Y/OUR Denver Photography highlights city in flux


Even though many of us see the Denver skyline daily, there are all kinds of new perspectives and little touches that we may never notice. But the Y/OUR Denver 2022 photography exhibit, the fifth annual collaboration between Denver Architecture Foundation and Colorado Photographic Arts Center, aims to provide viewers the chance to get a new look on architecture and design around the state.

The digital exhibition is online through Feb. 28, and features the winning photographs from the Doors Open Denver photography competition, which offered artists a larger group of subjects than ever before.

“This year, we opened up the photo contest and exhibition to images of Colorado architecture, not just Denver architecture,” wrote Pauline Marie Herrera, president and CEO of the Denver Architecture Foundation, in an email interview. “I’ve enjoyed seeing the striking photos of architectural sites from around our state.”

According to provided information, participating photographers of all skill levels were invited to find and photograph their favorite architectural spaces in Denver and throughout the state. All forms of architectural imagery were eligible: black and white, color, exterior, interior and detail images.

“It’s interesting to see the types of architecture that makes up the different neighborhoods and houses and just how varied our architecture is,” said Samantha Johnston, executive director and curator of CPAC and juror for the competition. “It’s so exciting for me to see how photographers capture spaces we think about all the time.”

Of the 233 entries, Johnston selected 30 finalist images, including the following for four winners:

Best in Show: “Justice Center Dome” by Ernie Leyba

Best Exterior: “Breaking a Bridge” by Mark Stein

Best Interior: “Williams Tower” by Lauren Sherman-Boemker

Best Detail: “Camouflage” by Carol Mikesh

“I hope people who see the exhibit come away with an appreciation of Denver’s (and Colorado’s) architecture and a desire to explore it,” Herrera wrote. “I also hope they understand what it means to our quality of life and its importance to our future.”

Since she has served as juror for the last five years, Johnston has learned that seeing the many wonderful photographs people submit can make any day out in Denver a kind of adventure — one that more people can participate in.

“When you walk around the city, you can look up and say, ‘Oh, that’s where they took that shot,’” she said. “It gives people an appreciation for things they maybe haven’t seen and an appreciation for the city changing.”

See the photographs in the exhibition at https://denverarchitecture.org.

 

The hills are alive at PACE with ‘Sound of Music’

Even if you don’t like musicals, there are some that have just been so thoroughly embraced by the culture that you can’t get away from them. “The Sound of Music” might be at the very top of that list – it’s immortal. For longtime fans and newbies, the Parker Arts, Culture, and Events (PACE) Center has brought the story of Maria Augusta Trapp and the von Trapp family to the stage this winter.

The musical runs at PACE, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., through Feb. 4. The final collaboration between Rogers and Hammerstein, come see classics like “My Favorite Things” and “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” For information and tickets, visit parkerarts.org/event/the-sound-of-music/.

 

LSO hosts annual family concert

“Babar the Elephant” is one of the stories that really connected with me when I was growing up. Originally by Jean de Brunhoff, the popular 1938 children’s book is based on a story that his wife Cecille told to their children. French composer Francis Poulenc wrote a musical composition that follows Babar as he moves to the city and all the adventures he has in his new home.

For the Lakewood Symphony Orchestra’s annual family concert, the group will perform Poulenc’s music at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway. As is tradition, conductor Matthew Switzer will begin by teaching the children a bit about the world of music.

Get tickets for this great concert at www.lakewoodsymphony.org.

 

Clarke’s Concert of the Week — Sun June at Why Bonnie at the Hi-Dive

You gotta love some indie rock this time of year – albums that are drenched in guitar reverb and swirling vocals can just wrap you up during the cold winter months. Two wonderful examples of what the genre can be are both from Austin, Texas: Sun June and Why Bonnie. Sun June’s 2021 album, “Somewhere,” and Why Bonnie’s 2022 release, “90 In November,” both were among my favorite releases of their respective years and really hit their target vibes.

 

Both bands will be stopping by the Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway in Denver, along with Porlolo at 9 p.m. Jan. 28. The Hi-Dive is a great venue for this kind of music, so take the opportunity to send off January and get tickets at https://hi-dive.com/.

