Velvet Eyes is an independent publisher based in Paris, focused in contemporary photography and created to provide emerging artists an opportunity to share their work. By melting these photographs in a poetic narration, our goal is to reveal the sensuality hidden in blissful instants, appealing subjects and suggestive landscapes.
Tanya Traboulsi is a photographer born in Klagenfurt, Austria from a Lebanese father and an Austrian mother, she spent her childhood years in Beirut before she went to school in Austria, growing up between both countries and cultures. She also graduated in professional speaking in Vienna and plans to include it in her practice as an artist. Her series Lost Strange Things recalls the themes of nostalgia and belonging through landscapes, people, interiors and objects.
How did you get interested in photography?
I’ve always taken photos, I got my first camera at the age of 4 and from that moment on I always kind of documented my everyday life and the people that surrounded me. I have loads of photo albums at home, with captions, exact dates and names etc. Also, my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother always took photos and films of the family. So I guess the love for the image was passed on.
Introduce us to Lost Strange Things: On Not Finding Home
Lost Strange Things is a personal venture into the notion of home and into the question of if such notion, nowadays in our fast paced lives where everything moves and changes so fast, even exists anymore. I photographed familiar (or seemingly familiar) places in Austria as well as in Lebanon and tried to create a narrative that speaks for itself.
“I just stopped trying to define and analyze the notion of belonging and instead, appreciating the advantage of having two cultures and mentalities within me.”
I have worked on this series for about 2 years but I have to say that I haven’t found an answer to my question, I still feel torn between both places.
Can you tell us more about the title?
The title was initially used by the writer Rayya Badran for the prologue of the book that I made of the series. I liked it so much that we agreed to use it as the title for the series and the book. I just think it fits the mood I was trying to create through the images. Lost and strange, and things (I photographed objects that have a meaning to me, I own some of them, if not all, since my childhood).
You draw links between you two homes, Austria and Lebanon, and we can’t easily recognize where each photo was taken. Has this personal experience been a way for you to bring together your different affiliations and unify this dual culture in a way? Unfortunately not really. I feel as torn between the two places and cultures as ever. I just stopped trying to define and analyze the notion of belonging and instead, appreciating the advantage of having two cultures and mentalities within me. The moment I stopped trying to put a name on it, or to explain and label it, I felt lighter and less confused.
Your project includes both your photographs, archive images and objects. It was exhibited at the Art Factum Gallery in Beirut, how did this format allow you to present it in comparison with your book? Exhibiting this project is very interesting. I actually exhibit the real objects and some of the old photographs from the archive in a museum-like glass display, I project the scanned slides from my family archive onto a wall in a big size and the photography is framed and hung on the walls also in quite big dimensions (1x1m). I will again be showing this body of work in August 2018 in Vienna. I’m very excited about this because it will be my first solo show in my country of birth.
what do you hope to bring to people looking at your story? I tend to photograph rather soothing scenes/landscapes, perhaps because I’m in constant search of quiet and peace, comfort, silence and beauty. The biggest compliment is when people tell me that my photographs make them feel at home and at peace.
Jamie Hladky is a photographer who grew up in Manchester, UK, and lived in London and Singapore. 5 years ago, he moved to Canberra, Australia where he works as a Consultant Acoustic Engineer for a living. His series 457 I & II is the results of his road trips in these Australian surroundings.
Can you give us some background information about how you got to photography?
I had an Olympus Mju-II when I was a teenager which I carried around with me. A time later I found that little camera in a box and started again for fun. When I moved to southeast Asia I wanted to keep track of all of the things I was seeing. I started taking photos with a series of compact cameras that would forever break from the humidity and the impacts of travel. After I moved to Australia I found myself in the middle of a supportive network of photographers with lots of resources and enthusiasm, and bought some more robust equipment. Even though I’ve been away from the UK for nearly 8 years, I’m still really just documenting my travels as though I’m on holiday.
Each time I’ve moved there’s been a period of losing connections to home or to the last place, but still feeling like an outsider in the new place, which can be hard. After a while I’ve started to identify my photos with the place and time they were taken, and no more. I can think about the reasons I went to there or what I did there, but the photo is usually just the place. Sometimes very specifically.
Elliott Verdier is a 25 year-old photographer from Paris, where he studied at Ecole de Condé while starting documentary projects during summer holidays. Working on long term projects with his 4×5 large format camera, his photographs focus on human condition from different parts of the world and has been recompensed with few awards. His series A Shaded Path is a portrait of Kyrgyzstan, a country where youth chase modernity in a landscape marked by its Soviet past.
How did you start in photography? I remember very well this day in 2001 when my nanny took me all over Paris to take pictures. I remember it well because it is a truely happy memory, a day I decided to be a photographer instead of train ticket seller. I still have those pictures today, my finger appears on half of them. Later, I reconnected with my godfather. He was a photography print collector and I spent hours among them. He transmitted me his sensitivity over all.
