Nothing like a bit of light reading on a Monday morning. Today we are talking to the super talented visionary, photographer and close friend that is Darren Black. This London based photographer knows a thing or two about pushing boundaries in his work but today amongst his creative process we talk about the obstacles faced by individuals from the transgender community, his new project 'konstructionhaus' and the future.
How is Darren feeling today?
I’m knackered today - I’ve had a long run of work & today has been my first day off in ages so I decided to take myself off to the Barbican and go to the Vulgar exhibition.
What are the issues you think individuals from the transgender community face these days?
I think that transgendered people face prejudice every day the way they have always done & sadly increased visibility hasn’t yet led to less attacks being levied upon them. However, the good thing is: we are having the conversation about what it means to be transgender & globally there is now a network of people who are in a position to help. We are in the age of progress so having public figures who are either transgendered or supportive of people in the trans community enables the process of education to get better which will hopefully mean that the transgender experience for each subsequent generation will get easier. We are a long way from equality yet, but have started the journey...
Your work always blurs the lines between gender and identity, how did that come about?
I think that I have always been interested in counter cultures and queer art & these places have always been the first to push boundaries when it comes to gender/identity/sexuality etc. Traditionally, it is women who are forced to modify their bodies in the name of fashion, from stilettos & corsets, to makeup & breast augmentation. In a patriarchal society, to be a woman is to be “less than” so to dress as a woman can be seen as comedy - this is where I like to subvert the context of my menswear photography by using traditionally female components to accessorise the men I shoot to make the viewer question what they think is acceptable as “menswear”. Doing the same to female models does’t carry the same subtext because women have often dressed in a masculine way without anybody questioning this. In terms of subcultural references: if you look at the punk uniform, for instance, it has sex deeply embedded into it with the use of underwear as outerwear, shredded tights that look like the wearer has been attacked, torn clothes held together with safety pins - when punks got dressed, this DIY aesthetic was the first time in the history of fashion that this was happening. Similarly, the voguing scene in New York in the late 80’s/early 90’s - here was a community of people (black and Latino gay men) who were seen as “second-class” in their every day lives but who could live out their fantasies on the dance floor: a place where they could feel “more than” These kind of moments are what inform my photos which are generally underpinned by four pillars: SEX, SUBVERSION, VULGAR & COOL so when you look through my archive, you’ll see these themes recurring throughout my work.
Is there anyone that inspires you currently?
Every day I’m inspired by someone or something new...from people I see on the tube, to a documentary I’ve watched on the TV. In general, I visit lots of galleries, go to exhibitions, the ballet, I check-in on DAZED DIGITAL, I-D ONLINE, SHOW STUDIO and VICELAND, I watch films & I read - A LOT.
We seem to have made a lot of progress as a race with regards to recognising individuals with their own unique identity be it gender or sexual but at the same time there’s no denying the regression of these ideas in some parts of the world. How does that make you feel?
I feel incredibly sad when I see oppression or bullying of any kind. As far as I’m concerned, I really do believe that anybody should be allowed to celebrate themselves and present themselves exactly as they want. It’s not anybody else’s place to stop them so when I see this, I get really pissed-off on their behalf. When you take away someone’s choices, you are dictating to them & that doesn’t sit well with me...
Are there any exciting projects that you are working on that we should look forward to?
Yep...And that’s all I can tell you! Haha!
How did you get into photography? Have you had any formal training in it?
I was basically “mid-career” in my late 30’s in a completely different job & I knew that I wasn’t fulfilled. I had always had a love of photography, collecting books and going to all the exhibitions I could fit in and was looking for a bit of a change so I decided one day to buy a camera and teach myself how to shoot & I’ve literally not looked back since!
Tell us a bit more about your new project ‘konstructionhaus’?
This was a personal project of mine born out of my love for brutalist architecture. I wanted to document the brutalist movement before gentrification of various neighbourhoods in London led to these beautiful buildings being knocked-down. My ambition has already got the better of me so I’m now in the process of coordinating a photographic walkabout in other cities to see if this project “has legs”...
If you were to pick a decade that resonates the most with you which one would it be?
Definitely the 90’s! I think this was genuinely the last time anything was actually “new”...we are living in the age of the remix now where culture is just plundering the archives of what has gone before and remixing it for a new generation but in the 90’s we were at the very end of the age of invention. Considering the reach of the internet and how many options we have culturally, there has been a lot of homogenisation in terms of how people dress in recent years.
