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 Opposing Superpowers, Same TerrorThe idea that we are not so different from our enemies is one of the undercurrents of Justin Barton's photographs of former Cold War Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launch sites. Graphically composed, Barton's shots of the silos' interiors downplay national identity. ...

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In an age when “everything is changing, everything is moving,” photographer Nadav Kander has sought to find moments of reserve, reverence and human vulnerability in his latest series, Bodies: 6 Women, 1 Man, opening this week at Flowers Gallery (Cork Street) in London, and published by Hatje Cantz later this month.

Kander told TIME in a recent interview that his work in Bodies — featuring white, smooth figures cast against a stark black background — serves, in part, as a visual homage to fine-art history. But the alabaster forms, naked and undefended, also communicate Kander’s underlying motivation as a photographer: to capture “the paradoxes of the human condition.”

“I don’t like to ignore that there is beauty without imperfection or that there’s health without disease,” Kander says. This interplay between the perfect and the flawed, the pure and the corrupt, suggests an elemental truth — a truth that is central to Kander’s aesthetic and method.

“The nudes,” he told TIME, “are another way of satisfying the quest that I’ve always [pursued] in my work.”

Originally from Israel, the 51-year-old Kander might be best known for his portraits, often uniquely framed and staged in dramatically lit environments. Subjects have ranged from President Barack Obama (for TIME’s 2012 Person of the Year issue) to professional athletes, politicians and Hollywood royalty.

But the range of Kander’s photography extends well beyond the intimate portrait: his documentary photography, for example, has merited awards — most notably Yangtze: The Long River, which won the Prix Pictet prize for photography and sustainability in 2009. With Bodies, however, he has returned to a theme that can sometimes feel archaic, as if abandoned by many in his field.

“In recent years, photographers have stayed away from the nude,” said Kander, noting that the process had become almost “nostalgic.” “I wanted to work with the nude in a new way.”

As if embracing the theme of paradox, Kander’s “new way” required peering into art’s distant past.

“The mixture of dust and cream [applied to the subjects] served as gentle reference to renaissance paintings,” he explained to TIME. Before long, and in spite of his evident reverence for his predecessors in both paint and pictures, his project evolved into a riveting amalgam: fine-art photographs that felt at once deeply familiar and utterly distinct from anything that might have come before.

“While the models are very present and there for your eyes, they are also turned away and quite private,” he said, noting details that contrast with most Renaissance art, which often made use of a Raphaelite “gaze” — that is to say, a portrait’s subject engaging the viewer with direct, and occasionally unsettling, eye contact.

While the bodies in his photos might well relay a vulnerability unseen in more traditional works, the positioning of the figures — the arch of their hands, the flexion of their feet and toes — communicates a Renaissance aesthetic further evident in his casting and choice of models.

“I was into the ideas of effigies, these white marble statues,” he said. To replicate that look Kander chose models without tattoos or piercings, bodies that were — in his words — “unencumbered by modernity.”

In his interview with TIME, Kander noted the influence Edward Weston, a renowned American photographer, has had on his work and approach to photography.

In 1932, Weston and 10 of the industry’s most notable names created the f/64 Group in San Francisco. The loose collective of photographers was staunchly committed to photography at its most accurate. In Weston’s words, “The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.”

For Kander, this same sensitivity meant little editing or post-production work on his own images — images that at-once mirror a specific reality and inform his personal life.

“I don’t want to make art that’s simple, ‘correct for the times,’ or merely to fit a gap in the market,” he said. “I make things that nourish me.”

Nadav Kander is a London-based photographer. Kander photographed President Barack Obama for TIME’s Person of the Year Issue in 2012.

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 Supercut Homage to Photographer Movies Plays With StereotypesEnglish artists Mishka Henner and David Oates' supercut short film pulls together clips of photographer characters in movies from famous films like Blow Up, Salvador, and other not so critically-acclaimed films like Harrison's Flowers.

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A tad bit dizzying, but dazzling nonetheless, the always-creative photographer Richard Silver puts a spin on our usual view of panoramic pictures. Instead of shooting a landscape of pews and aisles, his NY Churches: A Unique Perspective series is a long shot of the church ceiling, with assortments of art, grids, and balconies.

