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.
Rachel Boillot is a 30 year-old photographer, filmmaker, and educator based in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, US. She was raised in the suburbs of New York, but for a two year hiatus in Singapore starting when she was eight years old. Rachel teaches in the Art Department at Lincoln Memorial University, is Director and Co-Producer of the Cumberland Folklife series of documentary films, and maintains her independent photography practice in East Tennessee.
How did you get interested in photography and why did you pick photography as a medium and form of expression? I fell into it, really. I was fortunate enough to attend a high school with an art requirement. I couldn’t draw, so I enlisted in Photography. From there on out, it became my singular passion. The darkroom was my respite.
Introduce us to your project Silent Ballad I first went to Tennessee in the June of 2014. My intention was to spend two months making photographs for a Park Ranger. The subject matter remained opaque to me.
Folklorist, naturalist, and musician Bob Fulcher – who currently manages Tennessee’s Cumberland Trail State Scenic Park – was initially dismayed by my lack of knowledge regarding old-time country music. Turned out this was to be the focus of the job.
“Old-time traditions, faith, and the rural landscape all inform this portrait of the Cumberland Plateau”.
Bob believes that preserving cultural resources is just as important as land conservation in this region, which is the more explicit prerogative of the Parks System. But, in Tennessee, music is “in the water,” as the saying goes.
What inspired Silent Ballad? Why did you decide to explore this area?
I learned that there was a time when families played together at home for the sheer revelry of sounding out in celebration after a hard day’s work. They played thankfully for another day gone by.
There was genuine soul in that. It was not a commercial endeavor; it was expression. This music is the joyous revelry of the hard-working but impoverished. They sang or played but for no other reason that to do so. It was never about commodity. It was about humanity. They made music in order to relish the human impulse for creative expression while surviving – not because they wanted to be famous on the radio.
For how long have you worked on this body of work? I’ve spent the past 4 years working on this project. It has resulted in a set of genuine human relationships, a documentary film, and a book. My heart is sincerely in this work.
What was your main intent in creating this body of work? I wanted to preserve what would otherwise be lost.
Tim Dechent is a 33 year-old photographer based in Essen, Germany, where he studies Art Photography in a master degree. Learning everyday about himself, this art form is for him the most powerful medium to express his feelings and view on the world, as well as it allows him to discover the planet. His on-going project As God Created Mankind He Was Already Exhausted questions the exhaustion in the creative process of photography.
Tim grew up in Mainz am Rhein but left the city early to tour Germany as a lead guitarist in a pop-band. It was his first contact with photography as he took pictures of the band while touring all the time. As the business side of the music industry slowly decreased he finally made photography his main effort.
Please introduce your series As God Created Mankind He Was Already Exhausted This series is still an on-going project. Though I healed myself from the exhaustion I had, there are still scenarios in my head which need to be staged and take the project to another layer. It’s like an afterglow of a state of mind which slowly turns into something new. Maybe in a few pictures the project means something completely different to me.
As God Created Mankind He Was Already Exhausted deals with the exhaustion in the creative process of photography itself. Through processing feelings and scenes of my own exhaustion into staged, symbolic works, the series turned into a self-healing state. Becoming, flowing and movement seemed more interesting as statics and rest. The discussion of exhaustion led to a progression from stagnation.
Michele Vittori, born in 1980, is an Italian photographer who works for the municipality of Rome. Mainly interested in the territory where he grew up, he develops projects related to the anthropized landscape, near Rome and in the mountainous areas of the central Italian Apennines, all places very related to his experience and family. In that field, his project La Montagna di Roma documents the tourist station of Monte Terminillo.
How did you get interested in photography and why did you pick photography as a medium and form of expression? I started photography in 2008 by attending photography courses at the Graffiti school and Officine Fotografiche in Rome. Over time I found interest in contemporary documentary photography
Photography for me is a tool to investigate my relationship with places and aspects related to memory and a way to look beyond the surface of things. I love to take pictures of places without the presence of people, trying to balance my perception with the landscape I represent.
