photography

Interview | Michael McCluskey

American photographer, Michael McCluskey, captures some of the most transcendental scenes that I’ve ever seen. They’re stunning; however, simultaneously, they make me feel sick to my stomach. They make me question a lot of things I’ve seen in my own life, reminding me of emotional and traumatic experiences. I desperately wanted to find out why McCluskey’s images made me feel this way. 

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Your work really grasps me and somehow forces me to reminisce about things I've seen in my own life, almost like I've lived in the scenes of your photos.  Do you hope your audience places themselves in the images you're capturing?

I like to create images that feel familiar, or sometimes maybe slightly nostalgic.  One way that I do this is by using subject matter that viewers can relate to.  It creates a connection between the image and the viewer by drawing a line between the subject matter and the viewer's own history. 

When I look at your photos, there's such a mesmerising, trance like quality, but they also seem to give me a sick feeling in my stomach.  Do you intend for the viewer to feel the same way when they see your work? 

I think that spaces and objects can sometimes take on the energies of the people that interact with and inhabit them.  This is a part of the reason that I like photographing old places and things. There's a lot of history there.  Both good and bad.  Conflict is at the centre of every story. 

What is the subject matter behind the majority of the photographs?  I can't help but feel that the scenes portray something dark, like a brutal event has taken place in something. 

I have an appreciation for both the light and the dark. You can't have one without the other because they exist in parallel to each other. I think that by including two strong elements that exist in opposition to each other in a single work, a sort of pleasing dissonance can occur between the the two.

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Is there a type of trauma paired with the places in the images; to yourself or another person? 

Not directly, no.  But if you mean, have I experienced trauma personally and has that affected how I approach my work and what I choose to photograph then, yes, definitely.  But I'd prefer not to go into any detail about that now. 

There are a lot of houses and cars in the pictures.  Do you have any affiliation to the locations or objects? 

I don't have any affiliation to most of the locations or objects in my images.  I spend a lot of time walking and driving around looking for things and scenes that catch my interest.  I've been busted trespassing a few times by cops, neighbours, property owners, etc.  Sometimes people get really weirded out when they see me lurking around their neighbourhood (understandably). 

Do you have any sort of relationship to the people in your photographs? 

Yes and no.  Some of the people in my photos are people that just happened to walk into frame. Which can be a very organic and magical moment to capture. For the others, they are family and friends that I make stand in for photos (haha).  Lately, mostly my roommate, Tomek. He's a good sport. 

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Why do you usually photograph at night, or when the daylight is bleak? 

When I was a kid, every night my mother would tuck me in and pray with me before bed.  When she would turn my bedroom light off I would sometimes think that I could see things moving in the shadows. It was my eyes playing tricks on me.  Sometimes I like to leave some room in my images for my audience to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations.  

Finally, is there a particular camera / film that you enjoy using? 

So far I've only owned two camera bodies. Both DSLRs.  I started with a Nikon D3300, and recently upgraded to a Nikon D750. I've only been shooting for three years.  Right now I'm saving money for a medium format camera.
 

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Alexander Leistiko | Ævi

Alexander Leistiko is a British-Danish artist and photographer, raised in England and currently based in Denmark. His self-portrait series, Ævi, is an ongoing exploration into both individual and cultural notions of the self and how these are moulded and shaped by our differing natural environments. 

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"Ævi is an ongoing self portrait series which I started in early 2015. Translated from Old Norse, Ævi means something close to “life”, “lifetime” or “biography”. Partly performative, partly meditative, the images can be described as performances for camera, wherein the ritualistic process of creating the image - finding locations, preparing and positioning myself within them - is as important as the photographic result.

The series combines photographic interests in landscapes and the body with an underlying belief that the psyche of individuals (and, indeed, of cultures) is affected by the idiosyncrasies of the natural world surrounding them. In this sense, the series can be read as a psychogeographical diary, charting places of note throughout changing landscapes, both internal and external.

They change because I move. From country to country. From country to city. From day to day or from person to person. The allure of self-portraiture has been, for me, its ability to function as a journal. The individual images are about many things; each specific to the time they were made, but with some common themes. They are taken across several years and several countries. Throughout them all, as in the majority of my work and life, is a desire to understand the impact of my cultural identities on my idea of self.”

