• 2.21.17   Chloe Aftel Issues a Challenge with 'GenderQueer'

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    For more than four years photographer Chloe Aftel has engaged in a photo series exploring the GenderQueer community. The project, that shares the name of the movement, offers representation of individuals from a variety experiences within the community. Whether it’s Sasha Fleischman, an agender victim of a violent hate crime, or any number of non-binary or gender non-conforming figures, she's working on representing a broad selection of these individuals, always challenging herself to give a better, truer representation. Since Chloe embarked on the project there has been a huge influx of outside interest, not least of which because of the attack on Fleischman, but also because these issues are being pulled more into the forefront of cultural conversation. “I do think that seeing the rapidity of which certain strides were made for the GenderQueer community, as well as the Trans community. That part is really nice,” says Chloe. “I’m apprehensive and afraid of what is coming, as I feel our current political situation is very hostile towards non-heteronormative anything. But even my dad knew a term [for GenderQueer] even if it wasn’t correct. That is a huge thing because my dad is not in touch at all. There’s an awareness.” That awareness has grown enough that over the years as Chloe has worked on GenderQueer, she’s earned awards and recognition from American Photo, Critical Mass, and more. The process of creating the project has been fulfilling on its own, but as a photographer Chloe is chasing the result. It’s about representation and contact. She’s shaping images that we can view and interact with ourselves. “I abstain from saying what the intent of the work of anything that I do is because I don’t want it to be didactic, but the thing that I struggle so hard to obtain in these images is that sense of intimacy, that you are able to connect with the person,” explains Chloe. “You can see the veiwers struggle a little bit inside themselves to reconcile that... It just cracks the door open a little bit and that’s the interaction with this series that I find so exciting and rewarding. I think it sort of forces people to reconsider.” Art is about far more than just expression, it’s about communication. Good art challenges the viewer and makes us think about things differently. It exposes us to experiences and emotions we don’t normally get exposed to in our every day lives, and that can reshape the way we see issues and the people around us. “I think that this allows people to play with the idea that there’s perhaps more to attraction, more to sexuality, more to love, more to self-expression, more to all those facets of being a human being than we have been taught for a very long time,” says Chloe. The pictures might make you uncomfortable, but that’s okay. In fact, that’s a plus.  In total, Chloe’s GenderQueer project is less about being GenderQueer and more about being a human being. Of course each of her subjects are at least in one way attached to the idea of GenderQueer, whether it's their own identity or an identity that touches the umbrella. And even though the project is still in process as she works to expand representation and create a fuller picture of this community, it’s really about introducing her subjects to the world so that her audience can have an experience which each of the subjects through the photographs. She's setting up human connections. “There’s a lot of different ways to understand your sexuality and your humanity and that’s the thing that I hope this series allows people to delve a little bit deeper into,” says Chloe. “There’s a very private thing about reading and about looking. And when you look and when you engage with something there’s a degree to which that can be just a tremendously isolated and personal experience… Maybe they wouldn’t admit it to their friends, maybe they wouldn’t in any way actually explore it in their lives but I do think it cracks that artificial shell where people are so bigoted. It allows a little something else to seep in with the hope being that we are all people.”
  • 2.23.17   Carles Carabi Escapes to Bali with MalaMadre

