Saturday, 18 January 2014

Text in Red is my own opinion or paraphrased form interviews, online, books and other materials
Text in Black - extracts from various sources

This blog is continuing from my journal. Here I will post most relevant audio/visual and mainly photographic material which influences and feeds me with new ideas towards the final major project. The  main reason for switching to online blog is its capability to upload important video/audio material which I could not do in my sketch book!

For now my main focus is to create a narrative within my work which would seamlessly tie all photographs together in a strong and coherent way. I had many thoughts about the relationship between war and religion but this concept is to broad therefore I want to narrow it down to a specific narrative.

Here are few ideas of how I could make this work much stronger.

Representation of modern obsession with money and religion.

Capitalism - people are after the money and resources such oil, natural gas etc.
Holy wars - can holy war be innocent if it is created in order to fight for the religion by killing other people?

I was never really concerned to create a strong narrative in my work, since my main goal is to create a representation of an idea/concept and let the viewer interpret in its own way. For the first months in this project I was pre-visaulising my characters and how would they fit within the context of war and religion. It seems I am progressing although it needs now a strong narrative in order to tie them all together and make more interesting.

Recently I came across Juha Arvid Helminen's work. His work seems to be very dark and moody. It is very inspiring and thoughtful. His work is very surreal and dramatic representing our dark side.

Photographer Juha Arvid Helminen (born 1977) is a passionate virtuoso in portraiture photography. Inspired by new acquaintances and personalities, Juha's immediacy and ambition are the secret to his powerful portraits. He has the rare ability to extract the very best out of anyone that stands in front of his lens. Juha is a photographer with a strong affinity towards bold settings and rich environments – indeed, the viewer is easily taken aback by the vivid textures and meticulous details that Juha incorporates skillfully within his imagery. 

Below photographs from series "Invisible Empire" 

The Herd

These lustrous photos by Finland’s own Juha Arvid Helminen, exhibit a Nazi-esque “Invisible Empire”. Like the invisible man these soldiers are faceless, giving a menacing presence. Placed in an all dark back drop with as little light as possible, the effect is un-romanticized, empty, gritty, and provokes a kind of loneliness only felt amongst the unidentified.

The Hesitation

BlackWedding 2008
Juha Arvid's work is very inspiring, it  gives me a lot of ideas for my own project. I have always liked moody dark and dramatic photographs, especially with interesting motifs such war, surrealism, fantasy and fashion. I see his work as a representation of a darkness in our lives. There is almost nothing positive in his work, even the photograph 'black wedding' represents the positive and happy event 'wedding' in a very dramatic and dark way. 

I really like the tension in his work. Similar to Crewdson, he poses his subjects in a specific place and pose in order to create this dramatic and flowing moment in a photograph. 
The Cabinet


His work represents war and darkness; he also utilizes themes of fragility, honor, fear, and individuality. The series is all about the misuse of power in religion and politics. His photographs are just great, he is a master of this genre.


This is a very interesting article from BBC about holy war, I feel it is very close to what I am initially trying to recreate in my final project.  

Involving God as part of a war campaign does not make a war a holy war - for a war to be a holy war, religion has to be the driving force.

Holy wars

Modern people often regard the idea of a holy war as a contradiction. Killing thousands of people and causing wholesale destruction seems to be as far from holiness as one can get.
But religion and war have gone hand in hand for a long time. Armies go into battle believing that God is with them, often after prayers and sacrifices to keep God on their side. In tribal cultures (including Biblical ones) when a people lose a war they often have to change to the worship of the winner's gods.
However involving God as part of the campaign does not make a war a holy war - for a war to be a holy war, religion has to be the driving force.

This paragraph is something that makes my project meaningful as i am only trying to recreate this relationship between military force and religion and how these rather two different things coexist! 
Holy wars usually have three elements:
  • the achievement of a religious goal
  • authorised by a religious leader
  • a spiritual reward for those who take part
Many of the wars fought in the name of religion do conform to the just war conditions, but not all of them.

Religious causes

Francis Bacon said there were five causes for holy war: (he wrote in a Christian context, but the categories would be usable by any faith)
  • to spread the faith
  • to retrieve countries that were once Christian, even though there are no Christians left there
  • to rescue Christians in countries that were once Christian from 'the servitude of the infidels'
  • recover and purify consecrated places that are presently being 'polluted and profaned'
  • avenge blasphemous acts, or cruelties and killings of Christians (even if these took place long ago)
Only the first of these causes is completely outside the scope of the conventional idea of a just cause. Some of the other causes, because of the length of time that can pass since the offending act took place are probably not just causes either.

Lawful authority

The legitimate authority for a holy war is not the government of a state (except in a theocracy) but the Church, or the relevant organisation or person who heads the religious institution concerned.
In ancient times the authority was often God - in the Bible there are several occasions where God gave direct instructions to peoples to wage war. This would not be the case today.

Personal reward

The third condition of a holy war is a spiritual reward for those who take part. The doctrine of the just war does not refer to any personal rewards for the participants - and such rewards would be against such a generally austere doctrine.


The first holy war was probably in October 312 CE when the Roman emperor Constantine saw a vision of the cross in the sky with this inscription "in hoc signo vinces" (in this sign you will win).
Constantine trusted the vision and had the cross inscribed on his soldiers' armor. Even though his forces were outnumbered, he won the battle against an army that was using pagan enchantment. (Historians regard this as a turning point in Christianity's fortune.)