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Interview | Louis Dazy

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As a night owl, Louis Dazy’s photographs are drenched in tenebrosity, often reflective of the raw emotion with which they are heavily laden. Often through the medium of multiple-exposure, they resonate with nostalgia, and a kind of unrequited and exposed vulnerability to the world. The contrast between the intimacy of apartment settings, and the blurry anonymity of cityscapes appears frequently, elucidating the feeling of alienation and incongruence that Louis wishes to evoke. Beholding these cinematic images, one finds oneself unexpectedly unsettled as one recognises slivers of one’s own melancholy in a windowpane, doorway, or glimmer of light. I had the opportunity to correspond with Louis to gain a better insight into his creative process, intention, and relationship to his work.

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Through the medium of double-exposed film, the people in your work often appear as silhouettes, or ghosts, either hidden or turned submissively away, but always captured intimately. To the viewer, they all feel like fragments of yourself. Do you feel that in some way, these are self-portraits?

When you look at these silhouettes, these ghosts, they’re truly just a part of what I feel like in the moment: it’s always been about me, not them. Most are close friends, lovers, family, but what I see through them is my own reflection, how they see me, what they make me feel, this is what I try to show in my photos. In some way all of my photos are self-portraits, you’re right, even still life photos.

A lot of your images are characterised by dark tones, through which there is a sense of absence or disconnectedness, or perhaps a desire for anonymity and a lonely yearning for something. Is this a reflection of your inner world? If so, do you feel that your photography provides you with a medium through which to communicate thoughts that might not otherwise be understood by society, or the people around you?

I shoot at night because it is the only time of the day that makes me feel creative, like I can actually do something and express what I feel. The dark tones, the disconnectedness, it all comes naturally so I guess it shows what my inner world looks like. Photography provides me with a medium through which I can show feelings and emotions mostly. Thoughts on the other hand are harder to express through photography for me; my mind is a giant mess to be honest, I don’t think much, I just happen to travel through life without really questioning anything. I feel, I’ve got intuition but I don’t think that much, it’s all just flowing, and I don’t have the capacity to analyse and think.

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Do you feel that film, once developed, should be edited digitally?

It is really up to the person shooting it. If you’re not satisfied with the result but can edit it then go for it. What’s important is that you’re satisfied with what you do. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as it feels right to you.

Tell me about something in your life — other than art — that influences the images you create.

My childhood has a lot to do with what I create right now, the nostalgia I feel in me, it’s what makes me feel like ‘I should shoot’, it’s an urge to create new things with old feelings. It’s a bit hard to explain but let’s put it this way: it’s like listening to a song you love for the 500th time — you’re getting bored of it, it doesn’t come out as powerfully as it used to anymore. I used to be really really afraid of the dark when I was much younger. My mom bought night lights so I could feel safe at night — the ones you can change colors on — and I used to play a lot with these, putting them at different places in the room, setting up moods and scenes with my toys. I spent lots of time doing this and I guess it helped me find my way into a specific style of lighting, like the ones you can see in my photos!

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Do you find that most of the work that you’re proud of comes spontaneously, or is it mostly planned? Are you happy with your photography?

Spontaneously. I’m not much of a planner, I carry my camera with me most of the time and if something looks good or feels right I’ll shoot it. I would say I’m happy with 20% of the photos I post. Most have a meaning to me; some don’t, but they look nice.

Some of your multiple exposures feature people with their eyes covered by words, and in some instances this may be interpreted as a political message. Do you think the importance of your photography lies more in aesthetics, or in the ability to convey a message?

The importance of photography lies in the ability to convey a message. Unfortunately, I’m not really good at conveying messages through my photos, and if I do, I don’t mean to. My [photographs] are mostly aesthetics, they’re just memories, parts of what I feel, what I see. I see them as a photo diary.

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What film do you prefer to use? Do you ever shoot digital?

My go-to film at the moment is Lomo 400, I love the tones on this one, especially for night photography. I do [shoot digital] from time to time, usually for commissioned work. I own a Fujifilm X100T.

If you were to summarise your photography, and your relationship to it, in 5 words, what would you say?

