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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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<< Previous | Next >>148073459JL00025_Olympics_D

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Jiawei Li of Singapore competes against Hajung Seok of Korea during the women's team table tennis bronze medal match on Day 11 of the London Olympic Games at ExCeL on August 7, 2012.

Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images

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The athletics aren’t the only competition at the Olympics. In addition to drawing the world’s top athletes, the games pit some of the best sports photographers on the planet against each other for the chance to show audiences what they can do.

But while the work can be physically and mentally demanding, the fight for an iconic photo is invisible and thankless. To remedy that, we’ve compiled our personal favorites from the thousands of photos we saw during our London 2012 Olympics coverage. These are not the best, most historic moments or comprehensive highlights, they’re simply the photos that stood out to us as exceptional.

What were your favorites? Let us know in the comments.

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OIL FIELDS #27

Bakersfield, California, USA, 2004

Photo: Edward Burtynsky

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There’s no doubt that Edward Burtynsky’s photos from his Oil series are best viewed as enormous prints on a gallery wall. Known as one of the preeminent projects about the industrial age, the photos rely on scale to deliver their message about how oil has changed both the earth and human kind in profound and lasting ways.

That’s why we were skeptical when we heard he was releasing a new iPad version of the project’s book, which was originally published in 2009. How would these prints translate to a backlit viewing platform smaller than a sheet of office paper?

With app in hand, we were able to confirm the obvious — the iPad will never replace a print on the wall or a well-designed photo book. But that said, what we lost in scale and tactility was made up at least in part by the other features we’ve all come to love about the iPad.

Case-in-point are the short interviews with Burtynsky that accompany 24 of the photos. I enjoy a piece of art more when I know something about it and hearing Burtynsky explain things that you wouldn’t find in a normal caption — like why he composed certain photos in very particular ways — enriched the experience.

Other features on the app include three videos of Burtynsky speaking about his work and maps that show the location of the photos. There are also nine new images from the Gulf oil spill.

What tips the scales in favor of the app is the price. The Oil book sells for $128 on the publisher’s website. We can just imagine how much a Burtynsky print sells for. So at $9.99 there’s not much room to complain. If you enjoy Burtynsky’s work, it’s a drop in the bucket to experience a project that will only get more important as time goes on.

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<< Previous | Next >> Rouleur_10

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From the magazine's three-part, nearly 80-page story about the Tour of Rwanda.

Photo: Ben Ingham

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Rouleur is to bike magazines what National Geographic is to nature photography. Instead of glossy, well-lit portraits and fancy racing shots, its pages are filled with long, thoughtful photo spreads that drive deep narratives.

“We want to tell stories, we don’t do just want to do winners and podiums,” says Guy Andrews, the magazine’s editor and founder.

This makes the London mag an anomaly among the typical bike magazines, or most any sport magazine these days. They don’t exist to pimp the newest product or tout the coolest new protégé, but to capture all the moments that happen around the sport. Like the old photojournalism adage: The photos don’t happen at the event, they happen in the parking lot.

“We don’t have pictures of riders crossing finish lines,” he says. “We tend to concentrate on what happens to support that.”

One example of the magazine’s storytelling is the enormous and beautiful three-part, nearly 80-page story the magazine ran about the Tour of Rwanda. The piece, loosely based around the race, also delved into the history and politics of this once-war-torn country, providing a dynamic and in-depth look at a place that many Western readers know nothing about.

The production quality is another aspect that sets Rouleur apart. Printed on thick, rich paper, it feels more like a book than a magazine. It only comes out eight times a year and each of the recent issues has been 162 pages and cost $20.

“Some magazines will give three pages to a story and we’ll give 20,” Andrews says.

The secret to keeping the quality up, says Andrews, has been building a healthy pool of freelancers who are constantly pitching ideas. Andrews say he would much rather send photographers to produce work they came up with and care about than make assignments.

Rouleur‘s success has also about giving the photographers as much time as they need to tell the story right.

“There has been a death in [the U.K.] of good photojournalism, but not just photojournalism, there’s been a death of any kind of story that takes more than five minutes,” he says. “To get quality you need to give photographers time to explore their craft.”

The magazine’s audience has responded in kind by growing every year. A majority of its 10,000 readers are located in the U.K., but Rouleur also has a healthy audience in the rest of Europe and the United States. It’s a modest readership for a cycling magazine, but it has become a must-read for both fans of the sport and fans of photography.

The magazine has benefited lately from an upswing in the popularity of road bikes among the kind of middle-class professionals who might otherwise play golf. In addition to the racing aficionados, it’s the dentists, lawyers and doctors who are now subscribing, says Andrews.

For Rouleur, there’s no race to push for online content until things settle down in the digital world. The plan for now is to keep producing quality magazines that tell interesting stories and highlight good photography.

“It’s like the wild wild West out there,” says Andrews. “I think we just need to stay creative.”

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<< Previous | Next >>HERALD

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Jessie Hoagland, 14, of Duff, Indiana, practices goat tying. The photo is from a story about Hoagland as the reigning Indiana Junior Rodeo Association Cowgirl of the Year.