The Crusades

The great series of western holy wars were the Crusades, which lasted from 1095 until 1291 CE. The aim was to capture the sacred places in the Holy Land from the Muslims who lived there, so it was intended as a war to right wrongs done against Christianity.
The first Crusade was started by Pope Urban II in 1095. He raged at the capture of the holy places and the treatment given to Christians, and ordered a war to restore Christianity. He said that the war would have the support of God:

Let this be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God. When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, let this one cry be raised by all the soldiers of God: It is the will of God! It is the will of God!
..Whoever shall determine upon this holy pilgrimage and shall make his vow to God to that effect and shall offer himself to Him as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, shall wear the sign of the cross of the Lord on his forehead or on his breast.

The pope also absolved all who took part in the crusade of all their sins.
The first Crusade captured Jerusalem after bitter fighting, and the residents of the city were brutalised and slaughtered by the Christian invaders. The invaders' conduct breached the principles of modern just war ethics, and the massacres still colour Islamic politics today.

This article really opened my perspective of this concept. I am not trying to create a provocative piece of work, it has to be subtle and opened for interpretation. I also want these photographs to contradict each other. For instance A soldier with Crucifix, or a monk which military symbols. It all goes back to the concept of this relationship between religion and war, and how can these rather opposite things coexist and work together.

Photographs below are from my major project development. They are representing this rather moody and dark contrast between good and evil, war and religion. And most importantly their relationship. It can also be interpreted in a much more abstract way. 

I started to play with context of relationship between War and religion in a very abstract and constructed way. I want these photographs to represent this tension and relationship between these two, rather different things in a surreal and constructed form. 

Early development, for illustration purposes only.

At this stage I am trying to incorporate religious and military symbols such cross, helmet, dog tags, monk's robe and many more. each of these elements symbolise a specific thing or process which links either to religion or war.

I want to find a balance between good and bad. This photograph is all about this relationship between good and bad - religion and violence, war. The black paint is usually represented with something dark and negative, rather than positive, however the crucifix makes this balance in this image. Without  this element of "crucifix"  the meaning would be completely different and there would not be this clear representation of relationship between god and bad/ war and religion... etc.  I want these photographs not only represent war and religion but also this relationship between what we think is acceptable and good and what is against us, the darker side of humanity. 

David Miles is a photographer who is recreating his photographs based on the concept and stories of 12 Crusades in Bible. It has a very strong and interesting narrative, making this work very meaningful. This is something I am trying to achieve in my work. 

About his work

The Word ‘apocalypse’ comes from the Greek word ‘apokalupsis’, which means an ‘uncovering’ or ‘revelation’. Therefore, the Book of Revelation (so named), contains a series of individual visions which were Divinely given to show Jesus’ servants ‘what must soon take place’.
There is some debate regarding the precise date during the First century (CE) for the Apostle John’s receiving of the apocalyptic visions. However, there is little doubt that it was towards the end of the century, by which time he was an old man and, on account of his faith, had been exiled to the island of Patmos. Many of his Christian compatriots had already suffered martyrdom.
Whether the reader of the Book of Revelation has, or has not, a specific understanding of this enigmatic book is, to some extent, of little importance. What is compelling is that all believers who, through subsequent generations, have encountered the book, have discovered that that which John ‘saw’ has a resonance with the times in which they themselves live.
Although many such readers will have been experiencing varying tribulations within their own lifetime, the words of Jesus via the Apostle reassure them that although times may be hard - even frightening - they should keep faith. The final two revelations given to the Apostle present the tried and the fearful with every reason to understand that, whatever their present suffering, the future is glorious.
For some years, David Miles has collaborated with an award-winning Documentary Producer and a Composer in the creation of an hour-long production, ‘Approaching Apocalypse’, based on the text of Revelation and David’s images.

For further information about this major Project, go to:

Digitally Created Figurative Interpretations
of the Word Images
Presented in the Book of Revelation
David Miles

Revelation chapter 1: 9 to chapter 2: 1 - 'One Like a Son of Man'

Revelation chapter 6: 1 to 8 - 'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse'

Revelation chapter 13: 11 to 18 - 'The Beast Out of the Earth'

Revelation chapter 19: 11 to 16 - 'The Rider on the White Horse'
I am very fascinated by the accompanying text to each photograph (can be viewed on his website), which sets his work in a very coherent and strong developing narrative. His photography montages becomes his own interpretation of 12 Crusades, surreal and yet very precise. 

Here is link to his work

Below an interesting article from:

ChristianityChristianity, during its 2,000 year history, has taken up all three positions on war: Pacifism, Just War and Crusade or Holy War. Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (The New Testament: Matthew 5 - 7) are very clearly non-violent: for example, ‘blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God’ (Matthew 5:9) and ‘love your enemies’ (Matthew 5:44).
Pacifism was the teaching and practice of the Christian Church until the Roman Emperor Constantine (274-337) made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Pacifism then largely gave way to the development of the 'Just War' doctrine. Politics and religion were able to endorse each other in going to war.
In the Middle Ages the Crusades were fought mainly to recover the Holy Land (the area between the Mediterranean and the river Jordan) from Muslim rule. Today most Christians would be ashamed of the terrible cruelty and injustice to which the Crusades gave rise. Most Christians would also be ashamed of the later persecution of heretics (people who did not accept the official teachings of the Christian church) and non-Christians (such as Jews).
The majority of present-day Christians support the idea that war is regrettable but unavoidable and should be fought according to 'Just War' rules. Pacifism is a minority position held by some Christians in the larger denominations (Roman Catholic, Church of England, Methodist, etc.). The Quakers, Mennonites, Amish and Hutterites together make up the historical 'peace churches', with a long tradition of pacifist belief and action.
The question remains: which position on war is the most faithful to the teaching of Jesus, who advised his followers to ‘turn the other cheek’ and who, when arrested, forbade a disciple to use a sword?

