Brendon Burton Captures Moments of Nostalgia and Wonder in North America’s Most Isolated Places
Growing up in an isolated community, photographer Brendon Burton developed an eye for the way decaying buildings nestle into the landscape or punctuate vast expanses. Now based primarily in Portland, Oregon, he travels around the U.S. in search of rural places that are culturally worlds apart from major urban centers, seemingly existing on their own timelines. Like his series Thin Places, his recent body of work titled Interstices—to which some of these images belong—emphasizes the notion of liminality, advancing time, and spaces for passing through.
Utilizing drones to achieve dramatic aerial views in addition to intimate perspectives shot from ground level, Burton highlights the relationships between the built environment and wilderness, ancestry and life cycles, and presence and local traditions. “I recently visited the Deep South for the first time and documented Courir de Mardi Gras in a rural Cajun community in Louisiana,” he says. “It was truly an insane event, and the people I met were so kind and welcoming. I definitely will be visiting the South again soon.”
Burton is currently working on a second photo book focusing on the effects of the climate crisis and cultural isolation in rural communities throughout North America. As for future trips, he is headed to Saskatchewan and Manitoba this summer, then rural Appalachia in the autumn. Prints are available on his website, and you can find more on Instagram.
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Art Design History
Steve Messam’s Inflatable Installations Highlight How Landscapes and Architecture Shape Communities and Culture
Whether coaxing new life from abandoned structures in expansive landscapes or drawing attention to modest urban elements, Steve Messam provokes shifts in perspective and new ways of seeing our surroundings. The County Durham-based artist creates site-specific, inflatable installations that recontextualize ruins, statues, or stately architecture into temporary public sculptures. Working internationally, many of his projects also focus on locations around his home in the North of England, drawing attention to landscapes rich with history, relics of which are easy to overlook.
Messam plays with concepts of visual landmarks and follies in his series Architect of Ruins, spotlighting a handful of dilapidated remnants around Weardale and Teesdale, ranging from World War II pillboxes to disused railway bridges to crumbling industrial remains. “By highlighting these often overlooked structures, the project aims to reveal the layers of narrative that make up the story of the landscape, from mining and agriculture to the transformative effect of the railways and the role of landowners,” he says.
In another recent work, “Belltower,” the artist draws attention to the recognizable House Bell Turret of Ushaw in Durham, which has “more Pugin architecture than you can shake a gothic stick at,” Messam says. “I wanted to install a piece that would act as a silhouette to what already exists and create an homage to some of the incredible Gothic Revival architecture on the site.”
Opting for a more modern canvas, Messam created “Crested”—part of Blow Up Art Den Haag—on top of a contemporary entrance to a subterranean parking garage, toying with language and form to create an abstract, pointed crown. His installations for the program last autumn interpreted historic landmarks, and this year he was keen to reframe something pointedly not historic. “A crest is something you have on a bird—something on top of a head—but it’s also the whiteness on a wave when it breaks,” he says. “It doesn’t get more ‘not of note’ than the entrance to an underground car park.” By installing massive red spikes on top of a functional building designed to blend in, Messam gives it “its moment,” transforming an unassuming structure into a focal point.
Blow Up Art Den Haag continues through May 28, and the series Encounters at Bicester Village remains on view into June. He also has four new pieces at Clerkenwell Design Week later in the month, and the National Railway Museum in York will unveil a new permanent installation in July. See more work on his website, Instagram, and a growing archive of projects on Vimeo.
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Through Gripping Photos, Ryan Newburn Captures the Depths of Iceland’s Ancient Glacial Caves
“When you look into the walls of an ice cave, you are looking into the past as if you were suddenly inside of a time capsule that had been buried for 500 to 1,000 years,” says Ryan Newburn. “Every air bubble that you see is oxygen from a different time period. Every speckle of ash is from a different volcanic eruption.”
Raised in Omaha, Nebraska, and now based in Reykjavik, Newburn is closely acquainted with the ice caves that surround his adopted home. He first came to Iceland in 2018, training on the enormous Vatnajokull Glacier before working as an expedition guide and eventually launching his own tour company, Ice Pic Journeys, with his fellow American business partner Mike Reid.
Today, Newburn ventures into the frozen caverns with groups, photographing them and the landscape along the way. His images capture the immensity of the arctic masses, their smooth, ribbed surfaces, and the shapely contours of caverns and rivers carving through the ice. Explorers are often seen in the distance, at the end of a rippling, rocky tunnel or precariously posed beneath a cluster of sharp icicles to showcase the scale of the openings.