“Each photo is about six to ten photos stitched together to make the panorama. Shooting from the pew to the exit door and back again making sure I get the shot the second time if there is something not good from the first one” – Richard Silver

 

“As someone who has traveled all over the world sometimes you forget how much New York has to offer to a photographer. I am always trying to find new and different ways to photograph this city. This is my newest renditions of New York in photographs.” – Richard Silver

See more of his work at www.richardsilverphoto.com

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Photo: Nadege Meriau

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At first glance Nadege Meriau‘s photographs appear to be microscopic images, at second glance, apocalyptic landscapes. But in reality they are assembled out of food: fruits, vegetables, bones, meat and more.

The lighting is haunting and carefully constructed with a muted color palette. When studying her images, one starts forming an exit strategy. There is a paradox in them, between pain and pleasure.

Meriau is a Tunisian-born artist who is currently based in London. She received her masters from the Royal College of Art in 2011 and has exhibited her photographs in Europe since 2005. Most recently she was nominated for the Discovery Prize at Les Rencontres d’Arles. In her interview with Raw File below, Meriau discusses her process, intentions and negotiating art versus commercial work.

Wired: Would you say that science is an influence on your work? If so, could you explain how?

Meriau: Yes, the natural sciences, especially biology, are a strong influence. One of the main starting points for this project was my reading of Darwin’s The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits. I am also very interested in biomimicry, especially when it comes to architecture.

Wired: Do you consider your images to be abstract or do you want your audience to immediately understand what you are building? Could you explain the importance of working with food?

Meriau: I want to disorientate the viewer, at least initially, so hopefully the images are not immediately understandable. I’m drawn to edible materials because of their complex textures and colors but also because they are alive and unpredictable as they change with time and temperature.

The transformative, alchemical aspect of growing and cooking food is interesting to me, perhaps because it is akin to the creative process. I also like the idea of exploring everyday edible objects such as a piece of bread or a potato.

Wired: I see that you shoot commercial photography as well as fine art and that you are represented by Wyatt Clarke and Jones. How do you feel about making your work for strictly commercial purposes?

Meriau: I don’t see myself as a commercial photographer but more as an artist who takes on commissions and works collaboratively with art directors, designers and picture editors.

Wyatt Clarke and Jones are known for representing people who didn’t set out to be commercial photographers. They have an understanding of fine art and documentary photography, which makes it possible for me and other photographers to work with them.

I see my art and commercial practices as separate yet entwined: One is research based and the driving force behind everything I do, the other is more indexical and about working collaboratively on a brief. I enjoy both and I see them as feeding of one another as if part of an ecosystem.

Wired: In many of the structures from your current work, the viewer has a sense they are trapped inside these caves. Is this your intention in terms of narrative?

Meriau: My intention is to envelop or draw the viewer into these spaces, not to trap him/her. If you look carefully there is always an exit point, a chance to escape.

Wired: To me your structures seem to represent dwellings, are they a comment on the nature of “Home”?

Meriau: I’m interested in the duality of the concepts of food and home and how both can be seen as safe, nurturing, life-giving or unsafe, destructive and poisonous.

Wired: Who are your artistic influences?

Meriau: Jules Verne, Stanley Kubrick, Werner Herzog, Marx Ernst, Salvador Dali, Theodore Gericault, Caspar Friedrich, William Turner, Alex Hartley, Louise Bourgeois, Anya Gallacio, Sarah Lucas … to name a few!

Wired: What is next for you? Will it involve food?

Meriau: Food is vast territory that I’m only beginning to explore. Ideas for future projects involve a mushroom-based installation and a collaboration with a beekeeper and his bees.

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A bunch of green bananas, a solitary flourescent bulb and the pie-shaped pieces of a Trivial Pursuit Game. These are the subjects of photographer Matthew Gamber’s latest collection of still lifes, titled “Any Color You Like.” The objects Gamber photographed were chosen for their distinct and recognizable colors—a decision that appears to be in conflict with the presentation of the series as stark black-and-white prints.

The decision to print in black and white was meant, Gamber said, to challenge how people understand what they see. “By using these different processes, and to try to look at certain subjects, it’s just to call attention to things that we take for granted in terms of seeing.”

