Photography

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Photography

Photographer Stéphan Gladieu Documents the Congolese Street Children Turning Waste into Wonder

September 2, 2022

Gabrielle Lawrence

All images © Stéphan Gladieu, shared with permission

“So dramatic, so strong, so visual,” artist Stéphan Gladieu said of his first encounter with the revival of an ancestral folk art movement in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Kinshasa is the capital of Congo but also one of the many places American and European countries send their waste. Though doing so is illegal, wealthier nations still export tons of debris with the knowledge that these places do not have the resources to treat or recycle it. Instead, these discards sit, swell, and slowly drown everything around them.

In the face of this ecological disaster, the young people of Kinshasa began to repurpose the waste into traditional religious costumes that were previously destroyed, along with other cultural histories and rituals, by the forced Catholicism of colonization. Gladieu’s relationship with these artists has evolved into the Homo Détritus series.

“(In the photographs), we are talking about ecology, but we are talking about ecology through African masks. As you can see, they’re completely covered up. You don’t see any part of the skin. The traditional masks were done with natural materials. They symbolized the spirit of the ancestors or the spirit of support of the natural world. These young artists reinvent these traditional masks in a way, but they do it today with trash because they find more trash and natural materials.”

 

While doing research in Yoruba for a different photo project that has yet to be released, Gladieu found some grainy photos of a girl dressed in plastic bottles. After reaching out to the contact, he discovered that several of these outfits already existed in Kinshasa and were being produced by local artists as a cultural response to the growing waste problem. However, some of them were damaged due to the lack of resources to properly store the pieces. The labor ranged widely. It could take a few days to repair a mask or when working in groups of three to four people. When using plastics like the shoes seen in “Babouch” (“Flip-Flop”), costume construction could average five to six days.  The most complex garments made of tires, bottles, and metal scraps took up to three to four weeks.

In “Homme Bidon,” which translates to “Phony Man,” brightly colored cups, water containers, and buckets form a mask. With two pails in each arm, the figure balances a water bucket on top of its head. The opening of a yellow container becomes a mouth, and a perforated top represents its eyes—creating a pained expression that also evokes thirst. To the left of the figure, there is a woman in a yellow chair pouring water into her hands. This image references the inequitable economics of water that disproportionately affect poorer countries like those across Sub-Saharan Africa where, as of 2020, 30 percent of people have access to safe drinking water. The surrounding environment also nods to the gendered divisions of women and girls who are responsible for gathering this vital resource for their communities. 

The young artists of Kinshasa and Gladieu’s photographic approach set this project apart from other ecological art concerning this region. “I didn’t want to do work that would be dark. A lot of work had been done like that,” Gladieu said of wanting to avoid guilting viewers into paying attention. “People don’t want to see and don’t really react anymore to those images. It doesn’t help them realize that we all have a personal responsibility in the way we consume and throw things away.” This approach also better honors the agency and resilience of the community of Kinshasa. It exalts the reclamation of their culture rather than the systemic violences enacted against them.

 

“L’Homme Caoutchouc” (“The Rubber Man”) calls out industrial companies that are not relegated to strictly enforced environmental regulations. This charge is captured in the figure’s monstrous stance, rugged form, and emergence from a pool of oil black mud. Similarly, “L’Homme Sachet” (‘The Bag Man”) speaks to the way the plastic bag engulfed many developing countries and quite literally consumed land, animals, and water sources. The abundant layers and repetitive colors represent the excess of plastic that hungrily survives even after we have tossed it into our garbage cans and out of our minds. Along with the depth of representation, Gladieu’s portrait style captures the magnitude of each figure’s artistic presence. He attributes this accomplishment to the collaborative nature of the project.

“I was living with (the artists in Kinshasa). We chose the materials, and I helped provide the money to build a costume or to repair the ones that were damaged. Then we worked in the city to choose the backgrounds. And when I say it’s a collaborative project, it’s also in terms of income because there is a part of the money that I can send by doing speeches and books. It’s a wonderful experience, even if it’s not easy. There are 25 artists. So sometimes it’s a mess, but it’s quite fun.”

You can see more of Homo Détritus on Gladieu’s website, Instagram, or by pre-ordering his forthcoming monograph, which will be released in November.

 

 

 



Design Photography

A Pinhole Camera Made of Recycled Materials Takes a DIY Approach to Vintage Photography

August 31, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Jollylook, shared with permission

A vintage-inspired design from the team at the Ukrainian company Jollylook is combining the immediate joy of instant cameras with handcrafted charm. Slightly larger than an iPhone box, the Jollylook Pinhole is a DIY model constructed with recycled and biodegradable wood. The analog design uses Fuji Instax film and is equipped with a small crank for quick development. A pinhole feature and accordion-like bellows emphasize the retro feel.

Previously based in Irpin, Ukraine, the Jollylook team relocated to Zvolen, Slovakia, during the first days of Russia’s invasion. The company is in the process of rebuilding and is crowdfunding this latest project on Kickstarter. Although it already met its goal, there’s just a week left to snag some of the rewards. Shop additional models on the company’s site.