Memories, Loss, Dreams, Loneliness & Nostalgia.

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See more of Louis Dazy's work here.

Interview | Taysa Jorge

For me loneliness is not a bad thing… I’m a person that needs solitude to put my thoughts in order and to understand my feelings, in society we are surrounded by others’ thoughts, judgements, ideas… I need these places and moments to let my soul speak, to discover who I am and what I want by myself.
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The first photograph I saw of Taysa Jorge was a self-portrait taken from behind. It intrigued me. That morning I was talking to a friend of mine.

I asked him, "What do we do now?"

He said, "Let’s go outside, on the roof, to see the rainbow."

Right after that, I saw the picture. A coincidence maybe.  

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I was looking at Taysa Jorge’s work while listening to an old album by Sigur Rós: Valtari. I thought this was the perfect soundtrack for her images. The same riff. Her shots use a contemporary language, they transmute it, steeped in universal feelings that are much more deep and intense than those we are used to feeling. Her shots are an immersive experience. 

Many of your images look like quiet summer nights. In these represented nights I can feel a sought-after loneliness, which is never inflicted. A beautiful loneliness, if I may say. 

Please tell us about this ancient, gut and powerful loneliness.

Yeah, for me loneliness is not a bad thing… I’m a person that needs it to put my thoughts in order and to understand my feelings, in society we are surrounded by others' thoughts, judgements, ideas… I need these places and moments to let my soul speak, to discover who I am and what I want by myself. And there’s a quote from Séneca that I always loved, it says: “Solitude is not to be alone, but to be empty.”

The places in your pictures look like places you are comfortable, as if you are feeling at home.  The sky, the sea, the stars, the void, the infinite. “And thence we came forth to see again the stars” comes to mind, which Dante wrote in The Divine ComedyWould you be willing to tell us about these breathtaking places?

I truly believe that everything is connected, everything is the same thing… So you’re right, the sky, the sea, the nature makes me feel at home… I like to think that my soul, before its human form, before this world exists, was travelling freely the universe. Maybe if I wasn't human, my soul could be a wave in the ocean, or the wind blowing someone's hair. It can sound fanciful but that’s how I like to think.

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In your work there’s often a female solitary figure. Sometimes you are that woman, other times that woman is your alter-ego, but this makes very little difference: she could look like anyone, really. These lovely female figures are captured in a lone world-ending dance, they could be anyone, as they indeed are. Your landscapes could be everywhere. They look like universal concepts. There’s never a "Here and Now", there’s never a female figure but the Female Figure, never a place but the Place. Would you like to tell us about these themes in your work?

I’m still trying to decode what it means to me, you’re right, it could be anyone in anywhere. I think for me it represents what I was talking about before, a soul in nowhere and everywhere at the same time. The connection between everything, also my loneliness, the need to discover and get far from everything to know myself better.

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In your work the colour tones alternate from blue to magenta. In every shade. Very oneiric. Like a delightful sequence of dreamscapes. Why these colour palettes?

Blue gives me the feeling of isolation and calm at the same time… And the magentas/pinks speaks about a strong but delicate person. That's how I see myself. I’m open to investigate other tones, sooner or later. I think my photographs will keep changing always depending on the moment in my life.

How important is the digital post-production in your work? When you shoot do you already know what you will do in post-production?

Very important, sometimes post-production is the 50% for me, and many times inspiration comes in front of the computer instead of the camera… I really enjoy editing with Photoshop, I love to take pictures during the afternoon, after the sunset when it’s still light, and make it looks like nights, that way I can play with the lights and sometimes I get nice results, mostly for landscapes and in that cases I know what I’ll do in post-production when I’m shooting. Instead when I shoot portraits I have no idea what I’m gonna make in post-production, I like to shoot natural and free movements of the person and later when I see the pictures I feel inspired and I can add birds, or make a double exposure, or change the sky…

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Projects for the future?

I have many ideas, and things that I’d like to do… But nothing clear still. All I can say is I want to keep travelling, knowing and learning professionally and personally.

Please suggest a movie, a novel, a song, a photographer. Just say what comes to your mind first.

