In more than 100 stunning ambrotype portraits of farmers and chefs accompanied by brief honest answers, Francesco Mastalia captured in his project ‘Organic‘ their beautiful, powerful, sensual stories and philosophy.
“Organic is working with nature, not telling it what to do, not demanding of things it can’t do.”
The archaic photographic technique is in refined harmony with the passion of these 21st century women and men who re-embraced the old ways of producing and preparing food. “Organic is the old, ancient, natural way that was predestined from all eternity for us to grow our own food.”
The project ‘Organic’ spotlights New York State’s Hudson Valley but opens a global dialogue about our future in living organically and sustainably in respect to the Earth. “Organic” is not just about growing and producing food, it is about the life of the planet.”
Alfred Ehrhardt (1901 -1984) ‘Mussels and Snails’ – a fascination with laws of nature: structural forms, beauty and mathematical precision as timeless cosmic symbols existing beyond the material realm.
Alfred Ehrhardt – Mussels and Snails
“What technical laws nature follows in its creation of forms and what a model of an architectonic and motoric spirit governs these organisms when they develop the shape of their bodies, leaves or shells?”
Through photographic studies of natural marine artifacts as corals, sponges, mussels, snails, sea urchins, and starfish, the artist expressed his great respect to the wealth of nature as an eternal force.
The first photo book ‘Mussels and Snails’ (‘Muscheln und Schnecken’) was published by Heinrich Ellermann Verlag in 1941 and in 1968 a new edition followed.
Kacper Kowalski’s series ‘Over’ – abstract aerial perspective as a personal response to emotions of emptiness, fear and the sense of inevitable doom, and exploring the relationship between man and nature as a futuristic vision of the end of the world.
Kacper Kowalski – Over
“I am tired of man and his behaviours. When watched for 20 years from an aerial, although amazing, they become predictable. What would happen if mankind vanished? What would be left behind? What would the predicted end of the Human Era look like? What will happen tomorrow, in a year, in a generation, in a thousand years? I know by now that the whole landscape has been processed and marked with human presence. We feel as if we are the hosts and the owners of the entire world. But just one volcano eruption, hurricane or virus is enough to prove that our omnipotence is an illusion. One tiny error can make all we have worked so hard to achieve disappear.”
Dornith Doherty’s project ‘Archiving Eden’ (2008 – ongoing) – the extraordinary visual power of x-rays photographs and collages of seeds and tissue samples stored in crucial world collections as poetic questions about life, time and our future, and the tension between stillness and change.
“I am struck by the power of these tiny plantlets and seeds (many are the size of a grain of sand) to generate life and to endure the time span central to the process of seed banking, which seeks to make these sparks last for two hundred years or more.”
Dornith Doherty – Archiving Eden
The project started in a collaboration with seed banks to document their preservation efforts in the face of climate change and the extinction of natural species – a kind of Noah’s arks of planet’s botanical diversity. There are 1.400 such banks in the world and they range from small private to massive governmental institutions. They serve as a global botanical backup system to assure the opportunity for reintroduction of species in case of a catastrophic event or civil strife affect a key ecosystem somewhere in the world.
“Photographs are a trace of something that was recorded in the past and when you look at them in the present, there is that tension between the past and the present that makes the passage of time an underpinning element of all photography. These collections, these libraries of life preserve the present for the future that is so distant that can’t even be known… The use of the color delft/indigo blue evokes references not only to the process of cryogenic preservation, central to the methodology of saving seeds, but also to the intersection of east and west, trade, cultural exchange, and migration.
Dornith Doherty – Archiving Eden
To learn more about the project and the seed banks, there is an interesting and inspiring talk given by the artist at TED and a book published in 2017 with some of the photographs made by then.
Dune Varela’s series ‘Toujours le soleil’ (‘Forever the sun’) – by shooting the prints with a gun experimenting with accidents in a process of losing control upon the result as a creative search of dual meaning about destruction and the fragility of the material.
