Ilkka Halso

Ilkka Halso is a Finnish artist uses fabricated digital tableaux to  investigate the relationships between architecture, technology and nature, through photo-realistic renderings and collages set in natural environments. His artist’s statement begins tongue-in-cheek, with:

“In order to protect and restore nature we need stronger means. Ilkka Halso has continued his conquest in order to save the world. He presents plans for a brighter and more durable millennium.”

(www.ilkka.halso.net)

In “Tree Works” and “Restoration” (2000-2005), light structures are built around existing trees with the aim of protecting them and, at the same time, of turning them into a sort of “living museum” of nature explorable by a public. Nature is somehow commodified and transformed into a spectacle to admire from very close. The architectural language is that of the scaffolding, transitional structures used to build a construction or to refurbish it: the act of connecting metal poles to natural environments engages a surreal discourse based on man’s paradoxical attempt to preserve what he’s currently destroying.

In Ilkka Halso words:

“I show ironic visions of mans relation to nature and his confidence in technology in solving problems caused by his own activities .I builded fictive restoration sites. Scaffoldings are covering objects of nature instead of houses and man-made objects. Trees, boulders, rock faces and fields are under repair.”

In the Museum of Nature series, great biomes are in the process of being erected to protect areas of forest from pollution. Halso imagines a near future in which it is necessary to protect and preserve the natural environment with increasingly extreme interventions. He combines still photographs with 3D modelling software to realise his dystopian visions.

I make plans and construct visually buildings, which protect nature from threats of pollution and what is more important from actions of man. I visualize shelters, massive buildings where big ecosystems could be stored as they are found today, in the present. These massive buildings protect forests, lakes and rivers from pollution and, more importantly, they protect nature from the actions of man himself. At the same time, I study different aspects of man’s relation to nature as though a rare, unique and endangered place..

While putting nature into a museum you have to take under consideration aspect of audience/ consumer. Nature becomes joyride for turists or beautyfull landscape turns into a meditative theatre show.

Project is based on pessimistic vision of what is happening on earth. I am looking into future and I am not very happy about that. I am considering these pictures more as visual pamphlets than estetical images.

In the recent ongoing series, Naturale, Halso has imagined a gigantic, Ark-like warehouse, containing secure samples of flora and crates of micro-ecosystems, ready for re-planting should the need arise.

It’s typical for human beings to mould nature, justifying their actions with their aesthetic and economic aspirations. But nature can’t endure everything.

In my photographs, control over nature has acquired a concrete form. The elements of nature have been rethought and have, for logistical purposes, been packed into modules that are easier to handle. The whole of nature is stored in a gigantic warehouse complex and the most common types of nature, from soil and flora to fauna can be easily assembled into working ecosystems.

What’s happening? Has nature been evacuated to await better times, or has it been simplified into merchandise and absurd tableaux? I’m looking into the future. I don’t like what I see.

Peter Kennard

Peter Kennard (born 17 February 1949) is a London born and based photomontage artist and Senior Research Reader in Photography, Art and the Public Domain at the Royal College of Art. Seeking to reflect his involvement in the anti-Vietnam War movement, he turned from painting to photomontage to better address his political views.He has often worked in collaboration with writers, photographers, filmmakers and artists such as Peter Reading, John Pilger and Jenny Matthews.

He is best known for the images he created for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the 1970s–80s. This includes “Haywain with Cruise Missiles“, a cut-and-paste photomontage of Constanble’s Haywain – a symbol of Britain’s rural idyll with American missiles used by CND to highlight the threat of installation of cruise missiles at air bases across the UK, such as Greenham Common.
“ Photomontage may not be subtle but it is effective as a tactic when the aim is to make a point quickly and directly. We grasp immediately that Britain is under threat.” Liz Wells (2011, p.21 quoted Alexander 2013 p98)

Because many of the left-wing organisations and publications he used to work with have disappeared, Kennard has turned to using exhibitions, books and the internet for his work.

In “Dispatches from An Unofficial War Artist”, his 2000 autobiography, he writes about the possibilities of undertaking an aesthetic practice in relation to social change, and considers how his art has interacted with the politics of actual events.

