Tag Archives: documentary

Enfant Terrible: Ed van der Elsken

Ed van der Elsken isn’t a name you come across often in the mainstream world of photography. Partly because he steered clear of commercial work and partly because of his reputation as the ‘enfant terrible’ (loosely translated as the troublesome child). Like a lot of great artists, he refused to play by the rules, photograph nice people and pretty landscapes, instead he aimed to photograph all aspects of reality – the best and the worst of human nature.

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“I report on young, rebellious scum with pleasure … I rejoice in everything. Love. Courage. Beauty. Also blood, sweat and tears.”

Born in Amsterdam, der Elsken started off his career with the intention of becoming a sculptor before moving to Paris and discovering ‘la bohemes’ of Saint-Germain-de-Prés who would become the focus of his photography. Though much of his work purports to be documentary, it remains closely intertwined with the theatrical and surreal reflecting on the drug hazed bohemian society in which he lived. That said, the pictures are clearly rooted in the everyday rather than the transcendent, recording ‘characters’ in their intimate daily routines of drinking coffee, dozing and daydreaming. These are people who really existed despite polite society’s attempts to believe otherwise…

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der Elken also made a pretty hypnagogic film, Death in the Port Jackson Hotel, which features the star of the artist’s most famous photography series, Love on the Left Bank, Vali Myers, and is worth a watch if you can handle drawn out interviews with doe eyed hippies and bizarre sequences of toads mating.

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Freeze frame: Lights in Chicago by Satoki Nagata

I came across Satoki Nagata’s work whilst idly browsing the internet for pictures of snow so that I could imagine myself blissfully sipping vin chaud on the slopes (the skiing snapchats are really getting to me) and though lacking the mountainous landscape I craved, I found myself mesmerised by Nagata’s beautiful wintery images.

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His series ‘Lights in Chicago’ is a collection of surrealist black and white photographs of people captured on the cold streets of the Windy City. Using a slow shutter speed, the Japanese photographer manages to create interesting layerings that produce an oddly ghostly effect and capture the action of that moment. Though the figures are nearly transparent, they are surrounded by a bright, angelic light that highlights their presence and creates an intriguing dynamic between shadow and light.

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Head over to Nagata’s website for a real visual treat. His documentary photography is also extremely powerful and well worth a browse. http://www.satoki.com/

[All images sourced from Nagata’s website]

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Drinking tea with Hannah Adamaszek

‘I really like native Indians,’ Hannah Adamaszek smiles when I ask where her inspiration comes from. She sits opposite me, nestled into the sofa in her living room in West Sussex. It’s not obviously the home of an artist. For one thing there’s a lot less mess than I expected. In fact, it’s meticulously clean, but the paintings on the wall of Pocahontas like figures with colourful hair and strong eyes are somewhat of a give away.

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‘Yes I guess the girl in my paintings does look a bit like Pocahontas,’ Hannah agrees. ‘I normally source photos online and merge maybe two or three faces together to make one person. Somehow, they all end up looking fairly similar. I’d love to do a photo shoot with a model at some point though.’ It’s not hard to guess what Hannah’s favourite film was a child! ‘I’m also really into native fashion. I take bits of inspiration from Spell Designs (http://www.spelldesigns.com/) who make clothes and jewellery and also from the Native Americans themselves’.

Interestingly, however, it seems to only be Native American women that fascinate Hannah. ‘I prefer to use women in my paintings. I have done men in the past, but it’s more fun painting a woman and I’m a woman so I find I can connect with the figure more’.

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It’s also largely Hannah’s use of women that makes her work as, at least partially, a street artist so unique. To a predominantly male dominated world, her work brings femininity and beauty without passivity. Though the colours she uses are subdued (‘I like to listen to calm music when I paint’), her women are expressively bold and powerful.

‘My work has changed a lot since Uni.’ Hannah trained at Bournemouth Arts Institute where she mainly focused on photography.  ‘ Not that I was very good at it!’ She adds honestly. ‘ I was really interested in documentaries. I worked with the homeless for a bit and that kind of thing. Then when I finished uni I got an office job, which lasted about 6 months before I decided it wasn’t for me and went travelling instead.’

It took a while for her to actually start painting again and it wasn’t until she got back from ski seasons in Austria and Switzerland that she picked up a paintbrush – and a spray can. ‘I tried playing around with a few stencils to see what it was like and found that I really enjoyed using spray paint so I started to incorporate that into my work as well. It took quite a long time to get it how I wanted though!’

The result is – especially up close – very impressive; a unique blend of the precision and neatness of fine art with the gritty, spontaneity of street art – not unlike the work of current artist, Conor Harrington (who incidentally Hannah’s a big fan of). Harrington generally works on huge canvases or paints directly onto street walls.‘The only work I’ve done actually on the street is during live painting sessions where you’re given some boards to paint on’, says Hannah. ‘I’ve got one up in London at the moment, which has been placed on the side of a building. It’s such an amazing feeling to see your work out in public’.

