The Cold War – Sandy Skoglund

A picture speaks a thousand words it is often said. Even if we don’t hear all of them. Some pictures have more to say than others…some have over-much to say – others short, sweet, succinct.

A picture cannot be self-evident then? It can speak but it speaks in multiple tongues.

And in any case self-evident to whom?

Some listeners hear more, experience more than others do.To one a picture may elicit a warm fuzzy feeling of love and empathy; to another it elicits nothing they remaining cool and indifferent to it, yet another may have a visceral dislike to it.

One may be flattened in awe by it but another left feeling only existential ennui…

Each of us ourselves will sometime hear more or less depending on our moods and our current and passing preoccupations. Sometimes to our environment we are as a sponge, other times as marble.

Where we experience the art may also effect how we are affected – the company we are in, or if we are alone. We may respond better in a crowd at a gallery with friends and strangers or by ourselves at home with a paper print or online image.

But what about what we already know of the artist and their art?

Do you find knowing about what the artist thinks about it a help or hindrance? Do you need to find out what the artist says about their work/s first before experiencing it? Or do you prefer to experience it first without that knowledge only seeking out what the artist thinks about it afterwards?

The reason for these musings arise having happened upon a piece on My Modern Met about Sandy Skoglund called Incredibly Elaborate Non-Photoshopped Scenes posted up by one of their bloggers Eugene. The article presents a brief biography about this American artist and sixteen of her works. You can also access many more of her works on her website which includes video too, as well as a much more detailed biography/résumé.

The Cold Wharf - Sandy Skoglund

[Having read this again it seems I have deleted a few lines of text. This was over a year ago and I cannot remember now what I wrote but this is just to acknowledge that and the slight abruptness in the narrative of the next main paragraph!]

[Also when I first wrote this I was under the impression this piece was called ‘The Cold Wharf’ – I must have been very tired! – but have left the musing as it is for this piece was more about my impression of the piece itself rather than any objective reality pertaining to it. And I did later in the piece make reference to the cold war. Clearly it would have been a difference piece had I got my facts correct though!]

Though perhaps it was not that random and perhaps my sub-conscious and its silent hand led me to it above all others. Perhaps.

Like the other images though it was dominated by a palette of two bold colours. For The Cold Wharf these were red and gold. Or red and orange. Or red and yellow. Clearly I am confident that one of the colours is red at least!

The Cold Wharf has a sleeping man surrounded by an army of toy soldiers armed with toy rifles and toy guns. There are toy missiles too. These are many but all unattended. All of this artillery though is aimed toward the sleeping man.

Is he sleeping though or are his eyes just closed in fright, ostrich-style? He is prone on the ground but his hands are over his ears and he appears to have moved his head beneath the telephone table. Taking cover from the toy bullets, from the noise?

Are the violent images arranged against him real or in fact part of his dream, his night-mare?

Or where does this violence originate anyway? With him or with others? Where does his violence end and the world’s violence begin? Is this the violence of his own life – his mind, his home, his neighbours, his neighbourhood. Or the fictional violence of comics and books, computer games and action-movies seeped into his unconscious?

The violence visited from the second-hand daylight of his TV screen? The endless staged killings of crime shows and the common-place tidal wave of violence from news-programmes?

The violence of war and genocide and crime and matter-of-fact accidents.

Or is this a Grimm fairy-tale, the innocent play soldiers become sinister reality and about to turn on their Gulliver?

This image is a staged scene – everything in it I can assume is there for a reason.

Why is the dog there? Lying alongside him, so then the man’s pet and close faithful companion…mirroring his master’s actions, joining him in his doom.

And the telephone and its stand – are they significant, or at least have meaning? The telephone to provide a call for help, the SOS from all the violence. But it is inescapable violence so the telephone is redundant, a sign only of futility…

Do the colours themselves have any meaning – political or religious or other symbolism? Perhaps that depends on when the picture was taken. Red could mean China or the old Soviet Union, communism itself, and the reasonable or unreasonable paranoia thereof?

The gold makes me think of the sun and the red imagery of Japan so perhaps then the Rising Sun…I am assuming the prone man is American or at least Western then if I am considering his enemy to be from the East…he looks Caucasian but it is not that clear. Japan is now a friend of the USA but if this picture was set in the early 1940’s?…but then that telephone is not of that decade, far more modern than that. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the rise of Japanese industry and prosperity and the decline of the USA’s industry and prosperity.

