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MH is a blog and archive featuring artists who are interested in the ways in which humans interact with and experience animals and nature.

Samantha Friend, "Looking"

Samantha Friend

As soon as I saw this work, Swatches, by Samantha Friend on Feature Shoot last fall, I was captivated. Photographing predominantly in New York City zoos, Friend creates abstracted vignettes of animal habitats; “whispers of an environment” that together illustrate a mysterious space different from zoos as they are generally thought of. I find it important that Friend’s pictures were made during the “off-season,” when business is slow and zoo life in the visitor’s eyes is stagnant. In the quiet moments photographed, it is clear that although zoo visitors’ interest dwindles during the fall and winter, things at the zoo essentially remain the same. This aspect of the work speaks to the fact that there are seasons to the industry of animal viewing just as to the weather; life for the animals rarely changes, while the humans coming to see them take the colder months off and return to be entertained in the spring.

Visit artist's site: samanthafriend.com

Found via: Feature Shoot

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Paul Sisson, "Bucking Bronco, Raton, NM"

Paul Sisson

I was really happy to see Paul Sisson with some prints of his work at last month’s SPE conference portfolio walkthrough. Paul and I went to UCD together, but I didn’t get to know him very well while I was there. Since I graduated, I’ve heard about what he’s been up to here and there, for example, numerous exhibitions of his work Not So Far From Here. The project explores “the Western American landscape and the wonders and curiosities that lay beyond the focused eyes of this twenty-first century society.” The ongoing endeavor is currently about a hundred images strong and includes pictures made in a dozen or so “mountain west” states. Having grown up in Colorado and having been driving from eastern Kansas to Denver-area every few months the past three years, it’s fun to pick out the scenes I know, and at times poignantly nostalgic.

The photographs in the series highlight the way nature and wide open land are seen in the glorious west, as well as call attention to the curious and mysterious meaning of the West’s past. There are some pretty bizarre sights to be found in the middle of nowhere, and Paul has a good collection going. I also love his project, Not So Far From God, a parallel offshoot of Not So Far From Here that focuses on the peculiarities and fervor of religion in America. Because that Kansas to Colorado drive I mentioned… I can absolutely see how this series branched off from the original aim.

Visit artist's site: paulsissonphoto.com

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Life Framer "Animal Kingdom" Winners

Life Framer Photography Competition: “Animal Kingdom”

The Life Framer photography competition has been on my radar for some time, but its March theme, “Animal Kingdom,” judged by Robin Schwartz, really caught my attention. The competition is broken down into twelve themes, one per month, each judged by a different internationally acclaimed photographer or curator. Judges provide critique of their favorite images, giving artists valuable feedback from a top professional. At the heart of the award are curated exhibitions; the 24 winning and runner-up photographs and a hand-picked selection of honorary mentions are displayed at galleries in Paris, London, and Los Angeles. From Life Framer’s website: “In less than two years Life Framer has become a world-renowned platform for discovering and exhibiting contemporary photography from talented emerging photographers across the world. It is an independent photography competition of artistic integrity that promotes and champions creative culture on and offline.”

Life Framer’s site also features a Collection section, a curated space for which all competition entrants are considered regardless of whether or not they are shortlisted, as if there isn’t enough great photography to see on the themes’ pages of winners. I appreciate the sleek design and layout of the site, as well as the ease and simplicity of the submission process. This month’s theme, “An Instant,” is judged by Matt Eich. Submit now through the end of the month, and keep an eye out for the competition’s next five themes on Life Framer’s website or social media.

When exhibitions and competitions have an animal theme, I’m always excited, both to submit and to see a collection of photography about a subject I love. An image of mine was shortlisted alongside those of some great image-makers, and I’m looking to looking at more work by the winning artists.

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Marc Newton, "The Extended Frontier"

Marc Newton

Early on during the portfolio walkthrough at the National SPE Conference last month, I stopped at Marc Newton’s table and spent quite a while looking. Beautiful prints from his two projects, particularly The Extended Frontier, landscapes from the perspective of highways in America, held my attention. The series’ message that we have created boundaries and barriers that keep us from experiencing natural spaces is simple, yet the images felt more complex. Paired with my 900-mile road trip to the conference in New Orleans, the images had me thinking about the diversity of nature in the US and how inaccessible it can feel.

