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Photography

Under Quarantine, Aquatic Photographer Turns His Lens on Radiant Sunbirds in His Backyard

May 28, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Steve Benjamin, shared with permission

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)

 

 

 



Art Craft Food

Domestic Ceramics by Mechelle Bounpraseuth Infused with Culinary Life and Family Memories

May 18, 2020

Anna Marks

All images © Mechelle Bounpraseuth, shared with permission

Sydney-based artist Mechelle Bounpraseuth crafts life-sized ceramics that explore her identity as a first-generation daughter of Laotian refugees. Her small and glossy ceramic artwork, which ranges from drink cans to widely known sauces, explores her connection with her past and how branded ingredients are rooted in culinary culture and rituals. 

Bounpraseuth was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and despite many fond memories of her family and childhood, her religion discouraged her from pursuing artistic pursuits. She left the religion in her 20s and got married, realizing that her dream of becoming an artist was possible and that she didn’t have to succumb to the person her religion had wanted her to be.

Her creativity initially began from drawing and creating zines, before Bounpraseuth enrolled in a ceramics course and began crafting functional objects. Noticing her talent for the medium, her tutor encouraged her to pursue work with more artistic flair. She began to expand on her drawings of household objects by recreating them in clay and glossy bright colors.

One of Bounpraseuth’s ceramics is a Heinz Ketchup bottle, a condiment found in many family fridges and cupboards throughout the world. For the artist, the sauce represents the memory of her family eating pho together, a ritual in which they would come together and make the recipe from scratch with a dollop of ketchup. These sculptural forms are meaningful symbols to Bounpraseuth as the pho was a labor of love and would take her family all day to make.

Through the creation of these domestic objects from her past, Bounpraseuth uses her artwork as a way to reflect upon and process her childhood memories and as a way to navigate her old and new identities. These pieces illustrate how some values remain passed down from generations, like Bounparseuth’s reference to her family’s shared domesticity, while some core aspects of family, like religion, are not always. 

For more of the artist’s memory-focused ceramics, head to Instagram. (via It’s Nice That)

 

 

 



Art

Meticulously Crafted Steampunk Creatures by Igor Verny Feature Articulated Wings and Limbs

May 15, 2020

Christopher Jobson

All images © Igor Verny

If Igor Verny’s dragonflies and birds have difficulty taking flight, they may need a few squirts of WD-40 to get their metallic wings flapping. The Russian artist (previously) assembles steampunk-inspired sculptures that are fully articulated and can be shaped into realistic poses of daily activities. Merging the organic and industrial, each polished insect and animal is formed with scrap metal and other discarded objects. To see Verny modeling his organisms’ movements, head to Instagram.

 

 

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History Illustration Science

A Natural History Compendium Catalogs Albertus Seba’s Exotic Specimens through Exacting Illustrations

April 20, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Taschen, shared with permission

Packed with careful illustrations of striped snakes, preserved creatures, and now-extinct animals, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities is one of the most impressive natural history compendiums of the 18th Century. Spanning nearly 600 pages, the new edition from Taschen features the work of Amsterdam-based pharmacist and zoologist Albertus Seba, who was a renowned collector of natural life. He commissioned the meticulous illustrations in 1731 that he then published into four, hand-colored volumes. The new Cabinet of Natural Curiosities catalogs these original drawings of exotic specimens in a single text and features writing by Irmgard Müsch, Jes Rust, and Rainer Willmann. Grab your copy from Taschen’s site.

 

 



Art

A Dense Cluster of Birdhouses by Artist Bob Verschueren Rests in a Treetop

April 6, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Annecy Paysages

Hopefully, the birds flocking to Bob Verschueren’s wooden housing complex won’t mind if their neighbors stay up late chirping or make too much noise as they head out in the morning to look for worms. Resembling a dense apartment building with shared walls and common perches, Vershueren’s “Implantations” features rows of stacked homes that vary in size for multiple birds to live in simultaneously. They’re a stark contrast to traditional single-family birdhouses.

The Brussels-based artist erected the tree-like pillar—which also bears a likeness to the Tower of Babel—in the Jardin de l’Europe as part of Annecy Paysages 2017, an annual festival that embeds art throughout the French city. After its debut, the work was installed permanently.

For more of Verschueren’s work, check out the book he released in 2013. You also can find future installation plans that merge art, nature, and landscapes on Annecy Paysages’s Instagram. (via Jeroen Apers)

 

 



Animation

Kukuschka: An Ambitious Bird Passionately Follows the Sun in a Windy Stop-Motion Short by Dina Velikovskaya

April 3, 2020

Grace Ebert

For Kukuschka, motherhood is a hindrance. In a stop-motion film bearing her name, the avian character dreams of reaching the sun. She travels the beige dunes each day and braves the wind gusts that blow her gauzy clothing. When her similarly dressed baby breaks out of its shell, she tries to continue on her journey to follow the glowing orb, before slowing to a lope to find care for her child.

Created by Russian animator and director Dina Velikovskaya, the stop-motion film is an effort to complicate traditional notions of parenthood. Velikovskaya told Short of the Week that “Kukuschka” represents “women who ha(ve) dreams and how motherhood can be an obstacle to them.” Throughout the emotional production, the mother-baby duo struggle to coexist in their sand-filled world.

Since it was released in 2016, “Kukuschka” has garnered worldwide attention, winning Best Animated Comedy from the EACG Animation Festival in San Francisco and Best Director at the New Horizon Film Festival and National Animation Premium “IKARUS.” For more Kukuschka and the other avian puppets, check out the animator’s Instagram, where the characters periodically visit coffee shops and parks.

 

 



Photography Science

Synchronized Starling Flocks Undulate in Mesmerizing Patterns Captured by Photographer Xavi Bou

April 2, 2020

Grace Ebert

For starlings, there’s truth to safety in numbers. “In winter, starlings join in flocks of thousands of individuals to try to confuse the hawks that attack them, doing a mesmerizing dance,” said Barcelona-based photographer Xavi Bou, who recently released a video chronicling the birds’ synchronized swooping. In “Murmurations,” a name that refers specifically to the phenomenon, Bou captures the avian movements through a series of gray lines that swell and undulate with each obfuscated turn.

Set to a soothing track by Kristina Dutton, the video is part of the photographer’s larger Ornitographies project, an ongoing endeavor stemming from his childhood walks through nature with his grandfather. Bou previously focused on chronophotography for the series, which combines multiple images of flying birds into a floating pattern that resembles double-helices. “Murmurations” similarly blurs the starlings’ outlines and distinct features to focus instead on their heaving movements.

On his site, Bou has prints available of his composite images, and more of his phenomenological work can be found on Instagram. (via Kottke)