What is A Shaded Path about? The main aim of the project was to find a subtle balance between melancholy and hope. Use the light and the people as they are to highlight a country that lies in the shadow, and more precisely the generational disparities between those nostalgic of an abolished USSR order and modern westernized youths born after the fall.
“I like to think that it will be the first and the last time that people will be shot with a large format camera. It’s keeping a unique track of them. A Shaded Path is about existential struggle and memory”.
It covers the trials of a young, woebegone country struggling to simultaneously form a national identity and keep apace with a global economy. I like to think that it will be the first and the last time that people will be shot with a large format camera. It’s keeping a unique track of them. A Shaded Path is about existential struggle and memory.
What did inspire you and how did you come to photograph this little-known country? I like to travel to places that a man like me, born in a middle class family from Paris, would have never been. Meet people I would have never met. I want to testify of the world apart from hot news, with deep social issues, to take time and break into people’s intimacy. This is why I try to find original themes that suit my everyday quest for beauty through struggling people full of nostalgia, melancholy and sensitivity.
I was more and more interested in Central Asia after my trip to Mongolia. And I remember looking at a map and wondering what was Kyrgyzstan. I literally had never heard of this country before. I know, it’s a shame! I started doing some research on it and found very little about it. So I decided to go for a month to see by myself.
How did you come into contact with the inhabitants? People were very friendly and open to me. Photography undoubtedly connects people, so when they accepted me to take them in picture, they were naturally sharing me their story. My large format camera, which needs time to settle helps to create a special relationship with them. I was looking for some new persons to portray everyday, everywhere. The people on the pictures are very diverse. There is some I just met quickly on the streets, but I’ve spent hours with veterans, nights with young people. Men and women in coal mines. Fishers. Hunters. I waited months for some to accept, spent as much time to set up some portraits, find the good spots, the good light. Sometimes, unfortunately, I hadn’t got the time to take people who accepted.
What has particularly marked you in this country drawn between tradition and transition?
I have to say that the first time I went there, I was surprised how modern was the youth of Bishkek. Kyrgyzstan is really a forgotten territory in western countries. It is shameful but, in the collective consciousness, it is still isolated, wild, recluse. In Bishkek, I have met all kind of people I could meet down my street in some various places I could go in Paris also. I could feel this existential struggle, especially with the youth, because the world is not watching over there. If you do not exist in others people eyes, it is difficult to exist for yourself.
Kristin Dillon is a 29-year-old photographer from Minesota. After taking a permanent leave of absence from college, she was planning on working on a pig farm in Whitefield, Maine, but nearly a decade later she lives near this farm with her partner and two children. When Kristin is not moving around her partner’s work who restores historic wooden ships, she splits her time between her kids and her commercial photography compagny. Her ongoing series Closest Kin is the result of her daily wanderings within her family and community.
How did you get interested in photography and why did you pick photography as a medium and form of expression?
I’ve carried a camera with me daily since I was twelve, starting with disposables and slowly leveling up, but for the first several years, my experience with photography was mostly un-ironic selfies and snapshots of my friends. Eventually I was exposed to artists with whom I really connected. Alec Soth, Mary Ellen Mark, Sally Mann, Martin Parr, and others began to show me the potential of this medium to convey the beauty and strangeness of humankind, something I had always obsessed over. That’s when I began to take the whole practice more seriously, and shot a lot more intentionally, and just a lot more.
The next turning point was returning to film. I switched from digital to film for all my personal shooting two years ago for the simple reason that I thought constant digital photography was bad for my soul. My self-taught approach was to shoot everything all the time, assuming that I was constantly improving, but I began to notice how thoughtless and fruitless my approach was. I picked up my great-grandfather’s 35mm Nikkormat for a family vacation with just a few rolls of film, to force myself out of this habit, and I realized I had found the solution to my problem. It’s pretty basic, but shooting film takes more time and costs more money, and that causes me to slow down and create far less images overall, but far more that feel significant to me. Since I began using film, I’ve been inundated with new project ideas and inspiration. I feel like I’ve found a space where I can grow.
Introduce us to your series Closest Kin.
After years of wanting to photograph abnormalities and novelties that I don’t understand, I’m just starting to like the idea of making photographs about what I already know. My people, my kin, by blood or by choice, is my singular focal point. It’s what I have always poured my energy and time into.
“This ongoing project is a way of making art out of what would have otherwise been another passing moment”.
But I’ve been making pictures of my community almost every day for most of my life, and never saw those images as significant. That changed when I unexpectedly found myself creating a family. The physical transition of becoming a mother was much swifter than the emotional and psychological. I was thrown off kilter, I wondered if I would be able to keep making the time and space for relentless documentation, I felt uncomfortable and awkward in my most mundane moments. This turned out to be a gift – this strange and novel reality of full-time-child-rearing brought a fresh perspective and let me clearly see the beauty and oddities and value in my own daily wanderings.
