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Lomography x Nixon: Analog Russia

A chilling surf trip to the country's northeast coast, captured in film by surfers and photographers alike

by Hans Aschim in Culture on 24 July 2014

Analog, Cameras, Cold Water, Exhibitions, Gallery Openings, Lomography, London, Nixon, Photography, Russia, Surfing, Travel

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In the northeast corner of Russia lies the Kamchatka Peninsula. As beautiful as it is barren, the remote and harsh landscape is sparsely populated and surely an acquired taste for the small but steady number of adventure-seekers that visit year-round. The summers are cool and the winters see raging storms batter the volcanic coast (29 of the 160 are active) where snow is often accompanied by lightning. With the snowpack still melting and water temperatures hovering just above freezing, a band of photographers and surfers ventured to the ends of Russia armed with a host of analog Lomography cameras for the Nixon Surf Challenge. After sorting through the negatives, the best shots of the trip are on display as of today, 24 July, at Lomography's Soho gallery in London.

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"With more than 30 hours of flights on each end, the trip is one of the most intense I have ever experienced," says digital marketing coordinator, Benjamin Wu Tiu Yen. "We did not really know what to expect in terms of waves, the locals and more generally 'the life' out there." Wu Tiu Yen and the Lomo crew gave cameras to everyone on the trip. With a mix of surfers and photographers, skill levels and photography knowledge varied across the board—making for an intriguing result.

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"Surfers can have a really good eye when it comes to taking pictures, but they know nothing about technical aspects of cameras," Wu Tiu Yen explains. "In the end, the surfers were a group of friends having fun, so I'd say they are able to capture more of the authentic and genuine moments between them." For quick and easy point-and-shoot capabilities, the surfers were given Lomo's LC-Wide and Fisheye models. Shooting from the hip (one of Lomo's core values) doesn't result in usable shots all the time as Wu Tiu Yen notes, but you're bound to line up a banger on each roll, especially with the wide-angle lens giving even everyday settings (let alone a burly strip of land in Russia) a shot at photo gold.

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There's a noticeable difference in the work of the photographers on the trip, where experience and technical knowledge came into play. Photographers received more of Lomo's manual offerings—coincidentally, many of which have their design and manufacturing roots in Russia—a change from their usual DSLR setups. "You take it back to the basics with analog and really focus on the exposure, the aperture, the shutter speed—you can't erase anything and you can't really afford burning a roll," says Wu Tiu Yen. "You tend to take less risk and try instead to be sure you'll get the shot, but it's more rewarding when you manage to get a great shot on an analog camera versus a DSLR." Plus, there's no need to worry about batteries freezing with the cameras' robust, rough-and-tumble designs.

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Equipment aside, the location played a significant role in the trip. Camping on the beach together, with a fire always burning and pickup soccer games being played (as much to stay warm as to pass time during flat spells), the international band of thrill-seekers became a cohesive unit. And, in terms of getting great shots, this camaraderie and the overall attitude might be the most important part. Of course, the weather doesn't always cooperate and the ocean can change its mind as quick as a Russian immigration official, but when things line up, it's perfect when everyone has a camera.

The exhibition opens tonight at 6PM and runs through 14 August at Lomography's London gallery in Soho.

Images courtesy of Lomography and Nixon

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Certain designers have a knack for solving problems so basic that their creations feel immediately timeless. Industrial designer Emanuele Pizzolorusso is one of them. The Helsinki-based Italian creative responsible for a pre-crumpled city map for flustered tourists has now created the Fold Pot, a simple silicone container that grows along with the plant it contains.

Plants grow—pots, not so much. The flexible design of Fold Pot starts small to accommodate seedlings and unfurls to hold more soil and a mature plant. By eliminating the need for transferring, Pizzolorusso has solved one of the most stressful processes for amateur gardeners. Aesthetically, the designer used clean, beveled edges and matte earth tones to contrast the organic look of the plants themselves. Best of all, the durable pot won't shatter next time your cat hops up on the windowsill to sniff the basil.

Fold Pot is available through Pizzolorusso's shop, where a set of three sells for €65. Each pot morphs to hold one and two liters of soil, and comes with a pot plate.

Images courtesy of Emanuele Pizzolorusso

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Vanessa Prager's Dreamers

The self-taught artist uses thick oil paint to creating dripping, melting portraits of imagined yet familiar figures

by Nara Shin in Culture on 24 July 2014

Painting, Artists, Oil Painting, Richard Heller Gallery, Vanessa Prager

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Vanessa Prager is no stranger to CH—whether she's wielding a paintbrush or a ballpoint pen over vintage music sheets, the LA-based artist always surprises with her next move. Described by Prager as "dripping, melting, fading out portraits," her newest series titled "Dreamers" ventures into unexplored territory, refining a new painting style that situates the viewer in a limbo between reality and something inexplicable. The faces of imagined figures blur into an indistinguishable collage of bright, vivid colors.

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Prager's new technique is all in the brushstroke; by manipulating very, very thick oil paint, the figures seem to jump off the wood, craning their neck into our world. As a result, the artworks end up unusually heavy. With this new manner of painting, "tons of mistakes can be made," Prager tells CH. "But the mistakes are what I kind of want. I don't want it to be perfect. There's something about the process—making it, finding its own form within itself: mistakes are welcome, and turn into not-mistakes."

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"By melting [the faces] in different ways, it's morphing into something else—but instead of going past that stage, it's just right there," she says. "I want it to be right up to the point where it's real, and on the line of where it's like a total other world." Teetering between reality and abstraction, Prager's figures are based on images in her head, rather than real people. She depicts a classic, "everybody" kind of person in the hope that viewers can see someone with whom they are somewhat familiar.

"I'm not trying to be hallucinogenic," Prager says. Instead, she wants to push the viewer to tap into their dream-like consciousness that flirts and lingers in our day-to-day lives. "This world can't be in such a real state all the time."

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While she'll be focusing on this new painting style to create pieces for an upcoming show at Santa Monica's Richard Heller Gallery in February 2014, Prager says she's interested in developing the style for sculptures and moving into the 3D realm. Her curious and adventurous mindset seemingly never ends, "Keep dreaming! Keep thinking up new things."

For more on Prager's new series, visit her website.

Images courtesy of the artist

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