By: Marissa Nadeau
February 29, 2016
Based in New York City, photographer Ebru Varol brings into focus not just life on the streets but the life of the street. Ebru’s work is acutely aware of how memory fades, and the camera captures just a moment. Her photographs dance between light and dark, to see and experience that moment in its entirety. I got the chance to ask Ebru some questions regarding her work, passion, and what drives her Light.
- Can you recall the moment where you discovered your passion for photography, or when you realized you wanted to pursue a career in the arts?
Well, it was after a series of relocations, from one continent to another, moving slowly from East towards the West. I moved here, to New York, from London in 2001, right after September 11th, in a time of grief. While being alone and feeling uncertain in the streets of New York, the only certain thing was my camera. My camera became my best friend, my comrade in arms. I guess if I have to pin down the moment when I discovered my passion for photography, it would be then. Photography came to me as an outlet for expressing my emotional state at that time and it stayed with me ever since. The decision to pursue a career came a few years ago when I realized that my passion, my photography could also possibly be my work and if that was the case, I had to treat it as such.
- Do you have a preference of shooting in color or black and white?
Certain things I see in color and others in black and white. When shooting in black and white, I am looking for light and dark contrasts, which carry so many symbolisms and parallelisms with real life. Black and white exposures with their retro feeling move me from the present to the past and from the west to the east. My color images have a different quality, more meditative. Instead of the contrast’s depth, the surfaces activate sensations and emotions with a more long lasting effect.
- What’s your favorite subject to shoot?
In my eyes everything carries a life of its own, even the lifeless. As a street photographer, I think of myself as a type of 19th century Parisian flâneur, an explorer and observer of the silent. I wander through cities or nature’s paths looking for forms and light. There are several themes that keep coming up in my photographs: windows and staircases, reflections and different textures, mannequins and figurines, locks and keys and other things with an old soul.
- What drives your art?
I am looking at reality through a viewfinder. I see how the light touches forms, how new shapes are created, how reflections change the interpretation of what I see. Then I have this desire to capture these instances, to make images out of them, to have them tell their story, perhaps my story or your story…
- Do your roots in Istanbul impact you as a photographer?
Istanbul is an old city, engraved with history. When you walk on the cobblestones, you wonder who has walked the same paths over the centuries. This connection is present in my images, even though sometimes I need to break away from the past, be in the present and feel the magnetism of the contemporary. Finding my Istanbul, locating that emotional state is an intriguing challenge. My photographs of windows are a good example of what I am trying to say. A window can be anywhere East or West. It’s a window in someone’s soul, memories, fantasies. In certain pictures and certain moments, the camera becomes a window as well, opening and closing, technically and metaphorically.
- Could you explain a term that’s part of your photographical philosophy, “The Light”?
Photography literally means the transcription of light. In the image Reverie, named after the title of my upcoming show, a seated mannequin is contemplating, perhaps daydreaming, frozen in time and in the composition looking outside the window at an old building across the street. The moment the photo was taken the light came through in a certain angle lighting up the window and blending the inside with the outside, becoming one. This is how the story of that image begun, with a spark of light. Its very mythological!
- Where has your favorite place been to exhibit your work?
London, because it was the first city I ever showed my work, and New York because I am having my first solo show here. I feel lucky ‘cause both cities have a highly sophisticated audience.
- Are there any particular artists, photographers or ideas that have fundamentally influenced your approach to photography?
I am very drawn to the works of M. C. Escher, especially in his interest of infinite spaces, geometries and reflections. Edward Hopper’s stillness, his urban scenes and his perspectives of windows with the intense feeling of loneliness fascinate me. Also the works of JMW Turner and his use of light and moving skies are important. In a recent show of his work at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich UK, he was taking over all my sensations. But André Kertész is perhaps the strongest influence: the way he captured urban life, highlighting the poetic and the quiet. How his images “give meaning to everything” about him and how “to make photographs as by reflection in a mirror, unmanipulated and direct as in life.” All these artists and their artworks inform my work and inspire me, perhaps a little piece of them are found in my photographs.
