Thursday, 26 August 2010

Tom Philips

Morbid, yes, but also at times hilarious, Tom Philips' Dead Photos series is an ongoing project photographing an apparently dead body in various locations around the world. Details on the series are deliberately scarce, so its hard to tell if the act of playing dead is a performance in itself at these places, but the resulting images are chilling and sometimes surreal. The figure slumped from a tree branch in San Jacinto could be a piece by an artist like Robert Kinmont or Charles Ray, but those on the rubble in Suakin or by the grey water's edge in France are more akin to troubling forensics photos.
Its interesting to see passersby's reactions in different cities: people stop and stare on The Bowery in New York, whilst they rush about their daily business in Tokyo, barely registering the prone figure in the street.

Dead At Gilgo, August 22nd, 2008

Dead On The Bowery, March 14th, 2010

Dead On St Mary's, June 9th, 2009

Dead In San Jacinto, Jan 2nd, 2010

Dead In The Yaraab Shrine Temple, May 26th, 2010

Dead In Camaret-Sur-Mer, August 30th, 2008

Dead In The Minimalist Dream, May 18th, 2006

Dead In Suakin, December 24th, 2008

Dead In New York, April 28th, 2010

Dead In North Carolina, May 12th, 2008

Dead In Lisbon, October 14th, 2009

Dead In Japan, March 2nd, 2010

Dead In Historic Filipinotown, May 31st, 2008

Dead In Dahab, December 9th, 2007

Dead In Heaven, July 26th, 2010

All images © Tom Philips

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Anthony Maule

A weird, wired, electric, quiffed, coiffed and twisted world is the one seen by photographer Anthony Maule, who has been creating powerful and strange editorial work over the last six or seven years. Photographing hairstyles like no one else, Maule seamlessly moves from ironic reinterpretations of naff 'barbershop window shots' to epic bouffants on men and women, and seems able to create something fresh and unexpected nearly every time. English-born but based between New York and Paris, Maule frequently collaborates with Guido Palau, one of the best hairstylists working today, and together they reinvent typical notions of beauty. Maule is also only too keen to experiment with tech' tricks with his photographs too, distressing, stretching and warping images to ramp up the weirdness. He does also shoot more commercial work for advertising clients - including a rather fabulous jewellery campaign for Alexis Bittar featuring Joan Collins - but its his daring editorials for titles like Arena Homme Plus, Interview and Fantastic Man which really impress.

All images © Anthony Maule

Friday, 13 August 2010

Richard Mosse part 2

Photographer and filmmaker Richard Mosse has been collaborating with cinematographer Trevor Tweeten for a while now, and their latest offering is a short, mesmerising film entitled Leviathan. Continuing with Mosse's fascination for wrecked planes and their place in the landscape, it juxtaposes the removal of a downed US Airlines passenger plane from the icy Hudson River with the controlled immersion of a wrecked bomber off the coast of Phuket in Thailand. Tweeten frames some beautiful shots, which view like slowly changing versions of Mosse's still photographs. There is no real climax, but the film's slow, brooding pace and atmospheric soundtrack make for a really compelling, interesting short.
Their previous film together, Theatre Of War, is also a fascinating film which initially looks as though it could be a freeze-framed image. Off-duty soldiers, killing time at one of Saddam Hussain's ruined palaces, appear like tiny figures in a classical painting, perched high on a plateau above the Iraqi landscape. The setting is so epic and the soldiers' movements are so minimal that the scene seems scarcely real. Again, Mosse and Tweeten capture some truly breath-taking shots that really hold the viewer's attention.
So much contemporary film coverage of conflict or dramatic events is hand-held, fast moving and choppily edited, all to try and add drama, but Mosse's careful, considered and beautifully composed films offer so much more. They become works of art as well as pieces of thoughtful reportage.
Watch them full screen, with the HD on.

Leviathan, 2009

Theatre Of War, 2009

Films © Richard Mosse

Friday, 6 August 2010

Taryn Simon

Having detailed victims of miscarriages of justice, and the hidden, often clandestine side to America in her two previous major projects, Taryn Simon now turns her camera on a vast array of illegal and banned substances being brought into the USA on a daily basis. Over a five day period in November 2009 she tirelessly recorded all the items seized by the US Border Agency at John F. Kennedy airport in New York, cataloguing over 1000 different objects, which form her new series, Contraband. Her work is always powerful and succinct, but this new project is her most literal yet, and the images themselves are little more than an almost scientific record of these weird and sometimes mundane objects. “I wanted the shoot to be somewhat of a performance piece, where my photographs were replicating the actual flow of goods during a very fixed period of time,” says Simon. Using a neutral background and the same lighting set-up for every shot, the work is an exhaustive (and exhausting) record of merely a fraction of what people attempt to bring into the USA every month. Some of the items - heroin, fake handbags or a dead mammal - are obviously illegal, but its interesting to see other less obviously threatening or dangerous objects which the Borders Agency decided to confiscate.

Simon's work has evolved in an interesting manner over the last decade, and there is little or no hint of her early fashion work to be found in profiles of her nowadays. Whilst this early work may perhaps detract from the serious subjects she now tackles, it was always interesting and often groundbreaking: for one infamous shoot in 2001 for The Fashion magazine (long defunct) she placed model Carmen Kass in a shark cage and photographed her underwater with tiger sharks circling the only semi-protected model.

Leaning more towards reportage and portraiture, particularly of prominent or interesting global political figures such as Fidel Castro or Henry Kissinger, Simon's work moved away from the commercial realm but still utilised atmospheric, often cinematic, lighting set-ups. A commission from The New York Times into wrongly convicted prisoners who were subsequently freed from Death Row led her to explore photography's role in the US criminal justice system, and the resulting series The Innocents is an amazing and justly lauded body of work, which combined sympathetic documentary work with a real, stylised artistic sensibility.

This was followed by An American Index Of The Hidden And Unfamiliar, where she gained access to many secretive and private locations throughout America, documenting a diverse dark side of the country, including endangered species in captivity, cryogenic storage facilities and missile testing sites. Simon has become the de facto chronicler of much that goes on behind closed doors in the USA today, and Contraband, whilst not as aesthetically interesting as her two previous series, explores this grey area further.


Bird Corpse

Cow dung toothpaste

Counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags disguised as shopping bags

Pitcher of Salami

Counterfeit Disney nesting dolls

Fresh Piper leaves


African mask


Guinea Pigs



Gold dust

Deer penis

Cuban cigars

Oxalis Tuberosa

Unknown meat in a bottle

Unidentified mammal

Unidentified liquid hidden in thermos in bedding

All images © Taryn Simon