Thai photographer Visarute Angkatavanich (previously) creates richly hued portraits that appear more like staged dance images than animal photography. It is only when staring directly at the bug-eyed expressions of his subjects that one understands they are staring at a fish and not a costumed ballerina. Angkatavanich photographs domesticated betta fish against white and black backgrounds to isolate their natural shades and present the illusion that they are moving through space. Late last year he released a book of Siamese fighting fish portraits titled Betta Paradiso. You can view more of his recent fish photography on 500px.
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Lagos-based photographer Medina Dugger documents colorful hair culture in the coastal Nigerian city with her ongoing series Chroma. The collection of portraits pays homage to J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere, a renowned African photographer who documented women’s hairstyles in Nigeria for over 50 years, starting in the mid-20th century.
Prior to decolinization, Dugger explains, wigs and straightening had replaced much of the indigenous hair culture, and ‘Okhai Ojeikere’s documentations sought to celebrate traditional hairdos. She continues, “African hair braiding methods date back thousands of years and Nigerian hair culture is a rich and often extensive process which begins in childhood. The methods and variations have been influenced by social/cultural patterns, historical events and globalization. Hairdos range from being purely decorative to conveying deeper, more symbolic understandings, revealing social status, age and tribal/family traditions.”
While ‘Okhai Ojeikere’ images were in black and white, Dugger updates the documentary style with brightly colored backgrounds, a diverse array of vibrant contemporary fashion, and rainbow hues integrated into the hairstyles with thread, beads, and dyed extensions. You can see more of Dugger’s colorful editorial photography on her website and Instagram.
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Artist Christina West sculpts eroded portraits of anonymous faces which reveal colorful patches existing just below the surface. Segments of the subject’s face are worn away or chopped off, focusing the viewer’s attention on the layered interior of the busts, rather than their exterior features. The work is an investigation into the complexity of one’s own interiority, and suggests that what lies within is more important than surface-level aesthetics.
“I use the portrait bust format because I’m interested in the expectation we place on portraiture to reveal something about an individual’s interiority,” explains West in an artist statement. “I have always felt that making inferences about a person’s psychology or personality from physical likeness is a highly flawed practice, though we make such inferences instinctively. In the Unmet series, I create portrait busts that disrupt the impulse to read into facial features or expression by removing much of the figure’s likeness.”
The busts are each solid casts, with multiple colors layered in the interior. The removal of specific facial elements happens after the objects are cast, when West excavates swatches of color in unpredictable patterns. The Atlanta-based sculptor has an upcoming exhibition at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh from September 21, 2018 to April 8, 2019 as a part of her residency at the institution. You can see more of her sculptural portraits on her website and Instagram.
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In an untitled photograph from 1937, a black disc surreally floats upon the subject’s face, obscuring the features hidden beneath the circular void. In another, a black circle hovers next to a tilted house, creating an eerie scene pulled straight from science fiction. At first glance, you might think a contemporary artist had altered the images, drawing jet-black voids as an intervention with photographs from rural Depression-era America. In reality, these images are discarded photographs from a bygone project that produced a pictorial record of American life between 1935-1944. The photographs, which are currently exhibited in The Killed Negatives: Unseen Images of 1930s America at Whitechapel Gallery in London, produce a snapshot of the crippling poverty and backbreaking jobs lower class Americans faced during the Great Depression.
The story of these photographs begins in 1935, when Roy E Stryker, the head of the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), undertook a photographic project that commissioned famous American photographers such as Russell Lee, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans to photograph farmers and farmland during the Great Depression. The FSA aimed to encourage poverty-stricken Americans to partake in self-sustaining programs where they could gain farm loans to buy seeds, equipment, livestock, and partake in homestead schemes which provided both education and healthcare. The project was to demonstrate the results of financial assistance that the FSA offered, in addition to outsourcing images of America life during this time.