Photo: Krista Hall

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“Where the hell is Dubois County and what the hell is The Herald?” you might ask, flipping through the 2012 newspaper picture editing winners from the prestigious Picture of the Year International awards.

Located in the town of Jasper in rural southern Indiana, among rolling hills and Amish communities, The Herald pops out in a list of papers you might actually expect to see — The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, etc. Shirking expectations of both its size and location, the paper has produced some of the country’s best documentary photography and most thoughtful presentations since the late ’70s.

“We’ve farmed dozens and dozens of great stories out of the community,” says Justin Rumbach, the current managing editor and the fourth generation of Rumbachs to run and own the paper. “And it proves that if a photographer can do it in Dubois county, you can do it anywhere.”

The paper, a tabloid instead of a broadsheet, has created a following mostly because of its now-famous Saturday photo stories, which combine thoughtful reporting and powerful photography. They’re run ad-free and take up the entire front page plus five additional pages inside, sometimes more.

“It all started in 1978 when my dad John went to a Flying Short [photography] Course in Bloomington,” says Rumbach.

Since 1946, The Herald has been a six-day-a-week afternoon paper — there is no Sunday edition. While the afternoon schedule facilitated a unique style of news gathering, it also meant that because of weekend schedules readers oftentimes weren’t getting to the Saturday paper until Sunday morning. By then, the front page was old news. The Saturday features came about, Rumbach says, because his dad John, the paper’s editor at the time, was looking for a solution to that problem.

“They wanted something with a longer shelf-life,” Rumbach says.

At the Flying Short Course, John came across a twice-weekly paper in California that kept its front page fresh by using a more magazine-like cover story that relied heavily on photos.

A writer by trade who also shot photos, John immediately liked the idea and brought it back to The Herald. In the process, he ended up creating not only a new way of laying out the Saturday paper but also a new way of thinking about photography.

“At many other newspapers the photography department is treated like a service department. The word side comes up with an idea and then it gets handed to the photo department,” Rumbach says.

But not at The Herald.

Because the new Saturday cover features were driven by photography, it was often the photographers who were out finding the stories instead of the other way around. This earned them a newfound respect that has since trickled down.

Today, photographers not only have a real voice in the Saturday features but also in the entire news cycle, bucking a trend of second-class citizenship that still plagues other photojournalists across the country.

“We now expect our reporters, when they are coming up with their ideas, to pitch them to a photo editor,” Rumbach says. “We are not going to put a photographer on an assignment that won’t produce a good picture.”

A tradition of smart, efficient, and thoughtful photo editing has also taken hold.

“We spend a lot of time editing the picture and picking pictures that make a point,” says Rumbach. “Every picture we run we want to run it with a purpose. Just because we have a lot of space doesn’t mean we run a ton of photos.”

The rise of photography and the Saturday features have also had an effect on the rest of The Herald. Unlike other small papers that only have time to react to that day’s news, The Herald has implemented a much more structured planning system.

Rumbach says they ideally try to work about four months out on the Saturday features. Sometimes it takes even longer than that.

“We don’t want to put a deadline on [the features],” Justin says. “We let [the photographers and reporters] tell the story until it’s done.”

Over the course of 30-plus years, the photographers who’ve passed through The Herald have taken all this freedom and responsibility seriously, telling stories about love, tragedy, family and everything in between with an intimacy that’s unheard of at papers with an 11,300 circulation.

“Our readers have a history with us and there is that built-in trust, we don’t have to sell people on letting us photograph them,” Rumbach says. “They know what we want to do and they are open to it.”

It’s not all rosy. The paper has felt the financial crunch effecting the rest of the journalism industry and revenues are down. But a strong local readership and the family structure of the paper have prevented a precipitous decline. Rumbach says the paper has had no layoffs and has given the staff a raise each year.

Like the rest of the media world, the paper is still trying to figure out how to fully harness the power of the internet. With an emphasis of visuals, The Herald is perfectly positioned to join the world of multimedia, but Rumbach says they’ve intentionally stayed away.

“I’m a fan of multimedia and if they gave me a full-time position to just work on just that it would be great,” he says. “But I don’t want to saddle our photographers with multimedia because making pictures and doing it correctly is hard enough.”

Ultimately, Rumbach says the paper’s plan for the future is still pretty simple.

“We want to continue our history of storytelling and continue to print it on newspaper for as long as possible,” he says.

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You can’t help but root for Arthur Hitchcock in the new short documentary Hitchcock Walks. The film follows the then-19-year-old’s trek by foot across the United States and takes you into the heart and mind of a young man reeling from the death of his mom.

“The minute that she passed something in my brain told me that this would be a way to honor the memory of both my parents,” says Hitchcock, who lost his dad when he was two. “And I felt like it would be a good escape. I felt like running away.”

Hitchcock originally had the idea to walk across the country as a way to build his budding photography portfolio. But after he lost his mom to breast cancer on Oct. 6, 2010, he suddenly had a new reason to set out.

Shot principally by Hitchcock (with the help of a tripod) as he walked, the film was edited by Adam Sjöberg and was just released a little more than a week ago. Since being posted on the Vimeo Staff Pick website, it’s been viewed by more than 44,000 people.