 

 

 



Photography Science

Masters of Disguise: Sly Insects From Costa Rica to Malaysia Show Off Their Expert Camouflages

August 31, 2022

Grace Ebert

Nature’s propensity for survival continuously manifests in surprising ways, and thanks to David Weiller (previously), we’re able to witness some of the most clever disguises of the insect world. The photographer captures a wide array of critters and their deceptive traits, from the Malaysian geometer moth and its expert camouflage as a dead leaf to the lichen katydid, which mimics the stringy filamentous lichen from which it draws its name. Weiller’s YouTube is a trove of exceptional imitations, including glimpses of the seemingly invisible bagworm moth caterpillar and the lappet moth caterpillar that appears to show off a cheesy grin.

 

 

 



Art History Photography

In Craig Walsh’s ‘Monuments,’ Enormous Projected Portraits Illuminate the Selective Histories of Public Art

August 31, 2022

Grace Ebert

Charlotte’s Descendents (2022) for Charlotte SHOUT! All images © Craig Walsh, shared with permission

In the mid-nineties, Australian artist Craig Walsh created his first projection at Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland. Made with photographic slides, the massive installation temporarily transformed a tree into a large-scale portrait, enlivening the canopy and initiating what’s become a 30-year project.

Now encompassed within the artist’s Monuments series, the digital works continue to animate landscapes and public spaces around the globe, and they’ve evolved in breadth and scope, sometimes incorporating live video and sound that allows viewers to interact with the illuminated characters. Blinking, yawning, and displaying various facial expressions, the emotive figures address both connections between people and their surroundings and conversations around whose stories are upheld and disseminated. “The work in the early days conceptually linked more to how the environment we exist in influences the human condition,” Walsh tells Colossal. “Surveillance was another interpretation.”

 

“Churaki Hill” (2017), three-channel synchronized digital video, projections, and existing trees, from Bleach Festival, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Today, the responsive installations more directly address traditional narratives and challenge “the selective history represented in our public spaces,” he says. Many of the Monuments celebrate people who significantly impacted their communities, and yet, might be overlooked. His 2017 piece, “Churaki Hill,” for example, pays homage to Churaki, an Aboriginal man who was responsible for many successful water rescues in the Tweed region in the early 1900s.

Similarly, Walsh’s recent installation in Charlotte, North Carolina, honors the descendants of Mecklenburg County’s Black residents. Created for the annual Charlotte SHOUT! festival, the trio of works occupies Old Settlers’ Cemetery, the burial ground for the city’s wealthy residents throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. He shares about the project:

Much like today, Charlotte was a diverse city in its founding century…By 1790, the census for Mecklenburg County lists a total population of 1,608 enslaved African Americans or 14 percent of the town’s population. By 1850, enslaved African Americans accounted for 44 percent of the total population inside the city limits. While their graves are not marked, the north quadrant next to Church Street is the final resting place for the formerly enslaved members of Charlotte’s first one hundred years.

On display earlier this year, the installation features folk artist Nellie Ashford, filmmaker and counselor Frederick Murphy, and DJ and musician Fannie Mae. Honoring the deep family ties and legacies these three hold within the city, the portraits memorialize their continued contributions to local culture.

Walsh is currently based in Tweed Heads, New South Wales, and his latest project is on view at Victor Harbor, South Australia, through September 11. Explore more of the Monuments series on the project’s site and Instagram.

 

Charlotte’s Descendents (2022) for Charlotte SHOUT!

“Monuments”(2014), four-channel digital projection, at White Nights Festival, Melbourne Victoria, Australia. Photo courtesy of White Night

“Intension” (2011), three-channel digital projection, existing monument, trees, from Ten Days on the Island, Franklin Square, Hobart, Australia

 

 



Photography

Photographic Composites of Birds and Environments Accentuate the Rich Textures and Colors Found in Nature

August 30, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Eclectus,” (2018), Indian peacocks. All images © Joseph McGlennon, courtesy of Michael Reid Sydney + Berlin, shared with permission

Hundreds of individual photographs comprise the richly layered works of Joseph McGlennon, who plucks particular textures and colors found throughout the natural world and splices them into new contexts. In one image, the cascading feathers of Indian peacocks frame a sailboat in the distance, and another centers on an Australian black cockatoo surrounded by rainbow lorikeets, butterflies, and flowering foliage. Many of the works accentuate the sheen and distinct patterns on the bird’s feathers and utilize the variances in shadow and light to cohesively position the subjects within their manipulated surroundings. By highlighting these features, the photographer references the earth’s stunning diversity and what could be lost given the increasingly disastrous climate crisis.

McGlennon has a solo show open through September 11 at Michael Reid Southern Highlands—he’s represented by Michael Reid Sydney + Berlin—and is also included in Bird published by Hoxton Mini Press. Find more of his works, in addition to glimpses into his process, on Instagram.

 

“Flowering Dry” from Awakening

“Silentium 1” (2021)

“Quiet Dawn” from Awakening

“Silentium 2” (2021)

“Electus,” wedgetail in Tasmania

“Silentium 3” (2021)

“Silentium 4” (2021)

 

 



Photography

Hazy Water Veils Vibrant Bouquets in Mystery in Robert Peek’s Photographs

August 29, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Robert Peek, shared with permission

Fresh flowers emerge through a smoke-like substance in the eerie images of Netherlands-based photographer Robert Peek (previously). Arranged in bouquets of a single species, the lifeforms adopt a more mysterious quality, which Peek produces by adding white ink to water and submerging his subject matter. Although veiled in the hazy liquid, the bright petals breach the surface and are enhanced by an additional light source that amplifies their textures and vibrant hues. The photos shown here are a fraction of Peek’s massive collection of blooms, which you can find on Behance and Instagram.