Introduce us to your project La Montagna di Roma. This project started at the end of 2015, Terminillo is a very well known mountain in central Italy.
Monte Terminillo is a massif in the Monti Reatini, part of the Apennine range in central Italy. It became the “mountain of rome” during the Fascism by creating a ski resort destined to the Roman bourgeoisie. At that moment began the anthropization of the mountain for tourist purposes.
I have seen this place since childhood, then as an adult as a lover of the mountain. Over the years, the tourist station passed through several success stories often not adequately supported by investments that can guarantee their durability, causing a gradual crisis of tourist activity. My investigation started with the aim to document the territory looking at the relationship between the natural environment and its change dictated by the needs of mass tourism. Changes that radically alter the image and memory of a place.
How did the place evolve nowadays? Today the ski resort is still experiencing a major crisis, and it is waiting for tourist revival projects.
Your series is part of a collective project called Limine, tell us about it. Lìmine is a collective project of seven photographers, started in 2015, who have embarked on a personal journey around the idea of urban margin, choosing Rome and its territory.
The sensitivity and vision of each photographer have faced the very concept of border, not only meant as a space boundary or as a mere measure of time. We have focused our research on the idea of border as another dimension, multifaceted and changeable. Since the beginning of the project we were very lucky to have as curator one of the main italian photographers, Massimo Siragusa who helped us in every phase of the project until the photobook Lìmine. Guide to the Limits of a City, who was also curated by Doll’s Eye Reflex Laboratory.
The book is a metaphysical kind of touristic guide, both describing and reinventing a city displaying nuanced boundaries, recalling the edges of an idea, a memory, a feeling. Periphery and old city, land and sea, beauty and decay meet and mingle, and new topographies overlap with ancient maps, forcing us to refocus our vision.
Jose Hernández is a Venezuelan dreamer, creative, art director and photographer who has been living in different countries for the past seven years, and is now based in Amsterdam. His photographs of India reflect the country’s evolution and its future.
How did you get interested in photography and why did you pick photography as a medium and form of expression? Three years ago I wanted to take pictures of a girl that I was in love with, that is how I started with film cameras. Since then I’ve been taking photographs and trying to find myself in photography everyday. I think I picked this medium because I studied graphic design and I’ve always been closed to it, going to amazing shoots (but not always). That taught me to document moments of interesting things in life.
Your series While Some Work, Others Sleep takes place in India, where did you go and who are these people you met?
They are people that help me to understand a bit of the incredible world of India, people that I found on my way and asked a lot of questions. I spent time in a local house in the cleanest village of Asia, then I ride in motorbike around northeast and I visited Guwahati, Shillong, Dawki. I walked around three islands in Andaman and Nicobar and I also went to Delhi, Jaisalmer, Jaipur and Jodphur.
I took the photographs in India in different cities and villages. I visited Delhi, Mawlynnong, Guwahati, Shillong, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Port blair, Neil island, Havelock
What did you want your images to communicate, how do you hope viewers react to your series? I wanted my message to be the one that people told me. The main message was that it’s true that India is growing and evolving but in at the same time there are a lot of politicians and people that are not working on building the future of India. While some people are making India’s economy one of the fastest-growing in the world, other neglect to have a good future. While communities fight for breath better, other keep using coal and collaborate with the toxic air that is now contributing to nearly 1.1 million deaths a year. While some are cleaning, others throw rubbish just because it’s what everyone does. While some are working their ass off, other are sleeping.
Johann Husser was born in 1990 in Kemerovo, Russia, before he moved to Germany in Dortmund, Ruhr area, at the age of 3½. After starting studying Spacial Planning, he finally changed to photography and graduated in 2017 in Dortmund, Johann now applies for an MA in several universities in the country. His Bachelor Thesis project On the Edges of an Idea is a photographic study of urban utopias.
how did you come to photography?
My first encounter with photography, or a camera, at least as I can remember, was when my parents got their first digital camera in 2004 or 2005 I guess, a canon ixus. I often borrowed it when wandering about with my friends and took random pictures. I was constantly photographing since then but saw it more as a hobby and a means of experimentation.