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    MalaMadre was created as a custom motorcycle brand in Bali out of necessity. Dirk Goetz wanted to ride something more robust than a scooter over the roads of Indonesia so he found a 2002 Suzuki Thunder 250cc and fixed it up with customizations in his friend’s garage. That bike caught the eye of a new customer, and the whole thing snowballed over the last two years into a bustling business of creating bespoke bikes from some of the most respected names in the industry. Carles Carabi heard about the company through a friend of his that was a MalaMadre customer and he had an idea. “I told him that I wanted to go to Bali and shoot the bikes,” says Carles. “We offered a brief to the guys from Malamadre and they loved it and they invited me to Bali to go there so we flew there and we did a photoshoot!” Everything came together naturally, but once they got to Bali things worked a little less smoothly. Mainly because of the weather. Carles knew that the blockbuster images would come from a beachside shoot, but a couple elements had to hit together all at the same time. They needed it to be low tide so there was plenty of wet sand, they needed the sun to be setting to get the right kind of light, and, of course, it couldn’t be raining. “It was raining every day, so we always had difficulties shooting during the sunset because it was raining every day at that time,” says Carles. “The low tide wasn’t every day at the time of the sunset so depending on the day there wasn’t a beach we could go with the bikes,” but it all came together in the last possible moment. “The day before I left was the last chance we had to shoot it.,” Carles explains. They only had an hour to make it work and were never going to be able to come back and try again. They planned out the whole hour just to be safe, but when they started working, instinct took over and they just had fun. “We tried to make a plan, because there were three bikes, but as soon as they were riding they forgot about everything and they were just riding it was kind of crazy.”  Carles also got some phenomenal shots of the bikes being ridden on the long roads through Indonesia, buffeted by the tropical forests. Capturing these images was tricky because Carles had to strap himself to the back of a scooter that his friend drove into oncoming traffic. But they got what they needed. “It was risky, not very scary, but it was risky,” Carles explains. “The roads were open so there was traffic all the time. To shoot them we needed to be riding on the wrong side of the road, so every time a car was coming we had to cross the line, and go back and forth like that all the time. It was a bit of adrenaline.”
  • 2.22.17   Pat Vale Comes to Discover New York City

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    When Pat Vale was invited back to Central Saint Martins to talk to the students there he reminded his teacher of something that the professor had said to him while he was studying at school. “Stop making pieces that your mother would want to put on the wall,” his teacher admonished. Pat does make beautiful images that anyone would want to put on the wall, and years later it was the same teacher that invited him to speak, so something worked.  Since he was a kid growing up in Bristol, Pat has created stark line drawings, mostly of architecture. It began when he was very young and his father brought back pictures and books from his monthly trips to the US. That lit a fire in Pat. “I would have all these references different from the way English architecture was. It was quite technically challenging,” says Pat. “It’s something over the years that I’ve always come back to. I do find it very therapeutic. I get lost in it.” Drawing at the scale and detail he does becomes a meditation, and when Pat plugs into these pieces, he totally plugs in until he’s traced an entire experience through the image. Some of his most breathtaking work is huge panels of cityscapes that capture thousands of buildings, filled with millions of people. Since he’s an illustrator and not a photographer he cannot put everything in every image. Sure, he can try to fit every window from every floor, but not every brick, and the further into the distance the piece looks he can’t even get in every building. But that’s a part of the process. “When I draw these huge pieces of these cities I’m in awe of what I’m seeing. I’m studying it and then other people will as well, they’ll make up their own narrative,” Pat explains. “It’s as much about seeing as it is about drawing. There’s definitely an editing process that happens when I see something. You instinctively know what you need to do to tell the story of that building or person.” When we see space in real life there’s too much to take in so we edit out what isn’t crucial for our experience. Since Pat is communicating to us, he shows us what he is seeing, rather than trying to give a perfect photographic representation of the world. It’s through that process that the scape comes alive, like its own character, with its own message, and its own life.  One of the reasons that Pat chose to transplant to New York was that he has spent so much ink and paper studying the city. But now that he’s in the city, his work is actually shifting away from the architecture and becoming more human. “Actually drawing people and humans is something I’m doing a lot more since I moved here and it’s something I just didn’t do really unless I was asked to do it. I didn’t do it and now I just want to document everything,” he says. But he doesn’t approach it any differently from how he draws buildings. “It’s all drawing to me,” he says.
  • 2.14.17   Alex Silva Knits the Fractious Resistance