 One of Kennard’s latest projects is 2011’s @earth, a story without words told in the language of photomontage. It takes the form of a small book priced at £9.99, published by the Tate Gallery, which Kennard believed was a reasonably cheap and accessible way of getting his message to young people outside the artworld. The book contains a variety of images from Kennard’s 40-year career and, as a result, attracts the criticism that its targets are too general. Kennard’s reply was that he wanted “to encourage people to think about their own situation and activate, but I’m not trying to tell them to do this or that. I’m just trying to show how I see the world at the moment.”

The idea has expanded to a re-appropriation and re-distribution of his images through online platforms such as Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. G8 Protest Posters is the latest of these projects that shares images “designed for protest”. Created in 2013 in reaction to the 39th G8 Summit in Enniskillen, Kennard has encouraged the public to “print, Tweet, Facebook, email and share these images as a sign of protest”. He sees online distribution sites as “a valuable addition to the dissident artists toolbox. G8 is a charade masquerading as a serious conference, my posters attempt to rip through the lies and point to the world as in fact it is.”

He has also executed a number of guerrilla street installations and has said “if world leaders insist on assaulting our lives and livelihoods, let’s hit back by assaulting their eyes.”

The first major retrospective of Kennard’s work will be held at the Imperial War Museum for one year from May 2015.

Source: edited from Wikipedia

 

 

Dana Lixenberg

My work is partly about the inevitable downside and consequences of capitalism which can result in a sense of alienation…actually I am part of it, and even people I photograph are part of this system and keep it going. I think [capitalism] has become a given because you can see how former and current communist countries are going the same way. I’m really aware of that, and want to face the realities and the downsides of that system that I find also attractive.

I find that the [documentary] portraits and landscapes are really about slowing down, cutting out all the noise and really taking time to contemplate the world around me every time with new eyes. The plain and the everyday is often very exciting to me. It can reveal a lot about life. I’m really inspired by details and I am usually more inspired by non-dramatic settings. Some of my images may seem boring, where there is nothing obvious going on, but I like playing with that, being on the fringes of boring.

While I have no expectation that I can influence social change or that I can ever make a concrete impact with the photographs, I do feel it’s kind of empowering to give the people you photograph a timeless presence in the larger world.

Google images

 

Interview for Mossless magazine

Overview: http://www.thelastdaysofshishmaref.com/shishmaref3/cms/cms_module/index.php

Film presentation:  http://www.thelastdaysofshishmaref.com/shishbook/shishbook_release-1.1.11/MainView.html 

The Last Days of Shishmaref (2008) by Dana Lixenberg mixes landscape with formal portraits and still life to create a dynamic portrait of an Alaskan community that is under imminent threat from the sea due to the increasingly later freeze of the protective permafrost that encircles the island. The traditions of this community, mostly of Inuit origin, are just as much under threat as the precarious strip of land. The images in the book are informed with essays by geographers and environmentalists.

Lixenberg’s trademark is a 4×5 camera and tripod. This gives an intensity of experience between the photographer and those she photographs that she feels is not there with other types of cameras. She enjoys illustrating contrast in her work and portraying people in pure form.

Biography

Dana Lixenberg (born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands,1964) lives and works in New York and Amsterdam. Lixenberg originally went to New York to become an au pair and then discovered photography at a night school class. She studied Photography at the London College of Printing in London (1984-1986) and at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam (1987-1989).

Her breakthrough in the U.S. came in 1993, when she was awarded a project grant by the Fonds BKVB (The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture) for a series of portraits at the Imperial Courts Housing Project in Los Angeles,CA. She was soon getting commissions from a wide variety of magazines such as Vibe, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Newsweek and The Telegraph magazine amongst many others.

Lixenberg continuously worked on long term personal projects, mostly focused on individuals and communities on the margins of society. Lixenberg has been the recipient of several project and publication grants in the Netherlands.

  • 1999 she was the subject of a documentary titled: Dana Lixenberg, thru dutch eyes 
  • 2005 she was featured in an episode of the documentary series ‘Hollands Zicht’ (Dutch Vision) both for Dutch television.
  • 2005 Jeffersonville, Indiana was awarded Best Dutch Book Design,
  • 2008 The Last Days of Shishmaref, was also awarded Best Dutch Book Design, 2008.

