photography

Portraits: An Interview With the Artist, IMPREINT

In a perfect world we would all be happy with our “imperfections” and celebrate their uniqueness. But when we have a difficult time appreciating our individuality and understanding how it connects us to others in our imperfect world, artists so often act as our muse, our advocates, and our advisors, showing us new outlooks on ourselves.

Since December of 2013, the UK-based artist IMPREINT has set out on an ambitious collaborative project with the global public. People send in photos of themselves holding a single prop: a balloon. Why a balloon? Well, IMPREINT once painted 1000 balloons and although from a distance they seemed similar, eventually, he started to notice that in addition to their different sizes, shapes, and colours that they also had marks and “flaws” which made each one stand out. And now, this shared reflection between the balloons and people is what has made the images in Portraits so very beautiful.

***

IMPREINT - Don't take things too seriously - August 2010

IMPREINT – Don’t take things too seriously – August 2010

Being an artist, how has art shaped the way that you interact with and understand the world?

Didn’t change my way of thinking, seeing [of] things, or interact but [art] made me more complete as a person.

Your recent project, Portraits, has had a lot of positive response and involvement from people across the world. What does Portraits say about the way we see and understand ourselves as people in today’s age?

I understand that Portraits represents for [those] who participate a way to stand for something that they care about. Interesting, because even if everyone has his personal feeling about his own portrait or the reason why he has made it, the result when you look at them is that we appear all the same. So basically this project talks about the need of the people of the world to share and feel united in our diversity.

IMPREINT - I’m a temporary exhibition - October 2013

IMPREINT – I’m a temporary exhibition – October 2013

“I’m a temporary exhibition.” This statement greets visitors to your website and Facebook page. Does this heightened awareness of time allow you to look at issues (such as homelessness in your project Cut Off and perceptions of beauty seen in Portraits) with a more critical eye?

With a more conscious eye. This statement came as an “answer” to all these proclamations that society and the art world propose as important. It was presented for the first time during the Frieze Art Fair in 2013. It’s a reminder of how our life is fragile and how [it] would probably be better to change attitudes and reconsider what is really important.

You engage and collaborate with the public to create work. But are there any artists you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

No one in particular [just] whoever feels that we can do something together.

IMPREINT - Portraits - December 2013

IMPREINT – Portraits – December 2013

Check out more photos from Portraits on tumblr and Facebook and explore some of IMPREINT’s other projects at www.impreint.com.

The Photographer who Climbed Egypt’s Great Pyramid [Q&A]

You’ve probably seen the famous black and white Depression-era photo where construction workers sit on the ledge of a crane with New York City beneath their feet as they eat lunch. Influenced by the idea of capturing the world from as high as “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” did, young photographers have been scaling  rooftops to take photos just as memorable.

Vadim Makharov, a young Russian photographer who helped advance this new trend, sees “roofing” or “skywalking” as a way to make people see how big the world really is in an age where technology and communication have made it so conveniently small. He works with fellow photographer and friend Vitaliy Raskalov, walking on ledges and wandering the underground to give people a view  of the world they may never have seen before. Together, they’ve gained the media’s attention, in particular for their climb to the top of the Great Pyramid  of Giza in March of 2013.

Some criticized them for disrespecting the site and efforts to preserve it,  while others praised the art that resulted from the climb. Despite the positive attention, Vadim and Vitaliy still apologized in an interview with CNN, saying  “we didn’t want to insult anyone. We were just following [our] dream.”

As I discovered over the course of this conversation, Vadim will continue to  live his dream, traveling and revealing secret places and unique perspectives of the world’s iconic sites.

* * *

You recently visited European countries like Sweden, Spain,  Germany, and France. What inspired your recent trip throughout  Europe?

It was not our first visit to Europe, but [Vitaliy and I] haven’t done such a long-scale trip through Europe before. Our goal was to visit the most  famous places in Europe and to climb them — and we’ve done it.

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov.

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov

You collaborate with Vitaliy on a lot of these projects, from Egypt  to your recent trip to Europe. What’s it like to work with him?

He’s my very good friend. I’ve traveled with him all throughout Russia and then we started exploring other parts of the world. We achieve better results  when we do photos together than alone.

Do you have a favorite or memorable image you captured from your  trip?

Most of all, I remember Cologne Cathedral and the way we climbed it. We didn’t like the city very much, but the Cathedral was fantastic! I liked the size and the architecture. We liked climbing the flagpole [as well], which was a  little more than 150 metres. Another memorable climb was the Sagrada Familia and also Notre Dame. All together, these three cathedrals made our trip really stand  out.