- Are you interested in other forms of art?
When I was a child I believed I would grow up and become an architect. Life turned out differently, but still in my photos one can see my affection to architecture and the urban environment.
- In terms of being an artist today, do you think it’s important to receive a degree, whether that be a BA or MFA, to be “actually qualified” in order to be successful?
I think a BA and/or MFA degree is very important, but in my case being a self-taught artist, an autodidact, grants me a strange freedom. I don’t have strains, rules or prefixed ideas about how my art should be. But I do not underestimate the academic qualifications. They give you a confidence, a network and a deeper understanding of the art world.
- You received a BA in Business Management, correct? Has that been of use to you for the business side of your work?
Every piece of information and knowledge is useful. My BA in business helps me think of my work in a practical manner, like in the technical aspect where market research is important for the production of the work. Creatively I cannot find any connection between my business training and my photography, other than the opposition of the two: in my artwork there are no constraints, while business is all about rules.
- What’s your advice for someone who would also like to pursue a career in this field?
Take your camera and don’t hesitate. This is your world, this is your work.
Ebru has an upcoming Solo Exhibition entitled Reveries in the Gregg Gallery of the National Arts Club, from February 29-March 12, 2016. The title of this show refers to her creative process during her wanderings through urban streets and nature’s paths.
To see more of Ebru’s work, check out her website.
“Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”– Ibn Battuta
It’s true – I’ve had the fortune of traveling all over the world from a very young age, and most of the time I cannot write down my experiences for weeks or months after my return. Throughout my travels, I meet certain people that make my time even more precious, and here I have the pleasure of introducing to you all a true storyteller.
Last year, I studied away in Florence, Italy for a semester. I did not know anyone who was going to be there, all I had was a list of five names who would be my suite-mates. I sent off friend requests via Facebook to get to know (by stalking their profiles) the gals I’d be spending the next 3 ½ months with. My roommate, Madison McCormick, was late to the game in responding because she was in Morocco. Riding camels and exploring the world. Over the course of the semester, my first impression of Madison remained the same, if not grew over time: I was in awe of this smart and embracing lady, who said yes to every adventurous opportunity no matter how busy she was.
Now, back in New York City for our senior year, Madison has created a sticker initiative to bring to light the European Refugee Crises. What she is doing and what she has accomplished is quite impressive, and now you’ll get to see what she’s been up to and how you can get involved from my conversation with Madison while she was conducting research in Greece.
- Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Madison McCormick and I am an NYU Senior pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Global Liberal Studies and a Master’s degree in International Relations. I am originally from California, San Francisco and Los Angeles. I am passionate about all things travel-related, from meeting new people to learning about and living in new cultures. I also have a deep passion for french fries …
Recently I have been very invested in a personal project of mine, a sticker activism research project that has taken me to Turkey and Greece this January to study street art in times of crisis.
- How did you become interested in street art?
Having lived in small suburban towns for most of my life, the move to NYU Paris my freshman year was really a shock, in a good way, and opened my eyes much more to the world around me. You could say that my small town ‘bubble’ had been popped. So from the beginning of my NYU experiences, I traveled and explored new cities in Europe and the United States and came across beautiful and intriguing works of art on the streets. I have also always been one to notice the little details; from a small stencil painting in an alleyway to a dumpster dive treasure on the side of the road, you can bet I have spotted it. My fascination in street art took a more specialized turn two summers ago when my friend and I began to collect and search for interesting stickers in lower Manhattan on street signs, telephone poles, mail boxes, etc. From then on I began to collect stickers during my travels and keep them in my sketchbook/journal. I would also begin to notice the same stickers in different cities, so it was a way of having some familiarity and comfort on the streets of an unknown place.
- What brought you to the attention of refugee crises?
I spent my junior year at NYU Florence and became much more aware of the European Refugee Crisis as it was in the news each week of the boats arriving and/or sinking on the southern coast, really heart breaking news. NYU Florence also offered educational dialogues on this topic and I attended them to learn more.