 

Clarke Reader’s column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.



How photographer Reuben Wu makes sublime landscapes of the American West


Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

The first time Reuben Wu saw the warm sandstone hues and vast, open skies of the American West, he was watching the landscapes pass him by from the window of a tour bus.

The British visual artist, now based in Chicago, has become known for his sublime imagery of remote landscapes using drone lighting, enhancing craggy peaks with halos, or writing glyphs in the sky like signals from a supernatural entity. But for a long time, art was just a passion project while he focused on a music career as one of the four members of the synth-pop band Ladytron.

“(Photography) started as an all-consuming hobby,” he explained in a phone interview. But when Ladytron took a break in 2011 after five studio albums (they released a self-titled sixth album in 2019, and the seventh, “Time’s Arrow,” this month), he began a new career from scratch. “While the others did their own solo projects, making their own music and releasing their own albums, this was my solo project.”

Wu’s imagery takes a classic photographer’s combination — light and landscape — and marries the two in transformative ways. He often begins with dusky evening light or the ink-black shadows of night, then strategically illuminates portions of the scene with custom-built consumer drones. In one image, a bright horizontal line hangs over a glacier in the Peruvian Andes, revealing the brilliance of the ice against a dark sky. In a different motion piece, Wu simulated an electrical storm in Goblin Valley, Utah, but with perfectly straight strikes of light rather than the jagged bursts of lightning.

The artist’s 2018 photo book “Lux Noctis” is in the collections of the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art, in New York, and he has shot commercial work for Apple, Audi and Google as well as the DJ and music producer Zedd. Last summer, Wu revealed a colossal project for National Geographic: a cover story and timelapse multimedia piece about Stonehenge, which featured the enigmatic monument lit by his custom drones. In November, one of his NFTs, a 4K video loop titled “An Irresistible Force,” outperformed its high estimate by over 25% during an auction at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, selling at 441,000 HKD (about $56,500).

“I couldn’t have dreamed of where I am now,” Wu said. “I just wanted to be able to make a living from doing art and from doing photography.”

Alien inspiration

Wu has always been drawn to wild, remote places where he could find solitude. His parents immigrated from Hong Kong to the UK before he was born, and he grew up an introverted child in Liverpool, he said, who didn’t quite click with school. He was fascinated with science-fiction films that mix the alien with the everyday, such as Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which featured Wyoming’s Devils Tower as a site for extraterrestrial contact. (Unfamiliar with American topography, he initially thought the butte, a national monument, was a fictional geological entity, he explained with a laugh).

The film’s visuals of remote desert scenes mixed with eerie lights have been a formative inspiration in his own work. “(It’s) cemented into my brain, the idea of these seemingly impossible lights moving through the sky, kind of like search lights on very ordinary (American) landscapes,” he said.

Reuben Wu has traveled extensively to remote places in the US and beyond for his work. Here, he traveled to Bolivia’s salt flats, using the vast, empty land as his canvas. Credit: Reuben Wu

He embarked on his first cross-country photography trip across the US in 2013, around a decade after getting a taste on the road with Ladytron. The resulting series featured vivid depictions of the Grand Canyon and South Dakota Badlands, as well as a time-lapse image of Devils Tower at night among star trails.

Two years later, Wu discovered the effect that drone lighting could have on the natural world while working on an outdoor automotive shoot.

“I flew the drone up above some cliffs, and I was absolutely fascinated by the effect it had on the actual landscape,” he explained. It made the cliffs glow, reaching areas that were otherwise impossible to light artificially.

Wu’s earliest inspiration came from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” inspiring his interest in the American West. Credit: Reuben Wu

Wu rigs lights on drones to suit his needs on any given shoot or project. The first iteration, he said, which he used when the technology was still nascent, was a “massive” eight-rotor drone outfitted with homemade lights that only had about eight minutes of flight time. The next used a 3D-printed bracket with an LED hot light, but still only gave him an additional two minutes in the air. The tech he uses now gives him a bit more breathing room, with a half hour to fly out, capture images and return to him, but he’s had to learn to work within the bounds of each set-up.