Dune Varela – Forever the sun
“What interest me most is working on the materiality of the images and conducting somewhat physical experiments on them. I like to explore the idea of re-representation because an image is already a representation and how it is represented a new in an exhibition… I like incorporate accidents in my work. One day I said ‘I’d like to shoot at the image. I’m going to be the Niki de Saint Phalle of photography”.
The project was created as the BMW Residency award won by the artist in 2016 where she was given a ‘carte blanche’ to further her photographic research and experimentation.
Carrie Mae Weems series ‘Sea Islands’ (1991-1992) – through highlighting the significance of the landscape along the Georgia/Carolina coast in the United States bringing to present the memory of silenced people from the Creole culture once brought there as slaves.
“One midnight at high tide, a ship bringing in a cargo of Ebo (Ibo) men landed at Dunbar Creek on the Island of St. Simons. But the men refused to be sold into slavery; joining hands together they turned back toward the water, chanting, “The water brought us, the water will take us away.” The all drowned, but to this day when the breeze sighs over the marshes and through the trees, you can hear the clank of chains and echo of their chant at Ebo Landing.”
It all started as a desire to preserve his childhood memories from the Finish countryside when the photographer found out he would become father, but gradually the idea adopted also the concept of preserving the threatened nature.
Christoffer Relander – Jarred and Displaced
“Reality can be beautiful, but the surreal often absorbs me. Photography to me is a way to express and stimulate my imagination. Nature is simply the world. With alternative and experimental camera techniques I am able to create artworks that otherwise only would be possible through painting or digital manipulation in an external software.”
Daren You’s series ‘Chaos’ – dark tones for infinite universe, wind, clouds, water for unpredictable elements as subjects, and merging different photographic techniques, in exploring the chaos as completely disordered event.
Daren You – Chaos
“Chaos is a property of dynamic systems. A dynamic system is nothing more than a source of changing observations. It is impossible to predict and control. If law and order rule the universe, chaos, by contrast, is its totally disorganized opposite. In order to liberate my photographs completely, I have intentionally introduced chaos into my images.
I used several techniques from historic to contemporary to process the same image such reticulated film through a high temperature developing process, liquid emulsion, inkjet printing, darkroom printing and encaustic painting. These multi-layered photos push beyond the edge of artistic control and merge as complex and unconstrained.”
Xiaoyi Chen’s series ‘Koan’ – using the photogravure process and with Eastern aesthetic to explore beneath the surface of symbolic and following to the Zen and Taoist philosophy opening up the territory of the pre-verba in getting closer to the concept of purity.
Xiaoyi Chen – Koan
“Tao and Zen always advise people to stay absolutely quiet and purify thought processes. In order to achieve this goal, our attention should focus on the most basic form of the universe’s existence. In Zen Buddhism, Koan is a story or riddle used to help in the attainment of a state of spontaneous reaction, free from planning and analytical thought. In contradiction to Western philosophy, Koans emphasize the inadequacy of language and words, and the importance of intuition over reason and logic, to transform the self.
I named the series Koan, and selected abstract landscape photographs to do a photo-etching process; the results of this craft are poetic and full of imaginations. Also only uses black ink and print on different Japanese papers, the color derives from the atmosphere of desolation and melancholy and the expression of minimalism in ancient Chinese poetry and monochromatic ink painting.”
Annu Palakunnathu Matthew’s series ‘An Indian from India’ – diptychs combining archival images from the 19th and early 20th century of Native Americans with her self-portraits, to challenge the legacies of colonial pasts of more than 500 years and exploring the ‘otherness’ of identity.
Annu Palakunnathu Matthew – An Indian from India
“As an immigrant, I am often questioned about where I am “really from.” When I say that I am Indian, I often have to clarify that I am an Indian from India. It seems strange that all this confusion started because Christopher Columbus thought he had found the Indies and called the native people of America collectively as Indians.”
With themes like assimilation and assumptions about minorities, and titles ‘Red Indian’ / ’Brown Indian’ or ‘Noble Savage / ‘Savage Noble’, the confusion is not only around the word “Indian” but has deeper roots in stereotypes of the notion of ‘primitive natives’ and races relations.