Hannah’s also hugely admiring of abstract artist, Kristin Gaudio Endsley, who she sometimes collaborates with. ‘We normally meet up in Kristin’s studio in London and share ideas – she’s got a really great studio where we can work together.’ Hannah currently paints in her spare room, where disastrously she spills a pot of acrylic when showing me the sheet she uses to cover the floor – one of the hazards of being an artist. ‘I usually start by painting the figure and Kristin will pick the colours and paint around it. I really struggle with background and colour – so she really helped me out with that.’

Looking at Hannah’s paintings it’s hard to imagine she struggles with anything. They seem so effortless and relaxed. I wonder how long it takes to finish a painting on average? ‘It depends. The longest part of the process is deciding what to paint. I’m not the world’s best decision maker, but once I’ve started it can take 3 or 4 days maybe.’

With a show this month and her first solo show in September (‘which I can’t believe I’m doing!’), Hannah has lots of painting and planning to do, but she’s still looking forward to the future.‘I’d like to do some work abroad, do the stroke art fair in Munich and perhaps see what’s in the US as well.’

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She seems to be an artist whose not only comfortable working with lots of mediums, but also with working in different environments and with different people. It is perhaps her flexibility (alongside her talent – of course) that has opened so many doors. When I ask her which was the most exciting project she’s done, she can’t choose: ‘I really enjoyed doing the Brandalism project, working with about 25 other artists. We were each given a brief and had to create something for a sort of anti-advertising campaign. The guys running the project hijacked billboards across the UK and pasted up our anti-adverts across the top of them. It was nice to have a bit of focus and do something different to my usual work.’

The project certainly caused quite a stir with the press (described by Dr. D in 2012 as ‘taking the piss with a point’) and was covered by the Independent.

I ask Hannah how she feels about the rise of social media as an artist. ‘I’ve only really got into social media over the last 6months to year. It takes a long time to understand, but there’s huge potential to use it as an artist to find new customers, new events etc.’

As an advocate of the ‘shop local’ concept, Hannah’s especially a fan of blogs, which work closely with local artists and bring more attention to art in general. ‘Places like Ikea sell prints for the same amount as an artist might sell an original limited edition print and I don’t think people perhaps realize that they can get something from a local London artist (if they live in London) for a similar sort of price’. At the very least it prevents your sitting room from looking like an Ikea catalogue. Who says individuality is dead?

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This interview took place in Hannah’s home on 25th July 2013.

All photographs were taken by the wonderful Corin Brown: www.corinashleighbrown.co.uk

Hannah’s solo exhibition runs from 5th-21st September at the Curious Duke Gallery.

You can buy Hannah’s paintings via her website: http://hannahchloe.com/

Read more about the Brandalism movement here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/brandalism-street-artists-hijack-billboards-for-subvertising-campaign-7953151.html

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Film of the week: Beasts of the Southern Wild

I hate it when a film receives a lot of hype. I know it shouldn’t have this effect, but when somebody tells me to watch a film because ‘it’s the best thing they’ve seen in years’, I become instantly wary. With a statement like that, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is one such film. Released in 2012, with 4 Oscar nominations and an unusually enticing title, it certainly had a reputation to live up to. And live up to it, it most certainly did. It may not be ‘the best thing I’ve seen in years’, but it’s definitely one of the most truly original, stunning films I’ve ever seen.

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‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is an eccentric and wildly magical tale of life seen through the eyes of a six-year-old girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), living on the margins of America. Adapted from a one-act play by Lucy Alibar, the story takes place in a remote region of Louisiana where Hushpuppy lives in a ramshackle trailer with, or rather next to her unpredictable father, Wink . This is a community where children feed, wash and teach themselves, but with the imminent destruction of her community (rising waters will flood the bayou) and orphanhood looming (her dad is ill, her mum dead) Hushpuppy finds herself in a position of terrifying independence. Suppressed emotions (crying is absolutely forbidden in ‘the Bathtub’) manifest themselves in extraordinary imaginings of melting ice caps, avalanches and ferocious pre-historic beasts as Hushpuppy’s world looses stability and she learns to survive life’s struggles. 

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Beautifully poetic and colourful, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is fun, fantastical and as gritty as a hard-hitting documentary. The acting is phenomenal – Wallis is well deserving of her oscar nomination for best actress – and the cinematography pretty top-notch too (the film is shot on grainy 16mm – nice!). If you have time to watch one film this week make it this – if it disappoints, I’ll eat my hat.

Hit play to watch the trailer. I’m excited for you.

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The astounding talent of Alma Har’el

For those of you who enjoyed Alma Har’el’s video for Sigur Ros as much as I did, it’s well worth checking out her 2011 documentary ‘Bombay Beach’. Accompanied by a compelling soundtrack, it follows the story of three protagonists in one of the poorest communities in California, documenting their surreal existence in the barren, dusty landscape. You find yourself lulled into a weird hypnotic state by the meandering narrative and shooting style that adds to the overall dream-like effect, though the strangest thing is that it isn’t a dream; this is real 21st century Bombay Beach.

Watch the trailer below and access the full documentary via http://www.1channel.ch:

 

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