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A Curation of Powerful Photos — The Best of 2012 [43 images]


Photo: Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

While the New Year stands for new beginnings, resolutions, and clean slates, it’s also a chance to look back at 2012… a fascinating year. From the eyepopping athleticism of the Summer Olympics in London and the drama of the U.S. Presidential Election to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the wildfires that ravaged Colorado, there was no lack of engaging photography in 2012. I browsed some of the collective “best of” 2012 and created the roundup below.

Human exaltation, powerful and heartbreaking photojournalism and awe-inspiring sports + nature photography. These photos made me pause and look for an extra second – enjoy.

[I’ve put the names of photogs/agencies credited under each image – if you’re feeling extra sassy, look these photographers up for more great work. Links at the bottom for the galleries from which these images were curated. #respect to all the great photography of 2012. Great year for pictures.

[Also, a little aside… a humble thanks and much gratitude to you for paying attention to what I put out into the world in 2012 and for sharing my feeds / work / love. Big Happy New Year to you and yours. ]


Photo: Francesco Carrozzini


Photo: AP

Pete Souza, White House

Photo: Pete Souza/White House


Photo: Manish Swarup / AP

Daniel Ochoa de Olza, AP

Photo: Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP


Photo: Vadim Ghirda / AP


Photo: Maks Levin / AP


Photo: AP


Photo: Susan McConnell

Bradley Wiggins by Scott Mitchell

Photo: Scott Mitchell


Photo: Reuters

Victor R. Caivano, AP

Photo: Victor R. Caivano/AP


Photo: Rajesh Kumar Singh


Photo: Michael Benson


Photo: Matt Slocum


Photo: RedBullStratos

Pier Paolo Cito, AP

Photo: Pier Paolo Cito/AP


Photo: Matt Cardy


Photo: Kevin Frayer

Yida refugee camp by John Stanmeyer

Photo: John Stanmeyer/VII

Misha Japaridze, AP

Photo: Misha Japaridze/AP

Mike Hutchings:Reuters

Photo: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Maxi Jonas:Reuters

Photo: Maxi Jonas/Reuters

The Obamas by Jim Watson

Photo: Jim Watson

Manu Brabo, AP

Photo: Manu Brabo/AP

Joe Acaba, NASA : AP

Photo: Joe Acaba/NASA/AP


Photo: IwanBaan/GettyImages

Syrian snipers by Javier Manzano

Photo: Javier Manzano/AFP/Getty Images

Horse runs through fire by Jasper Juinen

Photo: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images


Photo: Helen Richardson


Photo: Gregory Bull / AP


Photo: Getty Images


Photo: Charles Sykes


Photo: AP

Ian Joughin:Associated Press

Photo: Ian Joughin/Associated Press

Diptendu Dutta:AFP:GettyImages

Photo: Diptendu Dutta/AFP:GettyImages

Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Aris Messinis:AFP:Getty Images

Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images


Photo: Alvero Berrientos

Parkour in Gaza by Ali Ali

Photo: Ali Ali/EPA


Photo: Adrees Latif / Reuters

Here are links to some of the “best of” galleries that I curated from:
Huff Post
Boston Big Pic
Boston Big Pic II

LIVE Photoshoot using the World’s Biggest Camera + The Power of Personal Work

Update: The LIVE broadcast is TODAY Wednesday December 19th. Check out the post below and be sure to tune into — 11am SEA time (2pm NYC -19:00 London) — and enjoy the show. See you on there.

I am an advocate of personal work. Finding time to create personal projects has been one of the most valuable experiences of my career as a visual artist. My guest on the next week’s episode of chasejarvisLIVE is Ian Ruhter. Ian’s commitment to his personal work has been turning heads. A professional snowboarder turned photographer he was at the top of his game as a staff photographer and commercial shooter for the most respected magazines and brands in the snowboarding world. Then, more than 2 years ago, he had a vision of a photo that had never been taken – and he needed to be the one to create it. In a moment he went “all in” and started his pursuit of a new, completely unique, creative experience. He spent all his savings and converted a box truck into a tintype camera and started traveling around the country in his camera taking wetplate processed tintype photos – some of the largest that have ever been created. Check out the video above for a teaser on Ian and his work.

I’m so stoked that Ian is coming to Seattle next week to share his experience on chasejarvisLIVE. And even more exciting – he will be shooting the camera with me, my team and YOU. Dont miss this. It will be LIVE, un-scripted and inspirational.

