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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.

Petros Koublis, "Intuera: Patiently some whispering hurried wave"

Petros Koublis

Petros Koublis recently introduced me to his series Vedema, and I thought the images were stunning. The project was commissioned by Vedema, a prestigious resort hotel on the Greek island of Santorini. Photographs from Koublis’ series decorate the rooms and exclusive suites of the resort and can today be seen around the hotel’s elegant spaces. Upon looking further into Koublis’ portfolio, I discovered more projects made of breathtaking images, each one depicting a magnificent aspect of the natural world and possessing a painterly, otherworldly quality. Of his work, Koublis says, “Nature has been the most powerful source of inspiration for me. Maybe even more than that. This is where we find our identity and somehow, as we realize ourselves as part of Her, this is where we are losing our identity as well.” I see this sentiment reflected in his many beautiful photographs.

I found the images in and statement for the series In Landscapes particularly notable. From the artist’s statement: The images of this project were made around the outskirts of Athens, less than 30 miles away from the heart of the capital. It is the area that surrounds the depressed city and all the millions of its citizens’ individual stories. Outside the invisible borders of the extended metropolitan area, in the land that lies past the edge of the city, time seems to move parallel but in a different density. There is an inevitable contrast between the two states, a parable manifested by the discreet mystery that trees seem to hide among their branches and seas among their waves. This is an alternate state in parallel time, where silence seems to carry inside it a waiting, patiently whispering a long forgotten language. I worked on a series of images that were aiming to express this undefined, mystical presence that wanders around these areas, a lost connection between us and a beauty that regardless of its obvious magnificence it always remains far, strange and unfamiliar, hidden behind an unreasonable mystery. For it’s not only nature, eventually it is beauty itself that has lost its intimate character, overtaken by the values of an artificial illusion that’s reflected through our collapsing cities.

Visit artist's site: petroskoublis.com

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Kimberly Witham, "On Ripeness and Rot"

Kimberly Witham

I feel like I see exciting new work from Kimberly Witham every new months. I first posted her series Transcendence in 2011, followed by Domestic Arrangements in 2013. Since then, Witham has completed not only wunderkammer, which was in progress at the time of my last post, but also On Ripeness and Rot, a body of gorgeous, dark images inspired by Dutch still life painting. As well as prolific, Witham is experimental, using rich black, elaborate patterns, and stark white as backgrounds in her various projects, and transitioning from featuring bright pastel colors in her last two series to the subdued and earthy tones of her most recent one. Consistently, Witham is concerned with animal death, in a way “resurrecting” roadkill in her pictures. In her images, Witham practices an obvious control, respect, and knowledge of her materials, including the animal bodies she has collected. Their placement is at times peaceful and at others challenging, reflecting this complex quality of death itself.

From the artist’s statement: These photographs are a very personal meditation on beauty, fecundity, fragility and the inevitable march of time.  The visual language of these images is borrowed from classical Dutch still life painting.  In these paintings flowers, fruit and flesh are represented in varying states of ripeness and decay.  These paintings serve as both a celebration of beauty and a reminder of the inevitability of death.  They are simultaneously seductive and grotesque.  The materials used in my images are all culled from my surroundings.  The flowers and vegetables are from my garden.  The animals and birds are all road kill found close to my New Jersey home.  The ephemeral nature of my subject matter requires me to work only with what is available on any given day.

Visit artist's site: kimberlywitham.com

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Marc Dantan, "Immortals"

Marc Dantan

Marc Dantan’s series, Immortals, depicts the charred mounts at Deyrolle Taxidermy in Paris after a devastating fire in 2008. Haunting and sorrowful, the images document the damaged taxidermy in its home, the beautiful 18th-century building, as well as another kind of death for the animals preserved.

The fire consumed 90% of the shop’s stock, including most of the animals and dark-wood cabinets with specimens inside. The business’s owner vowed to rebuild and pleaded for funds and object donations from museums and private collectors. Classic wooden display cases, 50 boxes of butterflies, and the head of a bull originally bought from Deyrolle were among the items donated. Artists and photographers donated their works, which were made available for auction by Christie’s Europe, with commission waived (source). The result of the sales has gone toward reconstructing cabinets, furniture, and collections, restoring the much-loved Deyrolle to its former glory.