The Humanist ViewIn recent times religion has played a decreasing role in many societies, particularly in the West. Many people have consciously rejected the notion of a spiritual and sacred religion or god. This does not necessarily mean the rejection of ethical principles. Some people have developed a philosophy of ‘humanism’. This is based on humanitarian ideals, such as individual responsibility for one’s actions, respect for others, co-operating for the common good, and sharing resources.
Some humanists would accept the ‘Golden Rule’, a term first used by Confucius: 'Do as you would be done by', or 'Treat others as you would wish them to treat you’. Some see the natural or logical conclusion of such a principle to be the rejection of all war and violence. Others, who have reservations about pacifism, argue for 'Just War' rules similar to those based on religious law.

God and War: What the Bible Says About the Just War Principle
by Gerald Draayer


Most people would probably agree that war is evil. It's a destroyer of life, families, and in many cases the innocent. War does not just cause physical torment, but much emotional torment, as well.

Root cause of war

Before we go further into this I believe we need to understand the origin of war, the root of the problem. War, according to the Bible, is not caused by God but is rather the result of sin in the world (Genesis 4:5-8Matthew 15:19Mark 7:21-23Romans 3:10-18).So it seems that since sin is still in the world, open war is probably inevitable and is upon us whether we like it or not. Not all evil can be avoided. Yet the unbeliever probably won’t acknowledge this, (that being sin in the world).

Our attitude toward war

So what should be our attitude toward war? If war is the result of sin, then the obvious thing to do is stop sin (the root of the problem), which will stop war. But how is this possible in a fallen world? For the Christian, war is ultimately a spiritual battle and not carnal as reflected in 2 Corinthians:
 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
In a similar vein is the description in Ephesians 6:11-17 of the spiritual armor to be put on by the Christian warrior in the service of God. Ultimately, the Christian is to try to be at peace with all other people (Romans 12:18). 

This paragraph seems to be very interesting for me as I am trying to identify those things that link war with religion and makes war to be acceptable in the eyes of god.

"How could God be called 'good' if He forbade His people to protect their wives from ravishment and strangulation by drunken marauders, or to resist invaders who have come to pick up their children and dash out their brains against the wall? No policy would give freer rein to wickedness and crime than a complete surrender of the right of self-defense on the part of the law-abiding members of society. No more effective way of promoting the cause of Satan and the powers of hell could be devised than depriving law-abiding citizens of all right of self-defense. It is hard to imagine how any deity could be thought 'good' who would ordain such a policy of supine surrender to evil as that advocated by pacifism. All possibility of an ordered society would be removed on the abolition of any sort of police force. No nation could retain its liberty or preserve the lives of its citizens if it were prevented from maintaining any sort of army for its defense. It is therefore incumbent on a 'good God' to include the right of self-defense as the prerogative of His people. He would not be good at all if He were to turn the world over to the horrors of unbridled cruelty perpetrated by violent and bloody criminals or the unchecked aggression of invading armies.Contrary to popular belief, carnal war it seems is frowned upon by the believer and by God. But this raises a question. We know that war is the result of sin and that it is essentially wrong or evil, but what should be our response when a nation like Germany (in WWII) rapes, pillages, and plunders another nation for profit or genocide? I think that Gleason L. Archer (in the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties) expresses the argument well:
Not only is a proper and responsible policy of self-defense taught by Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, but there were occasions when God even commissioned His people to carry out judgment on corrupt and degenerate heathen nations and the complete extermination of cities like Jericho (cf. the article on "Was Joshua justified in exterminating the population of Jericho?" in connection with Joshua 6:21). The rules of war laid down in Deuteronomy 20 represented a control of justice, fairness, and kindness in the use of the sword, and, as such, they truly did reflect the goodness of God.
Special hardship conditions were defined as a ground for excusing individual soldiers from military duty until those conditions were cleared up (Deuteronomy 20:5-7). Even those who had no such excuse but were simply afraid and reluctant to fight were likewise allowed to go home (Deuteronomy 20:8). Unlike the heathen armies, who might attack a city without giving it an opportunity to surrender on terms (cf. 1 Samuel 11:2-330:1-2), the armies of Israel were required to grant a city an opportunity to surrender without bloodshed and enter into vassalage to the Hebrews before proceeding to a full-scale siege and destruction. Even then, the women and children were to be spared from death and were to be cared for by their captors (Deuteronomy 20:14). Only in the case of the degenerate and depraved inhabitants of the Promised Land of Canaan itself was there to be total destruction; a failure to carry this out would certainly result in the undermining of the moral and spiritual standards of Israelite society, according to Deuteronomy 20:16-18. (This corrupting influence was later apparent in the period of the judges (Judges 2:2-311-15)"1
I think Archer makes some very good points. When we look at war in the Bible, such as the verses in Deuteronomy, they are actually defensive in nature and not offensive. These areas of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites were morally corrupt and would have destroyed the Israelis, if left alive. God did not set the Israelis to conquer other nations this way. If you will notice, He didn't say now after that go into Asia, Europe, and Africa and take those ones out too. There has always been a buffer zone around the country of Israel because this land was promised to them by God. In order to keep the borders clean from attack and moral corruption they had to defend themselves. Hence, the creation of a buffer zone. It should be noted that the Israelis were to make peace before they went into battle, as well (Deuteronomy 20:10).