“I’m a lot less anxious now, because I’ve crashed a number of drones,” he said. “And in the end, they’re just tools.”

Experimental series

After developing series of still images such as “Lux Noctis” and “Aeroglyphs,” which experiment with ghostly lighting and geometric shapes in the skies, Wu found himself wanting to incorporate motion and sound into his work because of his own background in music. He began creating 15-second video loops from his images, showing light beams forming patterns or the moon arcing across the sky, to the beats of atmospheric electronic music that he produced.

“These (works) were very much experimental and had no end goal — they were just things that I did for love out of love,” he said. “I couldn’t license them, I couldn’t print them… and so they were just there, stacking likes on my Instagram.”

Wu has been commissioned to shoot in various locations, including the New Mexico badlands. This image came from a 20-hour shoot. Credit: Reuben Wu

But in January 2021, Wu found a way to make them a more substantial part of his career when he was introduced to NFT art. He minted his first “non-fungible token” on the marketplace Foundation two months later — an “aeroglyph” of bright lines forming a rectangle above a beachside cliff. It sold for 30 ETH ($45,000), a portion of which he donated to the National Parks Conservation Association and the AAPI Community Fund. Later that year, the web3 arts organization Obscura commissioned him to produce a new set of images titled “Aeroglyph Variations,” which took him into the New Mexico badlands for a 20-hour shoot that resulted in 55 images of the same setting, each with different lighting conditions and patterns. Wu has also experimented with presenting the work in different ways, from animations, to AR experiences, to projection mapping moving images onto physical prints.

“It’s very much a hybrid medium, and so I’d like to expand that horizon even more, and think about the end goal for my work,” he said. “Am I creating a nice piece of art for people to look at and appreciate, or am I creating an experience for people to share?”

Wu is leaning towards the latter as he continues to experiment with the form his work takes, but no matter the medium, his vision of and approach to the natural world remains consistent.

“A lot of people always say that my work is otherworldly — that is the first word that people think of when they think about my work,” he said. “But I’m not trying to create an alien-looking image; I’m trying to show that this is our planet. And there are so many new ways that are available to see it that can renew your perspective.”

Photographer Lord K2 offers a rare glimpse into the secretive world of sumo wrestling


Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

In one of photographer David Sharabani’s striking images, two sumo wrestlers face off beneath a roof resembling a Shinto shrine. In another photo, competitors are seen tossing salt high into the air to cleanse the ring; a third shows them with hands raised above their heads, a custom designed to prove that none are carrying weapons.

Sumo wrestling, which remains virtually unchanged since becoming a professional sport in early-17th-century Japan, is dictated by ritual and tradition. And as Sharabani discovered when he began shooting inside Tokyo’s “beya” — a collection of stables in the city where wrestlers sleep, eat and train — it is also a world shrouded in secrecy.

“I think 90% of my time was spent trying to gain access, and 10% photographing,” said Sharabani, who publishes his work under the name Lord K2, in a video interview from Tokyo. “It was a real challenge.

“They take their training very, very seriously,” he added. “So, when I used to turn up, I was often rejected. But sometimes they allowed me to enter. When they did, I was allocated a place on the floor and told not to move from that position and to be very, very quiet.”

Wrestlers partake in a practice drill at their “beya,” a stable where the athletes live and train. Credit: Lord K2

His persistence paid off. The resulting images offer a rare glimpse of wrestlers stretching, grappling in practice bouts (known as sanban-geiko) and even being disciplined by superiors in the hierarchical stables. Other behind-the-scenes photos capture quieter moments: the hair of an unseen athlete being oiled and tied, or a line of “mawashi” — the heavy loincloths worn by all sumos — hanging to dry. Bruises, grazes and scratches speak to the unforgiving nature of the sport in which more serious injuries are also common.