Focusing on photography as something that I want to pursue and spent most of my time with only became relevant when facing severe dissatisfaction with the study I started with initially. Not in terms of topics but how it was taught and what my option were after graduating. I am still influenced by subjects of spatial and urban planning but I incorporate those interests into my photographic and artistic practice. I found myself being more comfortable and versed expressing myself in a visual context. So at one point I decided to quit my initial study and apply for a BA in photography.
Tell us more about your series On the Edges of an Idea On the Edges of an Idea (An den Rändern einer Idee) is my project where my initial study of Spatial Planning is the most present. Place is a very important subject in my artistic and photographic discourse and especially since I was quite certain to move away from the Ruhr area, it became important to me to elaborate on where I have been for the last 6-7 years and where I am right now. The approach with this project was very conceptual, I developed five zones
The photography itself is very much focused on the psycho-geographical aspect of the places I’ve been to.
(all along the borders of the many cities of the Ruhr area) in the area to which I would travel over a period of one and a half year. The resulting work consists of 26 field trips to this five zones of interest. The photography itself is very much focused on the psycho-geographical aspect of the places I’ve been to.
The Ruhr area / Ruhrgebiet, in North Rhine-Westphalia, is the largest metropolitan area in Germany. It is a polycentric agglomeration of several large cities with an industrial past. Historically, the eastern part of the Ruhr area belonged to Westphalia and the western part to the Rhineland. In the early 20th century, the Siedlungsverband Ruhrkohlenbezirk (SVR) proposed to detach the Ruhr area from Rhineland and Westphalia, to form an administrative and geographical unity. The idea of the Ruhrcity is build upon this proposition and even the Regionalverband Ruhr (RVR), a supracommunial institution, later considered a unification of the individual Ruhr cities. Merging those cities under the moniker of the Ruhrcity would result in the formation of the largest city in Germany.
[…] By taking up the role of a traveler and employing the archetype of the non-place, the project questions the cohesiveness of the Ruhr area as one city. The result is a body of work that examines the connections between these cities and how urban space can be recorded and understood in a photographic context.
Ilias Lois is a 24-year-old photographer from Greece, working in Athens for Photographos magazine. After photography classes at Athens University of Applied Sciences, he studied for one year in Italy where he enlarged his vision with sculpture and engraving, as it helped him to understand more aspects of image composition. He is currently working on a project which explore the inability to navigate within the big cities. We’ll take a look at his series Looking for Sun.
How did you get interested in photography and why did you pick photography as a medium and form of expression? The ambiguity that characterizes every single photo is the main reason I am attracted to this form of art. My goal is to be able to associate many small pieces of ambiguity in a body of work to tell a certain story, that inevitably will have some alternative readings from the viewers.
Introduce us to your series Looking for Sun. Sunshine is in short supply across the northern Europe, shrouded in heavy cloud from a seemingly never-ending series of low pressure systems. In the last months of 2017, the inhabitants of these countries experienced one of the darkest winters ever recorded. Exposure to natural light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, which stimulates sleep and favors the production of hormones that stimulate the body. Lack of it can lead to seasonal depression, the symptoms of which include lack of energy and drowsiness. For few days a short “break” of sunshine took place.
I live in one of the sunniest city in Europe, Athens. Hence, I decided to move to the north (Finland) for several weeks and see their way of living. For this project I decided to use a Mamiya medium format camera.
Do you remember a particular anecdote when the sun appeared? When the sun appeared, my disappointment was intense. And it reappeared on the second and third day and continued. I went to the North to photograph the snow, the cloudy weather and the way of living in this climate condition, but I ended up photographing people -like the one who is reading a book while- enjoying the sunshine. Thus, I decided to focus on the lives of people with these rare lighting conditions for as many days as the sun remain up there.