Since 2008 Lixenberg has been revisiting the Imperial Courts Housing Project in Los Angeles for a follow up to the series from 1993. In spring 2015 Huis Marseille, Amsterdam will organize a large scale exhibition of Imperial Courts coinciding with the release of a publication.

Other work

Lixenberg photographs people from all social classes.

I’ve never taken a different  approach between photographing celebrities and un-known individuals,  The fragility of life is experienced by all. ..When shooting people who have had a lot of media exposure I’m not interested in reinforcing their public image. I try to really see the person that’s in front of me, the way they are at that particular moment stripped from all the surrounding distractions like their entourage and to slowly bring them to a place where they don’t present a persona basically where they don’t try to hard. 

In addition to ordinary people, Lixenberg has photographed a number of American celebrities, including Prince and Whitney Houston.

Lixenberg is also a film director and directed the Dutch singer Anouk’s 2005 video ‘One Word’

 

Mitch Epstein

Mitchell “Mitch” Epstein (born 1952 in Holyoke, Massachusetts) is an American photographer. His best known work on landscape is American Power (2009). From 2004 to 2009, Epstein investigated energy production and consumption in the United States, photographing in and around various energy production sites. This series questions the meaning and make-up of power—electrical and political. Epstein made a monograph of the American Power pictures (Steidl, 2009), in which he wrote that he was often stopped by corporate security guards and once interrogated by the FBI for standing on public streets and pointing his camera at energy infrastructure. The images also reflect the political climate of fear and paranoia across America in the wake of 9/11.

The large-scale prints from this series have been exhibited worldwide, and a selection won the Prix Pixtet Award among others.

Google Images for American Power 

Epstein collaborated with his second wife, author Susan Bell, on a public art project and website based on American Power. The What Is American Power?project used billboards, transportation posters, and a website to “inspire and educate people about environmental issues.” The website: http://whatisamericanpower.com (a Flash-based display that I find somewhat annoying)

Wikipedia review quotes:

In his Art in America review, Dave Coggins wrote that Epstein “grounds his images…in the human condition, combining empathy with sharp social observation, politics with sheer beauty.”

In an essay for the catalogueContemporary African Photography from The Walther Collection: Appropriated Landscapes (Steidl, 2011), Brian Wallis wrote, “Epstein has made clear that his intention is neither to illustrate political events nor to create persuasive propaganda. Rather, he raises the more challenging question of how inherently abstract political concepts about the nation and the culture as a whole can be represented photographically…But equally significant is the unique form of documentary storytelling that he has invented in American Power—colorful, sweeping, concerned, intimate, honest.”

In the New York Times, Martha Schwendener wrote: “What is interesting, beyond the haunting, complicated beauty and precision of these images, is Mr. Epstein’s ability to merge what have long been considered opposing terms: photo-conceptualism and so-called documentary photography. He utilizes the supersize scale and saturated color of conceptualism, and his odd, implied narratives strongly recall the work of artists like Jeff Wall.”

His other work

(Wikipedia)

Epstein graduated from Williston Academy, where he studied with artist and bookmaker Barry Moser. In the early 1970s he studied at Union College, New York; Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island, and the Cooper Union, New York, where he was a student of photographer Garry Winogrand.

Epstein’s eight books include:

  •  Berlin (Steidl & The American Academy in Berlin, 2011);
  • American Power (Steidl, 2009);
  • Mitch Epstein: Work (Steidl, 2006);
  • Recreation: American Photographs 1973-1988 (Steidl 2005);
  • Family Business (Steidl 2003), which won the 2004 Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Award.

1970s United States

By the mid-70s, Epstein had abandoned his academic studies and begun to travel, embarking on a photographic exploration of the United States. Ten of the photographs he made during this period were in a 1977 group exhibition at Light Gallery in New York. Ben Lifson wrote in his Village Voice review: “Mitch Epstein’s ten color photographs are the best things at Summer Light…. At 25, Epstein’s apprenticeship is over, as his work shows. He stands between artistic tradition and originality and makes pictures about abandoned rocking-horses and danger, about middle-age dazzled by spring blossoms, about children confused by sex and beasts. He has learned the terms of black-and-white photography, and although he adds color, he hasn’t abandoned them, loving photography’s past while trying to step into its future.”

