Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘photography’

27 JUNE, 2011

Molly Landreth’s Tender Vintage Portraits of Modern Queer Life

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What Victorian photography has to do with a watershed moment for modern democracy and human rights.

Late last Friday, the New York State Senate passed a marriage equality act, making New York the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage — a momentous occasion Mayor Bloomberg called “a historic triumph for equality and freedom.” To celebrate the occasion — though it’s utterly embarrassing we’re just doing that in 2011 — here’s a look at the wonderful work of photographer Molly Landreth, profiled in Etsy’s lovely Handmade Portraits series.

For the past five years, Landreth has been documenting queer and transgendered life using a vintage 4×5 large-format camera. Her tender, poetic portraits aim to redefine what it means to be queer today, exposing her subjects’ most vulnerable and human sides.

Real strength and real tenderness at the same time, in one frame, is something that I go back to a lot. In queer relationships, there [are] so many times when it’s so tender and soft but, also, you have to have so much strength to show yourself and to be who you are.” ~ Molly Landreth

Cooper, Oakland, CA, 2009

Rory and His Uncles, Brighton England

Simon and West, 9am Seattle, WA. 2007

Jo and Joann, Seattle, WA. 2007

Ronni and Jo, Seattle, WA. 2005

Michelle and Janis, Bellingham, WA. 2007

Cubby, Portland, OR. 2009

EJ Scott, Brighton, England. 2010

Meg and Renee, Seattle, WA. 2007

You can find Molly’s beautiful prints on Etsy.

HT @kvox

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09 JUNE, 2011

La Figa: Visions of Food and Form

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Humanity’s greatest appetites together at last, or what the farmer’s market has to do with the boudoir.

Food is fundamental. It’s sustenance, it’s comunity, it’s a global economy. But for Italian artist Tiberio Simone it’s all that and much more: It’s a medium of creative expression, a sensory portal to truth, beauty and sensuality. His La Figa: Visions of Food and Form is nothing short of a feast for the senses, celebrating two of the most primal human hungers and pleasures while elevating both through the artistic lens of a true creative visionary using the human body as his canvas and food as his paintbrush. Simone’s edible masterpieces, which remained ephemeral until he collaborated with photographer Matt Freedman, spring to life from the page, extending an alluring come-hither invitation to reconnect with our own understanding of food, sexuality, and how the two feed one another.

Alongside the luscious and playful images are imaginative essays and delicious, uncommon recipes that amplify the experiential delight of Simone’s work.

‘Only those who will risk going too far can possibly know how far one can go,’ wrote T. S. Eliot. In La Figa, Tiberio and Matt transport us with their provocative and mesmerizing photographs to a place where a simple fruit, combined with the basic human form, explodes our senses – from a pomegranate bikini to rolling hills of ingredientcovered hips. I, for one, will never think of seaweed or avocado in the same way. La Figa invites us to pierce through mundane living and savor the basic ingredients of life.” ~ Nassim Nassefi, M.D.

Filmmaker Dan McComb has created a handful of wonderful, artful, poetic segments on Simone and the La Figa project that bespeak the incredible passion with which Simone approaches his work.

But what makes Simone all the more interesting as a creator and someone filled with such exuberant positivity is the grim story that led him there. After a childhood of abuse and grueling work on his father’s farm, he became a prostitute, until he finally found solace in the kitchen and eventually discovered food art as his true calling and his salvation. Watch him tell his remarkable story in this excellent talk from TEDxRainier:

With over 160 lavish full-color images, 20 mouth-watering recipes and 40 essays on food, love and life, La Figa is a genuine treat for the senses and an invitation to approach something that’s been overly functionalized and commodified with a little bit more playfulness, poignancy and poetry.

Thanks, Nassim

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09 JUNE, 2011

Power: Platon’s Portraits of World Leaders

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A geopolitical time capsule, or how to get Mahmoud Abbas and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an inch apart.

