“I’m not the first person to say it, and I’m not going to be the last, but when you find out how integral fungi are to our existence, it makes everything else feel insignificant,” says Max Mudie, whose foraging expeditions reveal the otherworldly elegance, diversity, and minutiae of the myriad denizens of the “wood wide web.” Documenting a range of fungi and slime molds living in the U.K., the Sussex-based photographer is fascinated by the sheer breadth of colors, sizes, and textures he encounters in both rural and urban spaces. “I like to try and find as many species as possible,” he tells Colossal. “The more obscure, the better.”
Mudie’s lifelong love for mushrooms blossomed when he moved back to a rural area around five years ago, and he couldn’t resist the opportunity to forage, document, and cultivate specimens. He regularly joins a local group of amateur mycologists on walks to find and identify different types, and a recent highlight included documenting a bioluminescent species. Even with more than 140,000 types of fungi on record around the world, new discoveries are made all the time. He loves the thrill of stumbling across species that are rare or aren’t listed in textbooks, which requires some sleuthing and team effort to identify. “I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of such a vast subject,” he says. “Many species out there are yet to be described, meaning there’s lots of work to be done—making this, for me, one of the most exciting subjects to focus on.”
In many cases, the specimens Mudie encounters are so tiny that powerful macro lenses are required to capture their intricate details. He often shares behind-the-scenes footage of his finds on Instagram, where you can also follow updates about upcoming print releases and events.
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Braids and Bowlers: Indigenous Bolivian Women Skateboard in Style in Celia D. Luna’s Empowered Portraits
Against the pastels and earth tones of a skate park in Bolivia, Miami-based photographer Celia D. Luna captures the vibrant energy and determination of women who express solidarity and strength through a love of skateboarding. Part of her series Cholitas Bravas, “Cholitas Skaters” focuses on a group of Indigenous Bolivian women who wear traditional clothes while practicing extreme sports. “I’ve always admired brave women and culture; it’s in my DNA,” she says, describing that her upbringing by a single mother in the Andes Mountains of neighboring Peru instilled an admiration for courage and perseverance.
As recently as the last two decades, Bolivia’s Indigenous Quechua and Aymara women, known derogatorily as “cholitas,” were marginalized and ostracized from society. Distinguished by their long braids, wide skirts, and bowler hats—an amalgamation of styles resulting from Spanish colonizers forcing Indigenous people to adopt European styles during the Inquisition—the style evolved into a symbol-rich, empowered look.
Indigenous Bolivian women were historically banned from entering some public spaces, could not use public transportation, and were burdened by extremely curtailed career opportunities. They have been advocating for their civil rights since the mid-20th century, but it wasn’t until the election of the nation’s first Indigenous president in 2006 that the Cholitas finally achieved some success in restoring their rights, and the pleated skirts, lace blouses, and sombreros prevail as emblems of their cultural roots.
Luna tells Colossal that the women’s choice to don traditional apparel is for “some of them in honor of their ancestors and some of them because that’s what they wear in their everyday life. I was taken by their courage and their love for their culture, and I wanted to capture that.” Her portraits highlight each individual as she skates around the park, gathers together with the group, and poses with her board as she gazes commandingly at the viewer.
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London-based artist and creative director Max Siedentopf has a knack for portraying more than meets the eye in his distinctive portraits. A series titled Pleasure Portraits looks forward to summer, featuring the distinctive pastels and jewel tones of ice cream bars alongside subjects whose decadent makeup mimics the hues and embellishments of their paired confection.
No stranger to fashion and makeup artistry in his collaborative, creative development role with the Italian brand Gucci, Siedentopf cast models who were ornamented with gems, baubles, and vibrant patterns. In this playful study of duality, there is a twist of irony: despite the association of frozen treats and the sunny colors of summertime with pleasure, Siedentopf’s subjects sit inert and gaze expressionlessly at the viewer in a similar format to passport photos.
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A man with three legs, a vintage car scaling a building, and an unsettling formation of people donning bird masks are a few of the scenarios highlighted in the terrifically bizarre Wonders of Street View. One of the many sites of coder Neal Agarwal, the project showcases photographs of offbeat landmarks, digital glitches, chance encounters, and people who prepare to pose for the famous camera-laden Google Street View cars as they drive by. The playful platform is similarly interactive to allow viewers to explore the surroundings and generates scenes at random, taking visitors from San Francisco to Hesse, Germany, to Samburu, Kenya. Head to Wonders of Street View to traverse the globe one strange sight at a time. (via Waxy)
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As they care for their unhatched babies, female octopuses refuse to eat, causing them to die of starvation before their young emerge from their eggs. Kat Zhou documented one of these marine mothers as she was in the process of such a fatal sacrifice, and the photo won the Ocean Art 2022, the 11th annual contest hosted by Underwater Photography Guide.
Zhou’s image was chosen from thousands of entries submitted from 96 countries, and the intimate photo joins a collection that encompasses a vast array of aquatic life and antics. Two aggressive pike blennies go head to head, a frog flashes a peace sign, and a menacing parasite hunts for its next victim. Find some of our favorite images below, and see all of the winning photos on the contest’s site.
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A “pursuit of the unknown” grounds Annalise Neil’s practice. An enduring curiosity and a desire to find answers shape both her approach to and the form of her works, which layer watercolor accents atop cyanotypes. The pieces depict the unassuming and magnificent, “the tender yet muscular emergence of mushrooms from soil, the brittle and also supple curve of a snail’s shell, the translucent husk of a crinoid on the beach.”
Constructed with hundreds of hand-cut negatives, the composites veil flora and fauna in shades of blue, evoking the color’s ubiquity within the natural world and the mysteries humans have yet to uncover. Lined with yellow or rusty-colored pigments, the works feature familiar subject matter with positions and scale that veer toward the surreal: large hands descend upon an arid desert landscape, birds escape from a trio of shapes that evoke a mushroom cloud, and flowers, butterflies, and dewy spores encircle a central bloom.
These unearthly pairings allow “for a re-thinking of the human’s relationship to reality and our surroundings,” Neil shares, an impulse that also informs her desire to reconsider and better understand change and possibility. “I believe metaphor is the most effective illuminator of new concepts and is an excellent midwife for empathy. One of the most fecund qualities of the human mind is our ability to ask questions, be curious, and make adjustments.”
Neil’s solo show Holobiont is on view through March 30 at Herrick Community Health Care Library in La Mesa, California, where she lives. The artist is currently preparing for a February residency at Playa Summer Lake and will open an exhibition at Sparks Gallery in San Diego this summer. Until then, explore an archive of her cyanotype series on her site and Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Photography
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