been building relationships with people who are experiencing houselessness and those who aren’t. “While housed people can ‘go home’ and close their doors and do everything possible to protect themselves, I met many unhoused individuals who described how their networks and support structures changed dramatically due to the pandemic,” she writes. People who are experiencing houselessness are increasingly worried about being infected with the virus and struggling more because they report receiving fewer monetary donations.
Nolle also tells Colossal that she’s noticed differences in the materials people across the globe use to build their homes. While the structures in San Francisco generally are covered, those in Berlin tend to be open on top and use more mattresses for bases. She attributes these differences to both weather conditions and to the varying rules and landscapes of the cities. In terms of photographing large, lavish residences, Nolle says that due to the pandemic, a lack of connections, and other reasons, she’s had more difficulty finding wealthy people willing to open their living rooms to her in Germany. “Sometimes I get the feeling they do have money and wealth in the background but they seem to have trouble admitting it. Being wealthy/privileged seems sometimes also linked to feelings of shame,” she says.
The San Francisco-based series is currently on view through October 24 at Torrance Art Museum in California, while those captured around Berlin will be part of a solo show at Haus am Kleistpark staring in March 2021. Until then, follow Nolle’s work on Instagram. (via It’s Nice That)
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Colorful, Geometric Stitches Embolden Black-and-White Photographs of Historical Figures and Cultural Icons
When Victoria Villasana (previously) lays a long stitch on a vintage photograph, she’s connecting the pattern or geometric shape to a piece of history, culture, or philosophy. The Mexican artist transforms found black-and-white images of cultural icons and historical figures through vibrant embroideries. Turquoise fibers radiate from Nelson Mandela’s fist, a gold, chevron collar lines Chadwick Boseman’s shirt, and Yayoi Kusma sports a multicolor garment with varying dots and stripes. Emboldened by stitches that often breach the photograph’s edges, the multi-media artworks exude power, strength, and beauty.
Villasana sources many of the images from the public domain, although she sometimes collaborates with photographers, as well. “I think color helps us to connect emotionally and I like to look at the past and merge tradition and vanguard. I’m also interested in symbolism and geometry in art as a way to communicate deeper meanings with each other,” she shares with Colossal.
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Spanish artist Àngela Maria Sierra, who works as Riso Chan, explores the human psyche through subtly layered foliage. “I always imagine that they are someone’s soul, what we don’t see, our nature,” Sierra says of the delicate botanical assemblages that she overlays onto her subjects’ faces and torsos. Each portrait begins with a focus on texture and pattern as the artist paints clusters of twigs and leaves with watercolor. She then scans those botanical elements and uses Procreate to superimpose the figure onto the original piece.
Alongside their simple beauty, the pastel paintings, some of which are self-portraits, reflect the narratives and worries that consume the artist’s daily life. She describes her work as “a journal where I express moments or feelings that are important for me during those days. It’s a way to give those feelings space and then let them go.” Tied to both struggles and joys, topics include finding freedom through creativity during lockdown, growing up in an drug-filled home, and the bravery required to move forward.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.