Visit artist's site: marcdantan.com

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Tristan Hutchinson, "Bird Market"

Tristan Hutchinson

Tristan Hutchinson’s editorial series, Bird Market, follows one of Dublin’s oldest markets, the Dublin Bird Market. Dating back hundreds of years, generations still come to trade at this illegal market. Hutchinson joined aviculturists of the market for one year, documenting their meetings every Sunday on a street behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Participants hang cages from the walls, swap conversations, and sell birds to passing customers.

I always enjoy photo series about groups of men for whom birds are a hobby, like Chris Arnade‘s and Robert Ormerod‘s projects about pigeon keepers. I love the different view of masculinity expressed in these kinds of pictures.

Visit artist's site: tristanhutchinson.com

Found via: Oranberg Press

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Rafael Milani, "Contos Amazônicos"

Rafael Milani

In his series Contos Amazônicos (Amazon Tales), Rafael Milani photographs the mysterious natural world of his home country of Brazil. The project, which was inspired by a 19th century book of fantastic tales, is Milani’s attempt to capture the feeling of the unbearable mystery and greatness of nature. Milani aims to combine the supernatural element of the old stories with the hardships of real life in the Amazon region, where man, plants, and animals are caught in an endless cycle of suffering and destruction within a hostile,  grandiose landscape. The murky tone, desaturation, darkness, and obscurity of the images express Milani’s idea that “nature is and will aways be, ultimately, something unfathomable and alien to mankind.”

Visit artist's site: cargocollective.com/rafaelmilani

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"Amelia & The Animals" cover image, "Lorenzo" (2011)

Robin Schwartz’s “Amelia & The Animals”

I was so happy to receive my copy of Robin Schwartz’s new book, Amelia & The Animals, in the mail earlier this week. The moment I first saw Robin’s work, I was completely enamored. She has remained one of my absolute favorite photography artists ever since. Robin began making the Amelia and animals photographs over a decade ago. I have been drawn to the series again and again over the past few years, never ceasing to draw inspiration from the beautiful, moving images of Amelia interacting with various kinds of exotic (or simply exotic-looking) animals.

Robin’s pictures illustrate so many pertinent themes, from the connection between humans and animals to the innocence and curiosity of children to the feminine presence in the natural world. Something about the photographs that always catches my attention is Amelia’s calm expression and gentle demeanor. Even as a small child (the earliest photos in the book picture Amelia at age 3), it is apparent that Amelia understood the reverence in her experiences with animals, often collaborating and now working on the photographs as a partner with her mother. She is never seen provoking the animals or even screaming in delight as other children might, but instead appears as a tiny woman connecting with the creatures’ souls in a saintlike way. Zimmerli Art Museum curator Donna Gustafson writes in the book’s essay, “these photographs whisper of lost intimacies and half-remembered myths.” Perhaps it’s the “palpable sense of loss” that Gustafson mentions, loss of a relationship between humans and animals, that I pick up on in Amelia’s graceful composure. As she ages throughout the book, Amelia becomes a wise, elegant shepherd of animals. I find myself forgetting the girl in the pictures is a high schooler.

It’s interesting to me now to look back on the images I selected for a post about Robin in 2010. I’ve looked at a lot of photography that explores, documents, analyzes, or criticizes the way humans today experience animals and nature, and although my tastes and opinions have evolved, Robin’s work continues to fascinate me. I relate so closely to not only the young girl Amelia featured in the photographs, but also the adult woman participant, Robin, to whom investing in the lives of individual animals and their caretakers and creating meaningful experiences and artwork with her daughter is so important, she has made it a deep part of her life. Below are a few images from the book, as well as some pictures I made of my copy. Amelia & The Animals is available from Aperture. View the Kickstarter campaign that helped make the book possible here.

Visit artist's site: robinschwartz.net

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M. Alexis Pike, "A Teton—St. Anthony Idaho"

M. Alexis Pike

Another artist whose worked I learned about from Blue Sky Books is M. Alexis Pike. Her series, Claimed: Landscape, documents scenes of nature that have been painted onto buildings, houses, and vehicles in Idaho, where she grew up. Pike’s images explore the balance of the spectacular and the mundane, highlighting the way idyllic nature literally overlaps conventional structures in the American West. The depictions of majestic wilderness on the exterior walls of bars, cafes, convenience stores, apartment buildings, and garages are often chipped and faded, representing the nostalgia for “a Western landscape that was part of the grand package of the Western American dream” (source).