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    We are in historic times. Not only is there a new President who won the office in a surprise upset through the Electoral College, but a vocal resistance to the new administration is at a scale this country has never seen. The first real show of power by new President’s opponents was on full display the day after Inauguration Day at “The Women’s March” in DC, and the sister marches that took place in cities throughout the world. It’s estimated upwards of 4 million women and their allies marched – truly unprecedented. One of the most stable images from that march is the thousands of pink hats worn by marchers, all knit at home. The meaning of the hat is different from person to person, but one thing is clear: it was a part of the resistance. This past Sunday’s The New York Times Magazine chose to feature this new feminist movement for their cover story and invited Alex Silva to create the imagery for the magazine’s cover.  The cover is deceptively simple, saying just “RESIST,” but each letter is knit out of pink yarn and distressed. Alex created each letter separately, and then distressed each of them. Even though the cover of the magazine simply says Resist, the story is much more complex with an earned headline saying, ‘How a Fractious Women’s Movement Came to Lead the Left.’ The reporting by the magazine bears this out, that the movement is fractious and Alex illustrates that reality by having each letter distressed. We all know that if you pull one string on a sweater it can unravel the whole thing, so the question right now is how long will this resistance hold together despite the fact that many of the groups marching under the same banner had very different goals just one month ago? Right now the resistance is standing together, displaying a single message that we can still read. There’s no way to know how long it will be this way, but for now we can see what Alex spelled out clear as day: Resist.
  • 2.13.17   David Flores Harnesses the Infinite for Marvel's Legion

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    Marvel’s X-Man Legion first appeared in the comics in 1985 but he never really had his time in the spotlight, mostly because he’s a complicated character with a very dark story. A combination of hidden parentage, dissociative identity disorder, autism, and extremely destructive tendencies makes him a hard pill to swallow for the masses. But in 2017, audiences are much more open to the complexities of deeper storytelling and FX has recognized that trend, so Legion is now the main character in a new show. The marketing posters for ‘Legion’ feature imagery of a man with an explosive mind, a direct reflection of Legion’s inner life. FX invited muralist David Flores to interpret the original piece for an image that popped up in the wild all over the US. David’s blocking style was perfectly suited for this project. His process of breaking images up into sections almost like color-by-numbers or a stained glass aesthetic concentrate his subjects into a strong, direct statement. Showing his portraits like this gives the viewer enough distance from the humanity of the subject for us to experience the story from an added distance. Legion’s own name is a reference to the Biblical book of Revelations, basically demanding David’s and his aesthetic proximity to stained glass. Revelations is all about a human connection to the infinite and the end, it's chaos, terror, sublimity. It is experiencing the unknown and the impossible. All of that is evident in David's work. The painting was featured on walls in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco where fans could interact with augmented reality. Additionally, Marvel printed it up as a special edition poster that fans could pick up at dozens of comic book shops.
  • 2.16.17   Platon Finds A Necessarily Soft Chuck Schumer for Time

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    We are scarcely four weeks into a new presidency and our political climate has never been more explosive. President Trump, it should be noted, is quite popular with his base, but the opposition is also very loud forcing every member of congress to engage in ways that are almost unprecedented. But no one expected this to happen, least of all Chuck Schumer. Schumer was expecting to be the Majority Leader in the Senate and handily help a President Clinton. But that didn't happen. Instead he's found himself with a totally different job, as he explained to Platon when they sat together for the latest cover of TIME Magazine. "I should have been in a Really powerful position and I should have been in a place where I'm having a lot more fun but history didn't work out like that," Schumer said to Platon. "Now I find myself as Trump's opponent and this is a much more important position of responsibility to have." Not only has this new position changed expectations, Schumer is changing our understanding of how we should see an opposition figure. The images that came out of this conversation between Platon and Schumer aren't what you would expect from a man who is taking Trump head on, but there's a reason for that. "I've worked with Trump and I've worked with Schumer now so I understand both their spirits," Platon says. "What you have are two street fighters from New York and they get each other. Most politicians don't get Trump, they just don't really understand his madness. They can't understand that this insanity right now is a storm that Trump consciously makes but Chuck Schumer is probably the only guy who understands that because he's from New York too." As Platon explains it, Chuck knows that if he hits Trump, Trump will hit him back twice as hard. Instead, Schumer needs a different strategy if he wants to win. "This is rough and tumble stuff," Platon says. But as rough and tumble as it is,  the images that Platon got of Schumer are remarkably gentle, almost professorial. This is not what we would expect from a man taking on what some describe as the biggest bully in the world. "Chuck is also a tough guy but he is also a big softy. And I see him as a leader, hopefully. We'll see. You never know," Platon warns. "But hopefully he represents a compassionate leader. A leader who thinks of himself as a servant of the people rather than a power broker only... Yes [being a leader is] about power. It's about charisma, seduction, authority, sometimes even intimidation, but a great leader also has to be compassionate and had to think of him or herself as a servant of the people." Platon has travelled all over the world for decades photographing the most powerful people in the world. People who have changed the course of history over and over. Some for better, some for worse. But Platon knows what power looks like, and sees the potential for something valuable in Schumer. Platon sees him as well equipped for this fight. The other aspect we in Platon's photograph is the humanity behind Schumer. In our polarized political climate that's often missing. Photographers and editors want to use creative spaces to underscore a characteristic to serve a narrative. We've seen that a lot in recent days. But that is counter to Platon's entire career and philosophy. "I don't believe in gotcha journalism and I don't believe in just trying to show the facade of someone in a very bad way. I'm trying to cut through the facade and find out who this person really is," explains Platon.  "With Chuck you are in his spirit, in his soul in that picture and you're talking to him, you're feeling him. I think that's what we need right now in our photography on the covers of magazines; we've got to get in and find out who this person is." We must remember, that underneath everything, each polarizing figure is a human being and whether our aim is to uplift of defeat them, the journey to engaging them starts with our common humanity.  
  • 2.17.17   Nicky Emmerson Builds a New Look for Jaeger