- Now, you’ve traveled an impressive amount within the past four years… Is there a certain city that stands out in your mind for its street art?
Yes, I have been very fortunate to have studied abroad for two years and travel while doing so. I have pretty much loved everywhere I have been and each place is unique in its own way for street art, but I would have to say that Athens and Copenhagen stand out the most to me at the moment. Athens because it is so saturated with all kinds of graffiti, tagging, murals, poetry, propaganda, etc. and carries a lot of political and social commentary and this has all emerged in the last 5 years or so since the financial crisis. In Copenhagen, there is a self-proclaimed ‘free neighborhood’, Christiania, that is pretty much as close as it gets to a hippie commune. I love the street art there because it is so free and colorful and emotionally expressive, much less political.
- Why use the medium of stickers to bring awareness to such a political and social statement?
I think that stickers are a seemingly harmless form of street art and can be used in various ways to spread whatever message they carry, if they have one at all, and spark dialogue. For example, a sticker can be stuck on a pole next to another sticker belonging to a leftist political party and if it is in support of the same message, they both are now in dialogue with each other. Now if that sticker was instead placed on top of the other sticker, then this would be considered ‘crossing’ and would be more of conflict. Stickers can also have a place off the street, like on one’s laptop case. Say you are sitting in a cafe typing away on your computer and the person next to you asks where you got said sticker. You would then be able to refer them where to find and learn more about the sticker, like the Instagram page for my sticker for example, and you are also engaging in a possible discussion about the sticker’s subject matter. Lastly, stickers can be easily commodified, which has been a negative outcome – street art becoming a market- in most cases. However, if the stickers are sold to raise money for a specific fund, like mine are, then this furthers the politicization of the sticker and draws more attention to something that is the size of your palm and can easily be overlooked. Stickers are small in scale, but they are not bound by physical space and can be spread quickly!
- What was the inspiration behind your first series, “Crumbling Borders”?
As part of my thesis, I felt it was necessary to participate in the street art I am researching and so I chose to do something that touched upon the Refugee Crisis because it has been something that has resonated with me for a while since studying in Florence. I realized that this issue is massively important, nonetheless relevant right now, and felt very distant and out of touch from New York. So, I felt that it was important to use street art to literally make this issue visible on the streets in the form of stickers.
- Do you think that in combination with the use of social media your project has been given more attention from when you started?
Yes absolutely. I had always intended to use Instagram for this project because I am researching how street art and artists have cultivated a new ‘imagined community’ (s/o to theorist Benedict Anderson!) where localized street art made for a specific community can become global with the touch of a button through Instagram. So, with the @TagAndSeek instagram, which is ultimately named after the fact that I ‘tag’ stickers and those who come across them ‘seek’ to find out more about the sticker through the Instagram page, I have drawn the attention of a much larger, global audience that grows every week.
- Where can someone go to learn more about refugee crises, what your initiative is all about?
I am in the process of creating a website, but until then, the best place to go is the Instagram page: @TagAndSeek. I have been posting my process tagging the sticker around the world as well as providing education information on the Refugee Crises and outlets for people to learn more if they’d like.
- Are you selling your stickers?
Yes! I was hesitant at first to sell them because of the whole ‘commodifying street art’ thing..but then I figured if people were willing to spend a little money on these stickers, I could make it go a long way and raise the money for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and International Rescue Committee – two organizations that are on the grounds helping with the crises. I am selling the stickers for $1 each and all proceeds go towards these two organizations. Additionally, if anyone wants to tag their city and spread the message of #crumblingborders, then I am more than willing to send some stickers their way. My friends have been taking the stickers with them in their travels and I will be reposting them all on the Instagram page. I am really excited because this project is becoming very much global!
Make sure to follow Madison’s journey through her Instagram account, @TagAndSeek.
And we need YOU to keep this going to make a wave within the street art community and get Madison’s message out there! If you’re interested in tagging your streets, message her through TagAndSeek’s Instagram to purchase stickers and donate to the cause.