Closest Kin is equal parts uneasiness and settling in, appreciation and confusion, intuition and ignorance. But more at its core, this ongoing project is a way of making art out of what would have otherwise been another passing moment, and a way to better understand what I love about my kids, my partner, and my chosen family.
Sébastien Tixier and Raphaël Bourelly are two self-taught photographers based in Paris. Their respective work focuses on space and urban issues. Together, the two French draw our attention to our relationship with the environment, as their photographs expose the shaped landscapes of China. The series Shan Shui is the result of their trip, an exhibition to be discovered at Le 247 gallery in Paris until June 30th.
How did you get to photography? S: I’ve been fascinated by the camera of my father (a Zenit camera) since I was a little child, but I haven’t come to photography before turning about 26. As a teen I had drawings and paintings lessons for a few years but I did not feel like continuing for long. And when I’ve grown older, photography appeared like the most interesting way to express myself. I liked the fact that it captures a reality, but yet it is not possible to know if it accurate or staged.
R: I discovered photography in the laboratory of a photo club, when I was in secondary school. But what interested me at this time was essentially the magic of the chemistry, and not really the act of shooting. When the photo club closed, I only shot occasionally a roll or two at that time. Things accelerated when I was about 25, I started taking more and more pictures and discovered something new, and way of expression that suited me. I am self taught, just like Sebastien.
Leonardo Ponis is a 40 years old photographer, born in San Juan, Argentina, where he works as an editor in chief in a local news website. His photographs portray the human control and power over the natural land, the consequences of human activity in altered landscapes. Leonardo’s fourth series 2186 invites us on the roads of his province and their surroundings.
Isabelle Baldwin is a student in Photography and Sustainability at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. She is originally from Waynesville, North Carolina, a small town surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains. After graduation, she will be relocating to Washington, DC where she plans to commute to Virginia and the surrounding southern areas in continuation of her series, Sleepy Time Down South.
How did you get to photography? I didn’t have an immediate fondness for it, to be quite honest. When I was young, my brother was really interested in photography. In fact, both of my siblings were artistically inclined, and I felt like the odd one out. I distinctly remember walking the streets of Europe with my family and feeling a sense of confusion when my Mom and brother would stop to take photographs of the colorful doors and cathedrals.
When I was accepted to art school, I was very overwhelmed by how talented and technically versed my peers were. I had never taken a photography class and I had certainly never seen a darkroom. Over the corresponding years, I became increasingly more interested in the history of photography and the relationship between a tool and an artist; I would rent out a new piece of equipment each week to see how it felt to hold and the difference in quality.
In a sense, I fell in love with photography in a way that is inherently backward. At 16, I was mainly using my phone as a vehicle to create images. At 17, I began photographing friends and family with my first digital camera, and by 19, I felt that I had mastered the silver gelatin print. At 22, I fall in and out of love with my own images each day and I am slowly learning to value my natural sensibility to the world.
Introduce us to Sleepy Time Down South. This body of work is an homage to the areas in the American South which have influenced me both as a child and in the transitional years of my adult life. I highlight the people and places that exist quietly, on the outskirts of society; the people that make my home, home. The mountains were always my first subject, so it seemed instinctive to return to them.
Mud is Jeff Nichols’ third feature, released in 2012 after the resounding success of Take Shelter. The cinematography was driven by Adam Stone with whom the director maintains a lasting relationship. The action takes place in Arkansas on the muddy coasts of the Mississippi. It is a story of impossible love, a story of discovery of oneself and the world, in a contemplative atmosphere conveyed by a strong visual mastery.
A painting of the South Many sequences carry a slightly surreal aesthetic, which heightens the intrigue and beauty. Mud showcases Nichols as a sharp and artistic visual storyteller. Filmed in his native Arkansas, he uses different techniques to create this truthful portrayal of Southern life, capturing the essence, beauty, and enchanting qualities of the landscape.
Jeff Nichols on the subject: “Well, you might feel this is cheesy in regards to the fact that I’m promoting Mud, but Mark Twain is one of my favorite writers of all time and he not only was able to effortlessly capture what the South was for him, but he was also able to capture, at least through Tom Sawyer, what childhood was like for him. Another author I really like is Larry Brown. His short stories are some of the truest depictions of Southern life that I’ve seen. I like them because they’re contemporary and they’re something I can relate to. I think the biggest problem is that the South is a lyrical place. It’s a place we want to romanticize, and I don’t think that’s always necessary.”
