In ‘Walks of Life,’ Migwa Nthiga Photographs the Communities Most Impacted by the Climate Crisis
Those living near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya have been experiencing the brunt of the climate crisis. Already a dry, arid region, recurring droughts have left communities without water for animals, crops, and drinking, requiring people to leave their homes for more stable and fertile landscapes.
“Tribes could walk hundreds of kilometers in search for greener pastures and water in the scorching heat with scores of the livestock dying along the way,” says Migwa Nthiga, who recently photographed the Indigenous Nilotic people native to Turkana in his series, Walks of Life. “Often, we get international foreign photographers coming to tell these stories with their own biases and agenda that may not reflect the true nature of the tribes they have come to photograph,” he says, sharing that his first encounters with his subjects were random. “My team and I set out on an adventure with very little fixed expectations. We wanted to photograph any interesting stories we would stumble upon.”
Through intimate portraiture and candid shots, Nthiga documents the daily lives of fishermen as they plunge into the lake or of children at home with their families. Encompassing an array of emotions from joyful to intensely focused, the series shares a nuanced narrative about what it means to live in the region so profoundly impacted by the climate crisis.
Nthiga created Walks of Life with the help of photography assistant Joseph Theo, producer Nina Bola, and consulting creative director Jason Bruckner. He will show some of his photos from March 3 to 19 at The Nook in Nanyuki, where he lives, and is currently working on a climate-centric film about a Turkana fashion stylist. You can follow his latest project on Instagram and Behance.
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Dramatic Landscapes and Dazzling Portraits Highlight Global Perspectives in the 2023 Sony World Photography Awards
From the sinuous lines of a leaping cat, to a giant tortoise gliding alongside a snorkeler, to a lone cyclist illuminated on a road juxtaposed against a looming city, the winning images from this year’s Sony World Photography Awards (previously) showcase remarkable slices of life captured by photographers hailing from 55 countries around the globe. Now in its 16th year, the competition garnered more than 415,000 entries from more than 200 nations and territories, about half of which were entered into the running for the National Awards, an initiative set up by the World Photography Organization and Sony to support local photographic communities around the world.
Check out some of our favorite images below, and if you’re in London, stop by Somerset House between April 14 and May 1 to see all of the winning images on display, including top picks from the student, youth, open, and professional categories.
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Commuters Go Wild in Matthew Grabelsky’s Uncanny Subway Paintings
Urbanites know the subway is a prime location to spot the city’s oddities, and yet, a run-in with one of Matthew Grabelsky’s characters would be a particularly wild encounter. The Los Angeles-based artist has spent the last few years rendering human-animal hybrids that nonchalantly ride public transit. Sometimes snacking on a cracker or brushing up on some reading, the characters are surreal, uncanny additions to an otherwise mundane scene.
Grabelsky’s newest oil paintings, which are currently on view as part of Riders at The Brand Library & Art Center in Glendale, California, are hyperrealistic and laced with witty details similar to earlier works in the series. Set on the New York City Subway and London Tube, the portraits are narrative-driven and embedded with pop culture references. The artist shares:
My goal is to create the effect of looking at a scene on the subway as if it were a diorama at a natural history museum. The images present richly detailed moments frozen in time allowing the viewer to closely inspect every element and make connections between them to read an overall story. In this world, people are transformed into part-animal to create scenes that are strange, funny, and endearing.
Curated by Thinkspace Projects, Riders is on view through March 17. You can find an extensive collection of Grabelsky’s commuters on his site and Instagram.
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From Chicago to Detroit, Yashua Klos Presents Black Resilience, Defiance, and Tenderness
Chicago continues to rank among the most segregated cities in the United States, with Black and brown populations living across the south and west sides that lack the investment and resources of the white-dominated northern neighborhoods. Caused by more than a century’s worth of inequitable governance, redlining, and various forms of discrimination, this enduring racial separation has irrevocably shaped the city and its residents, impacting those who came to the area during the Great Migration and those who call it home still today. It’s often said that the history of Chicago is also the history of segregation.
This infamous legacy is an essential component of Yashua Klos’s evolution as an artist. “I’m from the city of Chicago, and Chicago’s urban planning was designed for segregation, to separate Black and white,” he shares with Colossal. “That segregation is baked into the ‘redlining’ housing ownership policies and the geography of the city.”
