The Highlight of the week: Birth by Maite Guerrero

"Water is pure. Water is oxygen. Mothers give birth in the water. The water soothes tears, while bringing joy. Water is pleasure, delight, emotion … holy water. There is nothing to equal the impact of water on us, the water gives us life. We are water." - with such short and strong description Spanish photographer Maite Guerrero, based in Barcelona, presented her one of the most beautiful and original projects, called "Birth". Water, as you probably already noticed that, is playing very important role here: it gives us life and creates thousands elements in it everyday. 

The Highlight of the Week: Nightscapes of Asia by Julia Wimmerlin

After being a marketing professional, photographer Julia Wimmerlin changed her focus on photography. By traveling around the world she visited the colorful and different Asia. As I asked her, what kind of experience did you get by visiting such large cities of Asia, Julia replied it is “very rewarding as the big cities of the new economies like Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore are changes and hardly can be found as the “old world”. She also added that “the density of the population is so high there, that the buildings look like a very dense forest offering what the photographer needs the most - interesting light to capture.” So here you guys, really great shots of night cities and those magical lights of night life. 

Highlight of the Week: Arkhai by Bianka Schumann

In Budapest, Hungary based photographer Bianka Schumann presented her new photo-project, called “Arkhai” as ‘intimate relationship of two child-grown, grown-child, a main secret book which tells their ordinary and extraordinary world in pictures and I could be a little part of it.’ Photographer explores the particular time of our lives then we are experiencing childhood and grown-up life at the same time. When we are living in two words, and get many questions. “The big questions of the life are being dissected. Is it indeed real that I am alive? The world, the Earth, the other planets and the whole solar system are really existing? And why got the chair the name of chair or the table the name of table?” - elaborates photographer in her project’s description. You can take a look at the whole project here

A small man in the big world: interview with Achraf Baznani

When Jonathan Swift published his world famous novel “Gulliver’s Travels” in 1726 he probably didn’t know that someday it would become a reality… Well, at least in the  photographic world. Achraf Baznani, based in Morocco, is a self-taught photographer who creates surrealistic self-portraits. As a small person in his artwork, he can walk on dining tables, and discover and interact with unusually large everyday items such as books and tea cups. Achraf first started creating short documentaries like “On”, “The Forgotten”, and “Immigrant” which earned him several national and international awards. Now, he is also the photographer who shows the world from a surrealistic angle. I have chosen to reflect one side of his portfolio: his minimalistic self-portraits. I hope you enjoy it!  

I’m personally a big fan of surrealistic artworks. When did you find yourself in the realm surrealism and its art? 
Photography has more than one source of learning, which ones are looked at depends on the person himself. Personally, I am a big fan of the Hungarian photographer “Robert Capa” and his immortal work, “The falling solder “. This shot is one of the most important images of war in the twentieth century.  That’s exactly what made me experiment with surreal and fantasy art, and creating images that the human mind doesn’t accept.

Why do you think we need surrealism in this world?
I think because we need a break from reality. Surrealism takes us from the real world to a dreaming one. We can recreate and share our dreams or surrealist ideas in real life through photography.

How was your idea to take your personal portraits in such a creative way conceived? 
For my works there are a variety of ways a concept falls into place. Most often it starts with a spark of inspiration and grows from there; whether it is a person, design, story that needs to be told… regardless, it all starts with a single point. From there it becomes simple problem solving. I don’t spend very much time looking at what other people are doing. I like to stay aware and connected to what others are doing by following sites such as Flickr but beyond that, I spend the rest of my time meeting people, creating, and really just living life. I think the best way to be inspired is not to just try to emulate others, but to find what inspires you in life and trying to capture and share it. 

You use a lot of items from your home to create your small world and put yourself in it. Is it hard for you to be inspired by the same things and environment? 
I can easily find ideas and use the same objects to design my work. Using the same objects across multiple works is not appreciated by everyone and that’s why I like it; it is the sense of creativity.

Are you going to try anything different in terms of photography? 
I love macro photography. What I love most about macro photography is the surprise elements that always pop out. Those surprises are fine details that can’t be seen with the naked eye, but which emerge clearly when the photo is enlarged. What is so tempting about macro photography and photographing insects that the photographer can spend hours behind a small creature to get an impossible shot. It’s the beautiful patterns, or I should say the designs, that the insects are gifted with and we are not.

What is your biggest dream related to art? 
Ever since I started photography, it has always been a dream to have my photographs printed up large and posted on the wall. Exhibiting my artwork is my biggest dream.