Movie: Edward Scissorhands
Novel: One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
Song: Window - HVOB
Photographer: Duane Michals

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Sum your work up in three words.

Deep, personal and mysterious.

And now the hardest question: why do you take photographs?

Because photography allows me to understand myself and the world better. I need to express something, and by creating an image I can both let go of and preserve my emotions at the same time.
 

Kyle Waszkelewicz | Now Here

It’s about the fragile moments of beauty and light that become so important to notice when the world seems bleak. Being a person can be awful sometimes and the world can suck. But even then - especially then - you can find these little glimmers if you pay attention and look out for them. They become really valuable and worth hanging on to. Kind of like when you’re in a dark room and can start to see faint hints of light after a while.
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Now Here is the touching new book from Brooklyn-based photographer, Kyle Waszkelewicz. The book features analogue photography inspired by his own personal struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, and explores the importance of noticing the small glimpses of beauty which occur every day in a world that can at times seem dark and hopeless.

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"The series is inspired by my own struggles with a personality disorder. Borderline is characterised by really strong emotional reactivity - a lot of intense feelings and reactions and basically just a high level of moodiness. You can easily get caught up in things and become overwhelmed, and pretty quickly end up in that hole where everything looks its worst. You hate yourself and everything around you and being there is a nightmare. I’ve learned that when I’m there the best thing I can do is acknowledge and accept what I’m feeling, and to try and stay present and stay aware of what I’m experiencing. In that mindset I’m not as overwhelmed, I’m just kind of there observing. And if I put in the effort to try and notice any traces of light in the world around me that can otherwise feel so dark, I’ll see some and they’ll be really helpful. But I have to keep an eye out, because though they’re beautiful and elegant they’re also easily missed. So the photos are about those fleeting moments you’ll only find if you’re looking, and the project is about that presence. I guess my goal with the series is to hopefully inspire that same kind of mindfulness in others."

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The book is available for purchase here.

Guest Post | Important Nothings

I feel that I have momentarily lost touch with beauty, but I want it in every way. I want creation, and rain, and dim lights, and poetry, and melancholy music, and wispy fabric that dances with the sun floating through it, and good films and friendship, but mostly creation and good art: real, heartfelt, breathtaking art, because it is one of the greatest things we know and beauty is the most important thing in the world.
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I am a paradox - we all are. It is merely an inexorable consequence of the absurdity that subsists between the cold indifference of the world, and our poignantly fragile, interminable yearning for a narrative, a purpose with which to saturate our days. Often, these manifest little contradictions give rise to confusion, despair, and a dizzying fear of aimlessness. Yet it is this fragility itself, a plain submission to tenderness and nostalgia, distinct from and not predicated upon any further objective or pursuit, within which the greatest potential for an animated human life inheres. There is no more lucid a submission of this kind than the creation of art.

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Through photography, I venture to appeal to the richness of the glimpses of beauty and sentiment that are available to us in the ordinary routines that we inhabit; to highlight the quiet madness, the little sorrows lingering amidst pleasures that are often ignored. They have a kind of poignant, melancholic charm. This endeavour tends to yield a qualitatively different perspective through which the world may be viewed: one of simplicity and curiosity, of empathy and delicacy. Purposelessness loses face, and life is dignified anew. For a photographer of this persuasion, art may often consist not in creation as much as in chronicling. The lens becomes a study of stories and the people that have participated in them, and there is a particular sort of regality, an intimacy with the world that burgeons through this interaction. It is remarkably unexacting — and extravagantly gratifying — to expose oneself to what is already taking place.

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It is, however, not without its afflictions. Immersed in an environment completely independent of — and frequently indifferent to — art, it can be an elusive thing, sufficiently fleeting that one forgets its memory until its whole absence is felt profoundly and harrowingly. One aspect of the atmosphere in which I study that is easy to lose oneself in is the one in which the doctrines of quantification, mathematical precision, and logical utility supersede those of sensitivity, benevolence and warmth. Of course it is unsurprising that this transition does materialise intermittently, both in the mind and really, in the general surroundings, given the nature of my academic pursuits.

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In these new surroundings, I find I am easily becoming swept away by things that I am not as energetic about as I once imagined: they are almost the right things. I have intellectual stimulation, but I feel it comes at the cost of colour and passion.