India

In 1978, he journeyed to India with his future wife, director Mira Nair, where he was a producer, set designer, and cinematographer on several films, including Salaam Bombay! and India Cabaret. His book In Pursuit of India is a compilation of his Indian photographs from this period.

Vietnam

From 1992 to 1995, Epstein photographed in Vietnam, which resulted in an exhibition of this work at Wooster Gardens in New York, along with a book titled Vietnam: A Book of Changes. “I don’t know that Mitch Epstein’s glorious photographs record all of what is salient in end-of-the-twentieth century Vietnam,” wrote Susan Sontag for his book jacket, “for it’s been more than two decades since my two stays there. I can testify that his images confirm what moved and troubled me then…and offer shrewd and poignant glimpses into the costs of imposing a certain modernity. This is beautiful, authoritative work by an extremely intelligent and gifted photographer.” Reviewing an exhibition of the Vietnam pictures for Art in America, Peter Von Ziegesar writes, “In a show full of small pleasures, little prepares one for the stunning epiphany contained in Perfume Pagoda…Few photographers have managed to make an image so loaded and so beautiful at once.”

United States 1990s

Having lived and travelled beyond the United States for over a decade, Epstein began to spend more time in his adopted home of New York City. His 1999 series The City investigated the relationship between public and private life in New York. Reviewing The City exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins in New York, Vince Aletti wrote that the pictures “[are] as assured as they are ambitious.”

In 1999, Epstein returned to his hometown of Holyoke, Massachusetts, to record the demise of his father’s two businesses—a retail furniture store and a low-rent real estate empire. The resulting project assembled large-format photographs, video, archival materials, interviews and writing by the artist. The book, Family Business (Steidl), which combined all of these elements, won the 2004 Krazna-Kraus Best Photography Book of the Year award. In reviewing the book, Nancy Princenthal wrote in Art in America, “The family business chronicled by Mitch Epstein was a small-town retail furniture with a sideline in real estate, and his patiently plotted bell curve of its history is worthy of Dreiser….” In 2004, his work was exhibited during evening screenings at Rencontres d’Arles festival (at the in Théatre Antique), France.

Google Images for ‘Family Business’

 

Berlin

In 2008, Epstein won the Berlin Prize in Arts and Letters from the American Academy in Berlin. Awarded a 6-month residency, he moved to Berlin with his wife and daughter from January–June 2009. The photographs he made there of significant historical sites were published in the monograph Berlin (Steidl and The American Academy in Berlin, 2011).

 

 

 

Edward Burtynsky

Edward Burtynsky, OC (born February 22, 1955) is a Canadian photographer and artist known for his large-format photographs of industrial landscapes. Burtynsky’s most famous photographs are sweeping views of landscapes altered by industry: mine tailings, quarries, scrap piles. The grand, awe-inspiring beauty of his images is often in tension with the compromised environments they depict.

Exploring the Residual Landscape

Nature transformed through industry is a predominant theme in my work. I set course to intersect with a contemporary view of the great ages of man; from stone, to minerals, oil, transportation, silicon, and so on. To make these ideas visible I search for subjects that are rich in detail and scale yet open in their meaning. Recycling yards, mine tailings, quarries and refineries are all places that are outside of our normal experience, yet we partake of their output on a daily basis.

These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times.

Ed Burtynsky website

Oil  2009

His series Oil (2009) resolves an epiphany he had in 1997, when he realised just how tightly connected all of our global activity was to petrol and its raw material – oil.

The monograph is divided into three sections:

  • images of extraction and refinement;
  • the consumption of oil and motor culture;
  •  abandoned ‘oilfields run dry’ and motor vehicles of all descriptions resigned to huge scrap heaps.

The images within Oil  evoke a terrifying sense of the sublime. It is within the third section that the images have their most potent effect, for instance seemingly endless rows of impotent, rusting fighter jets in Arizona, or a channel cutting through a canyon of stacked worn car tyres in California. Some of the most striking images are those made at the Chittagong ship breakers in Bangladesh. The proportions of the structures that the workers pick apart, almost by hand, are awesome, and just as affecting are the horrendous conditions in which they work. Although not overtly critical in any explicitly rhetorical sense (i.e. like Kennard’s montages), it is impossible to read Burtynsky’s position as anything but one of grave concern for our consumption of this valuable substance.