The inspiration for the project came while Gamber was teaching at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He discovered that a student in his color photography class was colorblind. “He didn’t look at color as color—he looked at it as value,” Gamber said. “He looked at it as a lack of contrast or a lack of clarity.”

The realization that his student was manipulating color, while only being able to see in  tones of gray, led Gamber to create photographs that mimicked this experience. He began by shooting objects from pop-culture that were easily recognizable: a pair of 3D glasses and a Lite-Brite toy, for instance. He wanted to play with ideas of perception by removing the most recognizable feature from his subjects, their color.

“I wanted it to be something that felt just out of reach,” he says. “I think the success of this relies on what the viewers expectations are.”

As the project progressed, Gamber moved on to more subtle imagery. A shot of ornately patterned wallpaper in a Boston brownstone references Bauhaus-era color theory that influenced the industrial production of wallpaper in the 1930s, Gamber explained. An image of a display of North American birds took on more meaning when Gamber learned that the birds’ feathers do not have their own color, but rather, are able to reflect certain light spectrums.

In addition to thinking about color, Gamber wanted his photographs to play with ideas of timelessness. “I wanted to shoot in a way that it looks like it could have been shot yesterday, but it also looks like it was shot in the 1940s or the 1950s,” said Gamber. “There is something about how when you photograph something in black and white, it gets locked in that timeframe where it just becomes obsolete as an everyday seeing experience.”

Gamber spent two years on “Any Color You Like,” which recently won The Curator award from Photo District News and will be featured in Brooklyn’s Photoville show this month. All of the photographs were shot on color film or as color digital captures. The negatives and color files were then converted to black and white negatives and printed as traditional silver gelatin black-and-white prints in a darkroom.

Working on this project has influenced the way Gamber thinks about color in both his photography and his life. He has started bringing color blindness tests into the classes he teaches at various colleges in Boston. He has also, Gamber said with a chuckle, become a more color-coordinated dresser.

“I can see that much more now,” said Gamber “I’m more aware of how we are more emotionally charged by certain colors.”

Matthew Gamber is a Boston-based photographer. His photos will be featured in Brooklyn’s Photoville festival from June 22-July 1.

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Photographer Lilly McElroy literally throws herself at men, using her body as projectile.

In her attempts to freeze moments of “perpetual social awkwardness” in her photos by launching herself into consenting men she met at bars, McElroy has amused and annoyed fellow revelers, suffered whiplash and has been invited to join a Thanksgiving night three-way.

For I Throw Myself At Men (2008) McElroy initially tried meeting men through a Craigslist ad, but she didn’t get enough responses.

“Directly approaching the men was more appropriate and effective,” says McElroy. “The whole process filled me with anxiety and the moments when people agreed to participate were just as important as the moments when people said no.”

The photos themselves were taken by a variety of friends, some professional photographers and some amateurs. Capturing that frozen mid-air moment was not always easy and there were lots of images that fell to the cutting room floor. For McElroy, the image and its raison d’être are more important than who’s releasing the shutter.

“I worked with a lot of different people on this project,” says McElroy. “I really liked working with people who were not trained photographers. It made it easier to maintain that casual party pic aesthetic.”

In the past, McElroy has challenged behavioral norms by lying down in public spaces. In 2009, she asked people to submit images that represented their roughest times of the year, then published the photos. Her performances sometimes implicate people whether they like it or not, but always McElroy uses photography to question the human condition.

I Throw Myself At Men was about the desire to form connections with other people,” says McElroy.

In a culture of Facebook-stalking, Chatroulette and online dating sites that allow users to rifle through prospective hook-ups, McElroy’s images attempt to comment on ‘social connection, sex, gender and the desire to form relationships quickly.’ For us, the photos merely ratchet up the awkward in their own awesome way.

And what about her targets, er, subjects? What did they get out of the deal?

“I bought drinks for the men,” says McElroy. “It seemed more appropriate.”

There were no second dates, but this is due to the fact that, in many shots, the man behind the camera was McElroy’s boyfriend. They’re now wife and husband.

All images courtesy of the artist and the Thomas Robertello Gallery.

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New York winter self-portrait
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Like many photographers who struggle to find subject matter worthy of photographing, Sandy Kim turns her camera on a subject with which she is intimately familiar – her friends, her love and her life.