What’s next for Mr Black?
Who knows? Whatever it is will be just as much of a surprise to me as it will be to you!
Model: Diego Villarreal, Styled by: A+C Studio
Lisa Krulasik, is a talented jewellery designer based in New York City, she has been honing her craft at Pratt Institute for the past several years. Lisa was awarded the 2015 Saul Bell Design Award and received first place in the emerging jewellery artist category.
Her BFA Jewellery Thesis Collection embodies her passion for Jewellery and reptiles. We took time out to speak with Lisa about her collection and the creative processes involved.
In what ways has your background influenced where you are now?
I am a first generation American from Polish parents. Growing up in a Polish household plays a minor roll in my work. My BFA Collection is titled Istota, which in Polish means “being, essence, creature, entity, substance, and soul.”
My education has definitely had a major impact on my work. I have always been very interested in architecture, math, and science so much so I originally was going to study Chemical Engineering. Once I found my love for creating, I trusted my gut and pursued art to see where it took me in life.
Please describe your design aesthetic in three words?
Crisp, dynamic, and sculptural.
Who would you most like to see wearing your jewellery?
It brings me great joy having anybody interested in my work and I honestly would love to have anyone wear my pieces.
Please describe the creative processes from start to finish of a new jewellery collection?
Typically, what sparks my urge to make something new is when I’m inspired by materials and forms. I then start sketching ideas while referencing the inspiration. For example, if a piece of wood sparks my creativity I will hold and rotate the piece in my hand so that I can discover and draw out new forms. After sketching, I either make prototypes out of base metal and paper, then move on to making the piece in the selected materials, or I just jump right into making the final pieces. Also, there are times that I don’t sketch at all and just start to make intuitively. All of this depends on what my instincts are telling me to do in the moment.
What’s your jewellery philosophy? How do you like to wear your favourite pieces?
While I design and create, I make sure to stay in tune with my intuition and allow for change as I progress. I find that this lets my work radiate the passion that I have for each individual piece. The process for my thesis collection, Istota, involved designing and rendering thirty brooches with watercolour and gouache. This was to gain a better understanding of how the materials worked with each other and with the concept. To further progress, I had a few outside artists critique the designs, and then I selected the ten strongest designs that complemented my personal artistic instincts.
I enjoy wearing pieces to complement an outfit, show off my personality, and boost my confidence. I also enjoy when people ask me questions about the piece I am wearing.
What type of woman did you have in mind when designing your collections?
Instinctively I design work that is gender neutral, I believe everyone has the capability to wear whatever they please. However, when I am commissioned to make a piece for someone specifically, it may be more associated with a gender if this is what they would prefer.
Where did you find inspiration for the materials you use?
I have always been interested in work that included non-traditional materials. During my third year of college, I took a class titled beyond metals, where I was educated on how to work with many new materials like wood, plastic, paper, etc. Since then, I have been inspired to stay on the look out to find unique and beautiful materials that allow me to create freely.
What is the future for your jewellery brand?
I am working on many new and exciting projects, which I cannot wait to share! A few have been shared on my website but I am also working on various commissions and creating a new selection of jewellery.
The next few months have a lot in store. Stay updated by following my social media accounts and checking my website.
"The shyness and singular beauty of people with albinism have always captured my attention."
The photophobia caused by the absence of melanin lead them to live literally in the shadow. And as photography is basically light, I thought it would be instigating and revealing to subvert paradigms and bring them to the position of “protagonists”. Between 2009 and 2014 I worked on this project and experienced a great challenge: research, locate and try and convince some of these people to come into my studio and let them be photographed. The plasticity is explored by the softness of the passages in pastel shades which permeate the work and resemble the paintings of great artist such Edgard Degas.
Beautiful portraits carved by hand, no detail is there by chance. The clothes, the people, the way they pose for the portrait, the backdrops decorated with delicate motifs are not there as an inflamed critic on the situation of albinos as different people; rather, the narrative orbits around the unique beauty that flows out of them. When I see these photographs, I feel the will to touch, to softly stroke them and smell the sweetness of each one of theses colours.
As soft as the images is the way the text is connected to the work. Names, no surnames. Names of people who now seem so close to artist. An intimate, delicate and respectful closeness.”