Almost 100 of the images appear in the British photographer’s newly published book, “Sumo.” Unlike in conventional sports photography, Sharabani was more concerned with the culture surrounding sumo wrestling than the fights themselves. Even shots taken mid-tournament at Tokyo’s 11,000-seat Kokugikan Arena draw viewers’ eyes to the crowd and venue, not just the bouts unfolding in the ring.

“A sports photographer is mainly capturing the action… but for me, it’s more about capturing the essence of the sport,” said Sharabani.

“At times, it’s good to catch the action, but I want to give readers the feeling of being in the stadia and stables, and to encapsulate the whole environment, including the crowd, the feelings and emotions around the events and the little nuances you often don’t notice.”

Tradition meets modernity

The rules of sumo wrestling are simple: Competitors win by forcing their opponent out of the “dohyo,” a sand-covered circle on which bouts take place. Sharabani first encountered the sport when it was broadcast, albeit briefly, on a major British television channel in the late 1980s.

“I was really fascinated by the whole mystique around the costumes and customs,” said the photographer, who has also produced a series about another combat sport, muay Thai.

Beginning his project in 2017, Sharabani often spent his time hanging around Tokyo’s Ryogoku district, the sport’s historic heart and where many of the city’s sumo stables are still located. “If you spend the day there, you’ll see 10 to 15 sumo wrestlers, on average, just walking around,” he said.

Sharabani says it is not unusual to see the wrestlers near their stables wearing “mawashi,” a kind of loincloth, after a workout. Credit: Lord K2

Forbidden from expressing emotions during bouts, sumos are expected to maintain a humble demeanor in public, too. They are also prohibited from wearing modern clothing. As such, some of Sharabani’s most eye-catching photos show the wrestlers going about their daily lives — visiting convenience stores or ordering food at McDonalds — in kimonos or loincloths, their hair tied into a topknot (a style they all wear until their hair is ceremoniously cut off upon retirement).

This visual contrast between modernity and tradition encapsulates sumo wrestling’s role in Japan today. The sport’s fixation on ritual has, in many ways, hindered its ability to modernize; women, for instance, are forbidden from taking part in major tournaments or even entering the stables. Sharabani also said the sport has resisted attempts to make events more fast-paced by reducing the time dedicated to various rituals.

“They don’t want to change, but that may be (the sport’s) strength,” he added. “Sumo wrestling is very, very different from lots of Western sports where it’s all action and there’s not much waiting around. But I think when you wait so long to watch each bout that you appreciate it more.”

Decline and revival

Sumo wrestling’s popularity has waned in the modern era — a decline that reflects, among other things, a growing interest in baseball and soccer. But it has enjoyed something of revival in recent years, Sharabani said.

Currently, around one in five Japanese people describe sumo wrestling as their favorite professional sport, according to an annual survey carried out by Japanese data firm Central Research Services (CRS) — up from around 15% in 2011. Sharabani attributes this to effective PR campaigns and, as he writes in his book’s foreword, a “push back against increasingly post-modern lifestyles.”

A wrestler on the floor during a punishing form of collision training known as “butsukari-geiko” Credit: Lord K2

Sharabani’s images show the many ways sumo is still woven into the fabric of Japanese society, from street murals to a TV showing the sport at the back of a barbecue restaurant. He also turned his lens on the profession’s future: the stables’ aspiring young wrestlers, some of whom began training at the age of 5.

“The kids were in the stables because they had made a decision, or partly with their parents, to become professional sumo wrestlers,” he said. “And it was very serious. They train hard, though only a small percentage will actually (make it) as wrestlers, no matter how good the technique is.”

Sumo,” published by Ammonite Press, is available now in the UK and globally from March 2023.

This artist paints hyperrealistic wildlife images


Written by Kayla Smith, CNN

A whale shark under the waves caught in a beam of sunlight, a snow leopard striding forward with its eyes locked on yours — these images could easily be mistaken for photographs, but in fact they were captured by the stroke of a paintbrush.

British artist Sophie Green creates hyperrealistic paintings of vulnerable animal species to raise awareness and inspire protection. With a following of more than 115,000 on Instagram, she’s not doing so badly.