WHO: You, Me, and a LIVE photo shoot with Ian Ruhter’s wetplate camera-truck + worldwide gathering of creative people
WHAT: Interview, discussion + a worldwide Q&A
WHEN: Wednesday, December 19th, 11:00am Seattle time (2pm NYC time or 19:00 London)
WHERE: Tune into It’s free — anyone can watch and we’ll be taking YOUR questions via Twitter, hashtag #cjLIVE

We will be giving this signed photo of Ian’s away during the show – you have to tune in to find out how to win!

Watch the show today and find out how to win a signed print this Ian Ruhter photo

As always, you can ask any question of me or Ian (@ianruhter) that you might have, as we’ll be taking your question via my twitter handle + hashtag #cjLIVE and via my Facebook page.

Help us promote the show by sending a creative tweet out to your friends to help promote this show
@manfrotto_tweet + #cjLIVE [note: you must follow @manfrotto_tweet to be eligible to win]

Bundle #1: Manfrotto Bundle composed of:
_Manfrotto 290 3-section carbon fiber tripod with quick-release 3-way photo head
_Manfrotto Midi-36 LED Light
_Manfrotto Stile Bella V Black Shoulder Bag
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_Manfrotto Lino Apparel Photo Cap Winter
Total Bundle Value: $780.00

Product Bundle # 2:
Manfrotto Bundle composed by:
Manfrotto Compact Photo Head Kit
Manfrotto Klyp Kit with Case for iPhone 4/4S + ML 240 LED Light + Pocket Tripod
Manfrotto Stile Bella V Black Camera Shoulder Bag
Manfrotto Lino Apparel Soft Shell
a Manfrotto Lino Apparel Photo Cap Winter

Total Bundle Value: $ 474.98

We’re working with our good friends at liveBooks for 50% off an Emerging Predesigned Package site. Use the promo code CJLIVE. The discount is good for a yearly package, expiring 12/31/2013.[You can get it for $99 – regularly $199]

Special thanks to our sponsors who help make this show possible – please follow them and let them know you appreciate the free content that they help us deliver. Respect.
HP: @hpprint
Broncolor: @hasselbladbron
Manfrotto: @manfrotto_tweet
liveBooks: @liveBooks

View Official Contest Rules here.

The ‘Vulgar’ Photographer — Trespasser on the Sacred Ground of Fine Art?

Maisie Broadhead, 'Keep Them Sweet', 2010.

Maisie Broadhead, 'Keep Them Sweet', 2010.

The Fine Art world has always been an interest of mine. In fact, I was pursuing a graduate degree in the philosophy of art before I quit to pursue photography full time. Quitting was the result of a waning interest in learning about dead white guys — and it was a good move for me in the long run. Humans have been creating art for our entire history as a species. Creativity is baked into our brains. The proof of this innate need to create dates back more than 30,000 years as evidenced by cave paintings. The art of painting is ancient, storied and deeply textured. Fine art photography, in comparison, is in its infancy. As such, the institutions and art critics are outspoken with their assessment of photography being a “vulgar trespasser” by hanging in the same hallowed halls as paintings. To be honest, I am asking myself, are the critics right? Does fine art photography belong in the same museums as the time-tested art of the brush? My friend Sohail, who will be dropping by the blog from time to time with deep insights on fine art and technology articles, dives into the subject in the following paragraphs. -Chase

It’s a battle that’s been fought since photography arrived on the scene as a medium of visual expression. To its critics, it’s been nothing more than a glorified means of copying or reproducing something. To its proponents, it’s every bit as legitimate an art form as painting and sculpture. Regardless of which side you come down on, photography has always had to struggle to gain acceptance in the fine art world, especially in museums.

Now, one of the most prominent museums in the world is adding a photography exhibit to its repertoire, and there are quite a few folks who aren’t happy about it.

“The truth is,” writes Andrew Graham-Dixon, “that very few photographers have ever produced images with the weight of thought and feeling found in the greatest paintings.”

Graham-Dixon writes for the Telegraph, and he’s talking about “Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present,” a photography exhibit at the National Gallery in London.

This is the National Gallery’s first major exhibit of photography, and for a number of reasons, it’s being heavily panned by critics. That criticism is stretched into a critique of the place of photography in the world of art.

“Photography,” says Graham-Dixon, “lacks the depth and heft, the thinking sense of touch, that painting possesses.”

Another critic, Brian Sewell, is even harsher in his column for the London Evening Standard.