And what of the title The Cold Wharf? Sounds like The Cold War but…

What do its words mean to me? Cold is obvious but the colours feel like a glow of warmth and of a radioactive heat at that, and ominously nuclear than solar.

The word Wharf though does not resonate with me… for now at least …

And what of this picture’s thousand words to you reading this post? You may hear similar words to what I hear but you may well hear something else entirely. You may indeed have no interest at all in what The Cold Wharf has to say.

For some that is the curse of art. For me it is its blessing.

The beauty of ugly, the ugly of beauty – David Kretschmer

Mirrors - David KretschmerMirrors - David KretschmerIn my post International Photography Awards 2011 I promised further posts about some of the individual photographers who received awards or placed second or third.

One such was German photographer David Kretschmer, currently based in the Netherlands, whose entry ‘Mirrors’ was runner-up in the Non-professional Fine Art category.

He describes his work thus:

“Mirrors shows the contradictory view on beauty in the modern society. Four beautiful young girls, looking very doubting and insecure. As they are almost perfect looking, they observe themselves very strict and criticize every single flaw on their body and face. The four guys are in complete contrast to the girls. They are not perfect at all but they look very confident at themselves and don’t care about any beauty ideals. They are not pristine but they are satisfied.”

I have to agree.

Consider too a couple of recent pop songs.

Christina Aguilera‘s torch-song ballad ‘Beautiful’ nails this subject to its scarred beating heart. It was penned by Linda Perry and could we imagine her having penned it for Justin Timberlake?

The Sugababe‘s anti-anthem Ugly was similarly stirring in sentiment, but again could we have imagined the, let’s face it, far less photogenic Take That, agreeing to sing the Dallas Austin lyric?

I only have to think of myself and how much time I spend in front of a mirror before venturing out into the big bad world – barely a cursory glance often enough as I tumble outside – and believe me I am not one of nature’s pretty pictures!

Mirrors - David KretschmerMirrors - David KretschmerNot all of David Kretschmer’s work is detailed on the IPA site but you can see it in full on his own website. He is a newcomer to professional photography beginning as a freelancer last year. He already has a number of other photography awards to his name as well as appearing in numerous international publications including the UK’s Digital Photographer, the South Korean Blink and the Russian Fotovideo.

As well as the concept beyond his ‘Mirrors’ work I enjoy the way they have been executed – the opposite of Omar Ortiz who paints pictures that look like photographs, Kretschmer’s photographs look like paintings.

I also like the way some of the subjects have been shot – looking less like reflections and more like they have become Alice Through The Looking Glass as we bare witness to their out of body experience.

I look forward his future work.

Mirrors - David Kretschmer

Mirrors - David Kretschmer

Alexander Kitsenko – Magic Landscapes

Alexander Kitsenko Ukrainian Autumn

Ukrainian Autumn

Alexander Kitsenko

From 1X site

Here then it is.

Perhaps the best way to post about a photographer is simply to display some of their work with a few of my own personal responses – a picture speaks a thousand words – like many a cliché it is a truism too – and let the viewer make up their own mind.

Some background may be of interest though.

Alexander Kitsenko describes himself as a Landscape Photographer on the 500px site and states that he is from Kharkov in Ukraine. That is the extent of the biography he gives – suggesting perhaps that he too thinks his work should speak for itself.

The subjects of his photographs are certainly landscapes – and all Ukrainian landscapes it seems – for me to they have a dream-like quality – something about how he captures natural light – whether at dawn or dusk, direct sunlight or the watery filtering of cloud or mist.

When I googled him, my passing reference to him in my last post on this blog was page-ranked third, and with all due respect to my, it is sadly fair to say, little-viewed-blog this would suggest that he is not widely published on the web.

However he is signed up to other community-based photography websites where more of his work is on show – some of it indeed, such as 1X, the same as available on 500px – understandably as a photographer work is shared across multiple sites for maximum exposure as also you never know which of these sites will stand out from the crowd and which will get lost in the sound of them.

He does on the 1X site provide further information about himself – that he is an amateur photographer and that he is trying to ‘make life a fairy tale’ which is certainly the aura I get from much of his work.