January 12, 2016
A lot of times we Manhattanites forget that right across the river, there is a land called Brooklyn, and it is filled with a hipper population than in our beloved borough. People associate “New York City” with the Empire State Building and Central Park when those main attractions are just in one borough out of the five that make up NYC. Sure, Central Park is a quintessential New York destination to check off the bucket list, but most of the time it’s the overlooked spots that are doing some pretty awesome projects. Brooklyn Bridge Park and the DUMBO area do get an influx of tourists, but everyone holed up in their favorite borough should come out to see these (free!!!) visiting structures scattered parkwide.
The Public Art Fund of the Brooklyn Bridge Park has been decorating the paths and lawns with contemporary, experimental sculptures and projects. This past summer, Danish artist Jeppe Hein installed Please Touch the Art, involving playful sculptures specifically intended for public interaction. The two main components, which will be on view through April 17, 2016, were his Mirror Labyrinth and Modified Social Benches that captured people’s attention. These structures are simplistic, yet changed the landscape of the park as well as the view of Manhattan. BBP continues this visual experience with the Brooklyn developer Two Trees Management Co.’s commission of OY/YO by Deborah Kass.
Located on the newly renovated Main Street Lawn, Deborah Kass’ monumental letters scream OY to Manhattan, and from the Manhattan side, YO shouts right back to Brooklyn. Blunt exclamations are a part of New York daily life, so now the landscape of the city will mimic its residents and tourists. Overlooking the iconic bridges of Brooklyn’s waterfront and visible from either side of the river, this is an apt location for Kass’ audacious appropriation of this urban slang.
OY/YO is the first of its size from Kass, but these phrases were originally two entities of their own. An important thing to know about Deborah Kass is that she explores the confluences of pop culture, art history, and the self. She also mimics and reworks signature styles of iconic male artists of the 20th century; Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock ring any bells?
OY was first created as a painting in 2011, giving tribute to Edward Ruscha’s 1962 painting, OOF. The 2011 painting transformed into prints and sculptures (Kass works with mixed media), and YO was added as a separate painting at a friend’s suggestion. This was all leading up to this concept’s larger-than-life presence in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Why these expressions? In interviews, Kass has provided some insights, but says that the sculpture acts as “an open-ended question that people need to answer for themselves”. Kass has stated that the sculpture is relevant to any diverse setting in America but remarked on how fine a home Brooklyn makes for this piece.
In the 1950s, Jews constituted about a quarter of the city’s population, with a majority of families residing in Brooklyn. Needless to say, the Yiddish phrase “oy (oy vey, oy gevalt, etc.)”, expressing exasperation or incredulity, would be well-known within this community. This sculpture can be viewed as the older residents expressing their irritation or aggravation toward the neighboring borough. ~oy~
“Yo” has become a popular slang interjection thanks to Philadelphia’s Italian-American population in the 1940s, but dates back to the 15th century when it was used in Middle English! Apparently, though, “yo” had a different meaning, deriving from the Old English word for “yes”. If our ancestors could just see us now…
Deborah Kass’ sculpture is made of simple aluminum and paint but makes a grand mark on the Brooklyn scenery with its bold yellow letters. This work is completely reminiscent of Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” sculpture. For the use of such small words, there are multiple impactful interpretations, whatever your take on Kass’ riveting sculpture may be.
My suggestion to get the most out of your viewing pleasure is to take the 6 to the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall stop so you can walk along the water to see the sites from the Manhattan side, then walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and make your way to the Main Street Lawn, so you can see the full effect of Kass’ work. Especially with the weather being as wonderfully warm as it has been, a trip to see this in December is completely plausible! But there’s no need to rush: OY/YO will be on display through August 2016.
Want more of Deborah Kass? Her current exhibition, No Kidding, at the Paul Kasmin Gallery is on view until January 23, 2016, where she incorporates neon lights into her paintings to spell out puns and phrases bearing pop cultural references.