“Vulgarity is, indeed, the almost common factor among these present-day photographers (most of them fiftyish or so) — the vulgarity of the commonplace subject, the vulgarity of colour, the vulgarity of scale (now common in every current form of art) and the vulgarity of surface, too often utterly repellent.”

The exhibit, he concludes, is “Shoddy, mischievous and gravely mistaken, intellectually the work of students at some post-polytechnic university, those who devised it have seduced the National Gallery, led it astray, debauched and corrupted it.”

Ossian Ward, writing for Timeout London tosses his share of brickbats at the National Gallery as well.

“…they tend to overcomplicate matters and look for obscure lines of influence instead of plumping for the bigger names – why no grandiose Andreas Gursky, no Cindy Sherman self-portraiture, no iconoclastic Andres Serrano, fer chrissakes?”

To be fair, not every review is negative, and Ward does allow that “some of the curatorial discoveries are worth making.”

Some reviews are even positive, like Laura Cummings’ review for The Guardian.

“Seduced By Art is an enthralling show,” she writes, “beautifully selected to express the numerous ways in which painting has inspired or affected the evolution of photography.”

The core argument, though, is one that Graham-Dixon lays out clearly – that the lens is no match for the brush when it comes to art. For those of us who call ourselves photographers, this is a hard claim to swallow.

Richard Learoyd, 'Man with Octopus Tattoo II', 2011. Image Courtesy: The National Gallery, London, UK

Richard Learoyd, 'Man with Octopus Tattoo II', 2011. Image Courtesy: The National Gallery, London, UK

The traditional art vs. photography debate isn’t new, but every time photography makes major inroads into the art world, it flares up again.

To be fair, some arguments may be legitimate. As Ossian Ward pointed out, this is the National Gallery’s first outing when it comes to displaying photography, and they may have indeed overthought it, as he suggests.

It’s also possible that the criticism of the photographs, some of which have been commissioned specifically for this exhibit, has a lot to do with the subject matter of those photos. It’s worth wondering why the National Gallery would commission work specifically to fit the theme of their exhibit, which was primarily about drawing a connection between photography and painting.

There’s a real debate worth having here about whether there *is* such a connection, and if there is, why did the National Gallery feel the need to commission new work? Moreover, there’s also a debate to be had about whether photographers need to follow the same mores painters do, both in terms of subject matter and technique. The National Gallery’s attempt to draw this connection in what could be construed as an attempt to legitimize their exhibit may be considered a failure simply because this connection may not exist.

Martin Parr, 'Signs of the Times, England', 1991. Image Courtesy: The National Gallery, London, UK

Martin Parr, 'Signs of the Times, England', 1991. Image Courtesy: The National Gallery, London, UK

The “subject matter” argument is one that Graham-Dixon makes pretty persuasively when he highlights a moment in his personal experience when he found photography to actually transcend painting.

As for photography equalling, even exceeding, art, I will admit to one moment when I know that it happened — in the work of those photographers who accompanied Scott and Shackleton in the Antarctic, men who in those then unique circumstances had eyes to see that with the coolly calculated technology of their clumsy cameras, they could enhance the ice and snow, the darkness and the light, even the numbing chill of the deep distant south, in ways far beyond the dramatic romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich and Frederick Church, and the dabbing of the Impressionists, their near contemporaries.

Still, he stays close true to his basic premise, claiming that “When the photographer pretends that he is an artist, he is a trespasser.” And, if you define art very narrowly, as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture,” then you could argue that photography, as a medium where an image is captured, as opposed to being created, is not art.

Yet part of that definition of art, the part about art being “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination,” can easily be applied to photography. Furthermore, that certain subjects are best left to one medium or another is, again, a hard claim for photographers to swallow.

Of course, it’s also possible that the jeers thrown at National Gallery’s exhibit is just a knee-jerk reaction from old-world critics. After all, it’s only recently that photographs commanding seven-figure sums have become more normal, whereas Paul Cezanne’s “The Card Players” fetched the tidy sum of $267 million from the Royal Family of Qatar in 2011. Photography’s most expensive work, on the other hand, is Andreas Gursky’s “Rhein II”, sold for a comparatively paltry $4.3 million.

Andreas Gursky's Rhein II (not part of the National Gallery exhibit) Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Andreas Gursky's Rhein II (not part of the National Gallery exhibit) Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Photography as an art form is still young, while painting has been around for thousands of years. It’s pedigree stretches back to pre-history and the cave paintings in Grotte Chauvet, France, that are about 32,000 years old. The next few years will continue to see accelerated evolutions and revolutions in the world of photography, which is barely two hundred years old.