Lord of war

I believe God is against war, even though he allows war under certain circumstances. We have police officers today who carry guns don't we? Should we say that anyone who wishes to protect the innocent by law shouldn't be allowed to carry weapons? Is it evil for them to use guns against lawbreakers? In some circumstances people get killed by these guns. From this reasoning, that is God's defensive nature, it does appear that God could also be considered a Lord of War:
  • The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. (Exodus 15:3)
  • For there fell down many slain, because the war was of God. And they dwelt in their steads until the captivity. (1 Chronicles 5:22)
  • There is… a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:8)

Conclusion Top of page

With all this, we also know some day in the future that God will not allow any more wars. Notice in Isaiah that God "will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths." The result of this is that people "shall not learn war any more" (in other words, war is learned by people, not that God wants it).
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:3-4)
Christians should not desire war, but neither are Christians to oppose the government God has placed in authority over them (Romans 13:1-41 Peter 2:17). The most important thing we can be doing in a time of war is to be praying for godly wisdom for our leaders, praying for the safety of our military, praying for quick resolution to conflicts, and praying for a minimum of casualties among civilians on both sides (Philippians 4:6-7).
This anti war example was fused into Jesus Christ who did not defend himself when questioned by his persecutors (in a court of law), instead he faced them head on, with no weapons, and was turned into a bloody mess.
Although Christians are not to oppose the government and its authority, it doesn't mean that we have to agree with them every time. For example, regarding the Iraq war, Christians ask, "Was this war justified?" In some ways yes, others no, but I'm not willing to say that God had a hand in this decision... We just don't know.
On a final note, it’s interesting to find that unlike other nations and their codes, you won’t find how to make weapons of war in the Bible, you might find a recipe on how to make bread, but not a weapon.

There are many artists who represent religion through their art, however I am more interested in surreal representation with a sense of fiction rather than a truthful and accurate construction. 

Andres Serrano is an American photographer and artist who has become notorious through his photos of corpses and his use of feces and bodily fluids in his work, notably his controversial work "Piss Christ", a red-tinged photograph of a crucifix submerged in a glass container of what was purported to be the artist's own urine

Piss Christ 1987
Photograph that has attracted controversy for more than two decades attracts protests outside New York exhibition. 

Here is a short description of this piece by Serrano himself... 

"At the time I made Piss Christ, I wasn't trying to get anything across," Serrano told the Guardian. "In hindsight, I'd say Piss Christ is a reflection of my work, not only as an artist, but as a Christian."
"The thing about the crucifix itself is that we treat it almost like a fashion accessory. When you see it, you're not horrified by it at all, but what it represents is the crucifixion of a man," Serrano told the Guardian. "And for Christ to have been crucified and laid on the cross for three days where he not only bled to death, he shat himself and he peed himself to death."So if Piss Christ upsets you, maybe it's a good thing to think about what happened on the cross."

The photograph is of a small plastic crucifix submerged in what appears to be a yellow liquid. The artist has described the substance as being his own urine in a glass. The photograph was one of a series of photographs that Serrano had made that involved classical statuettes submerged in various fluids—milk, blood, and urine. The full title of the work is Immersion (Piss Christ). The photograph is a 60x40 inch Cibachrome print. It is glossy and its colors are deeply saturated. The presentation is that of a golden, rosy medium including a constellation of tiny bubbles. Without Serrano specifying the substance to be urine and without the title referring to urine by another name, the viewer would not necessarily be able to differentiate between the stated medium of urine and a medium of similar appearance, such as amber or polyurethane.

The most famous and notorious of Serrano's work plays on the relationship between beautiful imagery and vulgar materials, his subject matter often drawing from the potentially controversial and, perhaps, the willfully provocative. Critical reception has been mixed over the years. In a 1989 New York Times review, critic Michael Brenson responded to Serrano's series of Cibachrome photographs of iconic objects submerged in bodily fluids: "You cannot consider the content of Mr. Serrano's work without considering his attitude toward photography. It is the photograph that breaks through convention, that makes the search possible and that enables the artist to sort out what he likes and does not like in religion and art. It is the photograph that becomes the vessel of transformation and revelation. The photograph then becomes an icon that, for Mr. Serrano, replaces the false icons in his work. The photograph is clean and purified, the reliquary or shrine in which he clearly believes that the word about the body can be stored and spread.

Personally I feel very disturbed by his art, and it is something I want to avoid in my own work. it seems that his work is very provocative and strange indeed. He represents religion and human body from a very different perspective which is good, but at the same time these representations are very provoking and disturbing. My main concern is not to create a provocative body of work, but develop it as a constructed, fictional and on some level surreal. 

No matter what project  I do, I have always looked at many artists who's work is surreal and unreal at some level. That is what makes me wonder in photography, the freedom of creating my own story and representation of how I see these issues. 

Recently I came across this phenomenal artist who creates a beautiful, dreamy and little bit unreal portraits of people in different environments. 

Ruud van Empel

Dutch artist's digital collages of black children in tropical surroundings are eerily beautiful and decidedly unreal.

Dutch photographer Ruud van Empel's work initially stands out out because of his models, the majority of whom are black children. Since the artist grew up in a small and rather homogeneously white southern Dutch town, it seems unlikely that this simply occurred by chance. But it wasn't just the race factor in his World series that got us interested in asking Van Empel some questions about his models. There was something odd about the entire style, demeanor and surroundings.

World #25 2007

But there's something uncanny about his models look. Their innocence seems tainted. The reason for this oddness, we soon find out, is because we are looking in the eyes of people who don't exist and never have. Instead, they are photoshopped into being through a patchwork of noses, arms, eyes and lips.
This is how the artist goes about creating these images: First he collects all the features he needs by shooting a variety of young models in his studio and by subsequently wandering through Dutch forests, in search of fine leaves, perfect branches and the right waters. Only to tear it apart and spend weeks reconstructing it all until both the person and the setting match his desired standard of photo-realism.