For 16 closely edited minutes, viewers get a glimpse of someone who has reason to check out from the world but instead takes it head on, walking his sadness and frustration away through the mountains of California, the deserts of Utah and the chilled nights of the Northeast.

What could have been a syrupy flop turns into an earnest exploration of Hitchcock’s life and insight into how people deal with loss. This is partly due to Sjöberg’s skills as an editor, partly due to Hitchcock and his story.

“I don’t think [the viewers] are connecting with anything I’ve done,” Sjöberg says. “I really think it’s Arthur, who he is as a person.”

In a matter of weeks after his mom passed, Hitchcock had sold most of his possession from his home in Long Beach, California, bought a Ford pickup, and convinced his best friend Anthony Felix to follow him in the truck as support.

“I was just sitting with Anthony one day and I was like, ‘You know what, how would you feel about coming with me?’” Hitchcock says. “We have been best friends since elementary school and like I expected, Anthony was completely supportive.”

Hitchcock, who ran cross-country in high school, started training by leaving his car at home and doing all his errands on foot while carrying a heavy pack. Before he left he was regularly walking 15 to 20 miles a day.

To finance the trip he wrote letters and e-mails asking for sponsorships. He wanted to raise awareness of breast cancer so he contacted The Breast Cancer Society, which agreed to give him information packets to pass out and $100 each week for food and supplies. America’s Tire Company gave him a new set of tires. Brooks gave him $700 worth of running gear and Osprey gave him two backpacks.

On May 11, 2011 he and Felix started their trip.

Hitchcock had spent weeks researching and mapping a route, but his plan went out the window as soon as he figured out how difficult it was to try and follow a complicated set of directions on America’s back roads.

“I just started thinking in highways and freeways,” he says.

Meanwhile, Felix either waited for Hitchcock at their starting point or ending point each day, carrying supplies in the truck. At night they would set up camp in a tent, sleep in the truck or crash with people they found on couchsurfing.org.

Initially, Hitchcock followed Highway 1 to San Francisco and then turned east on I-80. The highway patrol was not too happy with his decision to walk along the freeway. One day the police stopped him four times. Twice it was the same cop.

“He was livid,” Hitchcock says.

In addition to police threats, other perils of highway travel included a number of sexual propositions from truckers, violent thunderstorms and scorching heat. In Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, Hitchcock ran out of water and was stranded in 100-degree weather, unable to reach Felix via cell. Felix would often misplace his phone in the camper shell or forget to charge it.

“It happened so many times and I was like, really?!” Hitchcock says, laughing. “Go A Team.” Luckily on this occasion, a driver stopped to give Arthur a five-gallon jug of water, which got him through.

“That was just one of many good stories that helped me restore my faith in humanity,” he says. “I couldn’t have done this trip without the kindness of strangers.”

The contents of Hitchcock's backpack.

Normally, Hitchcock walked about 25 to 40 miles a day. He challenged himself to add a little more distance over time and one day ended up covering 62 miles along I-80 in Wyoming. To do it he had to get up at 3:30 a.m. and walk for more than 21 hours.

“I wanted to walk until I couldn’t walk anymore,” Hitchcock says. “I wanted to find my limit, and I found it.”

During the 14 hours or so that Hitchcock spent walking each day (he did take days off), he said that he meditated on his own life and tried to overcome the anger and sadness he had when he set out.

“It’s hard to articulate the perspective it gave me, but it completely changed my life,” he says. “I do a better job of putting myself in other people’s shoes, I’m more compassionate, I’m a better listener…. There is no way that I was not transformed.”

Hitchcock originally started filming the trip with a Canon 5D Mark II. He had no idea how he was going to put the footage together but wanted to have it nonetheless.

He met Sjöberg during a stop in New York. Sjöberg, who was a friend of a friend, wanted to edit the footage into a documentary and film Hitchcock when he arrived at his final stop in Augusta, Maine.

“I connected with the story immediately when I met him,” Sjöberg says. “There was a lot of stuff that gave him a reason to feel alone and angry or that some injustice had been done to him, but he still has a grace and a love for people.”

With Sjöberg in tow, Hitchcock’s final day came on Nov. 2, 2011 — 175 days, nearly six months, after Hitchcock and Felix left Long Beach.

Partly out of excitement and partly because he miscalculated the number of miles he had to go that day, Hitchcock ended up running 32 miles to his final landing spot at the Maine State House.

“First off, I was dead tired and I was so happy that I got to stop running,” Hitchcock says about the journey’s final moments. “There was a huge sense of accomplishment and my parents were the first people I thought of.”

After celebrating, it took only five days for Hitchcock and Felix to drive back to California.

Today Hitchcock is living in Oregon with his fiancée, who he proposed to almost immediately after getting back from his trip — an idea he came up with during the journey. They plan on getting married in July.

He’s trying to build his photography business and purposefully enjoying the more mundane life of staying at home.

“It’s been a nice change of pace,” he says.

Photos and video courtesy of Arthur Hitchcock and Adam Sjöberg.

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