Now based in the Bronx, Klos frequently reflects on his hometown and brings the gridded structure of its streets into his works. A 2021 solo show at UTA Artist Space exhibited portraits bisected by angular blocks textured like wood, brick, and cinder, allowing fragments of the uniform roadways to emerge through facial features. “In art history, the grid is a kind of tool for optical democracy. There’s no visual hierarchy in a grid—you can enter any space at any time. So, I’m interested in that grid’s proposal of democracy and how that’s failed Black folks, especially where I’m from and how Chicago is constructed,” he says.
The collaged portraits evoke the ways identities are an amalgam of both genetics and surrounding influences. They mimic three-dimensional forms that surface from the flat plane of the paper, and Klos portrays the subjects as breaking free from constraint or relying on the structure for support. “I’m considering Black folks who are forming a defiant sense of self in order to survive in an often unjust environment. This is why these head forms often appear built of construction materials and suggest that they are sculptures or even monuments,” the artist writes, referencing the art historical use of statues and portraits to convey value and respect.
While Klos spent his upbringing in Chicago, his father’s family has ties to Detroit, particularly the car industry and Ford plant where many relatives worked. Like his portraiture, the artist’s woodblock prints of singular, upturned hands allow this personal history to converge with broader themes of familial love and political resilience. The appendages grasp botanicals native to Michigan and blocks floating nearby as they deny “work in order to hold flowers,” he says. “Here, I’ve found (an) opportunity to explore themes of nurturing, tenderness, generosity, and self-care.”
To explore an archive of Klos’s works, visit his site and Instagram
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Braids and Bowlers: Indigenous Bolivian Women Skateboard in Style in Celia D. Luna’s Empowered Portraits
Against the pastels and earth tones of a skate park in Bolivia, Miami-based photographer Celia D. Luna captures the vibrant energy and determination of women who express solidarity and strength through a love of skateboarding. Part of her series Cholitas Bravas, “Cholitas Skaters” focuses on a group of Indigenous Bolivian women who wear traditional clothes while practicing extreme sports. “I’ve always admired brave women and culture; it’s in my DNA,” she says, describing that her upbringing by a single mother in the Andes Mountains of neighboring Peru instilled an admiration for courage and perseverance.
As recently as the last two decades, Bolivia’s Indigenous Quechua and Aymara women, known derogatorily as “cholitas,” were marginalized and ostracized from society. Distinguished by their long braids, wide skirts, and bowler hats—an amalgamation of styles resulting from Spanish colonizers forcing Indigenous people to adopt European styles during the Inquisition—the style evolved into a symbol-rich, empowered look.
Indigenous Bolivian women were historically banned from entering some public spaces, could not use public transportation, and were burdened by extremely curtailed career opportunities. They have been advocating for their civil rights since the mid-20th century, but it wasn’t until the election of the nation’s first Indigenous president in 2006 that the Cholitas finally achieved some success in restoring their rights, and the pleated skirts, lace blouses, and sombreros prevail as emblems of their cultural roots.
Luna tells Colossal that the women’s choice to don traditional apparel is for “some of them in honor of their ancestors and some of them because that’s what they wear in their everyday life. I was taken by their courage and their love for their culture, and I wanted to capture that.” Her portraits highlight each individual as she skates around the park, gathers together with the group, and poses with her board as she gazes commandingly at the viewer.
“Cholitas Skaters” is one of a trio of sub-series that comprise Cholitas Bravas; the other two chapters focus on female rock climbers and wrestlers. Find more on Luna’s website and Instagram.
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Vibrant Makeup Mirrors Sweet Frozen Treats in Max Siedentopf’s ‘Pleasure Portraits’
London-based artist and creative director Max Siedentopf has a knack for portraying more than meets the eye in his distinctive portraits. A series titled Pleasure Portraits looks forward to summer, featuring the distinctive pastels and jewel tones of ice cream bars alongside subjects whose decadent makeup mimics the hues and embellishments of their paired confection.
No stranger to fashion and makeup artistry in his collaborative, creative development role with the Italian brand Gucci, Siedentopf cast models who were ornamented with gems, baubles, and vibrant patterns. In this playful study of duality, there is a twist of irony: despite the association of frozen treats and the sunny colors of summertime with pleasure, Siedentopf’s subjects sit inert and gaze expressionlessly at the viewer in a similar format to passport photos.
Siedentopf is currently preparing a few upcoming exhibitions, fashion campaigns, and a forthcoming book of photographs. Follow updates on Instagram, and find more of his work on his website.
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