Husband and wife photography duo Regis and Kahran Bethencourt of CreativeSoul Photography capture images of children that celebrate the beauty, culture, and heritage of afro hairstyles. Often dressed in ornate African-inspired garb, Black girl and boy models are crowned with afros, twists, and braids as symbols of strength and grace.
The Bethencourts, based in Atlanta, have been working together for 10 years and began photographing children with natural hair in 2013. The “AfroArt” series began when they noticed a lack of diversity in the industry. The way the children in the series are styled and posed against warm backgrounds recalls the regal oil portraits painted of upper class men and women during the Renaissance movement. “We decided to showcase kids with natural hair to empower them (and others in the industry) to embrace it and for the kids to be proud of their culture and natural curls,” the photographers tell Colossal.
“When we first started out we were primarily working with child models, but now more than half of the kids have never modeled before,” they added. “Many parents hire us so that their child can get the experience of feeling empowered for the day. We will typically guide them on set to make them feel comfortable. Most of them just see it as a fun experience, but they usually leave the studio feeling a little more proud and self-confident.”
CreativeSoul Photography has an online shop where images from the AfroArt series can be purchased as prints, calendars, and other products. They also recently signed a book deal, so keep an eye out for that at your local bookstore. In the meantime, follow CreativeSoul Photography on Instagram for more striking images and future updates.
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Netherlands-based photographer Claire Droppert (previously) has created a new series of images that depict the silhouettes of animals appearing in clumps of thrown Holland beach sand. Dolphins, snakes, lizards, and other animals in the Sand Creatures II collection defy gravity and float through the air in Droppert’s photographs. The “Gravity Project” highlights natural elements set in nature but unencumbered by the force that keeps them grounded.
“The Sand Creatures series focuses on nature in an unexpected way,” Droppert writes on her website, adding that the “explosive and at times powdery scenes of the grainy sand being thrown into the air can be taken as a manifesting life form” as images of silkworms, cobras, and dogs appear against the backdrop of the horizon and the hazy sky. The photographer has labeled each animal in the series, but the abstract nature of the images gives the viewer some freedom to determine where the boundaries of their anatomies lie.
Prints of Claire Droppert’s photos from this series and others are available to purchase in various sizes from her online shop. To see more of her finished work and a few behind-the-scenes shots, follow her on Instagram.
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Photography duo Tania De Pascalis and Tiago Marques, known as Tiago & Tania, spent six days capturing the blue-tinted stone architecture of Chefchaouen, a 550-year-old village located in the mountains of Morocco. The photo series presents an interesting juxtaposition of everyday life within a fairytale-like aesthetic created by the town’s trademark cerulean walls, which have earned it the nickname “Blue Pearl.”
The lines and curves of the buildings and alleyways are visually augmented as the saturated blues contrast with the surrounding Earth tones, colorful textiles, and the people who move through the town. There are several theories about the history of the blue pigments used to color the walls of the Chefchaouen, which was founded as a refugee camp. According to Atlas Obscura, the refugees painted their homes blue according to Jewish traditions to mimic the sky and as a reminder of “God’s power above.”
Early on in the project, Tiago & Tania were met with some resistance from the town’s inhabitants, some of whom did not want their photos taken. “We experienced a unique challenge in Chechaouen, never encountered in any other location,” they told Colossal. “It was the contrast between our role as photographers and citizens… We decided to change our approach method, making nearly imperceptible our presence and focusing on the sense of hearing to [capture] the right moment. This method allowed us to connect to the hearth of the city, living his timings and moments, realizing the photographic series that gave life to the project of Chefchaouen.”