World #1 2005

The fact that many of the children in his compositions have a dark skin is a facet that cannot remain without comment. Although it is self-evident that a child's skin colour is not important, the iconography of the innocent child was traditionally represented by 'white' children. The earliest examples of this date from the early 17th century. These are portraits in which children are captured in an idealised, pastoral setting. It is a genre to which the children's portraits of the German artist Otto Dix, a source of inspiration to Van Empel, refer. In deviating from the standard iconography by giving the child a dark skin, Van Empel inadvertently assumes a political stance. After all, this child is still the focus of discrimination and its innocence is not recognised by everyone as being self-evident.
I really like his work as is has this dreamy, constructed and surreal quality! Van Empel creates photo-collages by meticulously stitching together fragments taken from an archive of thousands of images the artist photographs himself. Upon viewing the pristinely rendered images, however, no obvious trace of van Empel’s Photoshop technique is evident. The viewer is instead drawn into van Empel’s subtly conflicting worlds which simultaneously appear impossibly illusory and undeniably hyper-real.

World #32 2008

World #17 2006

Portrayed as children alone, in pairs, or large groups, van Empel’s subjects seem to be held captive in tantalizingly magical moments of sexualized innocence. Locating his subjects in various scenes of wilderness or minimal quotidian environments, they appear lost in a liminal state between youth and adulthood, psychologically invoking the kinds of “in-between” subjects captured in, for instance, Rineke Dijkstra’s photographs of adolescents. 
Venus #3 2006

Untitled #1 2004

Ruud van Empel, World #7, 2005. ©Ruud van Empel 2005; Courtesy Stux Gallery, New York.

Van Empel’s images tackle the problem of representation by over-representing. His work offers hyperbolized representations of childhood and identity (race, gender, sexuality). One may notice that van Empel’s photographs contain almost no depth of field. With this flattening out-everything is in focus-background and foreground appear equally detailed; context is replaced with fantasy, and the original photographic subject elides with its new function as icon. In van Empel’s work appearance is but one component within a complex of relations completing the connection between image and reality.
I like the fact that entirely all of his work is digitally constructed from all sorts of photographs he has taken. It has this beautiful dreamy and fictional character.

Since I am trying to explore the relationship between war and religion I am very interested in other artists who explore similar ideas and concepts - specifically "this relationship". 

Artist  JULIA FULLERTON-BATTEN in her recent project Mothers and Daughters 2012.
Julia portrays the complex and sometimes challenging relationships between a mother and her daughter through this series.  It is both documentary and biographical in nature; as it illustrates memories of her own two sisters’ relationships with their mother, and even her mother’s relationship with her mother.  Julia cast real mother and daughter pairs herself and by shooting them in their own environments, was able to show the dynamic essence of their emotional bond.

In this photograph I love the tension between a mother and her daughter. They almost seem to be in conflict, yet mother is perhaps only worried,  teaching or protecting her. That moment, this relationship is what makes me be intrigued with her work.

I love the tension between characters and their relationship from a completely different perspective. It has this beautiful surreal feel to it. Her work directly links between Gregory Crewdson and also Edward Hopper. It makes me stop and look again.

Her photographs almost look like hyperreal paintings. The whole scene is staged, every detail has its meaning and place and that really inspires me. I am amazed by her ability to capture the motion and tension between her subjects, that is what makes her work to stand out. In my recent work I am also trying to create this mood and tension by photographing my models together in a very specific way so that it creates this mysterious and strong emotional connection.

For me this example is a direct reresentation of a modern family where children become much more independent and harder to control. And yet again this is clearly captured in this photograph. 

Her work reminds me of Gregory Crewdson style, it has a similar quality of fiction and mood with a 
very pleasing lighting. She carefully stages her subjects emphasising on neutral poses 
and facial expressions which ultimately makes her work stand out and be very moody. 
I have been focusing a lot on portraiture photography, although sometimes I feel that I should expand my vision and try to create a staged scenes similar to Crewdson or JULIA FULLERTON-BATTEN. Perhaps in next few studio sessions I will focus a little bit more on that.

Once again I have been looking at David LaChapelle's work. Personally I do not like his work a lot, but certainly there are some elements that are very inspiring. Within his work he creates meaningful narratives and strong context which is something I aspire.

Archangel Michael: And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer


For his comparatively staid of images of Jackson, LaChapelle has appropriated Catholic iconography. American Jesus: The Beatification: I’ll never let you part for you’re always in my heart -- the titles of the three MJ works all include lyrics from his songs -- is an eight-foot tall image of MJ standing in a bed of artificial roses, against a backdrop of blue sea and sky. He is flanked by a blond Madonna (played by supermodel Hanna Soukupova), a white dove is perched on his outstretched hand and a bloody sacred heart is embroidered on his shirt.
Thy Kingdom Come


In the action-packed picture, a dwarfish pontiff whose legs are hidden beneath his gown sits on a tottering golden throne. Twisting his face into a perverse grimace, he gazes up at heaven while stretching out his bloody hands over the treasures heaped at his feet. Among the gold and fine art are the pale corpses of four beautiful nude young men, their hands and feet tied, suggest the long association of the clergy with illicit sexuality and ritual execution.
I have interest in contemporary artists who specialises in advertising and editorial photography.
My goal is to grow and progress with my photography and reach the industry's standard. Here is one of
most recently found artists who really inspires me.  

Andreas Smetana 
Andreas's versatility in shooting a wide variety of genres has made him one of Australia's most sought after photographers. His passion and energy is inspirational, making him a fun and unexpected person to work with. It is this combination that has made Andreas "one of the most published photographers" in Archive Magazine within the last 10 years.

At some point his work with religious motifs reminds me of a Lachapelle's work. It has this quality of montage and density with interesting subjects. 

His work is very dense and packed with action. Oftentimes he is using religious themes and motifs.

Clearly as an advertising and commercial photographer his work is very contemporary, constructed and rich itself.
I am very interested in his ability to capture a motion and story within a photograph. 