More prosaically he states that he is in his early thirties and shoots his landscapes on a Canon EOS 35D – a camera from about 2005 now superseded by updated models – a modest mid-range camera in terms of performance if more fire-power and cost than most friends-and-family photo-taking cameras. And it demonstrates that though your choice of camera is clearly a central choice the most important factor is the photographer’s inner-eye, their sense of subject and art.

I also came upon the above photo from a site called Weather Forecast which I found arresting. Like a lot of his woodland photographs the forest is magical looking if in a Grimm way, beautiful yet forbidding.

He is also featured on Art Limited where both the same bio and photographs are on show.

As then details of him are not forthcoming on the web I will, as I suspect he wants it, let his work do the talking.

Alexander Kitsenko The Kingdom of Fog

The Kingdom of Fog

Alexander Kitsenko Mystik Forest

Mystik Forest

Alexander Kitsenko Evening Silence...

Evening Silence…

Evening Silence…
Alexander Kitsenko - Ukrainian Landscape

Ukrainian Landscape

500px – living and breathing photography

500px Home PageIn my last post International Photography Awards 2011 I promised to explore further the photographers of some of the works that impressed me most.

500px Alexander Kitsenko sample

Sample of Kitsenko’s work

One such was Ukrainian photographer Alexander Kitsenko. In doing so I came upon a portfolio of his work on a site called 500px, and the site impressed me as much as Kitsenko’s own work. So my post on Kitsenko is deferred while I recommend to you the 500px site. However before I go on here is a sample of his work available on 500px.

I also commented that in addition to having a website to display and to provide a store-front for your photographic artwork you should consider submitting your work to photographic competitions such as the post-featured annual International Photography Awards.

A third option is to submit your work to sites dedicated solely to photography. Here you are able to share your work to like-minded peers and be an inspiration to others as others inspire you.

500px is one such site.

500px Team

Site Details

When you submit your work it can be commented on by both fellow contributors and the site’s editorial team. In turn you are able to comment on other contributor’s work.

The site can be viewed in general simply by clicking from link to link on the photographs that you most respond to. Alternatively there is the short-cut of searching by the numerous categories on offer such as Animals, City and Architecture, Black and White, Fashion, Fine Art, Still Life among many others. Finally there is the standard search engine option.

As well as submitting individual photos you are as likely having a portfolio or two to want to share and this site allows for this with various templates available.

Photographs are available for viewing without registering but to submit and view others portfolios you need to register.

As you can see from the opening image nude content is allowable too but not immediately available asking you to confirm you want to see it.

500px - People sample

Sample in People category

500px also works as a social network site allowing peer-to-peer commenting and the usual social media sharing options to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and others.

Blogs are central to this site too – the site itself has its own blog and you can set up your own photo-blog. The site also allows you to view content across all blogs by aggregating it all into a time-line.

The blogs are in many languages and the site integrates Google Translate too. And Google Translate I am finding is becoming a lot more reliable than its rather initial bumbling translations don’t you think?

The site registration and service is free though there is a paid service at a very reasonable $50 per annum.

Like a lot of free services there are limits on the number and size of content uploaded whereas the paid service allows you unlimited storage.

The paid service also allows you if you have your own web-domain to integrate your 500px portfolio into it.

The paid service is also compatible with the iPhone and iPad and allows web-analytics courtesy of Google.

The best thing I think about sites like this as oppose to your own website or entering a competition is the peer-to-peer interaction – being able to support and feedback on each others works – to friend like-minded photographers and to be inspired by other photographers whose work you may not otherwise have become aware of.

Have any of you used this site? What do you make of it? And how does it compare with similar community based photography sites?

As it is autumn where I am, I finish with this image from Hungarian photographer Ildiko Neer uploaded this very day of writing this post.

International Photography Awards 2011

Day to Night, Times Square by Stephen Wilkes (USA)

Day to Night, Times Square by Stephen Wilkes (USA) Cat Professional Cityscapes - 3rd Place

IInternational Photography Awards some categoriesn my last post Kirsty Mitchell – photographs from the Garden of England I noted the challenge of a photographer gaining exposure for their work – first getting noticed then drawing the webizen in so that they are doing more than window-shopping the vast virtual glass-face that is the web.

One option available is to submit your work to a competition. Even if you do not succeed in winning a prize there is the added traffic from visitors to the competition-website then seeking out your site if they like your work. You may also get feedback from the competition panel too.