In November, one of Green’s works was auctioned at the Royal Geographical Society in London. It was a painting of a chimp, called Wounda, that had been rescued from the illegal bushmeat trade by the Jane Goodall Institute in the Republic of the Congo. Wounda means “close to death.”

“Wounda the Chimpanzee,” by Sophie Green. Credit: Sophie Green

When Wounda arrived at the Institute, she was in desperate need of medical attention, but since receiving treatment she has made a full recovery and now lives in an island sanctuary off the Congolese coast with her new daughter, named Hope.
The piece sold for £19,500, (about $24,000) all of which Green donated to the Jane Goodall Institute. A portion of the proceeds from all Green’s artworks goes towards funding a range of projects, from shark and turtle research to conservation for African land mammals.

Art with a message

As a child, Green was diagnosed with selective-mutism — essentially a form of crippling anxiety, meaning she wouldn’t speak in class or to her teachers. As a result, she immersed herself in nature. “I think it’s very common for children with selective-mutism … to look at the world through a different lens to children that are able to communicate,” Green explained.

Green believes that painting can be more effective than wildlife photography, because it affords more control over the composition. “If you want the animal to be looking directly into your eyes, then you can do that,” she said.

“Snow Leopard.” Credit: Sophie Green

“I try to have the personality of the animal shine through so that it feels like somebody is actually looking at the animal rather than looking at a photograph of the animal,” she added.

Inspiration everywhere

Green’s process differs from piece to piece. She finds images for inspiration everywhere, sometimes using photographs captured by herself or her friends, sometimes scouring the Internet to find images of the creature she wants to paint. Often, the final piece comes from a composite of several images.

Although many hyperrealism artists prefer oil, acrylic paint is Green’s favorite medium for its fast-drying capabilities. She likes to layer it on quickly to add depth to the image. Her paintings normally take around six weeks to complete, and she paints “every single day, seven days a week.”

“African Wild Dog.” Credit: Sophie Green

Her goal is to inspire action from people who view the artwork. “If you feel like you’ve actually made a connection with an animal and you’ve looked into the animal’s eyes, I think it’s much harder to forget that there is so much going on in the world right now and so many animals that need our help,” Green said.

Green’s most recent exhibition, “Impermanence,” held in London at the gallery@oxo last month, stemmed from an expedition to the Arctic, where she saw first-hand the impact that human encroachment and climate change was having on wildlife.

“Whale Shark.” Credit: Sophie Green

Although the title could be seen as alluding to the fragility of the endangered species highlighted in the works, Green says that the meaning is more ambiguous. “Potentially there could be an impermanence of our problems, too,” she said, “so there’s more of a hopeful side to the collection as well.”



Postcards from across Africa show the continent free from colonial-era stereotypes


Written by Rochelle Beighton, CNN

These days, you can’t avoid seeing pictures from your friends’ vacations on Instagram or Facebook, but not so long ago, the most common way to see the world was on a postcard.

From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, when international travel was less commonplace, postcards were a crucial window to the wider world for many people. But in much the same way that social media can be used to spread misinformation, postcards would also be used to promote a particular agenda.

During this period, much of Africa was under European rule and postcards played a significant role in how the continent was perceived internationally. Many postcards showed Africa through the lens of visiting soldiers, missionaries, or professional photographers, resulting in visual caricatures of the continent that persist to this day.

This undated postcard shows Bornu warriors in ceremonial battle dress. The Bornu Empire (1380-1893) encompassed territory that’s now part of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Credit: Historia/Shutterstock

Now “Post-Card Africa” is working to redesign the history of postcards on the continent. The project is a global call out from South African photographers Michelle Loukidis and Michelle Harris, co-founders of Through The Lens Collective, a Johannesburg-based photography school.

A new wave of African postcards

Focusing predominantly on the history of Africa and African photography, the collective supports students by helping them capture their stories and perspectives on the continent.

They asked people to respond to the colonial history of postcards by submitting images they believe represent their country and people today. Since launching in May, they have received over 3,000 entries from 38 of Africa’s 54 countries, offering a wide overview of contemporary life in the continent.