Nonetheless, many of us would argue that it’s time the art world as a whole recognized that the photograph as a piece of art isn’t a fad. It’s not going away. Someone who thinks that photography isn’t as elevated an art form as painting clearly doesn’t have an appreciation of the level of effort that goes into a truly great photograph, and that as more than a few of our photographer friends would say, is quite simply their loss.


Reporting from Sohail Mamdani

Top 10 Tips for Success for the Fine Art Photographer — Exclusive Interview with a Collector

Elizabeth Avedon

Photo: Elizabeth Avedon

W.M. Hunt is a champion of photography – A collector, curator and consultant who lives and works in New York. He is the author of “The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the Unconscious,” published in 2011 by Aperture. He is on the Board of Directors of the Eugene Smith Memorial Fund and The Center for Photography at Woodstock, New York, where he was the recipient of their Vision Award in 2009.
Founding partner of the prominent photography gallery Hasted Hunt (now Hasted Kraeutler) in Chelsea, Manhattan, Hunt has been collecting photography for almost 40 years and has been profiled in The New York Times, PDN, Art on Paper, Modern Painters, The Art Newspaper, PBS’ “EGG, the Arts Show”, as well as BBC’s “The Genius of Photography”. Our good friends at the Photo Center Northwest sat down with Bill and he dropped some serious knowledge – including his Top Ten Tips on how to get in front of a curator, collector or dealer. My buddy Rafeal and the PCNW will be dropping by the blog from time to time to bring a unique perspective on fine art photography.

You have a rich history working with world-renowned photographers, many of whom you represented in your gallery. Many of these artists have walked the commercial and fine art routes simultaneously quite successfully. Can you give some examples of artists who have done this successfully?

I love this question because I love working with photographers who have successful commercial practices. There are a number of reasons. One is happiness. Photographers who have a financially successful career are a pleasure to deal with. They eat lunch regularly. When money is not an issue, we can do the show and make stuff happen. It can be a problem when a photographer is very, very, busy – but there is more of a problem if the collaboration and the dialogue isn’t respected. If I say I don’t like something, I won’t say it lightly so we should listen to each other. Absolute single mindedness doesn’t help either the artist of the dealer. I can really finesse an artist’s situation. That has value. The fuller a photographer’s practice is, meaning commercial, editorial, exhibition, publication, etc. the better the work will be. This imagined separation of church and state is blind. Get the money. Don’t whore yourself out, but make stuff happen. Also this kind of artist is a better editor without self-indulgence. They work coherently, they challenge themselves, and they keep moving. If I am asked if I would like to see someone’s personal work or their commercial work, I would rather see the latter because it’s hard to be your own client.

But also, what’s the difference? How many heads do you have? I am suspicious of someone’s work that is totally schizophrenic. Who are you? A successful contemporary example of this is Erwin Olaf, whose work is completely consistent, and the one practice feeds the other.

Photo: Erwin Olaf

Photo: Erwin Olaf

The commercial work challenges him technically, and the other work allows him to develop his eye and his imagination. Ed Burtynsky? Brilliant. He works like a corporation, and I mean that as the ultimate praise. He has vision and politics. He wants to change the world, and he is being effective.

Edward Burtynsky

Photo: Edward Burtynsky

Phil Toledano. The best. He has an imagination that is in overdrive, and he works as a completely contemporary artist, in an analogue and digital world. He works in project form with a beginning, middle and end. He is a total sponge for knowledge and experience, for life. I would have loved to have had a chance as a dealer with Steven Klein.

Photo: Phil Toledano

Photo: Phil Toledano

The example of Irving Penn is worth emphasizing, a singular artist whose style was unique and immediately recognizable, whose technique was virtuosic, and whose drive to constantly reinvent himself artistically was daunting. Brilliant.

Photo: Phil Toledano

Photo: Phil Toledano

Can you provide any insight as to how someone can make the most out of work they have been assigned commercially to pursue also an art path?
Erwin Olaf speaks about how technically the one practice informs the other. He gets to play with new tools when the client is paying, and the client gets to take advantage of Erwin’s genius, which he has been exercising with his personal work. I am still using terms I disavowed in the preceding paragraphs, these annoying genres and abstract vs. real. What is real anyway? The photograph is real but nothing in it is.A good trick though is to sell a photographer’s commercial work, which I have done. Great work is great work.