What would be your advice to beginners who would like to experiment with surrealism through photography? 
It’s never easy to succeed and sustain going pro and freelance in the beginning. I know people who can take anywhere between 6 months to countless years… it will take dedication and luck, but hard work and perseverance is the key. Never give up, no matter how hard it is. Nothing is impossible.

Text edited by Melissa Searle

The Highlight of the Week: Nightscapes by Jakob Wagner

Most of you probably already have seen this amazing project and many others that are created and presented by German photographer Jakob Wagner. After a short chat with him, we have decided to highlight his project on the website. Project “Nightscapes” highlights the beauty of various cities in the night. Photographer visited such cities as Shanghai, New York,  Dubai, Los Angeles, Chicago, Manila, Cape Town and many more… He started the project in 2009 with a big goal to present as many night cities as he can; and here you go! Such a beauty! 

30 seconds project: interview with Gerald Emming

Self-taught photographer, Gerald Emming, based in the Netherlands, presented to us his new and interesting project called “30 Seconds”. The Award-winning photographer simply attempts to capture the beauty of people in the streets. Photographs without any premeditation try to reveal the beauty of naturalism. I think, personally, that these portraits look brilliant and I wouldn’t have guessed that they were taken without any preparation; the people in these portraits look absolutely brilliant! Gerald, who is also a professional filmmaker at the University Medical Center of Groningen, kindly agreed to have a small chat with me about this unique project and tell more about himself as well. 

So, tell us more about yourself. How long have you been into photography? 
I held my first (Agfa) camera when I was a kid. My father taught me the basics and my neighbor had a “dark room”, so I played around with photography and experimented from then onwards. In 2008 I picked up photography in a more serious way. I have been making films and educational movies since 2000, and the gap between both worlds is small. The introduction of Digital Cameras and Photoshop opened a whole new dimension for me. 

Are you a self-taught photographer? 
Yes. I followed some Workshops, Videos and Tutorials to learn some specific areas of photography and also went to the Dutch Fotoacademie. Besides that I learn a lot just by viewing and analyzing lots of images. 

Why did you decide that you wanted to capture people portraits without any preparation? In the end, this is what this project about, right? 
Yes, that is what it is all about! When I bought a decent DLSR I basically started this project to learn. Shooting images under all circumstances when you have basically no time to think. So my goal was to learn how my camera worked. I shoot with Carl Zeiss Lenses with manual focus to give it an extra dimension and old school feeling. I must admit that I choose Carl Zeiss because I think they give me the best result in terms of quality. I capture images of people on the street that I’ve never met before, without any preparation, within 30 seconds, trying to achieve “the same” result as when I would capture images of the same person in the studio.

Is it hard to attract people that would like to participate in your project? 
I spot people in a crowded area, like shopping centers. I simply ask them if I may talk to them about something, and after that I tell them about the project as briefly as possible, meanwhile trying to make them feel comfortable. I show them some examples to show them what it’s all about. About 7 or 8 people cooperate out of every 10 I ask so it’s not so hard.

How long are you going to continue this project? 
It’s a long-lasting project. It is still fun to do, the way you approach a stranger, getting the look within 30 seconds in a crowded street and at the end the stranger has to focus as well. That makes this project really great to do. As the story continues, I must admit that I look differently at the people I choose to ask in comparison to some years before, I have become picky with who I choose. Besides that I’m working with other projects as well, so the challenge is to find the right balance between both worlds. The great thing about this project is that you can pick it up anytime you want.

What are trying to tell to others in this project?
I want to show with this project that you can learn a lot with only your camera and yourself. Not only how you should take a good shot under any circumstance, it’s also the interaction with an unknown human being, learning to spot a face and look in a crowd, learning to think 10 steps further ahead. When I ask a person with the specific look I want, I know my image could be really great!

What was the most challenging thing regarding your idea?
The most challenging stranger was a man I asked who was mildly autistic. I was drawn by his face and looks, and tried to convince him about the project. But the conversation was tough and he didn’t understand what I really wanted and besides that he was in a real hurry. But in the end he agreed (I think he still had no idea what it was all about). The first shots were terrible, he was distracted by the passengers all around him, but after my first frames I told him to look straight into the camera with his chin angled down a little and I had my frame. In the end it was my favorite image as well, this man beats everyone else from all the people I shot during this project!

What main assumptions have you made or what interesting things have you noticed during this project? 
I noticed that every person acts in a different way. I have captured more than 2000 strangers so far, and they are all so very different. The people you have great expectations about don’t always work out, and people for whom you had your doubts turned out to give you the look you were looking for. So I learned that you should always give it a try and more importantly, don’t give up! It may give you the image you were looking for! 