From the artist’s statement: This series of photographs is a product of my collective portrayal of culture and landscape. Taken from the perspective of highways all over the United States, the images represent glimpses of otherness; otherwise a fleeting moment during travel, however framed and composed as I imagined the landscape while I drive past.

“The Extended Frontier” examines the perspective one has from the road: the perceptions about a space that can originate from simply passing through, as well as its expectations based on a previous understanding of the space. The barriers that traverse the landscape become a cultural apparatus which stand between us and the understanding of our environment.

Visit artist's site: marcnewtonphotography.com

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Adam Birkan, "Zoo"

Adam Birkan

I can never get enough of photography at the zoo. There’s something endlessly fascinating about the culture of visiting captive animals, the strange environments created for the creatures kept in captivity, the visuals displayed that caricature the animals you’re there to see. It’s always especially interesting to see images of zoos in a foreign country. Birkan, currently based in Bangkok, Thailand, is a self-proclaimed curious soul who, in his other great projects, explores and documents unusual scenes in Southeast Asia.

Visit artist's site: abphoto.samexhibit.com

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Kate MccGuire, "Covert"

Kate MccGwire

I am in awe of Kate MccGwire’s unique, otherworldly sculptures. Using layers of bird feathers, the artist creates organic forms sometimes suggestive of human anatomy or strange hybrid creatures. The pieces undulate and writhe under glass domes or sweep and spill into rooms, their surfaces a painstakingly precise pattern of feathers. A network of racing pigeon enthusiasts, game bird hunters, and farmers protecting their crops provide the artist with the feathers required for her work. Crows, magpies, and pigeons, common birds and those thought of as pests, are elevated by MccGwire’s work, their feathers appearing almost unrecognizably regal.

MccGwire began her feather sculptures at the time of the bird flu epidemic. “I became interested in the dichotomy between the perfection of these feathers and their potential for disease,” she said in an interview with Don’t Panic. In her work, MccGwire explores many dualities: beauty/disgust, malice/tranquility, familiar/unknown. She states, “I am interested in how we are drawn to things but repelled by them at the same time – the familiar, when seen out of place, that defies reason and therefore alarms us.”

Visit artist's site: katemccgwire.com

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Pàtric Marín, "Desperta't, Glòria"

Pàtric Marín

Pàtric Marín’s composite photographs depict exotic animals in dingy urban environments. The images suggest a future of “habitat fragmentation” and a world in which wildlife habitats have been transformed in order to make such places more comfortable and livable for humans. The pieces are more than pictures of escaped zoo animals loose in a city, and although each image can stand alone, a mysterious, dark narrative links the photographs in the series together. Marín states that his work is an attempt to incite in viewers “the empathy that seems lost as some step of the evolution of our species.”

Like the work of Mikel Uribetxeberria, Marín’s images are not only strange but unsettling. There is a voyeuristic component to the series; it’s as if the animals are being recorded by surveillance cameras, or they are trying to be hidden in a public place.

Visit artist's site: patricmarin.com

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Cameron Bloom, "Penguin the Magpie"

Cameron Bloom

The Instagram account @penguinthemagpie by Sydney-based photographer Cameron Bloom chronicles the adventures of a bird rescued as a baby by Bloom’s son and raised by the family. Penguin the magpie is free to fly and sleeps outside, but often sneaks back into the Blooms’ home through an open door or window. The pictures of Penguin are artful and charming, stunning and detailed portraits of the bird or heartwarming snapshots of her relationship with her humans. Smart and playful, she is a member of the family and a best friend to Bloom’s children. Penguin’s a gorgeous bird, with long legs and a giant beak. What an incredible subject to have flying around your home, or watching TV, or getting into bed with you all day.

Visit artist's site: bloomphotography.com

Found via: iGNANT

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Louis De Belle, "Failed Dioramas"

Louis De Belle

Louis De Belle’s series Failed Dioramas depicts not quite the inside of a cabinet of curiosities, but the vast amount of its items not yet neatly arranged and presented for public viewing. Like Klaus Pichler’s work, De Belle’s pictures show the behind-the-scenes of a natural history collection—taxidermy in work areas, under sheets, mixed up in the shuffle. De Belle says, “These rarities—as astonishing as the ones in the display—were lying all around, accidentally combined with ordinary objects. It looked like an unprepared exhibition, yet a visually eloquent one. And as such, it deserved to be revealed.”