From the artist’s statement: As a sixth generation Idahoan, the landscape of the West influences my work, it’s part of my personal and cultural history, it is the geography of my genes. I grew up in two very distinct areas of Idaho: the scenic area of Stanley Basin—which sits at the base of the Sawtooth Mountain Range—and the town of Idaho Falls—a community that revolves around agriculture, religion and nuclear power. Living in these two regions gave me the perspective to appreciate the delicate balance of the scenic and the mundane and recognize how they overlap one another. I am exploring in this work the way communities and individuals stake claims on the picturesque landscape and place it within the conventional structures of the community. By making a photograph of these claimed territories, I am staking my own claim to my heritage, the landscape.  The manner in which we depict this scenery has become the identity and perception of the American West, symbolized by wilderness, mountain peaks, crystal clear rivers, and big game animals.  This is the mythology of the West.

Visit artist's site: alexispike.com

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"You pressed a finger to his head by want writing a neck in the hands of people"

Kuraya Takashi

Kuraya Takashi’s Pets is a series of images of “missing pet” posters in Tokyo. The photographs depict the aged and distressed quality of the postings, the paper often water damaged, torn, and taped, and the image of the missing pet pixelated or otherwise distorted as a result of the elements. This worn quality itself is a sad reminder to those viewing the posters, either passing by on the streets of Tokyo or as a part of this series, of the pain felt over the loss of a beloved pet.

Using Google Translate, text from the posters is translated to English, then translated again back to Japanese. These now strange, garbled sentences are used as captions for the pictures. The act of photographing a photograph and running words written by caring pet-owners through multiple translations creates an off-putting effect. My reaction to the images is initially sadness and sympathy, then discomfort once I read the nonsensical text. It feels like I have intruded on something I thought I knew but cannot understand.

Visit artist's site: kurayatakashi.com

Found via: Feature Shoot

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Dillon Marsh, "Invasive Species"

Dillon Marsh

Last year, I posted Dillon Marsh’s pictures cataloging telephone poles that have been taken over and transformed by massive birds’ nests in the Kalahari Desert. Similar in style is another of Marsh’s projects, Invasive Species. In this series, Marsh photographs some of the cell phone towers disguised as trees that exist in Cape Town, South Africa. Bizarre and humorous to see in person, the ridiculous fake trees are even more laughable in a whole collection. They are isolated and centered in square compositions, drawing even more attention to the fact that they obviously don’t fit in in the natural landscape.

From the artist’s statement: In 1996 a palm tree appeared almost overnight in a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. This was supposedly one of the world’s first ever disguised cell phone tower. Since then these trees have spread across the city, the country and the rest of the world. “Invasive Species” explores the relationship between the environment and the disguised towers of Cape Town and its surrounds.

Visit artist's site: dillonmarsh.com

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Allen Maertz, "Chimpanzee"

Allen Maertz

I discovered the work of Allen Maertz when perusing some of the monographic books recently published by Blue Sky Gallery, the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts. In Encyclopedia, Maertz focuses on the “political and cultural influences that construct modern perceptions of knowledge and experience.” The series, made up of nearly 150 images, is like a catalog of the various places people can visit to learn about science, history, art, and world cultures. The low-contrast/low-saturation quality of the pictures is reminiscent of the encyclopedia books that children of previous generations will remember frequenting at the library, now likely being replaced by digital and internet-based programs. Maertz also includes in the series several time-lapse videos that show wide views of museum spaces and tourist attractions in nature.

This fall, Blue Sky simultaneously published 36 books by 36 photographers that the gallery has exhibited over the last four decades. Available only online as print-on-demand publications, each monograph features a previously unpublished series of photographs seen on Blue Sky’s walls and is notably affordable, about one quarter the price of most photo books today. Encyclopedia is available as a soft cover book on the Blue Sky Books website.

Visit artist's site: allenmaertz.com

Found via: Lenscratch

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