300 miles from my own doorstep, 110 miles from London and 20 miles from the UK. This is the ‘Jungle’ one of the largest refugee camps in Europe housing nearly 6000 migrants from all walks of life. It’s not hard to find though as there is a constant stream of people walking to and from the camps, some volunteers and some refugees. Upon first approach aside from the numerous riot police and vans dotted along the perimeter, you would assume from your first look that you have stumbled across a music festival camp site, albeit the atmosphere is a little more sullen. All you can see is a sea of blue tarpaulins held crudely together with timber frames. These aren't just the temporary shelters that they are made out to be, but family homes where children are having to grow up in the most formative and influential years of there life. At the camp there are a wide variety of nationalities; Syrian, Afghani, Eritrean, Egyptian, Sudanese. With many more sub groups around the camp holding there own ground and building their own shanty communities.
The whole situation is a complete shambles, I mean this in the nicest way as everyone I met from helpers to refugees where all fantastic, warm hearted people; merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. With the combined efforts of the French and UK governments this situation could be solved within 3 months however no one wants to take responsibility for these poor people. Yes there may be economic migrants at camp, yes some people may want to enter the UK to reap our benefits and live a comfortable life. However this is a small minority and to be able to distinguish between these few people is enormously hard. So what about the children that will grow up with poor sanitation, no formal school system, no place to call home, what happens to the innocent people caught up in the bureaucracy of this whole debacle?
Upon first entering the camp I met up with Soloman (32) who runs the main church in the jungle, I met with him to provide him with some petrol to help heat the church for services in the mornings. He was eternally grateful for the petrol and told me how much of a great help it is people helping with the small things. Solomon is well known in the camp, he welcomes everyone and shakes hands with all the volunteers. This type of hope that he provides for the residents of the camp is essential, a place to vent their hopes and dreams is a real human right something that both the UK and French governments really cannot provide.
Midway through our conversation he was distracted as a van from the UK went past rattling away, I followed to see what was going on and it was the prefabricated frame for a shelter. This shelter was for a young boy named Badil who was merely 16, that fact took a while for it to sink in; what was I doing at 16? It certainly wasn’t building a shelter to keep me warm and off the sodden floor.
It was one English volunteer and Badil assembling the shelter, I offered a hand and ended up staying for 2 hours helping with the building. The work of the CalaisBuild and Build in Calais charities is essential work taking vulnerable people and supplying them with some sort of shelter other than a tent where they cannot even stand. Some people had lived in tents for months at a time, imagine living in a 8ft x 4ft space that is often soaked and damaged, many people end up developing bronchitis or other respiratory problems.
Badil wasn't the only young teen living in this shelter, his friend Noorullah who was 15 would be sharing this space with him and possibly two other people, whether they where of a similar age I couldn't find out. The sheer fact that they are 15 and 16 year old boys was shocking to me, these boys are very much alone.
Around the library otherwise known as ‘Jungle Books’, I got talking to a group of 4 young men that all lived together these men where all from Eritrea, East Africa, and had been travelling for months going through Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Italy and finally France; sounds like a wonderful holiday doesn’t it?
Binyam who hadn’t spoken to his mother in months used my phone to contact her in the UK, although it wasn’t much help he was overwhelmed hearing her voice; something everyone should be able to do fairly easily.
After mulling around the camp and eating at one of the excellent Afghan restaurants, I decided to leave as I was loosing light. Whilst standing around looking rather lost I met a young guy, 21 (he wanted to keep his name private) and Mohammed, 20 who started talking to me asking what I was doing. The young guy, 21 has already lived in the UK for 6 years in London and had a cockney slang to his accent and Mohammed had lived in Coventry for 5 years; both men refused asylum even though they had lived in the UK for so long. I asked the young guy, 21 what his plans where, his answer probably speaks for a lot of refugees at the camp “Why would I want to go to a country that doesn’t want me?”
How can our government let these people rot here that are able bodied and willing to work so very, very hard. There is a lot of talent and aspirations being wasted away in the mud and cold of a small port town a mere 20 miles from our shores.
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Words and Photography by Henry Woodley.
We are pleased to announce that we have added photography to one of the creative mediums that we plan to feature on CreativPaper. There was an overwhelming demand for this from our readers and we thought it was only fair to showcase some of our favourite photographers from the globe.
We kick off this segment with work by Jefferson Pires. This FujiFilm X Photographer has worked with clients such as Vivienne Westwood, The Cambridge Satchel Company and Leica and is currently travelling around Asia. He has been kind enough to allow us to share a series of images called 'Monochromatic'
From architecture to reportage photography and nature, Jefferson's keen eye is clearly visible in his work.