*If you’re saying to yourself, this sounds awfully familiar, and you’ve seen Season 2, Episode 22 of Gilmore Girls, then you’re correct in assuming I’ve taken inspiration for the title of this article from the nonsensical, magical words of Lorelai Gilmore.
November 6, 2015
October 20, 2015
If you’re in tune with even a sliver of art culture, you know who Banksy is. Mysterious and shadowy, the world is constantly trying to figure out who this visionary artist is, especially with the opening of his bemusement park, Dismaland, in the UK. But we’re not here to talk about Banksy. We’re here to talk about the rumored-to-actually-be-Banksy street-artist and filmmaker, Mr. Brainwash, specifically his pop-up exhibit, Life is Beautiful, that’s been making splashes in NYC.
Thierry Guetta a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash popped on the scene in 2010 when Banksy released his Academy Award-nominated documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop (and if you haven’t seen it I suggest you treat yourself to a night in with Netflix and this film). It tells the supposedly true story of Guetta, a French immigrant who moves to Los Angeles, and I won’t spoil the ending except to say that in real life, Guetta turns into the brilliantly successful Mr. Brainwash.
Now, I love his name, especially when you know the context of his work. Guetta’s signature work revolves around the clever rendering and altering of pop culture icons – so think of Andy Warhol except taking one step further. His name reflects on how these figures impact society in such a way that people will change their lifestyle or beliefs based on whatever is socially acceptable on that day. We are brainwashed by social media and other people’s opinions, and Mr. Brainwash confronts you with this idea through his work.
Life is Beautiful is located on West 13th Street near the entrance to the Highline in the Meatpacking District in New York City. As you approach the gallery, all you can see are statues stacked up against one another, crowding the windows. Prominent cultural figures are showcased in this pop-up and are given a humorous twist while creating a social commentary. For instance, Mr. Brainwash takes Warhol’s tomato soup can and turns it into a tomato soup spray can, or creating a royal portrait of Caitlyn Jenner. The space is packed with trashy-pop sculptures and re-adaptations, leaning items against the walls and creating mountains of old-school tech tools and toys like typewriters and grungy stuffed animals. There’s plenty of seating, making the space feel like a weird residential or communal area, where you can reflect on the work towering over you while flipping through the pages of a Magritte book conveniently left on the coffee table in front of you.
This exhibit shares the messages of how beautiful life and love are along with the major influence pop culture has on society. I left the gallery with a smile across my face for the genius behind Mr. Brainwash’s work, with the reminder that everything relies on how you’d like to look at it.
It’s all about perspective.
October 4, 2015
For someone with a name that sounds like he’s a character straight out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Brian Woo (aka Doctor Woo) is a total badass who makes you pine for a tattoo in the worst way.
Dr. Woo has become a sensation in the tattoo and visual art world in the past few years. He’s based in Hollywood, California, working at the Shamrock Social Club. Woo was born in North Hollywood to Chinese immigrant parents and discovered his proclivity toward visual arts doodling in the margins of his notebooks at school. Now, I was a huge doodler and still am, but my doodles would certainly never be translated onto someone’s body.
Woo is trained in what is called the single-needle style which produces such fine, thin black lines that they appear gray. He was offered an apprenticeship at the age of 24 with Mark Mahoney, who’s considered the “founding father” of black and gray art using a single needle, and a living legend who’s tattooed the likes of Lana Del Rey, Johnny Depp, Lady Gaga, and the list goes on and on.
Just look at Woo’s inimitable designs; I don’t think I’ve seen cleaner lines. His tattoos are flawless and precise, going for the strategy of “less is more”, producing fine lines and limited color. Instead, he builds on texture and the outcome looks like a pencil drawing taken right off one of the pages of a sketchbook.
