Steve Benjamin generally uses his background in Zoology to capture the underwater lives of sharks, whales, and dolphins. But due to quarantine restrictions spurred by the ongoing threat of COVID-19—South Africa has imposed some of the strictest regulations in the world because a high percentage of the population has compromised immune systems—the Cape Town-based photographer has shifted his focus to the feathered animals visiting his backyard.
Sunbirds is a stunning series of portraits captured using the same techniques as underwater photography. Benjamin tells Colossal he established a miniature studio for his avian visitors by positioning a feeder in a small sunny area with nearby shade, plenty of blooming flowers, and twig perches. “This is a studio setting for wild birds that are free to come and go as they please,” the photographer says.
To ensure the backdrop was dark, he used shutter speeds of 1/2,000 of a second and mounted additional lights to illuminate the vibrant intricacies of the feathers, feet, and bills. “The birds did not like flash photography so I have to figure out how to get constant light onto them with my underwater video lights,” he writes. “I had to get the birds used to being close to bright lights, which took a while.”
You can see the full series on Benjamin’s site, in addition to a deep dive into his process and equipment in the video below. He also shares an array of wildlife shots on his Instagram. (via PetaPixel)
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Often blurring or concealing the faces of her dramatically posed figures, Kylli Sparre (previously) captures magical portraits of young women and girls. The fine art photographer, who is based in Tallinn, captures her lone subjects amidst swirling swaths of fabric or perched atop a towering mass of bicycle wheels. Many are in motion, whether dancing against hazy landscapes and or scooting across calm waters.
Sparre tells Colossal that she’s begun to experiment with technical aspects of her process by using a scanner, piecing together images in collages, and experimenting with movement and exposure time. Although she notes that many of her forays into underwater photography “will never see the light of day,” she’s “trying to be as open as I can… I think what has demanded me to grow, is the wish to keep finding the “something” in an image, that would touch a chord in me. Because what I find interesting, slightly changes over time. It is not always an easy task to be truthful to this inner scale, but still essential.”
To see more of Sparre’s conceptual projects focused on the female figure, head to Instagram.
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Before crops are harvested and combine tracks mark the soil, Wyoming-based photographer Mitch Rouse captures the immaculately planted farmland that patterns the western United States. His captivating aerial shots frame the patchwork fields, concentric rows, and land-hugging lines formed with sprouted produce and vibrant trees. Sometimes disrupted by a natural landmark like a small mountain range, the photographer’s images provide a new perspective on the cultivated land.
Rouse tells Colossal that the Palouse—a major agricultural area in the northwest— is one of his favorite regions to visit because it’s often full of luxuriant fields. “This year, it was particularly lush, and I was very surprised getting out there how soft and velvety the green fields looked. Unlike the first photograph (shown above), the shapes in the Palouse are much more organic flowing and curving with the natural form of the hills,” he says. The photographer also has explored Montana, Oregon, Idaho, and California, capturing the precisely placed rows of trees near Bakersfield.
Originally frustrated by the limitations of drone and aircraft techniques, Rouse said he has “now found the sweet spot between the two by developing a system that incorporates a Bell 407 helicopter, with a Shot Over gimbal mounted to the nose, which contains a 150 MP Phase One Industrial camera.” Much of his process consists of spotting land patterns and flying over them. “A lot of it ends up really just being aware of your surroundings and eventually develop an eye for what will look good, making it pretty easy to pick your targets,” he says. “The key to getting these is timing it right. You want favorable light, whether it’s from clouds or sunrise or sunset.”
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When photographer Jean-Luc Feixa moved from Toulouse to Brussels, he began noticing the cultural, linguistic, and architectural differences between the two cities. “It may seem anecdotal,” he tells Colossal, “but the windows here are much larger than in France and easily disclose the house interiors.”
On his commute, Feixa often would pass the glass openings displaying robust collections, family mementos, and items for sale. “One day, I came across a group of children who seemed to be fascinated by a LEGO construction. It was quite captivating to see them commenting on this installation for many minutes. That was the trigger,” he says.
In the seven years since his relocation, Feixa has captured dozens of windows around the Belgian city, which he recently compiled in a book titled, Strange Things Behind Belgian Windows. Each provides not only a glimpse into the residents’ lives but also the objects they both intentionally and accidentally display. From a panda bear collection to a taxidermied fox to the finish line of a bike race, the objects encompass the cutesy and the odd and are always idiosyncratic. One display in particular—the homage to Elvis Presley (shown below)—has been exemplary of Feixa’s intention.
I talked for a long time with the couple. They are absolute fans of the King, and they were very moving. They decided to share their passion from behind their window. They really represent what I tried to convey with my series, that windows can be a perfect showcase to communicate a passion, send a message, reveal a part of oneself.
Since Belgians have begun quarantine, the photographer says windows have been transformed into a more intentional form of communication. “Whether to sell masks, encouraging people to stay home, or congratulating the medical staff, I see a lot of objects appearing, and it’s great to be able to continue the project,” he says. Feixa is hoping to chronicle this unusual period in a second volume.