Mud’s photography is very contemplative and very authentic, and comes to remind us of the images of a certain Terrence Malick: “I wanted to focus more on movement than light. So I wanted to use natural light. For Days of Heaven, Terrence Malick has pushed his team to take risks. Today, we have much more sensitive films so we went for it. It was very difficult because everything moved, the river, the sun. The light was constantly changing but the beauty of the place has also done a lot. And as if by magic, the sun was still behind Matthew [McConaughey]’s head. We joked that it was part of his contract” said Jeff Nichols.
Perched on a tree A boat, lodged in the branches of an old tree, and this poetic visual conjures up a sense of wonder and surreality. It was one of his former teachers who gave Jeff Nichols the idea of the boat on the tree. The latter tells: “We were talking about the script and I told him, «If you were a boy, why would you go to an island in the middle of the Mississippi?». He replied, «There could be a boat perched in a tree after a flood.» We really placed a boat at the top of a tree. When the crane dropped it, it was perfect, magical, almost unreal. Every day, we needed several hours to get on the set. We were crossing woods and suddenly we came across this show.”
It is a movie where human relationships are cradled in an omnipresent Nature. The contemplative side reinforces its rich aesthetic. Mud received very good reviews at the Festival de Cannes, and remains one of the most demonstrative achievements of Jeff Nichols’ talent.
Aaron Canipe is a 27-year-old photographer, designer, and bookmaker based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. He earns a BFA in Photography and an MFA in Experimental & Documentary Arts, and cofounded the photobook publisher Empty Stretch in 2010. Born and raised in Hickory, NC, his poetic series evoke loss, innocence, and faith within the backdrop of the American South.
Aaron, thank you for this interview, we are happy to have the opportunity to talk about your work. What got you into photography? I’m so thankful to be on Velvet Eyes. Thanks so much for having me. I sort of came to it by way of drawing and painting. As a kid, I took art classes in this elderly woman’s home and during one session she announced there would be a photo contest. The winner of the contest got this amazing set of soft chalk pastels with every color imaginable. I had to have it. So I made a photograph of our black lab during a late winter snow with the family’s point-and-shoot 35mm camera. And the photo won. That kind of started it all for me. The camera got me out of the small room where we had art classes and I was supposedly good at it!
You work at Reynolda House Museum of American Art as Chief Storyteller if I am right. Is there anything about the way you approach your personal work that you carry over to your job at the Museum?
There’s always something of myself that goes into my work at the Museum. I can’t help but be anyone other than myself sometimes. In my role, I help tell the stories of our historic house and museum and the folks who pass through. The art and history that’s specific to our place has global meaning that I think can and should reach wider audiences. I feel in my personal work, I also find global meaning in local places, places one might not look for it initially.
Most of your work takes place in North Carolina, and confront the landscapes and people of the region. Tell us about what define this southern culture and about your own connection to the area? I was born and raised in the piedmont of North Carolina. I didn’t start appreciating and questioning my origins until I left it when I went away to college. I’m not sure if I can define all of Southern culture; I can only speak about my South that’s informed by my own experiences, mixed in with real history and true fictions. Writer Flannery O’Connor put it best when she said “…the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.”
In your bookPlateau, we can find two excerpts from The Lost Boy by Thomas Wolfe [giant of American literature]. It is a portrait of Grover,..
Patrick Morarescu is an artist based in Mallorca, Spain. Born in 1973, he studied at the Academy for Photography in Munich where he grew up. Also working on commissioned photography, his artistic projects often combine other disciplines including installations, collages and performances. His series Fantasia portrays the environment of fairgrounds.
How did you get interested in photography and why did you pick photography as a medium and form of expression? In high school I had the opportunity to participate in a photography course. After this initiatic experience I decided right away that I wanted to became a photographer, I don’t know exactly how that happened, it just happened…
Introduce us to your series Fantasia. I started the series Fantasia after a long trip to India. The first pictures of the series were taken in the construction works of the Oktoberfest Festival in Munich. I found the messy atmosphere and the character of the workers much in tune to my general state of mind after six months in India.
“Photography is part of my daily routine, I have to be always awake, keep my eyes open and be aware of what is going on”.
The gleaming colors, carousels and cotton candies brought me back to the mysticism that I felt in the indian streets and temples, but at the same time relating to my roots and my childhood in Munich. That was the start of a journey that accompanied me until today.
For how long have you worked on this body of work? Since 2001 and still ongoing.
What was your main intent in creating this series? It is difficult to answer this question because my work is very intuitive. The motivations that I have as a photographer are the same motors that motivate my life. Photography is part of my daily routine, I have to be always awake, keep my eyes open and be aware of what is going on. Only being awake and ready you can get surprised by inspiring shots. I think that is the key.
How do you hope viewers react to the series? I would like viewers to reconnect with their own experiences. Ideally they will ask themselves, if they have been there, if it is their hometown, their past and their own memories.