The idea for Post-Card Africa was formed after Loukidis and Harris gave a lesson exploring the history of African photography, which revealed misrepresentations in old postcards. They felt there was a global conversation yet to be had about the inaccuracies and the frustrations these postcards perpetuated.

“For us, it’s a response to a history that is still very much alive and prevalent — to these singular images that were sent all around the world during the colonial era, which were giving a one-sided view of things, but also very stereotypical views, very exotic views,” Harris said.

This image from “Post-Card Africa” by Amina Kadous shows a group of street cleaners at a coffee shop in Old Cairo. Credit: Amina Kadous/ Through the Lens Collective

Outdated images

According to Vivian Bickford-Smith, a professor of historical studies at the University of Cape Town, postcards circulated of sub-Saharan Africa during European colonial rule typically fall into two major categories.

The first are those that captured missionary work, intending to show how colonial missionaries were “civilizing” Africa. These typically featured white missionaries in a background that demonstrates conversion taking place, such as a school setting where children are holding hands with nuns.

“The Africans who I think are notably absent are Black Africans, indigenous Africans — those who have already been educated, already are perhaps professionals or teachers themselves,” Bickford-Smith said.

The second category is postcards that portray “un-Westernized” Africa. These would have been created by the colonizing project to imply their work was needed.

“They may show school kids being taught, but in a ramshackle building. Or there might be a rickety thatched hut with a cross on the top suggesting ‘We need a church.’ Basically, the message will be, ‘We need money,'” Bickford-Smith said.

This undated postcard shows traditional Malagasy houses in Mahajanga, Madagascar. Credit: Historia/Shutterstock

In this period, when hundreds of thousands of postcards were sent every year, Bickford-Smith says they contributed to creating a global image of Africa. Africans were portrayed in postcards largely as tribespeople in indigenous dress or — if they were women — photographed semi-naked, suggesting they required Christianization.

“There is a tendency with postcards to look for differences, and exoticize. The danger here is you don’t see people going about their ordinary lives,” Bickford-Smith said.

Although colonial postcards have long gone out of circulation, Loukidis believes Africa continues to be misrepresented in modern imagery. She says Google images of Africa will show sunsets and safari animals first and foremost. But the submissions they have received from their callout show a different side of the continent, ranging from vibrant portraits of people in their everyday environments to images spotlighting urban settings.

“We’re doing completely normal things. We’re cooking, we’re walking in the streets, we’re getting dressed up really fashionably, we’re swimming in the sea,” Loukidis said.

This photo from “Post-Card Africa” shows “a young woman spending time in her garden, connecting to nature,” according to Nomonde Kananda, who captured the image in Gauteng, South Africa. Credit: Nomonde Kanada /Through the Lens Collective

Harris agreed: “I think it’s incredibly important that we have these everyday views and scenes, particularly because of what you see on the internet. In my years of teaching photography, I’ve often had, particularly American students, come and ask, “So where are the lions and where are the elephants in the street?” she said.

In the long term, Through the Lens Collective foresees Post-Card Africa as an archive, offering a rounded perception of Africa that can act as a framework for educational spaces worldwide.

“It’s important for African photographers to begin to take hold of our representation and change global perceptions of Africa,” Harris said.

Images from the project will be exhibited for the first time in 2023 at LagosPhoto, an international contemporary photography festival held annually in Nigeria.

Points Of View – An Archival Gaze of Photography in India by Gayatri Sinha


Celebrated art critic and curator Gayatri Sinha’s latest edited books Point of View: Defining Moment of Photograph in India and The Archival Gaze: A Timeline of Photography in India 1840 – 2020 take a deep dive into the technological changes and aesthetic movements in photography across the Indian subcontinent. Focusing on archival and visual elements, the collections provide a much-needed kaleidoscopic lens on photography in colonial and post-colonial India. Artist, writer, curator Steven Evans is the Executive Director of FotoFest International.


The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and participants and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, do not reflect the opinion, position or official policy of Asia Society Hong Kong, its members, or its committees. Asia Society Hong Kong does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for the content of the information presented.