“I use what I have, and since my life is readily available that’s what I shoot,” she says.

Kim, now 26, came into the public eye a few years ago when Girls, a San Francisco band she had befriended and was photographing religiously, started to make it big. Suddenly her photos were in The New York Times and Fader. Her unique style garnered praise from both audiences and other shooters and she was name-checked in an interview with art photographer Ryan McGinley.

Her photos continue to appear in Fader – the mag calls her their “BFF” – and her latest project ties together the last two years of her life through sexual degrees of separation.

“I started making this map of sexual relationships between me and my friends,” says Kim. “Once I started mapping it out on paper, I was surprised to see how big and complicated it became. We live for sex, and because of sex we’re alive. The photos represent the different intersections on the map. There are portraits, feelings, and special occasions, kind of like different stations on a subway map.”

Sex Degrees of Separation Rail Map. Image: Sandy Kim

Kim is not the first photographer to turn the camera back on herself, and its rare to have conversations about her work without hearing references to Nan Goldin and McGinley, among others. Yet her work is more carefree and loving than Goldin and less contrived than McGinley.

Her photographs allow viewers to be voyeurs in lives they may or may not ever lead themselves. The images deflate the youthful fantasy that people never have to grow up and that summers are forever endless. Viewers watch her grow up, watch her fall in love and, by proxy, get to re-live their own versions of these moments. Her pictures of her relationship with her boyfriend, Colby, are intimate and genuine in a way few photographers accomplish, if for no other reason than they are a document of tender moments, pure and simple.

“Sex has always been present in my work,” says Kim. “Especially because I started shooting more after I fell in love. I think sex is beautiful and ugly at the same time and I try and show both sides, mostly the beautiful part.”

Kim grew up in Portland. In 2004, at age 18, she moved to northern California where she found herself exposed to a world she never knew existed.

“When I lived in Portland I lived in this little bubble and didn’t really look past it,” she says. “After moving to San Francisco I was introduced to a badass music scene where artists were so talented, inspiring and beautiful, I got excited and wanted to photograph everything around me.”

She befriended artists and musicians, and was asked to tour with local bands. That’s when she hooked up with Girls.

Though she’d been taking pictures on her own, and got her BFA in Graphic Design from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, Kim started to take photography more seriously through the external pressure of friends. Girls bassist JR encouraged her to shoot more, and photographer Bryan Derballa (who shoots for Wired), built her a blog to use as a platform and pushed her to use it.

Kim uses various point-and-shoot cameras purchased at thrift stores, from Yashica T4s to Olympus Stylus Epics to her favorite Contax T2.

“I didn’t consider myself as a serious photographer, or even photographer at all, so I couldn’t justify spending more than 10 bucks on a camera. I still prefer film over digital. It’s changed my process because when I edit digital photos it takes me a lot longer to edit and look through. With film you’re kind of stuck with the photos you get and have to make it work. Sometimes I get unexpected surprises that come out to be pleasant in the end or used to my advantage.”

While the camera in her hand has an impact on how the images ultimately look, her pictures are less about the tool and more about the events unfolding around her.

“I think my friends enjoy being photographed by me because I’m capturing a time of their youth and just like for me and everyone else 10 years from now things are going to be different but we’ll have photos to remind us of our wild youth,” she says.

Her work is a reminder that photography can be used not as a means to experience, but as a means to remember. Her photos are reactionary rather than anticipatory, composition and lighting not meticulously thought through or planned. Her exploration of themes in sexuality, tinged with love and naïveté, are painted with a brush of carelessness and mild sentimentality.

“I find that I’m constantly changing. Even by the day. I also feel that I’ve matured over the last year. I used to go out and get wasted every day so I would be taking photos of crazy situations my friends and I would get into because of us being drunk. But nowadays I find myself wanting to hang out with my boyfriend all the time so I end up photographing him. Also I’m madly in love, which helps. He’s a beautiful person inside and out. Sometimes I find myself just staring at him, watching him, learning him, the way he plays a guitar or the way he peels an orange in bed and eats it. And while I find myself in this trance I realize, why don’t I just take a photo and remember this moment forever.”

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