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For Meggan Joy to begin creating her flowery assemblages, she first has to plant the seeds. The Seattle-based artist cultivates a plot in a community garden throughout the summer months, tending to each fern and vibrant petal. Once her patch is in full bloom, she captures thousands of individual photographs of her rooted plants before combining them into allegorical digital collages of the female body. Birds, butterflies, and other visitors to her garden make an appearance, as well.
Her latest series, Battle Cry, depicts women in the midst of conflict. Imbued with action, each figure is comprised of layers of the living world that are derived from both the opened flowers and the powerful bodily poses. “Color and texture form each woman’s shape, and from the photographs of once-living individual things, portraits of ethereal beings begin to emerge,” the artist says. A snake wraps itself around one figure’s neck, while two others are twisted among flowing ribbon, merging notions of natural beauty and strength.
Joy’s work will be on view at J. Rinehart Gallery in Seattle from June 13 to July 25, with a virtual opening on June 13. Take a peek at her studio, which includes a walk through her garden plot, in the video below, and follow her textured compositions on Instagram.
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Since being quarantined inside her home in Buenos Aires, Lucía Morón has struggled with insomnia. “I have not been sleeping well and there are even days when I cannot seem to find the energy to get out of bed,” she says. As a way to manage her difficult moments, Morón has been documenting her uneasiness. “Photographing helps me to externalize and exorcise my inner fears, nightmares, and anxieties,” she says. “It has become a way of escape in which to express myself during (these) hard and lonely times.”
Morón’s joined more than 400 other womxn with similar practices on a collaborative project that’s helping to capture the mundane, monotonous, and worrisome moments in their lives. Organized by photographers Charlotte Schmitz and Hannah Yoon, The Journal is an extension of Women Photograph, which is an initiative led by Daniella Zalcman to elevate visual journalists who identify as non-binary or women.
While many photographs during the last few weeks have focused on hospitals, essential supplies, and frontline workers, The Journal retreats from the traumatic coverage in favor of intimacy. “Our collective photo project brings nuance to the way the current pandemic is being covered as we turn the camera on ourselves, our families, and the private space,” organizers said. It encompasses work from womxn in more than 80 countries and ensures that marginalized voices have a platform as freelance and media budgets are slashed globally.
Morón’s image (shown below) is black and white and depicts a single arm and leg at the left edge of the frame. It corresponds to her feelings of being “‘submerged’ in bed. As if I was trapped or being ‘eaten’ by my own bed,” she says. The puffy sheets resemble a dreamy, floating cloud, linking the image more directly to her insomnia.
While Morón has pivoted inward as a way to cope with her private emotions and feelings, though, other participants describe an experience that centers on their subject matter. For photojournalist Nyimas Laula, turning the camera to herself poses many difficulties because she typically focuses on others’ stories, not her own.
As a photojournalist, the biggest part of my job is listening to people that I’ll be photographing. My work has always been speaking about others, whether it’s addressing issues that I deeply care about or extension of voices from people that yet to be heard. In this isolation, I’m pushed to point the camera to myself, no one to ask, no one to speak to, other than myself. I constrain myself to this voluntary isolation out of responsibility to help contain the spread of the virus. I find myself deeply disoriented by that.
Now confined to her home in Indonesia, Laula has been capturing her surroundings and otherwise private life. She talks about an inner impulse she feels guiding her. “I’ve been photographing things around me, out of intuition, without any particular reason or stories. As if I’m trying to describe the complexity of feelings that I experience during isolation,” she says. “This time, I’m listening to myself, rediscovering myself. It might tell something about myself that I didn’t know before.”
Each week, The Journal’s curators announce a theme like nature, connection, or self-portrait that 8-10 participants from different countries work on together. Some shoot the images, while others provide creative guidance or edit. “As these relationships form, we can see important visual stories emerging, bringing representation to women and their stories from all over the world,” organizers said. Photographers are separated into intentionally diverse groups to ensure a variety of perspectives.
As the project continues, Morón hopes to direct conversations around the ongoing pandemic to new spaces. “We can find a certain relief from this difficult situation by changing its images. It’s like a trap. I think that many people will feel identified with our stories of quarantine,” she writes.
To see the growing collection of global dispatches, follow The Journal on Instagram.
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A new film by New York-based director Paul Trillo lingers for just a moment on a serene body of water before plunging into a dizzying series of landscape transformations. “Until There Was Nothing” considers how Earth’s natural landscapes and city life would look just moments before being consumed by a black hole. The surreal work shows massive waves suddenly crawling up the left side of the frame, the tops of taxi cabs shooting into the air, and an entire forest of trees ascending in an amorphous mass.
To add an even more unnerving twist, Trillo overlayed the short film with a recording of British writer Alan Watts, who slowly expounds on the “prospect of vanishing.” Despite his film’s disturbing qualities, the director maintains an optimistic outlook. “Someday this will pass and there will be nothing left… That’s not something to fear ‘because we come from nothing’ as Alan Watts puts it… and from nothing comes something new,” he says.
Watch the full film, which Trillo alternatively titled “How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Black Hole,” below. Find more of the director’s perspective-bending projects on Vimeo.
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