Edited by Melissa Searle 

Dark and surrealistic self-portraits: interview with Alex Schaefer

Surrealism always was one of my favorite art styles. Perhaps that’s why my attention was strongly attracted to Alex’s Schaefer self-portraits. A recent graduate of NYC University’s Tisch School of Arts, he perfectly combines darkness and creativity. He uniquely highlights emotions and thoughts that are hard to describe out loud in words. I had a really nice chat with Alex about his personality, ideas and assumptions. I simply hope you’re going to enjoy this interview and will enter into the dark world of surrealism by Alex Schaefer.

How did your idea to start experimenting with self-portraits materialize?
For me, the idea of doing a self-portrait series was almost born out of necessity. Since high school I have struggled quietly with depression. At the time I first began the series I was studying film at school. I was in the process of writing a feature-length script about a character that was loosely based off of my circumstances. Depression was never something I felt comfortable or open to speaking about, so I found it difficult to express what I wanted to say with words. I came up with the idea to begin a self-portrait series because I wanted a creative outlet to express the emotions and anxiety that I was too afraid to speak about. I wanted to let the pictures speak for the words I could never seem to say.

Oh, so that’s why your self-portraits are so dark and full of emotions. It seems that your character (or you, yourself) is always fighting life challenges within the surrealistic world of your art. Why is it important for you to reflect everything in such a surrealistic way?
To me, surrealism provides a creative escape for the mind. It opens us to the possibility of seeing things differently. I feel that society in particular puts a great deal of pressure on us to follow the status quo and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to use photography to create worlds that break the boundaries we live within. And so, too, I wanted my portraits to offer an audience the ability to escape to a new world where they could question their curiosity and challenge what they already know.

Do you think art can help society regarding sending important messages about some serious matters?
Yes, I think art certainly has the ability to send an important message and effect change in a society. However, I think it comes down to the individual. We respond to art best when we are able to connect with it personally. Art that delivers an important message to society is one which is able to connect with people not simply as an audience, but as an individual.

You said that you wanted art speak for your emotions that you couldn’t express in words. Do you feel now, after creating these self-portraits, more comfortable with yourself and your past?Yes! These self-portraits have given me a creative outlet to express how I feel, but have also afforded me the opportunity to reflect on who I am along the way. In fact, what surprised me the most was perhaps how much I learned about myself from these portraits. Most importantly, I learned to always stay true to yourself and the art you want to create. It took me a long time to become comfortable posting my photographs. I thought that people who knew me might think I was crazy! And yes, sometimes it can be difficult to be vulnerable with your art, especially when it’s an extension of yourself or your emotions, but what I’ve learned so far is that you have to pursue what you are passionate about. You can’t let anything stop you- not fear, not rejection, not what other people might think of your work, and most importantly, you can’t stop yourself from becoming the artist you want to be!

I also have looked at your resume, I hope you don’t mind. It seems that you are working a lot with film photography. Is it hard to stay motivated for your personal projects while you’re working hard, or maybe this kind of work is the motivation itself?No, not at all- I’m excited you found it! I spend a lot of time working as a camera assistant on commercial and narrative work around New York City. I also just finished an internship in the photography department at Saturday Night Live! I love the work that I do outside of my own photography, so it never feels as though it takes away from my own creativity. In fact, I find that sometimes it even motivates me more because I’m always itching to finish my work on set so I can get home to take a photograph before the sun sets. The work itself is definitely motivational, especially because I am surrounded by some of the most talented and hardworking people that I know! It’s great to be with people who inspire you and the work you do and who are always ready to accept the next creative challenge thrown their way.

Do you think it is hard nowadays to get into the art or photography industry?
I think it’s much easier than it used to be. We have the advantages of digital technology and social media which can connect us with an audience in an instant. Now it’s easier than ever to have your photographs shared and seen by a huge amount of people. What is also interesting to consider is how technology has given us the opportunity to push the boundaries of art — particularly in the realm of surreal and conceptual photography. I think of software like Photoshop for example, which has given artists like me the ability to imagine the impossible and then go out and create it!

I totally agree with that! What is your biggest goal related to photography at the moment?
I would love to have some of my photographs exhibited in a New York City art gallery!

Edited by Melissa Searle 

Weekly highlight: a “CLOSE” project by Evelyn Bencicova

In Berlin based photographer Evelyn Bencicova, who is also an artist on tumblr, amazed me with her new project, called “CLOSE”. I chose her as the first artist to be in our new rubric “Weekly Highlight”. “Close” is all about the vulnerability and support, about our nudity (of our inside where emotions and fears are). I like the coloring of the project: cold and neutral for the idea itself. Amazing project!