Some images in Burtynsky’s Oil can be interpreted from different perspectives: great stacks of compressed oil drums or bits of car parts might speak of excess and consumption but, whilst they refer to manufacturing in a past tense, these are also the raw materials for current industries, ready to be melted down and turned into new things.

China

He has made several excursions to China to photograph that country’s industrial emergence, and construction of one of the world’s largest engineering projects, the Three Gorges Dam.

Burtynsky discussing his work made in China

Other work

Wikipedia

Burtynsky was born in St. Catharines, Ontario. His parents had immigrated to Canada in 1951 from Ukraine and his father found work on the production line at the local General Motors plant. Burtynsky recalls playing by theWelland Canal and watching ships pass through the locks. When he was 11, his father purchased a darkroom, including cameras and instruction manuals, from a widow whose late husband practiced amateur photography.With his father, Burtynsky learned how to make black-and-white photographic prints and together with his older sister established a small business taking portraits at the local Ukrainian center. In the early ’70s, Burtynsky found work in printing and he started night classes in photography, later enrolling at the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.

From the mid-1970s to early 1980s, Burtynsky formally studied graphic arts and photography. He obtained a diploma in graphic arts from Niagara College in Welland, Ontario, in 1976, and a BAA in Photographic Arts (Media Studies Program) from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, Ontario, in 1982.

His early influences include Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Eadweard Muybridge, and Carleton Watkins, whose prints he saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the early 1980s. Another group whose body of work shares similar themes and photographic approaches to Burtynsky’s work are the photographers who were involved in the exhibition New Topographics.

 

Photographic series

  • 1983 – 1985 Breaking Ground: Mines, Railcuts and Homesteads, Canada, USA
  • 1991 – 1992 Vermont Quarries, USA
  • 1997 – 1999 Urban Mines: Metal Recycling, Canada Tire Piles, USA
  • 1993 – Carrara Quarries, Italy
  • 1995 – 1996 Tailings, Canada
  • 1999 – 2010 Oil Canada, China, Azerbaijan, USA
  • 2000 – Makrana Quarries, India
  • 2000 – 2001 Shipbreaking, Bangladesh
  • 2004 – 2006 China
  • 2006 – Iberia Quarries, Portugal
  • 2007 – Australian Mines, Western Australia
  • 2009 – 2013 Water Canada, USA, Mexico, Europe, Asia, Iceland, India

Video: Manufactured Landscapes

In 2006, Burtynsky was the subject of the documentary film, Manufactured Landscapes, that was shown at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.

Video: Watermark

Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal, who was his director on the 2006 documentary Manufactured Landscapes, are co-directors of the 2013 documentary film, Watermark. The film is part of his five-year project Water focusing on the way water is used and managed.

 

Technique

Most of Burtynsky’s exhibited photography (pre 2007) was taken with a large format field camera on large 4×5-inch sheet film and developed into high-resolution, large-dimension prints of various sizes and editions ranging from 18 x 22 inches to 60 x 80 inches. He often positions himself at high-vantage points over the landscape using elevated platforms, the natural topography, and more currently helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Burtynsky describes the act of taking a photograph in terms of “The Contemplated Moment”, evoking and in contrast to, “The Decisive Moment” of Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 2007 he began using a high-resolution digital camera.

The Long Now Foundation

In July 2008 Burtynsky delivered a seminar for the Long Now Foundation entitled “The 10,000 year Gallery”. The foundation promotes very long-term thinking and is managing various projects including the Clock of the Long Now, which is a clock designed to run for 10,000 years. Burtynsky was invited by clock designer Danny Hillis to contribute to the Long Now project, and Burtynsky proposed a gallery to accompany the clock. In his seminar, he suggested that a gallery of photographs which captured the essence of their time, like the cave paintings at Lascaux, could be curated annually and then taken down and stored. He outlined his research into a carbon-transfer process for printing photographs that would use inert stone pigments suspended in a hardened gelatine colloid and printed onto thick watercolour paper. He believes that these photographs would persist over the 10,000 year time-frame when stored away from moisture.