Photo: Erwin Olaf

Did any of your artists ever have an assignment that later became a successful exhibition, book or body of work?
Editorial, sure. Luc Delahaye was a huge success for me, and it was all work he had done while on assignment. I am sure the magazines might have some argument with him about whose clock he was on, but that’s not my concern.

Photo: Edward Burtynsky

Top 10 tips for photographers who are looking to get their work in front of collectors, dealers and curators like yourself?
Figure out why you want to meet me. Work out if you want to realize something from the meeting. It’s fine to be introduced, but don’t be a jerk. Be smart. I WANT to like you, so help me. Make it worth MY while too.

1. Be talented.

2. Be smart. Think. Don’t be a jerk. Be engaging. If you are determined enough, you can meet anyone at least once. Take the situation seriously; don’t blow it. Take stock of yourself. Is the work fully realized and are you ready to approach museums or dealers?

3. Be focused. Be single minded. Be ambitious. Think in terms of the long haul and the full arc of your career.

4. Be clear. Be able to articulate what you are doing, not so much why you are doing it but literally what it is. Rehearse what you are going to say. Keep impeccable records about your work.

5. Be ready. Have prints, have disks, have a resume, have business cards. Don’t tell me, ‘they’re at home’ or that you are ‘still working on them.’ Give me something to remember you by. Send a thank-you note, even consider mailing it.

6. Be full. Have a life. Teach. Get commissions, commercial work, stock, whatever. Get money, make love, be happy. It will inform the work positively.

7. Be active. Be your own primary dealer. Take responsibility for museum and magazine drop-offs. Approach collectors yourself. Develop a mailing list. Market yourself. Send postcards. Donate prints to charity auctions. Go to openings. Make friends with your contemporaries. Use them. Always ask to be referred. Publish or get published. Get patrons, mentors, advisors. Use them. Bear in mind that if you set your mind to it, you can meet anyone … once. It’s that second meeting that proves difficult. When you do meet that person, be prepared.

8. Be receptive. Take notes. Bring a pencil and paper to appointments. Do your homework. Know what sort of work galleries show before you approach them. Go look. Say hello, but be sensitive to a dealer’s time demands (unless you’re buying something). Have a sense of what’s out there.

9. Be merciless with yourself. Edit, edit, edit. Edit, edit, edit. Take out anything marginal. Make me hungry to see more of your work.

10. Be patient. Please.

Interview and additional reporting by: Rafael Soldi of Photo Center Northwest
The mission of the Photo Center NW is to strengthen the community by elevating the art an appreciation of photography. The Photo Center is a non-profit organization offering a nationally accredited photography program in fine art photography taught by many accomplished teaching artists. They also offer professional facilities rentals (studios, high-end printing, darkrooms) as well as emerging artist support in the form of scholarships, fellowship and artist-in-residency programs, exhibition opportunities, membership and networking events.

Drug Abuse Portraits: Haunting Before & After Drug Addiction Photos by Roman Sakovich

London photographer Roman Sakovich has hit a nerve – many nerves that is, including mine – with his recent portrait series titled “Half”. Thru some simple but astute post production, Sakovich combines the two halves of a person…on the left ‘before’ addiction & abuse, and on the right, after, at full throttle. Certainly the studio photos have been enhanced, but the results don’t waver. Simple photographs, compelling + robust narrative. Signs of good art. #Respect. Great series, Roman.

Visit Roman’s site is here. [caught this via PSFK + Hypenotice]

Photographing Time – Artist Jay Mark Johnson Captures the 4th Dimension

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“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind…”

So began every episode for the famous Twilight Zone series.

And so should a viewer be forewarned when gazing upon the surrealist images of Jay Mark Johnson. For these truly are an exploration into another dimension. [Now that you are forewarned, go ahead and browse through his work in the gallery above.]

Before you even go there: No, these are not photoshopped.

What Johnson has done is use a slit camera that captures a narrow vertical sliver of a scene. By snapping a sequence of shots through that slit and lining them all up together in chronological order, Johnson is left with a single piece that essentially depicts the passage of time as seen through that narrow slit. In this sense, each photograph is actually a composite of hundreds of very slim images.

Things get real interesting when an object or objects in motion — like crashing sea waves or a leaping dancer — is captured.

Groovy perspective, right?

