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Photography

A New Book Documents the Magnificent Experience of Swimming with Humpback Whales

November 10, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Jem Cresswell, shared with permission

Between 2014 and 2018, Jem Cresswell spent countless hours submerged in the depths of the southern Pacific Ocean surrounding Tonga. There he captured a group of humpback whales as they gracefully maneuvered around him, allowing the Sydney-based photographer to unveil the details of their grooved underbellies and barnacle-clad skin. The original project has culminated in a new book that documents the creatures’ movements and idiosyncrasies in striking black-and-white images.

Giants spans 220 pages detailing the humpbacks and their calves. To complete the massive book, Cresswell pared down more than 11,000 shots, the majority of which haven’t been published previously. The photographer shares memories and historical details about the massive creatures throughout, including the incredible awareness that comes from swimming with sentient beings so much larger than himself. “You never forget your first humpback experience,” he writes. “The sublime sense of insignificance that it instills in you. It has to be one of the most humbling experiences on Earth.”

Only 1,500 copies of Giants, which are signed and numbered, are available for purchase on the book’s site, which also offers glimpses into Cresswell’s process creating the compendium. To stay up to date with the photographer’s latest underwater projects, follow him on Instagram.

 

 

 



Animation Art

A Turbine-Faced Pilot Returns from War in a Surreal Animated Short About Love and Transformation

October 30, 2020

Grace Ebert

Presented by the National Film Board of Canada, an animated short by Montreal-based director Alex Boya considers the complex effects of war through a heartwarming tale. “Turbine” opens with a woman climbing aboard a train that inches along the track like a worm. The black-and-white film then chronicles her journey reuniting with her pilot husband, who returns from war with an airplane engine permanently replacing his face and subsequently falls in love with the ceiling fan.

Through incredibly rich renderings—the wrinkles on the characters’ hands and the whorling patterns in their hair are particularly detailed—Boya depicts peculiar scenes and quiet domestic moments to share a story about love, humanity, and transformation. In an interview about “Turbine,” the director says the film’s distinct style came about organically:

It felt like creating sober instructional illustrations of real things, with an honest attempt to simply survey their opaqueness and shadows in a photorealistic world. Just like I focus on the water instead of on my body when I swim, it works not to think of style, but simply on the subject matter that is being drawn.

For more short films, see the board’s Instagram and Vimeo, and check out Boya’s site to explore the entire Turbine Universe, which is complete with dozens of sketches and gifs of the hybrid character.

 

 

 



Dance History

A Moment of Stunning Choreography and VFX Shares the History of the Little Rock Nine through Dance

October 1, 2020

Grace Ebert

In a powerful interpretation of Elizabeth Eckford’s historic walk to school in 1957, dancer Kendi Jones moves gracefully along a sidewalk. “The First Day” is shot in black-and-white to mimic the iconic photographs of Eckford as she passed through crowds of angry White students, teachers, and community members on her way into a formerly segregated school. Eckford was part of the Little Rock Nine, a group of Black students who were the first to integrate Central High in Arkansas’s capital. They were initially barred from the institution until an intervention from President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Directed by Barnaby Roper, the short film captures Jones’s elegant movements and freezes them in time. As she shifts into her next position, a bit of her form appears left behind like a cloud of particles. To watch more of Roper’s experimental projects, head to Vimeo.

 

 

 



Art

Hyperrealistic Portraits by Artist Arinze Stanley Reflect the Emotions of Black Experiences

September 19, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Mindless #3.” All images © Arinze Stanley, courtesy of Corey Helford Gallery, shared with permission

Arinze Stanley describes his hyperrealistic drawings as “a simple language of my feelings.” In a statement about his new series titled Paranormal Portraits, the Nigerian artist (previously) says he uses his art as a form of political activism and as a way to amplify the voices of those who are unheard. Stanley notes that the relationships he fosters with his subjects are complicated and more often a reflection of himself:

In my opinion, artists are custodians of time and reality, hence why I try to inform the future about the reality of today, and through these surreal portraits seen in my new body of work, Paranormal Portraits, navigate my viewers into what is almost a psychedelic and uncertain experience of being Black in the 21st Century.

Using graphite and charcoal pencils, Stanley draws with such detail, capturing a stray hair or glimmer of beading sweat. Whether featuring a subject wrapped in hands or dripping in paint, the monochromatic portraits are intimate, expressive, and “born out of the zeal for perfection both in skill, expression, and devotion to create positive changes in the world. I draw inspiration from life experiences and basically everything that sparks a feeling of necessity,” Stanley says.

If you’re in Los Angeles, Stanley’s work will be on view at Corey Helford Gallery starting October 3. Otherwise, head to Instagram and check out this video from Great Big Story capturing his deftly rendered artworks.

 

“The Machine Man #7”

Left: “People and Paper #1.” Right: “The Machine Man #6″

“Paranormal Portrait #3”

 

 



Art Science

Science-Inspired Ink by Michele Volpi Blurs the Line Between Tattoo and Textbook

July 29, 2020

Vanessa Ruiz

All images © Michele Volpi, shared with permission

One might learn something from staring at the tattoos of Italian artist Michele Volpi (previously). The composition, detailed dot work, and precise lines of his tattoos transcend both ink-infused skin and science textbooks. The Bologna-based tattoo artist relishes in scientific books—from Frank Netter’s painterly medical illustrations to the exquisitely rendered biological specimens and marine life of Ernst Haeckel. He often visits bookshops during his travels to discover and acquire these new sources of inspiration.

Volpi’s customers seek him out to tattoo an array of botany, astronomy, physiology, and chemistry-based compositions. Sometimes customers let him choose the branch of science, in which case he renders his favorite subject—anatomy. Even then, Volpi combines subject matter like in his tattoo comparing the shape of a human pelvis to that of a butterfly or another that features a human skull being stretched absurdly through a wormhole.

The artist tells Colossal that his “dream is to make a scientific book with all of my conceptual scientific illustrations that I love.” View Volpi’s body of work and booking information on Instagram. For those not ready for the permanence of a tattoo, there are prints of his pen-and-ink, anatomical illustrations available in his shop.

 

 

 

 



Art

A 70-Meter-Wide Installation by Artist Yang Yongliang Immerses Viewers in a Galactic Cityscape

July 24, 2020

Grace Ebert

Artist Yang Yongliang (previously) harmonizes human-generated light and naturally glowing stars in a celestial, 4K video installation. Set to an eerie, technological soundtrack, “Journey to the Dark II” winds through a mountainous city that spans 70 meters across. Movement in the immersive piece is confined mostly to the cars traveling across bridges and down streets, and the lights emit a constant glow among the modern architecture and landforms.

Residing in Shanghai and New York, Yang often juxtaposes modern, industrial life and organic elements to produce dystopian environments that question human progress. “Ancient Chinese people painted landscapes to praise the greatness of nature; Yang’s works, on the other hand, lead towards a critical re-thinking of contemporary reality,” said a statement about a similarly foreboding project.

To explore more of the artist’s digital work and follow his upcoming projects, check out his Instagram and Vimeo.

 

“Journey to the Dark II” (2019), video installation, 12 × 70 meters, 12,600 × 2,160 pixels. All images © Yongliang Yang, shared with permission