Interview: Renata Cherlise On Her ‘Black Archives’ Project, the Credibility of Candid Photos, and the Look of Black Joy
Renata Cherlise’s recently released book, Black Archives: A Photographic Celebration of Black Life, makes clear that Black families have potent stories to tell. Cherlise says in a new Colossal Interview:
Spending time with these scenes of everyday life made me feel connected to my ancestors and inspired me to think about photography as a form of individual and collective history. I became interested in images of the Black experience that I had never seen in mainstream media or textbooks—pictures that capture the intimacy, beauty, and nuance of our everyday lives.
There are first dates, barbeques, trips to Paris, holidays. There is togetherness, laughter, love. These photos testify—through changing fashion, hairstyles, automobile models, photo types, and other markers of time—that Black families have always been part of history, and our stories, our celebrations, have always been an integral part of the historical record.
I spoke with Cherlise via e-mail about the origins of her love for family photos, her book project, and why she considers snapshots “the most authentic storytelling medium in the written and visual language.”
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Architectonic Photographs by Charles Brooks Illuminate the Atmospheric Interiors of Historic Instruments
A pipe organ soars like a skyscraper-lined boulevard and a Steinway piano’s action mechanism transforms into a sun-speckled tunnel in atmospheric photographs by Charles Brooks (previously). His ongoing Architecture in Music series highlights the inner structures of renowned instruments, imbuing the interiors with airy light. Bringing the camera inside a variety of string, brass, keyboard, and woodwind instruments, he offers unique insight into rarely seen textures, details, and patinas. He angles the camera from a low viewpoint, mimicking the perspective of standing in a grand space and looking up at architectural details like columns or skylights.
Brooks has played cello for most of his life and for two decades, performed in orchestras around the world, fueling his curiosity about how instruments are made and who built or played them. Unless you’re a luthier, it’s unlikely you would ever see the inside of a violin, so the photographer wanted to highlight the precision and individuality of a wide variety of examples. Proffering glimpses of a range of interiors—where the real magic happens—Brooks highlights the volumes and components designed to allow sound to swell throughout meticulously assembled forms.
You can purchase prints of many of Brooks’ photographs on his website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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For the ‘Flower Men’ of Saudi Arabia, A Handcrafted Tradition Heralds Beauty and Health
In the rapidly modernizing ‘Asir Province of southwest Saudi Arabia, the Qhatan tribe preserves an enduring tradition. The men of the group, which is said to descend from Ishmael, son of Abraham, fashion vibrant flower crowns made from marigolds, jasmine, herbs, and other plants, wearing the handcrafted ornaments as symbols of pride and joy. Comprised of dried and fresh materials, the headpieces are donned for celebrations, to ward off sickness, and for their beauty, and the practice spans professions and age.
Omar Reda, a Lebanese photographer currently living and working in Saudi Arabia, traveled to the province in January 2021, where he met some members of the tribe. The country “holds a treasure trove of hidden gems, he says, noting that he’s interested in documenting the vast cultural diversity of the Arab nation. In his photographs of the “flower men,” Reda brings the viewer into direct confrontation with the subjects, documenting their crowns, facial expressions, and garments with close precision. The intimate portraits highlight how the uniqueness of each individual emerges through a shared practice, providing a common point of connection throughout the community.
Reda frequently travels to photograph communities and their cultural practices, and you can find more of his portraiture on Instagram. (via PetaPixel)
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In ‘Fire / Flood,’ Gideon Mendel Photographs Those Who Remain Amid Climate Disaster
An emergency that’s often explained with abstract data, catastrophic predictions, and threats to the planet and its species, the climate crisis can be difficult to comprehend. For decades, warming temperatures and rising waters were largely connected to plants and animals, with imagery showing the devastation as it relates to polar bears, coral, and other threatened species. There’s been growing interest in recent years, though, in documenting the communities most profoundly affected and highlighting the human impact already underway.