A little magnificent world: interview with Dina Belenko 

Do you remember when you were a kid and you used your toys to build and create a scenario? For example, as far as I remember, I liked to create cities with lots of houses, streets, and people (some of them were teddy bears, of course) and then I would imagine that the city experiences a natural disaster like something from the “Godzilla” movie. If you did something like that, Russian artist Dina Belenko should successfully bring you back to your childhood. “Prongs of the fork can become a dark forest; powdered sugar can turn into a snowfall.” – said Dina to me, when I asked her to describe the photography style she’s doing. Dina transforms various items and creates a gorgeous world or situation that she can capture with her camera. “It’s not only about transformations, it’s about the way everything is connected in the small world set around us” – she elaborates her thoughts to me. It is, indeed. And I was very curious about how she decides what situation she wants to create and capture; how she sees the world through her eyes. So I asked her several questions, and now, finally, I can present the answers to you.

You’re focusing on a photographic style that explores the large world through small items. How did you find yourself in such style of photography?
When I began studying photography, I tried various genres: landscapes, portraits, street. Eventually I understood that what interests me lies not in tracing some events and retelling stories of some happenings, but in creating tales of my own and the easiest way to do this is when you have control over all the objects in your shot. You may see yourself as a director that giver orders to cups and cookies.

Your art requires a lot of creativity because you have to create the situation by yourself with various things. How do you decide which of them are you going to use?
I always make a sketch before shooting. It’s not usually detailed, but it helps to define the topic, location and mood, as well as to grasp the overall composition and required objects. I try to keep only the most needed things in the frame, those that would work for the shot, and get rid of all I think as unnecessary. Somehow I feel that the question “Why do I need this thing?” is very important. If the object doesn’t become a part of the story and is not affecting the composition in any way, then maybe the shot will be better off without it.

Why do you think it is actually important to be capable of seeing the world differently?
I think it’s really fascinating: all these connections between things, their small transformations, their secret life and even simple comparisons in a “what does it look like” game help us understand how everything is set up. How does our mind work to find these connections? How does the world build them? You may imagine yourself as an explorer, like David Livingstone, in a world of inanimate objects. I don’t really know if it has any real importance, but anyway, it’s very interesting.

Which emotion is the hardest to express through art? Why?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. I feel that the subtler an emotion is, the harder it is to express through art. Anyone can imagine such basic emotions as happiness, anger, amazement, fear or grief. But when it comes to mixed feelings which are difficult to explain, it becomes rather complicated. This “cocktail” is very hard to express. Yet look what actors do – they always come up with something: the pose, look, turning of the head, and we can understand everything without words. I think that such things can be done for any emotion in photography as well.

Is there any art form or artwork itself that you do not appreciate? Why?
Hmm, it’s hard to tell. There are things I prefer to others and there are genres that I don’t personally like. But I think that if there is some beautiful work in any of these genres, I am able to appreciate it. I don’t like works that simply trace the reality (like documentary) without altering it. One can simply look out of the window to see the real world. Something new, created not by the real state of things, but by the hand of the artist, is far more interesting.

How do you see and imagine photography in 10 - 15 years?
I don’t know much about the state of things in other genres to make predictions, but I hope that there will appear more authors, who practice still-life. I mean not only those who take beautiful compositions with flowers and fruits (though this also requires a lot of work), but also those, who try to make their still-life shot conceptual, metaphoric, narrative. Those who tell stories. Like, for example, Catherine MacBride or Dan Cretu. This is a rather young genre, and it will be really great, if more authors like them appear.

What do you value in your life most and why?
Being able to do what you like and being able to learn to become better. I belong to the kind of people who think that their work is themselves. That’s why I think that the job you like and do well is the most important thing to be.

What is your biggest dream at the moment?
Honestly? Maybe it’s to become the best in my field. I know it’s a long and hard way, and that I’m standing at it’s very beginning, but everyone has to start from something. This dream may never come true, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a try, right?

How do you spend your leisure time and how does it help you to remain inspired?
The best way to keep yourself inspired is to do something new every day to receive new experiences and impressions. You are out of ideas and don’t know what to shoot? Just ask yourself: “What have I never done before or haven’t done in a long time?” You can ride a bicycle, bake a cake, blow huge soap bubbles, go fishing, learn to juggle, try to fold a horse from a piece of paper, play football, swing on swings, find an old computer game and replay it, even reread a favorite book. These may sound childish, bud they bring so much joy! This really helps to overcome the crisis and gives inspiration. For example, I never skated on roller skates – I’m keeping it for a rainy day.