Each photographer was given specific directives, for example, “farmer dumping milk at home,” “worried farmer,” or “federal government shot.” Over 270,000 photographs were produced during the project, yet only a few were picked to be part of the final collection. This included imagery featuring transient families, the unemployed, and drought-stricken fields. One of the most famous images was Lange’s 1936 Migrant Mother, which became a popular portrait long after the project’s conclusion.
Stryker deployed a specific editing process where himself and his assistants would choose photographs they believed were true to the brief; the other images were rendered unsuitable and punctuated with a hole puncher. These ruthlessly “killed” photographs were left unpublishable. Today the found works appear to have black discs floating upon them, a visual mark of rejection which accidentally focus the viewer’s attention.
Killed Negatives at the Whitechapel Gallery runs up until August 26, 2018 and exhibits some of the photographs, photographers’ personal records, and FSA administration documents associated with the project. You can learn more about the exhibition, including information about associated events, on the gallery’s website.
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In his paintings, Swedish artist Markus Åkesson depicts ornately patterned fabrics like toile, chintz, and silks wrapped around female subjects. Instead of using the old-fashioned textiles simply as signifiers of wealth and tradition, he uses the materials to take on a more sinister tone. In some of the paintings you can see expressions of sadness in the subject’s faces, while in others, the textiles completely overtake the figures beneath, obscuring their identity and emotions.
“As a child, I often sat and looked at the different patterns in textiles and tapestries,” Åkesson shares with Colossal. “I would find my own images in them, my own world, and I would dream away. For me, the pattern as a concept has a built in feeling of safety and stability, because it repeats itself over and over again. I think the use of patterns in images that depicts more melancholic or even disturbing scenes makes a interesting feeling of duality.”
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In addition to laying claim to the title of France’s first independent bookstore, Librairie Mollat has carved a unique niche on Instagram with its #bookface portraits. The Bordeaux-based bookstore regularly features photographs of book covers held up in front of perfectly scaled, dressed, and nose-shaped people (presumably, some are customers, though some repeated faces seem to indicate a few photogenic employees). You can see more from Mollat—and perhaps even get your next book recommendation—on Instagram. If you enjoy this, also check out Album Plus Art. (via Hyperallergic)
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Meticulous Acrylic Paintings by Shawn Huckins Erase Historic Works from the White House Art Collection
At first glance, Colorado-based artist Shawn Huckins’ “Erasure” series looks like a collection of images that have been altered using a digital eraser tool to reveal the empty checkered pattern layer beneath. A closer look reveals that the works are actually meticulously detailed acrylic paintings, recreations selected from the White House Art Collection. Superimposed on the works are hand-painted erasure marks that serve as a commentary on the ideas of history, legacy, and whether or not those things can be wiped away in the present.
While the patterned marks range from measured and uniform to seemingly haphazard flourishes, for Huckins the resulting “obliteration” of history is the same. “The underlying works chosen for this series originally served as testaments of those who came before us and the indelible mark they left on the world, in a very short time, not so long ago,” the artist said in a statement. “In an era where the internet makes everyone a publisher, and digital editing tools bestow the power to create realities out of pixels, The Erasures forces us to examine our assumptions regarding the longevity of individual influence and institutions, thus raising enormous questions concerning the fragility of legacy.”
Huckins shares with Colossal that the collection of paintings are his “response to the current US administration’s policies and ethics surrounding a divisive country.” In his statement he poses several questions to the viewer about one person’s ability to “erase the impact of another,” whether or not longstanding ideals are more easily erased than recent progress, and how the events of today will be “recorded, judged and preserved when anyone can create, or re-create, his or her own reality with a keystroke, or a mouse-swipe, or a dead-of-night tweet?”
Shawn Huckins will debut 18 paintings from the Erasure series as a part of an upcoming solo exhibition titled Fool’s Gold, which opens at Modernism Gallery’s new space in San Francisco on July 11, 2018.
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