World leaders are a curious bunch. Among their traits one might list egotism, empathy, genius, oblivion, and a whole host of other adjectives; which is why looking at their faces makes for such a fascinating study. Power: Portraits of World Leaders, out a few weeks ago from Chronicle Books, is a one-of-a-kind compilation of precisely those inscrutable features. Power collects 150 such beautiful images by photographer Platon of the men and women – well, mostly men – that hold the reigns of regimes and republics across the globe.

With an introduction by New Yorker editor David Remnick, the book captures a singular moment in world history. Indeed, one might argue, an historical inflection point, since the image of President Barack Obama included in Power was taken during his election campaign. Platon took all of the photographs of international leaders within a 12-month period from 2008-09 at the United Nations, and his stunning pictures tell a story of the alliances, rivalries, and subjects of our time.

I wanted to do two things: I wanted to show the human experience of what it’s like to meet someone, up-close and personal. We see all these heads of state and government on podiums making big powerful speeches, but we never see them as human beings. The second thing was I wanted to get a sense of community. I wanted to show what the collective spirit is like. There are strained relationships; there are strong alliances; in some cases there are even conflicts.” ~ Platon

Power stands in especially interesting counterpoint to a book featured on Brain Pickings earlier this year, Bureaucratics. Where that work turned its lens on the lives of mid-level functionaries in our political systems, Power is interested in the very top of the order. Platon’s photos are also compelling when compared to two other favorite projects, The World of 100 and 7 Billion, because of how non-representative his almost entirely male, similarly aged group of subjects is when compared to the actual global population.

My portrait project is not political; it’s human. Every single person has brought something special and unique and, I hope, honest to the pictures. You put all the pictures together and I think it will give us a sense of what it was like to live in these times. This is the global personality of the power system. And as we leave the time that’s recorded in the book, we stand back. We start to analyze it historically. What happened? Who was in control? That’s what this book is about.” ~ Platon

Three years in the making, Power provides a singular opportunity to contemplate the people and predilections of our contemporary age. And for commentary on the photos from Platon, check out his portrait gallery on The New Yorker‘s website.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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03 JUNE, 2011

Landscape Permutations: An Experiment in Place and Space

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What cross-disciplinary curiosity has to do with impermanence, memory and spatial imagination.

I’m perpetually intrigued by photography projects that use perspective composites and collages to reinterpret the city — examples we’ve previously seen in the form of “urban hackscapes,” “photographic time machines” and Abigail Reynolds’ The Universal Now. So I love artist David Semeniuk‘s Landscape Permutations project — an ongoing exploration of “how spaces and places are experienced, remembered, and represented.” Semeniuk uses images of his hometown, Red Deer, Alberta, and recombines them to imagine a different hypothetical reality of spatial layouts.

In each work of this series, I have brought together separate components of two images, each with a unique interpretant, and forced them to share a single, new meaning. Despite an apparent loss of information within the larger frame of each work, the resulting composite image contains novel, endemic meaning which transcends either image used in its creation.” ~ David Semeniuk

What makes Semeniuk particularly fantastic — at least for me, as an avid proponent of cross-disciplinary curiosity — is that he describes himself as a “formally trained scientist, and an autodidactic artist”: His academic training is in marine biogeochemistry, and he considers his photographic experiments and artistic expression of his scientific exploration.

I am also very much interested in the representational capacity of photographs, and am motivated by questions such as: in what ways is a photograph a transparent view of the world (i.e. akin to looking through a pair of binoculars)? In what ways and to what degree does a photograph truthfully depict reality, and how is this influenced by the naturalistic qualities of photography? Despite the causal origin of a photograph, can a photograph become a more truthful depiction of a particular place?” ~ David Semeniuk

Full of simple poeticism,Landscape Permutations feels like a gentle reminder that our experience of the world is a highly subjective function of our memory, our imagination and our sense of presence. Cue in BBC’s What Is Reality?.

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