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    Jaeger is going through something of a transition. The luxury British apparel brand was looking to bring a little more energy and joy to their public identity, and honestly we could all use a little bit more happiness - even if we find it in our advertising. To help them with this shift, Jaeger invited Nicky Emmerson and Pure Productions to help them shape their latest campaign and photograph it using her unique style. Nicky didn’t want to go all the way and make the images corny or show too much bounce when the brand and the clothes don’t match that, but she knew she had to bring it in a little bit. To strike the right chord she used a technique that allowed her models to meet those emotions and show them without becoming plastic. “I direct my girls and guys to think happy, to have happy thoughts, to get that happy energy in their eyes as opposed to a great big smile,” Nick explains. “Occasionally you get them to laugh and smile, and then you capture it on its way out, so you’re just getting that energy as its leaving them. You’re capturing it in their imagination as opposed to physically.” Photographers are guides of time. They pull out a moment from time to show us, so Nicky sets up a movement or an action and then pulls out the slice that works best for the story she’s trying to tell. For Jaeger is was the natural rhythm of positive emotions, but a part of them we normally don’t inspect. In order to show off the range of apparel and the breadth of lifestyles that Jaeger’s style bridges, well displayed by Fashion Director Sam Ranger and Creative Director Chris Bedson, the whole team created a broad two-pronged shoot that took place at both a very modern home and inside a studio. Nicky saw this as an opportunity to show off and blend two distinct skills in her toolbox, and it didn’t hurt that the day cooperated with her when they were in the home. “We were shooting it in December so we lost our daylight at 3:00 so we had to be quite quick,” says Nicky. “But it was a beautiful, glorious day. The light came in through the windows and it really helped us.” That low, warm light gave Nicky the shadows that she wanted, revealing depth and angles that traditionally don’t appear in a studio. But Nicky is always looking to push expectations and boundaries so when she gets to the studio she explores the limits of expectations there too. Most studios are set up to be big rooms that disappear into the background so all we see is a bright white environment. But Nicky rejects that. She uses the space in a much more dynamic way, which fit Jaeger’s needs perfectly. “Whenever I’m in studio I try and use different angles and try to move away from just the straight backdrop. So I’ll move around and shoot different angles, shoot behind, shoot in the doorway, because it’s another location it’s not just a light box,” Nicky says. “It’s a good representation of my studio and my location all together, really, because quite often you’re just either one but I really enjoyed splitting it into two but trying to make it link still.” Jaeger’s needs represent a transition for the way they present themselves, but Nicky understands transitions and was able to turn this exploration into a exhibition of two styles that are normally thought of as distinct identities. She’s able to combine a host of needs and skills into one campaign all while juggling expectations and styles, boiling it all down into one campaign that’s reduces into clean sophistication.
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