How do people react and organize themselves facing this lack of sunlight? One of the most typical moments was when I saw one man I photographed, taking vitamin D in a capsule. Then, I realized that this is something common there because the human body can synthesize 90% of vitamin D through ultraviolet radiation and only 10% through food. Also, a dietary survey data indicate that recent national policies that include fortification and supplementation, coupled with a high habitual intake of oil-rich fish, have resulted in an increase in vitamin D intakes.
Lean Lui is a 19 year-old Hong Kongese. University student and slef-taught photographer, she has been taking pictures as long as she can remember. Full of sensuality, her work is mainly inspired by her own experiences.
What is your relation to photography?
I have never had professional photography classes, but I have been taking photos as long as i can remember. It’s like a nature to me. Around kindergarten, I guess, I didn’t know exactly it was photography, I don’t really have a sense of photographing thing. That camera was like a magic box to me, because I remember I loved to capture some special moments with it, so it was like writing dairy for other people.This is my hazy memory of my first exposure to photography.
I started with writing and photo-taking being my medias of expression, and at a certain level, i found that they are rather similar, both revealing the person behind the opus with their minds. What they read, how they think…
“The greatest inspiration for me is the sensitive heart that my mother has blessed me with”.
But compared to writing, photography is more physical, in a way, that it’s more visualized. And with photography, there’s more space for me to left blank. I guess I’m influenced by the Chinese style of drawing, where the most important thing was to leave blank spaces on the canvas. So, through photography, I can express my perception of things via a ‘non-existing existence’ way. Or, it can be read as a protection for my insecurities.
What does inspire you? I am inspired by my own experience mostly. But there’s a big part of it coming from movies, books, other people’s work and just about all the beautiful things in the world. I consider myself a sensitive person, I can get really emotional with even the slightest thing. And these feeling that touched my heart became the root and branches and converted into my photograph. In conclusion, the greatest inspiration for me is the sensitive heart that my mother has blessed me with.
what part of sensuality do you intend to capture?
Detachment and insecurity. Because I always felt like I don’t belong, I feel out focused by the world. It has too many layers for me, people always sugar-coat their ways of being so much and I can never understand them. This is a really upsetting experience for me as I am a very straight-forward person, people who interact with me might perceive me as a hedgehog and my thorns can hurt them. And I’ve always been alienated by my peers as I have always loved reading and thinking. At that age when people were volubly talking about gossip and pop stars, I feel uninterested and continued reading my Freud. They would consider me as an outcast for not joining them at their chatting section. Since I have been a premature person, this feeling of detachment and insecure has followed me through my whole life, even now.
Maela Ohana is a 28-year-old artist born in France who grew up in the mountains of southern India. She spent her childhood on the organic farm that her parents built from scratch, in an area known for its biodiversity and beautiful landscapes. Immersed in this environment, Maela develops her interest in our relationship with nature. She studied contemporary arts and painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, Italy, and is now based in Montreal. Her projects focus on the theme of urban ecology. She is also the creator of art platform Archive Collective, and The Earth Issue, an offshoot bringing together environmental artists. Her photographs from Night Shade are a collection of botanical portraits.
What is your relation to photography?
While I was studying in Italy I worked for 2 years as a studio assistant to a very talented and inspiring Italian photographer, that was my first in-depth exposure to the medium. But my appreciation for the photographic craft only deepened 3 years ago when I was introduced to analog photography and learnt to develop film in a dark room. Although I believe that an interesting photo can be shot on any type of camera, film was a turning point for me in terms of how I approached my creative process. With digital I rely much more on post production, while on film everything is pared down to the basics - I’m forced to be more controlled, thoughtful and precise with every shot.
Ultimately I enjoy photography as a form of expression because I’m a curious person by nature, and photography is a very “outwards” discipline: it pushes you to explore your surroundings, essentially looking for things that interest you, and to spend time absorbing small details that would have otherwise been overlooked.
The direction my personal and curatorial work has taken over the past year has also sharpened my interest in photography as an applied form of engaging with the natural environment. It’s motivating to witness and take part in a growing collective of environmentalist artists using their creative expression to pay homage to the beauty of nature and at the same time to call attention to pressing issues which threaten its long term conservation.