Occupying such an ancient and always evolving space is an experience that’s difficult to photograph, Newburn shares, because the constant trickle of melting water, the roar of distant rivers, or even the unique interplay of light and glacier are impossible to depict entirely. “Underneath the ice, where the sun cannot penetrate,” he says, “your eyes slowly adjust from the bright sun to the glowing deep blue crystal walls of the ice cave. The more that your eyes adjust, the more saturated the blue gets. It’s a surreal visual experience that you cannot get from any photo of an ice cave.”
While shades of blue dominate most of his images, much of the walls are transparent and crystalline, making it appear as if you could “gaze into it for miles.” This clarity, he explains, is because glacial ice has low oxidation, about 10 to 15 percent only, due to the extreme pressure exerted during their formation that forced much of the oxygen from the snow as it compacted.
Although exploring these spaces is dangerous—Newburn emphasizes the necessity of proper gear and a guide who knows the ins and outs of performing crevasse rescues—it’s also an experience that truly only happens once. He elaborates:
What’s even more unreal is realizing that when you discover an ice cave for the very first time, you are the only human that has ever been inside. On a planet where almost every area of land has been explored, the glacier provides you with never-ending caves and structures to discover. This is because the ice is always melting away and forming something new that didn’t exist yesterday and won’t exist next year. This creates an unending sense of wanderlust of what I am going to stumble upon next when exploring.
Newburn shares many of his glacial adventures on Instagram, and you can find more about his company’s expeditions on its site.
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Tom Hegen’s Aerial Photos of Spanish Olive Groves Reveal Undulating Patterns and Deep Traditions
For millennia, Spain has been leading producer of olives thanks to the Mediterranean climate’s long, hot summers and mild winter temperatures. Harvested and cured in brine or ground up to extract the natural oils, the fruits are grown on trees planted in vast groves that stretch for miles over the undulating landscape. The region of Andalusia in particular boasts a time-honored tradition of olive cultivation, producing and exporting more than any other part of the country. For German photographer Tom Hegen, the rows and grid-like patterns of the groves presented an irresistible subject.
Known for his aerial photos of swaths of earth that have been impacted by human presence, such as salt extraction sites, Florida beaches, and solar plants, Hegen captures expansive Spanish landscapes that when viewed from above, morph into abstractions of pattern and texture. He highlights the immense monocultures that spread over nearly six million acres of Spanish countryside, documenting both large-scale agricultural production and smaller farms managed by individual families for whom producing olive oil is a centuries-old vocation.
Explore more of Hegen’s aerial photography on his website and Instagram.
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Max Naylor’s Ethereal Landscapes in Ink and Oil Paint Defy Nature’s Rules
Working in vivid washes of ink and oil paint, artist Max Naylor renders impressionistic dreamscapes that emerge from nostalgic recollections and imagined spaces. Focusing on natural textures like gilled mushrooms scaling a tree trunk or the soft ripples of water, Naylor creates what he calls a “parallel universe, a microcosm that is similar to our world but free from the shackles of reality.” The scenes often veer toward the unnatural, favoring otherworldly color palettes and unlikely lighting. “In these spaces, it can be night and day simultaneously,” he says. “You can stare up at the sky whilst noticing the plants flowering at your feet.”
The ethereal qualities of Naylor’s works echo his process, which involves letting the fluid materials dictate the contours of the compositions and allowing the landscapes to “well up from my subconscious and spill onto the surface…The works in ink are made quickly. At the same time, I’m working on larger oil paintings that take much longer. Working at these different tempos keeps things fresh and exciting for me, with the works in ink continually informing the works in oil.”
Based in Bristol, Naylor has a studio at Spike Island and currently teaches at London’s Royal Drawing School. You can find more of his landscapes on Instagram.
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Barry Underwood Illuminates Human Presence in the Landscape in Geometric Light Sculptures
A variety of landscapes set the scene for Barry Underwood’s vivid sculptures (previously), illuminating sites of human interference and destruction. Utilizing LED lights and reflective materials, he challenges perceptions of flatness and depth and invites us to consider the significance of our surroundings. “Our understanding of landscape is a construct based upon what we want from the land and what we have experienced,” he says.
Underwood’s latest series Linear Construction—to which many of these images belong—“focuses on visual illusions that reflect the land conservation paradoxes created by humans’ deep augmentation of the natural world,” he tells Colossal. While some images contain clear signs of intervention, such as a mown field or a stone wall, others require a closer look at a treeless river bank or a cleared meadow. The artist explores civilization’s impact on nature by superimposing geometric shapes onto landscapes, nodding to the precise angles of built structures and bright lights we might associate with warning flares or neon signs.
To achieve the images, Underwood experiments with what he calls “a catalog of visual devices. I try to find locations that I’m either shooting downhill or uphill to make the space look like it’s torqued,” playing with perception and taking multiple frames that are later stitched together in Photoshop to create what he describes as a “disruptive mood.”
Find more of Underwood’s work on his website, and learn more about his process on Instagram.
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