Mind-Blowing Photos of the Solar System

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ChaseJarvis_Photos of Outerspace_Michael Benson

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Michael Benson / Kinetikon Pictures (c) All Rights Reserved

Felix Baumgartner’s skydive from space, inspired me to look at more mind-blowing photography from outside our atmosphere. The photography and work of Michael Benson caught my attention. He has created a spectacular view of the solar system. Truly never before seen photos. To make the images on display in his upcoming book, Planetfall, Benson first curated thousands of photographs from NASA and the European Space Agency. The majority of his selects came from unmanned spacecraft hurtling through space. Some are from rovers on Mars or crewmembers aboard the International Space Station.He then processed the raw files and stitched them together into jaw-dropping shots from the cosmos. Click through the image tabs above to see what I’m talking about.

Photos from unmanned probes are normally black-and-white, shot with a variety of filters. To add color, Benson typically overlays images originally filtered in red, green and blue to create a composite spectrum that replicates what the human eye might see. The process can take weeks, but once it’s completed Benson is left with something unique: an image that is as accurate to the view from a passing spacecraft as most of us will ever come.

Uncanny Upside Down Photos — The Faces of Unemployment by Marc Vicens

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I am a big believer in aiming to be different, not necessarily better than everyone else. Marc Vicen’s recent work, a collection of portraits named, “Hanging – The Faces of Unemployment,” is a great example of coming with an angle that turns your photos and thinking, um, upside down. Here is the explanation from Marc’s website. Click through the image tabs above to get a sampling.

“The practice of a globalized economy vertigo, has resulted in a situation that has led many people to feel or be “hung”. Marc Vicens has its special way of looking at this, more and more large group and achieved a surprising result. It’s not just the personal image of “hanging”. Marc has managed to reflect the “new expression” that occurs when a person is in this desperate situation. It is like entering into the feeling of anxiety that governs the daily life of these people. Reality is inverted resulting in an image photographed naked sentiment. It is the expression of the anxiety experienced by anyone because of a destructive economy, feels or is “hung”.”

To see more of Marc Vicens work go here.


Via PetaPixel

Emerging Talent — The Surreal Imagery of Martin Marcisovsky

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Dublin-based photographer Martin Marcisovsky captures subjects placed in distinctly dream-like landscapes. There is a feeling of voyeurism as you look at these lonely figures. The subjects seem to be either lost in their own contemplations or moving forward on some sort of mystery quest with their backs to the viewer. Lord of the Rings meets Dune with a dash of Salvador Dali – sometimes fantasy, sometimes sci-fi these surreal presentations of the deep corners of the artist’s mind are wildly creative. Click through images above to enter some awesomely bizarre worlds.

I asked the artist to elaborate a bit on these insanely cool images:

“Whether the subject is a child or an adult, they each evoke their own level of self-discovery. Essentially, there are two ways to interpret each image—as a representation of feeling lost and isolated or a visual interpretation of contemplatively being in tune with oneself. It’s up to the viewer’s own intuitive perspective to decide how they interpret the intriguing series of works.”

View more of Martin’s work here.

Emerging Talent: Burning Man + Beyond – Darren Miller’s Performance Artists [as captured by one]

Each year thousands upon thousands of people streaming out of the Nevada desert from the annual gathering called Burning Man. A friend called the annual event, ‘the most significant counter culture gathering of our time.’ This friend is smarter than me in a plethora of ways. I respect his opinion as gold…and yet I still have never personally attended. The organizers state that, “Trying to describe Burning Man to someone who has not experienced Burning Man is like trying to describe a specific color to someone who is blind.” So I am no expert. What I do know is that close to 60,000 people are leaving Black Rock Desert right now and coming back into society all over the world brimming with creativity. That’s cool by me. If, like me, you’ve never been, you probably have a friend that comes back inspired and singing the praises of the experimental community that dances on the playa, drives around in mind-blowing works of art in a surreal Mad Max meets Alice-in-Wonderland landscape. Art for art’s sake at an astounding level.

Photographer Darren Miller has been going to Burning Man for the better part of a decade. He attends each year not just as photographer but also as a professional performance artist. Click through the image tabs above to see some of his joyful work PLUS his shots from last week’s Burning Man. He pays the bills shooting corporate events, commercial jobs and weddings. He often doubles as photographer & entertainment at weddings and events! But it is his personal work, the photography of fellow performance artists, that really lights him up with inspiration. Sometimes quite literally… since he’s been known to fire-dance. I caught up with Darren before he took off for the desert this year to find out about how his community plays into his photography, his influences and why he goes to Burning Man.