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Indeed, it is easy to tie oneself in the convoluted argument that simple curiosity is not reason enough to lavish hours in the pursuit of this art that has no material gain or foreseeable terminus. Regardless, this notion is undesirable and suspect. I still occasionally consider the possibility of ceasing with this creation for precisely this absence of purpose, but I understand that doing so would be a contradiction, and a denial of the values I cherish. Consequently, I can only hope that, in my own mind, this argument never perseveres.

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I feel that I have momentarily lost touch with beauty, but I want it in every way. I want creation, and rain, and dim lights, and poetry, and melancholy music, and wispy fabric that dances with the sun floating through it, and good films and friendship, but mostly creation and good art: real, heartfelt, breathtaking art, because it is one of the greatest things we know and beauty is the most important thing in the world.

I use my art, therefore, as a rebellion against the unfeeling, cold, hard reason that has begun to swell within me even as I seek to defy it. There is a universe of wonder and sympathy to be lived — to be recovered — from beneath the veneer of unfeeling reason and impatient ambition.

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Kevin Shaabi is a photographer, writer, and musician born in India and raised in Singapore. Currently a student of Philosophy, Politics and Economics in the UK, he strives to pursue art with the same intensity as he does his academic life.

Jalal Abuthina | Jettisoned on Atman

"In a distant star system, somewhere just beyond Orion's tail, lies a small sulphur planet with a single moon orbiting it.

To most spiritually evolved civilisations throughout the universe capable of celestial travel, this moon, known as Atman, is as revered as it is feared, and usually only ever spoken of in hushed reserve. Few know of its exact location, and even fewer the true details of its puzzling history.

Passage to this coveted and most sacred of places is reserved only through the Circle of Elders, and it is believed that entry into its gravity field can only take place post-ritual.

Visits to Atman are forbidden, even to members of the Circle. The only ones allowed to set foot on its sands are those known as the Emsheh, the unreachable. Members of the Emsheh tribe are considered throughout all worlds to be the most dangerous and corrupt of individuals. Believed to be stripped of all spirit, they pose the greatest threat to the state of cosmic peace that the Circle strives so hard to maintain.

Traditionally, on the rare occasion one is seized and in the custody of the Circle, Emsheh are taken to Atman to face their reckoning. No one can say for sure what happens on Atman when one is delivered there. But somehow, it conspires to give each visitor a unique experience, ultimately curing them of their abominations and afflictions.

As always, the Emsheh will emerge unscathed, rebirthed, and free from any memory of their time there..."

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Jettisoned on Atman is the mystical series by Dubai-based visual artist, writer and photographer, Jalal Abuthina, featuring musician, Hamdan Al Abri. Jalal's personal work varies highly in subject matter and approach, and drifts between locally focused photo documentaries, public intervention projects, and his own personal excursions into the curious and surreal.

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While location scouting around Dubai for this series, the artist came across an obscure construction site that rested on a small reclaimed island off one of the city's main beaches.

"For the past few years, the concrete pillars of the site had been covered by giant sand dunes by the developer to conceal the incomplete work, and at the end of last year, the sand was finally cleared before re-commencement of construction plans for the development. Throughout the years being buried in the sand, the combination of sea sand, salt and time had accumulated and interacted with the concrete and metal pillars in their own way - resulting in a very strange (but beautiful) aesthetic that set the site aside from any other I'd ever seen. Combined with the fact that the location was sealed off from the public and completely secluded on its own island, it looked and felt like a completely foreign place."

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Both Jalal and Abri were drawn to the genuine mystique of the spot.

"We couldn't help but start throwing ideas back and forth at each other with the underlying inspiration seeding from the actual environment itself, and wanting to do something that could visually play on the impression of that first encounter we had with it. So we did, and it ended up being a mishmash of ideas woven into a storyline that was shot over two sunrises. Last month, the pillars were demolished and construction plans for a new beachside development have already begun on the site, so we were really happy about deciding to do the shoot there and to be able to capture this fluke occurrence in time in our own way."

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Site hieroglyphics drawn by Naeemah Petersen, with clothing provided by Dubai based designer, Aliya Tair.