In much of the Western world, mentioning Transylvania tends to evoke sinister imagery of dimly lit Gothic castles and notoriously blood-thirsty vampires. The region in central Romania has long been tied to the horrors of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, an association that overshadows the area’s rich history.
Hungarian photographer Istvan Kerekes has spent the last 15 years upending that literary connection by documenting the shepherding communities that have farmed Transylvania for centuries. Bordered by the Apuseni and the Carpathian mountain ranges, the hilly landscape is ripe with greenery and open pastures for sheep, cattle, and other livestock to graze. “When walking in some parts of Transylvania one would often feel that you have traveled back in time,” he says. “There is hardly any sign of modern technology here. It is as if time had stopped, while beauty and nature are preserved”
Kerekes’s portraits and wider landscape shots capture the grit and determination of those who devote their lives to attending to their herds. Shot entirely in black-and-white, the photos glimpse the mutual bonds between the animals and their caretakers and the ways the traditional mode of living is passed from generation to generation. They’re powerful and raw, showing the tender embrace of a weathered man as he cradles a lamb in his coat or the way a child wraps one of the animals around her neck.
All of the images shown here are part of a virtual exhibition at All About Photo, which is up through August. They’re just a fraction of Kerekes’s larger collection, though, and you can see more on his site.
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Rio de Janeiro-based artist Luciano Cian (previously) has an affinity for the bold blocks of color that compose his minimal portraits. Although he recently expanded his practice to include acrylic paintings and collage, Cian works primarily digitally, rendering anonymous figures with thin lines and vibrant, geometric shapes like in his MAGNA series. “It has this name because it is big, both in dimensions and in purpose,” he tells Colossal. “I always work with images that allude to ethnicity. This series, like the others, talks about the miscegenation of races and peoples, with diversity as the central focus.”
Cian teamed up with the nonprofit Prints Against Poverty to sell a collection of 15 works, and you can purchase more of his available pieces on Saatchi Art, Artsper, and The Artling. Find an extensive archive of his portraits on Behance and Instagram.
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Distorted Figures Navigate the Aftermath of Environmental Destruction in Portraits by Stamatis Laskos
Fantastically tall figures with elongated limbs and torsos inhabit the distorted, mysterious realities painted by artist Stamatis Laskos (previously). The highly stylized artworks, which extend upwards of six feet, imagine a universe marred by unknown destruction: an elderly man wades through waist-high water while fire burns in the background, a woman retrieves a human skeleton from a flood, and a self-portrait shows the artist shielding his eyes with detached hands. Working with Earth tones and an implied dim light, Laskos shrouds each scene with shadow, which obscures the figures’ faces and casts an eerie tension over the degraded environments.
At once distant and deeply personal, each painting draws on ideas of collective unconscious and Jungian archetypes, whether portrayed through wise figures, an apocalypse, or the unification of opposing forces. “Giving them the necessary deformation, my archaic protagonists carve out incompatible and irreconcilable trajectories,” Laskos says. “The unconscious and the hidden memories are framed by colors, shapes, and situations that complement my compositions in such a way that each work is a page from my diary, always reminding me how and why it was created.”
Laskos is currently based in his hometown of Volos, Greece, and some of his works on canvas are on view through June 25 at Lola Nikolaou Art Gallery in Thessaloniki. Later this summer, he’ll be painting a larger mural in Athens focused around a theme of environmental ruin, and you can follow his progress on that piece on Behance and Instagram.
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Although busy hives filled with honeybees tend to dominate mainstream imagery and conversations about bee populations, 90 percent of the insects are actually solitary creatures that prefer to live outside of a colony. This majority, which is comprised of tens of thousands of species, are also superior pollinators in comparison to their social counterparts because they’re polylectic, meaning they collect the sticky substance from multiple sources, making them even more crucial to maintaining crops and biodiversity.
“Whilst bee numbers, on the whole, are increasing, this is almost exclusively due to the increase in beekeeping, specifically honey bees,” wildlife photographer Josh Forwood tells Colossal. “Due to the artificially boosted populations in concentrated areas, honey bees are becoming too much competition for many solitary bee species. This, in turn, is driving almost a monoculture of bees in some areas, which has huge knock-on effects on the surrounding ecosystem.”
The U.K. alone boasts 250 solitary species, a few of which Forwood photographed in a series of portraits that reveal just how unique each individual is. To capture the creatures up-close, he constructed a log-and-bamboo bee hotel while bound to his home in Bristol during quarantine—Forwood frequently travels around the globe to document wildlife for clients including Netflix, Disney, BBC, National Geographic, and PBS.
After about a month, the hotel was in a buzz of activity, prompting Forwood to attach a camera to the end of the lengthy tubes and photograph the creatures as they crawled inside. The resulting portraits demonstrate just how incredibly unique each insect is with wildly differing body forms, color, eye shapes, and hair patterns. Every bee is in a nearly identical pose and its facial features dramatically framed in a ring of natural light for comparison, revealing how each insect truly has its own identity. Because the images only capture them from the front, Forwood says it’s difficult to estimate how many different species visited the structure considering most are identified by the shape and color of their bodies.
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Photographer Sebastião Salgado spent six years immersed in the Brazilian Amazon as he documented the world’s largest tropical rainforest in black-and-white. From wide, aerial shots framing the vegetation populating the landscape to sincere portraits of Indigenous peoples living throughout the region, Salgado’s wide-ranging photographs are a revealing and intimate study of the area today.
Titled Amazônia, a 528-page tome from Taschen compiles these images, which in the absence of color, are attentive to naturally occurring contrasts in light and texture. They explore the unique environment and cultural milieu Salgado experienced during his travels as he visited multiple small communities—the tribes include the Yanomami, the Asháninka, the Yawanawá, the Suruwahá, the Zo’é, the Kuikuro, the Waurá, the Kamayurá, the Korubo, the Marubo, the Awá, and the Macuxi—to create a visual record of their traditions and ways of life. “For me, it is the last frontier, a mysterious universe of its own, where the immense power of nature can be felt as nowhere else on Earth,” the Brazilian photographer said. “Here is a forest stretching to infinity that contains one-tenth of all living plant and animal species, the world’s largest single natural laboratory.”
Pre-order a copy on Bookshop, and keep an eye on Taschen’s site for a forthcoming art edition that’s packaged with a signed print. You also can explore an archive of Salgado’s photographs capturing moments around the globe from Botswana and Mali to Guatemala and Vietnam on Artsy.
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Iranian artist Salman Khoshroo (previously) continues his wool portraiture series with dozens of new sculptural works. Chunky, dyed rovings stretch and curl into facial features, beards, and coifs that pair the supple shape and color of the raw materials with a unique expression.
This nuanced set expands on the original collection he created last year in response to quarantine and personal trauma, although they deviate with more stable and durable structures and new materials like velvet and synthetic fur. Khoshroo describes this evolved process as therapeutic and indicative of wide-spread change:
Weaving inanimate fibers into faces has brought me comfort and helped with overcoming my own experience of contracting the virus. These portraits are delicate and vulnerable and resonate with my own precarious situation. We live in fragile times, and I feel the need to find new materials and the mindset to reinvent my practice. Wool brings warmth and intimacy to these portraits and plays with provoking the nurture instinct.
In addition to shaping unspun wool into the portraits shown here, Khoshroo also has been creating full busts with the natural fiber along with sculptures made of foam paint, all of which you can see on his site and Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.