I have included this photograph from his portfolio mainly because I like what he has done to the models eyes. For me they represent either the sparkle for a life or the temptation for a sin. There is a conflict in how we can read this photograph and that is what makes it interesting for me. 

An XBox 360 advert, very contemporary look with religious motif. Angel wings stand for pureness and clean soul, the holy and saint, however in this example it is used as a visual device to catch our attention to the Xbox itself. 

This particular photograph clearly represents Christianity from a very modern high-fashion and fictional style. 

Jennifer B Thoreson (Hudson) is a fresh, young visual fine art photographer creating staged imagery that is both artistically stylized and meticulously crafted. Drawing inspirations from themes of faith, restitution and re-purpose, and the intricacy of personal relationships

Statement  From Series "Medic" 

Medic is a sensitive, intricate glimpse into human relationships during times of need and recovery, and a heartfelt exploration of sacrificial love. The work began wholly on one sentence whispered by my husband while we endured a deeply unsettling time together. He held my hand, lay close to me and said softly "I just wish I could take the pain from your body, and put it into mine." I have been fortunate to know incredible love all my life, but at that moment I became suddenly and intensely aware of the magnificent power that exists between people who care for one another. When I was anxious and fighting to fall asleep each night, I began to invent miracle machines; contraptions that heal, deliver hope, legacy, remedy, and redemption. Each image from Medic is a thoughtful invention, strange and tender, revealing facets of the delicate human heart. 

In ten isolated chambers we are witnesses to emotional happenings, exchanges, confrontations, and life decisions. I became particularly fascinated with illustrating the depth of a love relationship by portraying only the individual in many images, exploring the weight of partnership, the sacrificial life perspective, and the burdened, selfless decision-maker. In some chambers, we witness life changing moments; mercy, healing, humbling choices, memories recorded and legacies written. In others we see an exchange; affection, tenderness, and sacrifice. In the making of this work, I sought to begin to understand some of the most rare and beautiful relationships in the world, to expose their most frail, vulnerable moments, times of great intensity, and most cherished inner workings. 

Medic is a dark and sentimental collection of stories about great tests in life, purpose, and the most painful, but also the most glorious times to love.

We have no rights for privacy, for our own thoughts and personal secrets - that is how I read this image. 

Her work is beautifully constructed and very dramatic. There is a great sense of surrealism and fantasy which is created in very creative way. When it all comes to subconsciousness - surrealism the interpretations are limitless and that is why I am so fascinated by this genre. We are exposed to news, propaganda, politics, economics and many other processes that affect us on a daily basis, her work for me represents this hidden force that controls us in some or other way. We are all wired to these processes whether we want or not. 

And yet again the most important element in this photograph is this relationship between these two subjects. I read this photograph as an intimate representation and affection between two people. Father holding his dying or ill son, there is an intimate and sad atmosphere. And yet again they are rigged to these "medical" machines which can heal them. 

In these series all of her subjects are connected to different devices in a very surreal and strange setups.  The wires and strange devices represents this technology of healing humans. 

As I am researching and constantly looking at other photographer's work my thought processes and ideas develop into a stronger and better quality work. Also my main focus area on "religion and war" has slightly changed into a different narrative. It is more about war and human sins, the things we do in order to gain personal benefits, and yet it is my personal view on the system we live in. 

Here is my newest work...

I really enjoyed this session, my main goal was to capture a story with these photographs. By photographing two people at the same time I was able to create much stronger mood and conflict. 

Often times soldiers even do not know what they have been put into. There are times when guilt and regrets are unbearable and that is one of most crucial elements in this project for me. I want to capture this in these photographs. But the project is not about the Soldiers and what they do, it is about the idea of how we as human beings respond and act in these situations and why are we doing it!

Initial idea was to create a photograph which would reflect on human regrets and sorrow of things we have done wrong. In this case it is the War, or military force in order to achieve political, economical or any other kind of goals which ultimately feeds a certain group of individuals. 

At the same time these photographs are entirely constructed and I want them to stay in this way. These photographs can represent the greed and urge for financial wealth, or ultimately a protest against the extensive extracting of natural resources such oil, coal, gas, forests and much more. Our hands are dirty enough and it is about time to create some sort of resistance. These ideas are flowing through my mind all the time when I am creating work like this. 

However I feel that these photographs represent the mental state of our thinking and  the urge to be better and more powerful than others. Black body paint makes these people look more aggressive and inhuman which kinda sits in the context of war and the forces that makes it happen and sustains.  

DEFCON 2. Armed Forces ready to deploy and engage in less than 6 hours.

"Black Monk" The black stands for darkness and everything what is considered to be against our laws. The monk however is representing this hope and good. I want these photographs to contradict each other. I like to put these elements in a very strong contrast to each other so that the meaning of this work would be much more personal and intense. 

When these photographs will be put together as a final show I believe they will contradict and compliment each other at the same time! For instance combination of two photographs. One with the soldier and other one with crown of thorns. These two completely opposite things stand for entirely different ideologies and values. One associated with violence, power, resources, dark side of us whilst other represents the good side of us, the chance to be good and peaceful.  This is what I am trying to achieve with this project so far, to find this balance between good and bad. However there is a good possibility that this work will develop into something else for instance the representation of human greed and urge. 

Here is a quick insight of how I would put this work together at this point. 

It is crucial to organize these photographs in a specific way in order to achieve maximum balance, effect and strengthen the narrative of this work. It certainly would take some extra time and thought processes.
Back to Andrzej Dragan... He is one of those photographers who really inspires me and affects my own 
Andrzej has a distinctive style, often creating dark and sinister portraits that contrast with his friendly personality and open curious nature.