One such prize is the International Photography Awards (IPA). I came upon these awards via an article from August this year on the My Modern Met website. The article explains about the competition then posts some of their favourite photographs. I am going to do exactly the same – and also urge you, if not already familiar, to visit the IPA site.

They are based in Los Angeles, USA and describe their mission ‘to salute the achievements of the world’s finest photographers, to discover new and emerging talent, and to promote the appreciation of photography.’

Their site includes an archive gallery dating back to 2003 where you can explore the work of the winning entrants back to that year plus what they call ‘honourable mention’ galleries for both Professional and non-Professional photographers.

You are able to submit your own work at any time – either online or even – perish the thought! – by post.

In addition to the vindication of winning a prize and the increased exposure and credibility to your work, cash prizes ranging from $5000 to $10000 are awarded too.

The awards are not generic either but divided into numerous categories, too numerous indeed to list here, but to give you a flavour of some, there are awards under the umbrellas of Advertising, Architecture, Editorial, Fine Art, Nature, People and Special (basically anything else not included in the other categories) – which in turn have a diverse selection of sub-categories.

There is no theme or narrative therefore to the photos in this post merely some of my own personal favourites. And personal favourites today, tomorrow I could have chosen a different selection such is the quality and quantity of entrants submitted. Actually there is one unintended theme – trees – this urban-soul is perhaps more rural than he realizes!

I have not at this stage researched any of the photographers featured in this post and am looking forward to later doing so and posting on those that have most impressed me.

Women of History by Peter Lippmann (France) - Cat: Professional Fashion

Women of History by Peter Lippmann (France) - Cat: Professional Fashion - 1st Place

Giraffe IV by Alex Bernasconi (Italy) - Cat: Professional Other

Giraffe IV by Alex Bernasconi (Italy) - Cat: Professional Other - 3rd Place

Expressions of Autumn by John Scanlan (USA) - Cat: Professional Seasons

Expressions of Autumn by John Scanlan (USA) - Cat: Professional Seasons - 2nd Place

dead tree IV by Alex Bernasconi (Italy) - Cat: Professional Trees

dead tree IV by Alex Bernasconi (Italy) - Cat: Professional Trees - 2nd Place

Tales of Tolkein: Walking Ent by Alexander Kitsenko (Ukraine) - Cat: Non-professional Trees

Tales of Tolkein: Walking Ent by Alexander Kitsenko (Ukraine) - Cat: Non-professional Trees - 3rd place

Kirsty Mitchell – photographs from the Garden of England

Kirsty Mitchell - About Wonderland - Lady of the Lake

The Lady of the Lake

If you are a photographer the web is an ideal place to share your labours of love – that is assuming your site gets found among the endless virtual real estate that is the online realm, and then that the ever updating Google search algorithms treat you kindly. Because with a very modest digital camera pretty much anyone can set up shop online as a hopefully-professional photographer. And digital cameras of a very high standard indeed can be purchased on quite modest budgets such is the advancement of digital photographic technology. But a high-resolution digital camera and a web-site will only get you so far – to stand out from the pixelated crowd you need art and you need a distinctive vision. Kirsty Mitchell

Kirsty Mitchell certainly has vision. I especially enjoy the staged scenes of dissipated women among the twilight flora – both as one, as nature. It is not all nature though – human-made paraphernalia strews itself in some shots but in the main hauteur-horticulture pervades.

Kirsty Mitchell is from Kent in England – Kent is known as the ‘Garden of England’ – so perhaps then these scenes are inevitable. On her website she explains a background in art and fashion – photography being a relatively recent artistic endeavour following an illness in 2007 causing her to retire her fashion career. Her fashion internships were at the design studios of Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan– what designers to be interned to! As well as a gallery of her work her photographs can be purchased from her website store. Finally she presents a diary of her work. With photography words are not really that necessary? You reader will have a different response to her work than me, and even if we are of similar mind (which really is doubtful!) the pictures will still say far more than any words I could write about them.

Kirsty Mitchell Dryad


This post then is a humble pitch for her work – to go and see for yourself. Unlike some photography blogs which present watermarked and near-thumbnail images, on this blog the photographs are available to see full-screen, fully saturated. I present a smattering here which also can be viewed in greater size if you click on the image. What do you think? Does she stand out from the sound of the crowd?I stated that I think she has a distinctive vision – but does she have art?

Kirsty Mitchell The White Witch

The White Witch

Kirsty Mitchell A Most Beautiful Death

A Most Beautiful Death