Gideon Mendel, a South African photographer living in the U.K., has been taking this approach in his two companion series, Drowning World and Burning World. On view now at The Photographers’ Gallery as part of Fire / Flood, Mendel’s portraits are deeply personal, showing individuals and families in their homes and neighborhoods that have been destroyed by natural disasters. Taken in 15 countries since 2007, the collection insists on recognizing that although the regularity and intensity of wildfires, hurricanes, and other weather events are increasing, humanity has been feeling the effects of the crisis for decades.
Mendel began Drowning World first after floods overtook Doncaster, a small city in South Yorkshire. He started by photographing people partially submerged in what was left of their homes, a position that he recreated a few weeks later when visiting India. “When I got back, I put these pictures side by side, portraits from floods in the U.K, and India, and I felt like something quite strong was happening—a shared vulnerability, despite the huge differences in wealth, culture, and environment. That was the beginning of the journey for me,” he told LensCulture.
Whether captured in Haiti, Brazil, Pakistan, or France, the photos assert that no community is immune to the effects of a changing planet, although some are surely left in worse conditions. Mendel explains in a statement:
My subjects have taken the time—in a situation of great distress—to engage the camera, looking out at us from their inundated homes and devastated surroundings. They are showing the world the calamity that has befallen them. They are not victims in this exchange: the camera records their dignity and resilience. They bear witness to the brutal reality that the poorest people on the planet almost always suffer the most from climate change.
When Burning World followed in 2020, Mendel was able to compare the two types of disasters and find commonalities, most notably how his subjects unanimously found strength and endurance. He photographs each person standing upright, remaining assured amid the ruin and choosing courage over fatalism.
Fire / Flood is on view in London through September 30. You can find more of the series on Mendel’s site and Instagram.
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Barbora Batokova’s Enthralling Photographs Vividly Capture the Gilled Underbellies of Fungi
Pittsburgh-based photographer and self-proclaimed nemophilist Barbora Batokova has cultivated a deep passion for fungi ever since her childhood in the Czech Republic. Growing up mushroom hunting and foraging for hearty meals, Batokova shares the cultural nuances linked to moving overseas as she explains that the “Czech Republic is a mycophilic country, which means people are not afraid of mushrooms, unlike people in mycophobic countries like the U.S.”
Yearning for her roots, Batokova created fungiwoman, an ongoing photography and cooking project that allows her to reconnect with nature. Venturing into the woods year-round, she explores new regions, hunts for mushrooms, captures images to learn about different species, and brings the fruitful yield home to cook. Her mesmerizing photographs show small orange caps springing up from mossy grounds and vibrantly fruiting polypores branching from trees. Devoted to protecting precious corners of the woods, she hopes to inspire others to look closely at the surrounding environment.
Batokova’s forthcoming book about mushrooms will be released in 2024, and she has prints and cards available in her shop. In the meantime, you can follow her Instagram to tag along as she traverses new thickets and shares her findings.
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A Stunning Timelapse of Ice Melting Ties the Climate Crisis to an ‘Eternal Spring’
Melting mounds of snow, icicles dripping from gutters, and morning frost quickly disappearing from the grass are all telltale signs that spring is near. But what happens when the landscape is suspended in a perpetual state of thaw not tied to the change of the season? Christopher Dormoy wades into this question in “Eternal Spring,” a mesmerizing short film that magnifies the properties of melting ice.
Shot with a macro lens, the timelapse zeroes in small frozen pockets that appear like cavernous landscapes and vast tundras, tying the film to its large-scale concerns. “Melting ice is beautiful and symbolizes spring, but it can also symbolize the problematic aspect of our climate,” the Montreal-based art director says. Given the incredible loss of ice already happening at the poles, “Eternal Spring” takes on additional meaning when linked to the climate crisis and what it means to inhabit a rapidly warming planet.
The film is part of a larger archive of Dormoy’s experimental projects, which you can find on Vimeo.
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Editor's Picks: Photography
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