CJ: Tell me about Burning Man…
DM: Burning man is one of the largest art festivals in the world that is completely built and created by the sixty thousand participants. In the middle of the isolated and barren Nevada desert
the most colorful creative world comes to life for one week every year. It is radically expressive, and totally unhinged. It is amazing and the scale of the art projects, although worthy of the accolade, could not be held by any of the world’s largest museums. It is an experiment in spontaneous community building that is based on sharing and collaboration. This cauldron of creative expression catalyzes to the core the people who are called to go. When you arrive at the gate you are greeted the words Welcome Home. At that point the mystery of your week there begins to unfold. For me Burning Man is the ultimate coming together of my life as a photographer and performer. There’s a great quote from an essay on the website by Molly Steenson that sums it up: “You’re there to breathe art. Imagine an ice sculpture emitting glacial music — in the desert.”

The photographer captured during a performance (Photo: SergioGoes)

CJ: Can you describe the intersection of your work as a photographer and a performance artist?
DM: For me photography intersects with performance because the more expressive and entertaining I am, the more relaxed and natural the clients and subjects I am working with become. Photography is a circle between the photographer and the person being photographed. My playfulness and provocative excitement inspire playfulness in others and I find that the more performance-like energy I put into a shoot – the more unique and exciting the results are within my subjects. I push my subjects outside of their comfort zone. People are often surprised, in a good way, by the results. “I wasn’t so sure about that at first,” is not uncommon to hear. But the photos are totally unique and totally full of joy – and it seems to make an impact for people.

Darren at work (Photo: Karl Baba)

CJ: You work with professional performers all the time:fire-breathers, stilt-walkers, dancers, Cirque du Soleil kind of stuff. How do you find these people?
DM:I live in San Francisco which is basically one of the world’s meccas for creative performance and unique expression. It seems like everyone here has some expressive pursuit in their life. What is really wonderful is the collaboration in the performing community. There is a lot of encouragement between individuals and groups to support each other’s creative offerings. In my view the energy of this area is wildly creative, and I feel at home here. Many of my friends and our extended community are world-class performers and so I have a privilege of sharing worlds with them. When we do talk about collaborating on a photo project there is usually a high resonance in our conceptual thinking that inspires a collaboration to happen.

CJ:Given that you are a performance artist – do you try self-portraits?
Self portraits are really interesting to me because I am always evolving my sense of who I am and with that comes new ideas for how I express myself and the performance characters I am developing.
Recently I got a Go Pro camera and I can use it to take pictures of me doing activities a wide range of activities such as surfing, and underwater photography. This year at Burning Man with the giant puppets I have made, I am planning on attaching the Go Pro on the head of the puppet to take pictures from the puppets point of view, with people’s reactions and all.

The photographer on stilts

CJ: Your portfolio has studio work, but it seems there is a strong theme of human creativity juxtaposed with mind-blowing nature. What location do you prefer with your subjects?
DM: In my heart of hearts I am a man of the wilderness and I feel completely at ease in all sorts of environments within the natural world. I grew up on rivers and in the ocean and mountains and on many occasions have solo journeyed into isolated natural areas for days at a time. I never feel more complete in who I am than when I am in the wild. It is this love of the natural world and understanding of the awe and wonder that inspires me to want to photograph people in extreme conditions. What I find in the photograph that we make together is something remarkable. Each person is changed by the environment they are in and the raw natural world setting brings out the epic and heroic and the beautiful nature that is within each of us. Modern society has moved so far from having a daily connection with the natural world, that doing this portrait work in nature serves as a kind of recollection of that connection we have might have lost along the way.

The Man - Burning Man 2012 (Photo By Moze via Burning Man blog)

CJ: Who are your influences?
DM: Without seeming like I’m sucking up, and naming names, I am really inspired by the photographers like Chase Jarvis who are sharing their work with everyone openly from concept to creation – in the same way that the artists at Burning Man share their creativity in the interest of inspiring more people. This attitude and culture of sharing is definitely encouraging me to delve deeper into my own personal work and get it out there. The provocative wide open potential for image making gets me really exited. There are so many ideas I would like to make photographs of, and I am looking forward to sharing them and contributing as much as I can to inspire people to embrace their own creative potential.

