Tag Archives: Conceit

Romka magazine: a collective photo-album

Romka magazine, Issue #7

I wrote about Romka magazine over on the eyecurious Tumblr some time ago, but I will confess to never having picked up a paper copy before, so the latest issue (#7) is the first I have been able to flick through. The conceit is a simple one, “favorite pictures and the stories that lie behind them” by pros and amateurs alike. No book reviews, no interviews, no ads… no excess fat. The result is a kind of crowd-sourced collective photo-album, which makes it sound terrible when it is really quite good. Romka simply does what it says on the tin: it presents a series of single images by photographers (that might be Roger Ballen or it might be Sachi “the builder who lives in a pink house in New Orleans”), each accompanied by a short text explaining what that image means to them. It is a very simple recipe, and like many simple recipes it is hard to get right, but when it works it is rather delicious. Although it follows a fairly strict formula it doesn’t feel formulaic because of its democratic, all-inclusive approach to images and because it helps to reveal some of the myriad reasons why photographs matter so much to people. This simple formula also makes it refreshingly different to most other photography magazines out there.

I have done a lot of wondering (to myself and sometimes out loud) about whether the photo album has become irrelevant today given the changes in the way that we make and look at photographs… Romka makes me think that there is life in it yet.

Romka magazine, Issue #7

Romka magazine, Issue #7

Romka magazine, Issue #7, November 2012, edition of 1,500.

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Dreamscapes: Matt Wisniewski’s Digital Collages

Some people create images to make a statement. Others, like Matt Wisniewski, do it because it looks pretty. “It’s mostly just aesthetic,” explains the 21-year-old computer science student of his spectral photo collages. “Whatever looks nice, really.”

Art for art’s sake is no new conceit. But Wisniewski has created a particularly successful iteration by overlaying portraits with organic patterns—from flowers to jagged peaks to a Rorschach blot. He came to the combination through experimentation. “It just sort of clicked,” he says. “Natural elements tend to be a little simpler and fit together a bit more obviously with the portraits than urban elements.”

The process begins with images from Tumblr and other online portfolios. A few experimental overlays later, Wisniewski lights on something that catches his eye. “I decide that I want to go further on it and then clean that up.”

For his image of a bearded man in a diaphanous red coat, Wisniewski found an overlay photo that “fit well and had a similar shape to his body.” Although many of his portraits eschew color, the red hue of the overlay image appealed to him. “I just thought it looked interesting.”

Matt Wisniewski

Untitled from “Cold Embrace,” 2011

Whether he works on the face or body is also guided by aesthetic fancy. “Usually if I do something with their body it’s because it’s simple enough that I can just work over it,” he says. “Sometimes I see that covering up their face looks a little nicer than not.”

Wisniewski, who studies at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology, prefers Photoshop to a paintbrush. Yet despite his technical knowledge—he works as a web-developer in his spare time—he’s self-effacing about his tools. “[Photoshop] is a lot more forgiving,” than traditional media, he says. “I can easily fix mistakes or experiment with an idea and complete erase those changes if I feel they don’t fit.”

That isn’t to say he hasn’t tried drawing, painting and photography. Growing up in Philadelphia, Wisniewski applied his tinkering instincts to whatever was at hand. “I’ve created things for as long as I can remember, really. The collage is just sort of something that happened as a result of that.”

On the cusp of graduating and moving to Brooklyn, Wisniewski hopes to maintain his autotelic creed. “I honestly don’t think of anything I do as a hobby or not,” he says, emphasizing that he wants to keep up his web design alongside making collages. “I’m obviously going to continue doing this as long as I enjoy it. Hopefully that will be a long time.”

Matt Wisniewski is a student at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology. More of his work can be seen here.

Sonia van Gilder Cooke is a reporter in TIME’s London Bureau. Follow her on Twitter at @svangildercooke.

Bruno Dubner at MAMBA (Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires)

A last post for 2011 and maybe a last post from Argentina for awhile as I’m now traveling in Chile and soon to head to Peru again. On my penultimate day in Buenos Aires I visted a small show of photographs by Bruno Dubner at the MAMBA [great name]. The work is called Ajeno, which means foreign, distinct or alien. The show consists of a long line of about 30 photographs of sidewalk views, looking down and to the side, usually depicting different sorts of entry ways in the more urbanized neighborhoods of Buenos Aires.

Ajeno – Bruno Dubner

Bruno Dubner – Ajeno

There’s a brochure with a long, fancy text that’s beyond my skills in Spanish and, probably, my English too, if it were translated. Beyond the conceptual conceit of the work, I appreciate the photos for evoking the urban skin of Buenos Aires. The photos themselves are simple and unpretentious, shot with a 35mm camera and printed small but lusciously [C-prints!]. There’s an overall chromatic harmony within the work and an obsessive attention to certain details, like the near total exclusion of litter, graffiti, or any sort of text–something that becomes clear when viewing the full series. Unfortunately the work isn’t on Dubner’s site just yet [although do check it out as he’s got some other interesting work].

The installation of the show is also nicely done, echoing the composition of the photographs themselves.

Bruno Dubner at MAMBA

I totally stole all these photos from a post on the website Juanele, about this show. I’d go over and read that as well because the writer, Gabriela Schevach, delves more into the conceptual elements of the work and knows her stuff!