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Another dizzying video by Páraic Mc Gloughlin (previously) pairs shots of architecture and infrastructure with electronic music. Mc Gloughlin’s latest work is for the band Weval’s track “Someday,” and features the filmmaker’s signature fusion of geometric shapes found in historical domes, skyscraper facades, and farmland irrigation systems. The tightly edited video shows quickly-passing frames that shift in time with the music, visually quaking or smoothly transitioning depending on the percussive and melodic elements of the song. Macro shots of escalator stairs and grates are interspersed with far-away aerial views of landscapes and forests, for a fast-paced tour of the patterns around us, hidden in plain sight. You can see more from Mc Gloughlin on Vimeo and Instagram.
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In honor of the final season of Games of Thrones, German photographer Kilian Schönberger (previously) has translated his ethereal photography of central Europe’s icy landscapes, mystical castles, and foggy forests into a photographic tribute. Inspired by the frozen fantasy world of George R.R. Martin’s books and by the geography of his native lands, Schönberger’s alternate storyline imagines snow-covered trees as menacing White Walkers, towering mountain ranges as The Wall, and ancient stone structures as home to the highborn families of Westeros.
Schönberger tells Colossal that the photographs published in his online tribute were taken in forests along the German-Czech border, in the rocky canyon landscapes of Saxon Switzerland, Saxony, and East Germany, inside of an ice cave near Germany’s Lake Königssee, and at the foot of the Dolomites this past winter. Using his background in geography studies and his knowledge of meteorology, Schönberger says that his process as a photographer involves a lot of preparation and waiting so that he can capture the “genius loci” (the pervading spirit of a place) at just the right time.
“Since I grew up myself in a remote forest area, my childhood was shaped by the local fairytales and a lot of experiences out in nature,” he said. “And that is what’s still visible in my work today. I try to capture the scenes that inspire people to make up their own stories with my photos as a visual backdrop.” To see the images in context with Schönberger’s narrative, check out the photographer’s Behance portfolio. To see even more of his landscape photography, follow him on Instagram.
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Mikael Chukwuma Owunna, a queer Nigerian-Swedish artist raised in Pittsburgh, has spent the past two and a half years photographing Black men and women for a series titled Infinite Essence. Hand-painted using fluorescent paints and photographed in complete darkness, Owunna’s subjects are illuminated by a flash outfitted with a UV filter, which turns their nude bodies into glowing celestial figures.
Owunna tells Colossal that the series was his response to the frequent images and videos of Black people being killed by those sworn to protect them: the police. The photographer’s friends, family members, dancers, and one person he connected with on Instagram serve as models for the project, which is named after an idea from his Igbo heritage. “All of our individual spirits are just one ray of the infinite essence of the sun,” Owunna explains. “By transcending the visible spectrum, I work to illuminate a world beyond our visible structures of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia where the black body is free.”
Having struggled with his own body image (and with his identity as a gay African man, which has inspired his previous work), Owunna says that the response to the project has been powerful, both from the public and from the models. “One of the models, Emem, broke down in tears looking at their pictures saying that they had always dreamed of seeing their body adorned with stars and that these images were beyond their wildest imagination,” he said. “They then told me – ‘every black person deserves to see themselves in this way’ and how the experience was life-altering for them.”
After seeing Owunna’s work via an NPR feature, a 60-year-old Black woman told the photographer, “I’ve hated my body all my life, but–for a glorious instant–that photo made me feel good about it.”
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After viewing a display at a golf trade equipment show, Ohio-based photographer James Friedman was inspired to create an abstract series that focuses on the internal structures of standard size golf balls. The enlarged prints of chipped, broken, and sliced balls reveal complex and colorful cores that contrast the hard, white uniformity of their exteriors.
Friedman varies the cutting style from ball to ball, with some cleanly sliced into perfect halves and others roughly carved down to their rubber, resin, and metal centers. The abstract textures they form is both a result of their construction and a result of the artistic process. “For some viewers, my photographs from this series, titled Interior Design, allude to celestial bodies and the sublime,” he wrote in a statement on his website. “For me, their serendipitous structural exquisiteness and their subtle and passionate arrays of colors have inspired new exploration in my photography.”
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Editor's Picks: Street Art
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.