From the artist’s statement: “Failed Dioramas” is a photographic series which explores the idle interiors of a private space, where animal rarities and other atypical treasures have been stacked over time. It narrates and exposes an unusual atmosphere, which arises out of odd set-ups and bizzarre clusters of (apparently) misplaced collectors’ items.

Through May 2, Failed Dioramas is on view at the Tieranatomisches Theater of Humboldt Universität in Berlin, a former veterinary anatomy theater now used as an exhibition laboratory.

Visit artist's site: louisdebelle.com

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Jakob Rosenzweig & Jacqueline Bishop, "Oil and Water" from "Unfathomable City"

SPE National Conference, New Orleans

I went about this year’s National SPE Conference a little differently. My companion at every conference in years past wasn’t able to fit it into his schedule this year, and since my husband and I have been talking about taking a road trip to the South for years, he decided to come along and we made a short vacation of it.

I’ve realized there’s a balance in attending conferences like SPE; it’s incredibly demanding to try to go to a talk every time slot, as well as take advantage of every opportunity the conference offers. So I saw more of the city and consequently missed more of the conference events this time, and I managed my guilt about this well, I think :) As always, here are my notes.

 

The first conference event I attended was the Thursday evening guest speaker, non-fiction writer Rebecca Solnit (her books include maps made by artists and cartographers; one by Jakob Rosenzweig and Jacqueline Bishop is this post’s featured image). It was a great kickoff to a heavy but engaging conference, the theme being “Atmospheres: Climate, Equity, and Community in Photography.”

 

Friday, I didn’t make it over to the conference until the afternoon, for Julieanne Kost’s Lightroom demo. After that, I went to Lara Shipley and Antone Dolezal’s talk about their project, Devil’s Promenade. In the evening, I caught the Honored Educator Ceremony for the fabulous Mary Virginia Swanson, then settled in for guest speaker Chris Jordan’s amazing presentation, “Atmospheres of the Mind/Heart: Facing the Realities of Our Times.” I was thrilled when Jordan mentioned that he decided that morning to scrap his prepared talk and spend the evening just talking about Midway, a favorite project of mine.

Late into the evening, I walked around the awesome Curator Portfolio Walkthrough (seriously, this one was the best I’d ever been to!) and got to see so much great photography. I’m bummed I somehow didn’t take any pictures, but I snagged a couple from Jaime.

 

First thing Saturday, I went to a talk I loved, a panel discussion on “Finding the Right Graduate Program.” If you’re thinking about MFA programs, I’ll gladly share with you my notes from this talk. Maybe it’s that I’ve been out of undergrad a while, but I really appreciated these tips that felt like, “hey, take it from some folks who know—these are the important questions you need to be asking and getting answered in order to make this huge decision.” Then there was Julieanne Kost’s Photoshop CC talk, which was definitely the incitement I needed to upgrade from  CS5, which I’ve been using since I graduated from college D: And if you haven’t seen Julieanne Kost speak, why not?! She is so funny! I was initially bummed Peter Krogh wasn’t at this conference, but now I think both Adobe presenters are wonderful.

I finally got to see one of my favorite former instructors, Nate Larson, and his collaborator, Marni Shindelman, speak about their work during their talk, “Tributes to the Data Stream.” It was fantastic! Last was Hank Willis Thomas’ “I Am. Amen.” I saw Thomas speak once when I was a student at MICA, but seeing this talk in post-Katrina New Orleans and in light of the police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice… it was a compelling presentation to see. I ended the conference Saturday night with the Combined Caucus Exhibition opening reception at the New Orleans Photo Alliance and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. I have a couple pieces in the show, which is up at both locations through April 5 before traveling to the University of Central Florida Art Gallery for an exhibition May 13-28.

 

A few things stood out to me this conference. This year there was a conference app, Guidebook, which I found super helpful. I generally try to avoid using my phone too much at SPE conferences, but this is an alternative to tons of booklets and paper, and it had everything I needed, like maps, bios, and the ability to make my own schedule. Probably the coolest thing was the addition of (surprise!) performances by the Big Nine Social Aid and Pleasure Club and the Mardi Gras Indians: Guardians of the Flame at the end of the big talks. I really can’t get over it. What a great way to keep the energy going, include the local culture, and add to the experience of New Orleans.

There were a lot less people I knew/recognized this time! I wonder why, because I don’t feel like the conference attendance overall was low. I’m not sure if I can commit to it yet, but I don’t know how next year’s conference in Las Vegas can top this one. Awesome job, SPE!

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