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov

Many of your photos are “daredevil” shots – pictures taken on the  edges of buildings and iconic landmarks, or even behind subways leaving  underground stations. Why do you take images from this view?

These are the places where people usually don’t go, so I have a chance to  make unique pictures. I have a possibility to show people the city from different points of view, and underground it’s a completely different story.  Usually it’s hard to get there, but unlike rooftops, which you can see from the ground, being underground is about what you cannot see — not many people are  aware of these places. In order to get there, you have to work hard and this is appealing [to me].

Since your photos show perspectives of the world we don’t see too  often, do you think they’re historical records for the future, to remember the  world as it once was?

Perhaps one day, they’ll have some historical significance. But I don’t think about it now in this way. In my photos — it’s my art. They’re not related in any way to my points of view on social issues. I just want to show the way that I visually see the world.

Egypt is one of the places I have always dreamed of visiting. You’ve  had the chance to visit in March of this year, and I think it’s fair to say that  your trip was more memorable than most people who have traveled to Egypt,  because you climbed the Great Pyramid in Giza. What did it feel like to reach  the top?

I dreamed for a long time to be in Giza and to see the pyramids close up.  Then, when I started climbing roofs [of other buildings], I realized I could climb the pyramids. Why not? When I reached the top, I had a feeling similar to what a mountain climber must feel, like a conqueror, reaching the top of the  mountain.

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov

Photo taken by © Vadim Makhorov

Did you find anything interesting at the top?

At the top there were words scratched in the stones in many different  languages. It means others have climbed the pyramids in the past. We are not the first and won’t be the last. Another interesting thing we found was a book by  Moses Gates — he does a lot of traveling and climbs roofs and goes  underground.

There have been a lot of opinions about your climb [of the Great  Pyramid] — some people admire what you did and the photos you took, while others  criticize you for illegally climbing it. Why did you do it?

First, we did it for us. That’s why we don’t care about the critics. Second, we do it for the people. We make beautiful shots that are delivered and given to the world. I don’t think we do anything that can truly be called bad. What we’re doing [with our photography] is beneficial work.

Have you ever run into trouble trespassing in areas to take your  photos before?

Oh yes, we’ve had some problems with the police. In Russia, we know the process: Once you trespass on secured property, if [the] police catch you, you  pay a fine of 500 rubles [about 12 euros or 16 US dollars]. But these cases are rare and usually nobody catches us.

Has this or any negative criticism from the media ever made you think  about stopping or changing the style of pictures you take?

I rarely encounter my work with negative criticism … I take shots from heights because I like it. But someday in the future I’ll be tired with it. Even now, I don’t do all my shots from the roof. My second favourite POV is commercial or industrial plants. I like taking shots of plants, electric stations, and different manufacturing facilities.

Where would you like to travel to next to take pictures?

Our next trip planned is Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and possibly Afghanistan.

***

What are your thoughts about this new photography movement? Do you think it’s ok to break the rules in the name of art? Share your thoughts on this post or comment on my twitter @beckyhaganegyir. I look forward to reading your thoughts and opinions!

Take time to see more of Vadim’s work here: http://500px.com/dedmaxopka

See the original interview here: http://matadornetwork.com/notebook/the-photographer-who-climbed-egypts-great-pyramid-qa/#J0VYzAoMcW8cwT47.99

***

Update from February 2014 :

Check out this recent vid of Vadim and Vitaliy’s climb to the top of Shanghai Tower (at over 650 meters!):

Street Love: Interviewing the Photographer Behind The Last Street

Stephanie Last’s collaborative projects are changing the way we look at street photography. This interview shows the UK photographer’s love for street photography and for the people who walk down those streets.
***
1. Have you always been drawn to photography?

Stephanie: From a young age I have had a camera. My Dad is a great photographer, and has taught me a lot of the key attributes to this discipline, particularly on a technical side. At school, drawing and painting were more what I was interested in, however I have always appreciated good photographs. Since being at University, I have become really interested in photography and the element of chance it entails.

2. What photographer(s) inspire(s) you?

Stephanie: Henri Cartier-Bresson and Martin Parr are my two main inspirations. I feel that when their works are in juxtaposition with one another, this makes for a fascinating result. Cartier-Bresson’s implicit, “poetic” black and white street photographs and the tribulations found with his labeling of the “decisive moment” interest me. Parr’s explicit, greatly saturated documentary photographs are also very appealing.

3. Your photos and photographic projects seem to show your impressions of life. What draws you towards the moments you choose to portray in your photos?