Your series Night Shade is a collection of plants photographed by night, tell us more about your approach
I started this collection of what I call “botanical portraits” while I was in Mexico at the beginning of this year, and continued it in India and Montreal. The approach is a little different from regular landscape photography, because of the limited light conditions, which force me to focus on a single plant, a detail, or a small, abstracted portion of a landscape.
“Photography […] pushes you to spend time absorbing small details that would have otherwise been overlooked”.
I set my alarm to correspond with the “magic hours” of dusk and dawn, the brief half an hour in the day when the light is changing and everything is suddenly enveloped in a supernatural hue. During this time I look for “strange plants” – usually ones that have an unusual form, or that interact with architectural elements in an interesting way.
I found the instinctual nature of this project very fulfilling – nothing could be planned or predicted as the environmental conditions were completely erratic (some mornings the sky would turn completely purple, other mornings the landscape would be covered in fog, etc…). All I could do was walk in a direction chosen by my gut and pay attention, the rest was at the mercy of the elements.
I see Night Shade as part of a larger ongoing project as most of my series are. I’ll be back in Mexico for a month this February and plan to develop it with many more images and some writing on the botanical ecology of Oaxaca state.
Pascal Liénard is a photographer living in Belgium in a natural park called the Land of The Hills (Pays des Collines), Picardy Wallonia. This wide preserved plain, very green, rural and agricultural allows him to feel this little loneliness he is looking for. On the other hand, it is close enough to the capital, which helps him professionally, since Pascal works as freelance graphic designer. We’ll take a look at his series Passer Son Ciel, captured in his area.
How did you get interested in photography and why did you pick photography as a medium and form of expression? I studied in an Academy of Fine-Arts and photography was part of the instruction. At that time, I was not that much interested in photography. I was looking for something more physical, a pen, a brush, paint.
With the time my interest for photography grown, and it became a balance with my graphic designer professional approach where I am in control of every aspects. I can control the layout, the colour, the size, the rhythm. With photography I like the opposite, as I am interested in the reality and I like it quite raw, quite un-retouched, flat, frontal. I like when everything line-up in a way I did not expected. But I take control where I can : I like to compose my images with a small detail, a framing, an element, an object, something quite contradictory with the quietness, the stillness, the silence of the image, something in balance, discreet, like a mistake, something against the perfection.
The title of your series Passer Son Ciel (Passing His Sky) refers to a text written on a Chapel. Gathering these small religious edifice in rural environment, you put a glance on the impact of a historical heritage in these landscapes. Tell us more about this project, what did you learn? It’s a series I worked on some years, it’s a series about rurality, the profane and the sacred. About the way they shaped the landscape and our perception.
It’s in a small space between the highlighting of dualities and the observation that I envisaged the creation of this sequence of images, I tried to place a distancing glance between an historical heritage and things to come, between a moving rurality and the cycles of the elements, between the sacred and the profane.
“A walk on a path where the past is dissolving in the present.”
The project was done in my near, local environment by confronting what I had under my eyes and the context was born with the relation between the tradition, the relation with the religious heritage, the “now” and the future of a rural world.
Although all images where taken close to where I live, I am not looking to describe the specificity of a territory: I am looking more for the remanence of a landscape of yesterday, small traces still visible that get unnoticed, it is a silent oscillation, a walk on a path where the past is dissolving in the present. Chapels -small popular religious buildings- punctuate a landscape shaped by agricultural work, crops, and houses development with their (often) white architectural form, or I should say archetypal. Their presence is acquired, common, but yet they appear to be placed by inadvertence, by force, into the landscape just like other elements, profane, agricultural, agri-cultural.
I like to reduce them to a formal entity and exchanging with other formal entities, highlighting the fact that we give values. These dualities tend to underline the relationship to the places and values of a rurality that seems to be letting go of its time. A short space where we can feel a frozen temporality, in a setting yet to become.