Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘photography’

06 MARCH, 2009

Transform: The Journey to Creative Contentment

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Why the only thing that matters is that it shouldn’t matter.

As creators, we all have moments of doubt. Sometimes momentary, sometimes situational, sometimes existential. But the “trick” about creative self-doubt seems to be in doing away with the pressures of measuring up, the perceived comparative value of our work, the destructive cravings for critical acclaim, and focusing on the creative truth of each moment, that “in-the-zoneness” that makes us truly happy.

transform1 Which is why we love Zack Arias’ short film Transform — an exploration of a photographer’s journey to creative contentment, past the trials and tribulations of doubt and the tortured obsessions over the work’s merit. And although Zack himself is a photographer, we think the grander message of the film will strike a chord with any creator.

So watch Transform, and don’t let the intentional satire of the first 93 seconds mislead you — it’s after this that the film’s true richness really begins.

Transform seems to echo the wisdom of our favorite TED talk — Elizabeth Gilbert on creative genius — and the idea that these pressures, be they external or internal, to measure up, to outdo, to be celebrated kill the very spring of creativity.

So with this sentiment, have an inspired weekend. And if you don’t, that’s okay.

04 MARCH, 2009

The Secret Lives of Secret Places

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What NYC rats have to do with Les Miserables, med school dropouts and photographic genius.

When Seoul-born artist Miru Kim moved to New York to attend college in 1999, she wasn’t officially an “artist” — she was a pre-med student interested in anatomy. But she grew increasingly fascinated by the city itself and began to look at it is a living organism, itching to dissect it and reveal its hidden layers. So she scrapped med school and decided to get an MFA instead.

In grad school, Kim became interested in the creatures that dwell on the fringes of society, in the hidden parts of the city. So she began photographing New York City rats. Eventually, she started going into the tunnels, discovering a whole new dimension to the city that most people don’t get to see. She connected with a subculture of like-minded urban explorers, adventurers and guerrilla historians, but somehow felt there was something missing from her photographs of these demolished underground spaces.

So she decided to create a fictional character that dwells in these places — the easiest way to do it was to model herself.

I decided against any clothing because I wanted the figure to be without any cultural implications or time-specific elements. I wanted a simple way to represent a living body inhabiting these decaying, derelict spaces.

This gave birth to a series titled Naked City Spleen, an allusion to Charles Baudelaire’s Paris SpleenNaked City is the nickname for New York, and spleen captures “the melancholy inertia that comes from being alienated in an urban environment.”

The project took Kim around the world in search of hidden places — from the catacombs of Paris to London’s River Tyburn to the 19th century homeless asylums of Berlin. Her work, however, is about more than just the mere documentation of decay.

I like doing more than just exploring these spaces and feel an obligation to animate and humanize [them] continually in order to preserve their memories in a creative way before they’re lost forever.

Kim eventually went on to shoot two films on 60mm black-and-white film — Blind Door and Blind Window — as she became more interested in capturing movement and texture.

Watch her inspired TED talk, for a deeper look at the artist’s process, her unique brand of inspiration, and the cultural resonance of her work.

03 MARCH, 2009

The Art of Identity

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What bathroom signage has to do with aviator masks and our shared existential journey.

The notion of identity has always been a fundamental subject of restless exploration in art. Today, we look at 3 very different creative meditations on the tools of crafting, disguising and exposing the self — masks and costumes.

LOS VOCALINO BROTHERS

Argentinian brothers Ariel and Sebas Vocalino are a double shot of talent. The art director (Ariel) and photographer (Sebas) duo’s latest project, a digital series titled Turista, explores the existential journey each of us is on through the eyes of a lonely traveler.

The tourist is, for us, a man who knows that is on the way, who enjoys every moment and every place he walks by. The tourist is someone who lives the present very consciously. He is a person who is lonely and connects to the places through his look.

In the first part of the series, the masked voyager has traveled to places from the brothers’ own lives — their parents’ apartment, their club, downtown in their hometown of Buenos Aires — places and situations common for the brothers, into which they invite others through the tourist.

This excellent interview with the brothers sheds light on their creative process, their inspiration, and the places the tourist is yet to take them — take a look.

BOB BASSET’S STEAMPUNK MASKS

It’s no secret we love steampunk. Which is why we dig Ukrainian artist Bob Basset’s steampunk take on culture’s most (in)famous masks.

From aviators to doctors to gas masks, his work ranges from the bizarre to the brilliant, meticulously crafted and implicitly concerned with culture’s historical need for facewear.

Now, if he could only steampunk that Joker ski mask

via BoingBoing

THE PEDESTRIAN PROJECT

In 1989, New York costume designer Yvette Helin became increasingly fascinated by the generic graphic images of people used on many types of signage — faceless figures intended to convey broader concepts. This gave birth to ongoing performance art known as The Pedestrian Project — silent performers wearing entirely black custom-made costumes modeled after the signs, roaming the streets and other public venues and mimicking the lives of everyday people.

Since the project’s inception, The Peds have toured the world, from the MoMA to the Prague Quadrennial.

The project is part visual art, part pure whimsy, part social satire that challenges onlookers to do a double-take as they see the familiar graphic icons from signs come to life.

We see the project as a brilliant metaphor for our culture of facelessness — we live in our own little bubbles, iPod earbuds shutting off the outside world, gaze glazing over the swarm of passengers on the subway. We miss the complexity of each stranger we pass by in the street, their passions, their tribulations, their everyday reality. The Peds challenge us to rethink what we dismiss as faceless and generic, to consider the private truths within the public personas we encounter.