Stephanie: Well actually, I’m not trying to insert my own views on society, or life in general. I am interested in seeing other people’s outlooks and ways of representing life. However, when thinking about it, sometimes I do interpret what I feel are the main subject matters of the images I receive, and then work with these. So yes, I guess here, there is sense of my own personal preference and subconscious image selection applied to the photographs.

4. Is the city (with its skylines, heritage and cultural districts, etc.) your muse, or are the people in the city (and the way they interact with city environments) your muse?

Stephanie: Good question! I think with my first two Leeds, UK street photography projects, that I would say the associations with place and the building of a cultural identity were definitely the most important factors. With my most recent projects (5-A-Street and Sur L’heure) where there are no restrictions over locations, the way that people interact with certain places and their responses to the different tasks I set, particularly interests me. Although when I receive photographs from all over the world, and compare a photograph taken in say London with one from Sydney, Eskilsden’s idea of the “uncharacterized city” is an idea I find stimulating. I am interested to see whether different places and countries look different from each other. In fact, Martin Parr tried to capture these “cultural icronyzies” within some of his work whereas Cartier-Bresson avoided them.

5. On your website, you mention that the public’s opinion towards street photography is often negative. What made you want to do a collaborative project with the public?

Stephanie: Street photography is my favourite type of photography, as I feel it is the most realistic yet ambiguous of all. I knew I wanted to incorporate this into my photography practice somehow…although I was very aware of the negative response this discipline can receive due to worries over child-protection and terrorism, etc. So, I thought, ok, if people don’t want me to take their photographs in the streets, why don’t I ask them to take the photographs for me! And my collaborative photography projects began! At a time where street photography is sometimes frowned upon, community participation is an effective way of reengaging people with the discipline.

6. Many French Impressionists beginning in the 1870s were inspired by street scenes and they were also inspired by industrialization’s effects on French society. Japanese Provoke photographers beginning in the 1960s wanted to document post-war society and its values up until the 1970s. How important is the idea of capturing history through art to you?

Stephanie: I think art is great way of preserving history for future generations as it brings about both connotative and denotative signification. The Terezin’s Children Drawings Collection in Prague really hit me emotionally. The exhibition contained touching drawings by Jewish children who were in the Terezin Ghetto conveying their thoughts and feelings in the Second World War. Reflecting on street and documentary photography, I like to think that this is a realistic way of presenting history, and even if there is an absence of it (due to public fears) this can also teach future generations a bit about our society’s way of thinking.

7. What was the focus of your last project 5-A-Street?

Stephanie: The focus was to show the public the potential that street photography has and how it can be both “documentary” and “artistic”, and how they too can be part of it. I asked people to take 10 photos in 5 minutes, taken from the same viewpoint, and then send them into me and then I digitally combined them into one image known as a “dynamic capture”. Each time I created a dynamic capture, I sent a copy to the participant, so they gained something from the project too. Despite the “5-A-Street Rules”, I hoped that the viewer would play curator when considering my process. The final image was just as significant as the technical process, so I tried not to reveal the technical details too much. Through photo editing street and studio came into place, as typically studio photography is where post-production occurs whereas street photography is realistic.

8. What is the focus of your most recent project, Sur L’Heure?

Stephanie: I am interested in the relationship between “the decisive moment” and artistic license. I am asking people to take a photograph exactly on the hour, (1:00, 2:00….), wherever they are at that exact time. By recommending hours on a daily basis I’m hoping this will keep the shots quite random and reduce the artistic license involved with documentary/street photography nowadays. But any random shots taken on the hour are great too! From the images I have received, I am then going to build two digital photo clock animations—one in the style of Henri Cartier-Bresson and one in the style of Martin Parr—where the pictures change every time the digit changes.

9. How can people become involved in Sur L’Heure?

Stephanie: I update my website daily with the day’s capturing time and the pictures taken that day. Once you have taken a photograph, please send it to stephlast@hotmail.co.uk . If you want to be part of my mailing list and receive more daily updates on Sur L’heure please email me also on stephlast@hotmail.co.uk . I currently have 80 participants and am determined for this to be my biggest collaborative project yet!

10. What are your plans once you graduate?

Stephanie: I’m honestly not sure. I would love to carry on with photography projects after University. Or go into photo-journalism, digital marketing, or something like that. So if you have any contacts in this field, please feel free to pass my name on!

Steph at work 1

Stephanie at work.

For more info on The Last Street check out Stephanie’s project websites http://www.thelaststreet.co.uk and www.surlheure.com and also take a look at the BBC’s display of her work at www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-20729484.

*Update: 117 people from around the world participated in Sur L’heure, Stephanie’s 24 day project.