Edited by Melissa Searle 


Amazing New York City: interview with Ron Gessel 

New York - the city of my dreams. Well, it was… After moving to London I eventually realized that I am not so passionate about big cities. I still love them, though. And I am still dreaming of visiting the Big Apple. That’s why I am very critical about the photographers who shoot street life of this city: there are so many great photographs, it’s hard to find any better anymore. I mean, what else can you come up with that is different? Well, Ron Gessel succeeded in surprising me. The art director from the Netherlands (oh, I loved their Eurovision song this year… just something to be remembered) who studied Graphic Design, had a very interesting idea of how to represent this city. Of course, he’s not the first photographer to capture real life, but I liked the coloring; the moments he caught in the busy street and how he brilliantly mixed portraits with architecture of the city. You could easily call Ron a frequent traveler. He’s visited the USA (of course…), China, Japan, Malaysia… Ooh, the countries that I would one day like to visit as well. Finally, without wasting any more of your precious time, I would like you to read our interview with the person, who uniquely amazed me with New York’s photographs, - Ron Gessel. 


How long have you been interested in photography? It’s probably now one of the most essential parts in your life; is it the main source of your income, as well? 
I have been interested in photography all my life but I decided to become an art director. I work with photographers a lot but when photography became digital it woke up my love for it again. It was so much easier to take pictures because you could see the results immediately. Since I am still an art director my income is about 50/50.

 What was your favorite experience regarding your photo-projects and why?
Every country, every city has its own charm so I don’t have a particular favorite experience. But sometimes you feel that you are creating great photos. I had that in Tokyo when I was under a bridge and the sun was shining on the people underneath and at that moment I knew everything was right to make a great photo.

Let’s talk about your New York project: It’s full of very strong portraits. Why have you choosen to capture people in streets, going somewhere, living their routines? 
Because I want to catch people as who they really are, not staged. Because when I do stage photos I loose the spontaneous feeling and appearance. I never ask people to pose for me, I just steal a moment from their lives. But I don’t feel like a thief. I watch the people in the streets and click at the right moment. I try to hold them as a mirror although they probably will never see the photo. 

How did you end-up in New York, anyway?
I love New York, the city is such a melting pot of all kinds of different cultures. The city gives energy and it is very inspiring. For a street photographer it is a candy shop. On every corner in NY you see interesting people. One day in New York is good for about 500 photos. Of course there is a lot of waste but there’s still enough to show to people who would like to see them.

You also captured some beautiful street views. Was it hard to understand exactly how you wanted to represent this city in your project?
No, it was not very hard because for me it is also street photography. Street photography doesn’t mean that there has to be people involved. In fact, without people is the purest way to shoot street. I think the combination of portraits and street views gives a good image of the city.

What kind of impression has this city left you with overall?
The city is electric and acts like a magnet to me. The tall buildings in Manhattan give off a special light. The sun reflecting in the windows works as an extra light source. The lights and colors surprise the tourists on Broadway. The crazy and funny people on Coney Island. Soho feels like a village and is cozy. You can feel Asia’s presence 100% in Chinatown. The funky people in Harlem. It is possible to shoot 24/7 in New York. A street photographer never sleeps in New York.

Let’s talk about your techniques. What cameras are you using and why?
I used to use a Nikon D700 with the 14-24mm from Nikon. But walking the whole day in New York with that on my wrist was very heavy. So these days I use a Fujifilm x1 Pro with the 18mm (24mm) Fujinon and the 35mm (50mm) Fujinon. It is light, the photos are super sharp, and I love the sensor of the Fuji camera. And when I want to take photos in a very light way I use the Samsung EX2F the lens to get an aperture of 1.4. It’s brilliant! Ok you can’t compare this camera with the Fujifilm or Nikon but for example I took my photo of the Brooklyn Bridge with the Samsung.

Is it hard to select the coloring for your photos? Is it a spontaneous thing that comes when you are editing photos or do you always have in mind how you would like your projects to turn out?
No, it is not hard at all. It costs me about 10 minutes to edit a photo. I use a preset in Lightroom and after that I fine tune the photo because no photo is the same. After that I paint with the light brush in my photos. It depends what happens when I see the photos on my screen, I don’t have a plan in my mind so it is a spontaneous process. 

 What would be your best advice for young photographers, who are trying to capture a city’s life? 
I would advise them to buy a wide angle lens because you have to go to the people who you want to shoot. Approach them from 1.5-2 meters and then shoot. You can feel the distance in photos when you use a long lens but we want to be close to the subject so use a short lens. Oh and don’t be afraid most people won’t even know you took a photo of them, if they do, smile understandingly to them and walk away. Remember the streets are a public place so you may shoot people. If people really don’t like what you did then use your common sense and delete the photo.

 Edited by Melissa Searle 

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