What I love most about Woo’s tattoos is the simplicity of them all. I think that a lot of times, tattoos aren’t considered amongst the traditional sense of art, when the making of them have 100x more of a consequence then putting paint on canvas or taking a photograph. Tattoo artists are given the task of making a permanent piece of art on someone’s body that’ll be with them for eternity. If that doesn’t make you sweat a little thinking if that was your responsibility, then you have nerves of steel. Woo turns people’s ideas into pieces of art that they proudly display for the world to see.
His Instagram feed is filled with his art, and his family is featured rather often. Woo has 2 beautiful sons; the cutest, droopiest puppy you ever did see; and his gorgeous wife Jayme. And together, they make the hippest family I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Like, I’m 17 older than his eldest son, Lyon, and the kid’s already cooler than I’ll ever be. Just his name screams cool. Lyon.
Are you hooked now? Have you decided that your next tattoo has to be done by Dr. Woo, or for all you first-timers out there, that your first has to be a Dr. Woo??? Well get in line. Dr. Woo has a year long wait list so if you want one, book your appointment and your ticket out to California now and you’ll have plenty of time to come up with the perfect piece for you.
Follow Dr. Woo on Instagram to see a constant feed of his tattoos and his adorable family, plus check out his website for more inspiration. All hail Dr. Woo, maybe I’ll see some of you in the Shamrock Social Club’s waiting room…in a year or so.
September 25, 2015
When looking at Chris Burkard’s Instagram feed, two things will cross your mind:
1. Amazing, and
2. I want this to be my life.
Chris Burkard is a self-taught photographer who went from sleeping in his car just to be closer to his internships to stacking up 1 million Instagram followers and a steady studio spot out in Grover Beach, California. He’s made a name for himself in the surf and outdoor industries, working with top brands such as Apple, The North Face, Patagonia, and many many more.
I actually don’t remember how I came upon Burkard’s account – I’m an amateur photographer myself so I’m always looking through the various hashtags connected to outdoor photography for inspiration; even though I don’t remember, I’m sure glad I did follow him because I’m given a dose of daily awestruck.
His Instagram feed mainly covers his landscape and adventure shots, but it’s nothing to snuff at. It seems that every picture he takes is perfect: from the lighting to the framing, every moment is captured at exactly the right time. While I can sense that this is dedication at its finest, I can’t help but wonder at how he could possibly take these photos.
The colors and images are insanely crisp, and his stills look totally unreal. Whenever I see a new photo, I can’t help but be jealous – Burkard’s whole life is surrounded by this immense beauty and his job is to capture that. One look at his website shows his passion for his work, specifically within this quote, taken from his thoughts on being a photographer and having photography as a career, “Remember the camera is just a tool. What is more important is how you look at the world. Curiosity and a desire to explore, as well as passion is huge necessity when it comes to photography.”
In regards to this dedication, Burkard held a TED Talk this past March regarding one of his main (and craziest) past-times: surfing in ice-cold waters. I can’t even fathom jumping into freezing water just to get the right shot, but that’s an entire level above that Burkard is on. You can see what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera in the making of these incredible photos, and seeing the conditions that he sometimes works in makes you shiver like you’re out in -10 degree weather right along side him.
Chris Burkard started as a 19-year-old who found he had a talent with a camera and turned into a recognized photographer among many communities. I can’t get enough of his images and look forward to seeing the next each day. The most memorable posts have been from the past few months on his trip to Iceland, which has been a huge throwback for me; I got to take a trip there during the summer of 2013, but just missed the Northern Lights by a week. Sure enough, Burkard posts this rad and almost haunting image of these spectacular green lights and I turned green with jealousy myself.
Make sure to follow Burkard on his Instagram, check out his website to see more of his work, and keep an eye on his Facebook – if you’re interested in photography and live near his studio (or in my case, willing to move to work with him…) he updates his site on internships, though they’re booked out far in advance. He also has workshops and prints available for sale, and recently gave out thousands of free prints (10,000 to be exact) for getting 1 million followers on Instagram. Talented and giving, what more could you ask for?
Adventure is out there and Chris Burkard is running right along side of it. Find your muse or your next travel destination through his work, and I promise you won’t be sorry.