To see more of Darren Miller’s work go here and here
All Photos in this post: Darren Miller

More info Burning Man here

Burning Man 2012 (Photo: Darren Miller)

Burning Man 2012 - The Man

Emerging Talent: Thomas Czarnecki’s Dead Disney Princesses — A Morbid Twist on Childhood Classics

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Disney movies are an integrated part of childhood for most Westernized culture, to the point where if someone is presented with a picture of any of the “princesses” they can immediately identify them. These princesses are a clearly engrained part of our youth culture, visions of feminine charm and reworked classic fairy tales. But what happens when instead of showing these fictional women as beautiful shining figures, you surround them with filth and death? Click through the tabs images above to see examples of just that – the work of Thomas Czarnecki.

The French photographer’s stunning series “From Enchantment to Down” caught my eye and I asked him to elaborate about this innovative and shocking photoset – this is what he had to say:

“I like the darkness aesthetics, I was always been attracted by the world of movies like David Fincher’s Seven or Tim Burton and David Lynch. In photography I’ve found inspiration in many: Eugenio Recuenco, David Lachapelle, Guy Bourdin or my friends Olvier Foulon and Olivier Lecerf – [these] are only a few.  Obviously, many an inspiration comes from the digital world, the web, and I can surf for hours going through many a visual adventure that I take inside of me. Each photo takes a long time to achieve, it is sometimes a bit frustrating but that’s how it goes. Finding time between a job and social life is very complicated. I wish I could devote myself entirely to photography but it is unfortunately not possible at this time, but I don’t despair! 

The theme of this series is universal. The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland… So many Disney characters embedded in the collective culture as sweet and innocent creatures that I decided to get out of their recognized fairy-tale frame and universe.  I staged these same childhood heroes face against the ground and by doing so, create something of clash and culture shock between on one side the naive universe and the innocence of the fairy tales as such and confront them to the other side: a much darker reality that is as much part of our common culture and which is provided to us, incessantly through the darker side and imagery broadcasted through tv, cinema and others. I think it is this comparison that resonates universally in people and generates interest. I leave nothing to chance, each image is fully thought before every shot. I make several preparatory drawings that take into account the location, the light and the position of the character to reach the final image. Sometimes you have to make some small adjustments on the shoot, as removing accessories provided which ultimately do not bring much to the story or find a somewhat more natural for the model but in the end most of the images can be practically superimposed on the original drawing.”


Check out more of Thomas Czarnecki’s work HERE

Blue Plate Special: the Proud Women of USA Diners and their Food

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Photo: Stephen Shaher

Jerard here from Chase’s crew. I love a good road trip. There’s nothing like the freedom and discovery of hitting the road with no real destination, no particular schedule and nothing but miles as your mission. I’ve driven the blue highways across the whole of America almost twenty times. Four times on a motorcycle. In all of those miles, there are some memories that fade into the blur of asphalt and double-yellow lines. But there other things that jump out with precise clarity. For whatever reason, food and the people who serve the food, are often among these memories. Places like the Hogs Breath Saloon, a watering hole somewhere between Kansas and Colorado. “Hog’s Breath is better than no breath!” BBQ beef on a kaiser and I can remember the way the waitress chewed her gum.

Hog’s Breath is better than no breath. -waitress between Kansas and Colorado

Swiss photographer Stephen Shaher took a massive road trip across America and created a fun project out of diner food and the characters who served it. The images feel real. You can smell the food and hear the voices of these waitresses. Design You Trust featured the work a while back (with the names and food order explained to boot) and while I dont think that Food&Wine magazine is going to be calling for any food photography from this project, the personality that comes through in these pairings of server and plates of diner cuisine is palpable. It makes me want to head back out on the road and find some hidden gems of Americana. Click through the tabs above to see Shaher’s series from his 2004 journey across the USA.

Time Travel Photography: Blending Centuries in a Single Image

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Photo: Jim Adams

Inspiration is everywhere. Sometimes you just have to look in unexpected places. Like the past. Whidbey Island, WA photographer Jim Adams has done something you don’t see every day: time travel photography. He finds a location that presents a compelling image, does a ton of research to find historical images, and then carefully overlays old with new to blend decades – even centuries – into a single image. Time travel! By pushing the envelope of what it means to craft an image, he has reinvented and remixed landscape photography in an intriguing way. I’ve touched on this before – the value of the unexpected. Whether it’s a new subject, pushing the boundaries of location or changing your perspective. There is new and fertile subject matter out there. Click through the tabs above to check out some of this skillfully crafted work.

Check out more of Jim’s work here

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