Allegory on the Truth.
Diptych: Part II, 2006
Wonderland, 2010

David Lynch, 2005

I really like his style and work which often seems to be very contemporary and contrasty. It is very moody 
and dark in a sense. He often incorporates very surreal and strong elements within his photography such 
"chicken", "skinless Rabbit" and more in order to give his work this mystery and overall impact on a 

Recently I discovered these two very talented editorial and advertising photographers who work together.
They are Called "Aorta" 

Aorta consists of Swedish photographer duo Marco Grizelj and Kristian Krän, their signature work is “semi-documentary fashion photography ......

Here is some of their work.....

This particular photograph reminds me of Gregory Crewdson's work, it has similar mood and feel to it. Everything is carefully staged and beautifully eliminated creating this dramatic mood. Obviously the dark blue skies at dusk time is one of Gregory Crewdson's trademarks. 

Their work is very contemporary, fictional and surreal, oftentimes I feel that they have inspired from 
Gregory Crewdson's work and many other great photographers.... Therefore it is very interesting for me to 
look atheir work, since I am deeply inspired and influenced by contemporary advertising photography,
especially if it is very surreal. 

Sven Prim got his first advertising job whilst still attending photography school. Directly after graduation he landed a deal with Agent Molly Co , moved to Stockholm and started working as a full-time photographer. Since then, he has collaborated with a long list of renowned clients such as ATG, Aftonbladet, RFSU and Polar Music Prize.

Sven is as a real technology geek who loves to create strange and surreal situations. Something clearly visible in his image creation, which he himself has given the epithet-manipulated pictures with a twist. 

The concept of truth is completely subjective. I believe that a picture is always manipulated, regardless of how it is taken says Sven. When the photographer selects the time and place to snap a picture, the truth is already being bent. I am very up-front about how my pictures are created. 

I am researching most contemporary work in commercial, advertising and fine art photography as it 
is very creative and inspirational for my own project. It also allows me to be up to date with ongoing 
trends and direction where photography is heading. 

Ralph John Perou, known professionally as Perou, is a British fashion, portrait and music photographer

Perou learned how to make pictures running a hire studio at ‘Click’ where he met a lot of great photographers, their clients and those responsible for ‘Dazed and Confused’ magazine. After a couple of years working for ‘Dazed’ on their picture desk, Perou was shooting more than editing and left to work on his plans for world domination.

This photograph is very interesting and strong. There is high contrast between black and white, darkness and white crucifix. On some level there is a strong sense of religion which makes this photograph even stronger. However it is not a typical photograph of a priest you would see normally. The subject matter is represented in a very contemporary and high fashion way - glasses and a hat looks very stylised and that makes this photograph to be fictional.

Some of his images are undeniably uncomfortable to look at, they are all in pursuit of the same thing: the person inside the body. But as a fashion photographer, Perou is tasked with paying attention to the body, or the “husk” as he dismissively terms it. ( 

His work is very rich, contrasty and intense. Most of his photographs have very strong sense of fiction and high fashion. He is emphasizing on human body nuances, the expressions and what they tell us. 

Katerina Plotnikova is a fine art photographer from Russia who explains her work as "another tale about wonderland." Her images are simple, yet stunning. She utilizes light, color, and environment in each one of her images while always getting natural expressions and poses from her models.

I really appreciate her style and the way she constructs these rather surreal and dream quality 
photographs. Everything seems to be very sensual and mysterious carefully staged which gives this exceptional mood and quality in her work. 

Besides Photographs, I have been deeply inspired form masters of painting. Here are few painters I considered to be an important influence in my work. They are religious in their context. The way these artists recreate and represent these biblical narratives is fascinating. The emotions and tension which runs through these paintings is fascinating. I like the way these paintings represent human emotions ( especially gaze in the eyes - sadness, grief, concern, belief, hope ), these elements for me are most important, therefore I am trying to achieve similar characteristics in my own photographic project. 

Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo, 1508-1512

Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo, 1508-1512 (Detail Representation
Things to know:
  • A monumental, energy-charged God extends his index finger towards the lethargic, newly created Adam. Michelangelo has captured the idea of God as the source of life.
  • God is framed by a sweeping dark-red cloak, almost like a womb. It contains a crowd of figures, including a woman - a yet uncreated Eve? She is in God's mind but not yet a reality.
  • In contrast, Adam reclines languidly on the newly created Earth; he has not yet been touched by the life force.
  • The hands of the two figures are especially important (and justly famous) because they represent Adam and God so brilliantly: created, and Creator.
 Christ of St John of the Cross, Salvador Dali, 1951 
Things to know: 
  • one of Dali's (and Surrealism's) favorite ploys was to displace objects from their normal position or environment so that the viewer was startled into looking at the subject of the painting with fresh eyes. The Surrealists wanted to challenge conventions, to make people think
  • this painting, Christ of St John of the Cross, was inspired by a drawing by the Carmelite friar St John of the Cross (1542-91), recording a vision he had in which he looked down on the crucifixion from above. The viewer hovers above Christ, taking the perspective of God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
  • below Christ is a landscape with sky, a lake and a boat, suggesting the Lake of Galilee. Here Christ commanded his apostles to be 'fishers of men'. The lake and the landscape is modelled on Port Lligat, where Dali was born - suggesting that Christ's death meant life for humanity.
The Dead Christ, Mantegna, 1399
Things to know:
  • this painting is unusual in that it ignores Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, major figures in pictures of the entombment of Christ. Instead the artist places the women in the tomb with the dead body of Jesus. It is they, Mantegna suggests, who washed Jesus' body and wrapped it in the linen winding sheets. This is probably closer to the actual truth. It was women in ancient Israel who prepared dead bodies for burial, not men (see Bible Archaeology: Tombs). It is they who, in this painting, have already washed the blood from Christ's mutilated body. Mantegna hardly shows the women's faces, but even so they are a powerful part of the picture. 
  • Mantegna was a master of perspective. He tried to create spatial depth and to realistically depict a lying, and in this case motionless, human body. Christ's body, lying on the stone slab, is one of the most striking examples in Rennaissance art of realistic foreshortening of the human body. The painting also shows the reality of death: the pallor of a body almost drained of blood.

The Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo da Vinci, 1483

Things to know:
  • Many commentators believe the angels's face to be the most beautiful face ever painted by Leonardo da Vinci, outdoing the more famous Mona Lisa
  • The dark, enigmatic space around the figures allowed da Vinci to achieve an aura of mystery and silence; the landscape around the figures is rocky and barren, but the space they inhabit has clumps of flowers.
  • It also gave him an opportunity to experiment with contrasts between light and shade, the subdued light of the foreground and the cold radiance of the distant landscape.
  • John the Baptist, held protectively by Mary's right hand, genuflects towards his younger cousin Jesus, whose right hand is raised in gesture of blessing
I absolutely love the way these paintings are depicting human emotions! I repeat this over and over again because it is indeed the most interesting element in these paintings. 

Judith Beheading Holofernes, Caravaggio, 1598-99
Things to know:
  • Caravaggio was the leading master of chiaroscuro, a method of bringing figures or scenes to life as they emerge from a dark, barely discernible background
  • Holofernes is described in the Bible text as being in a drunken stupor, but in this painting he seems horrifyingly aware of what is happening to him
  • Judith's beautiful face is a mixture of revulsion and determination
  • notice especially the maid's face, extraordinary but often overlooked - as indeed was the maid; she is with Judith every step of the way, but is never given a name in the Bible story

It is hard to ring photography that would represent human emotions in the same way as these extraordinary paintings. Perhaps this is the limitation of photography? Where in paintings, artists have the whole freedom in creating these emotions as they imagined them. I am trying my best to achieve strong human emotions in my work, but often it seems to be very hard as I have to successfully cooperate with my models. 

Birth of Venus (La Nascita di Venere), 1486
The iconography of Birth of Venus is similar to a description of the event (or rather, a description of a sculpture of the event) in a poem by Angelo Poliziano, the Stanze per la giostra. No single text provides the precise imagery of the painting, however, which has led scholars to propose many sources and interpretations. Art historians who specialize in the Italian Renaissance have found a Neoplatonic interpretation, which was most clearly articulated by Ernst Gombrich, to be the most enduring way to understand the painting. Botticelli represented the Neoplatonic idea of divine love in the form of a nude Venus.
The central figure of Venus in the painting is very similar to Praxiteles' sculpture of Aphrodite. The version of her birth, is where she arises from the sea, already a fully grown woman.
Since classical antiquity, the sea shell was a metaphor for a woman's vulva.
The pose of Botticelli's Venus is reminiscent of the Venus de' Medici, a marble sculpture from classical antiquity in the Medici collection which Botticelli had opportunity to study. ( 
His artwork is extraordinary. It is full with compassion and feeling to make his creations alive and thrilling. 
The Elevation Of The CrossPeter Paul Rubens1610–11
The Elevation of the Cross (also called The Raising of the Cross)[1] is a triptych painting by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, completed in 1610-1611.

Rubens painted The Elevation of the Cross after returning to Flanders from Italy. The work shows the clear influence of Italian Renaissance and Baroque artists such as Caravaggio, Tintoretto, and Michelangelo. The central panel illustrates a tension between the multitude of finely muscled men attempting to lift the cross and the seemingly unbearable weight of Christ on the cross. (

Here are few quick thoughts and ideas I could research and possibly include in my project as a backbone for concept and narrative.

The following list of Biblical elements is for my inspiration and new ideas. 
I have looked at 10 Commandments, Circles of Hell and the meanings of certain objects or colours in religion. 

9 Circles of Hell (Dante's Inferno)

First Circle (Limbo)

In Limbo reside the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans, who, though not sinful, did not accept Christ.

Second Circle (Lust)

In the second circle of Hell are those overcome by lust

Third Circle (Gluttony)

The "great worm" Cerberus guards the gluttons, forced to lie in a vile slush produced by ceaseless foul, icy rain (Virgil obtains safe passage past the monster by filling its three mouths with mud). 

Fourth Circle (Greed) - In My work I interpret the black body paint as a fuel - moneymaking natural resource, therefore there are other underlying meanings within these photographs, it is not only about the contrasty relationship between war and religion, it is also about the greed for money and power. It represents the selfishness of humanity and the willingness to do anything to get personal benefit without thinking of others.... Obviously it is only a portion from all people.....

Those whose attitude toward material goods deviated from the appropriate mean are punished in the fourth circle. They include the avaricious or miserly (including many "clergymen, and popes and cardinals").
Fifth Circle (Wrath)

In the swampy waters of the river Styx, the wrathful fight each other on the surface, and the sullen lie gurgling beneath the water, withdrawn "into a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe."

Sixth Circle (Heresy)

In the sixth circle, Heretics, such as Epicureans (who say "the soul dies with the body") are trapped in flaming tombs. 
Seventh Circle (Violence) 3 Rings - My work reflects the Violence through warfare... I create characters who represent soldiers, generals, - confused people who either are willing to be violent or are being manipulated and forced into this system. 

Outer ring: This ring houses the violent against people and property.

Middle ring: In this ring are suicides and profligates. The suicides – the violent against self – are transformed into gnarled thorny bushes and trees and then fed upon by Harpies

Inner ring: Here are the violent against God (blasphemers) and the violent against nature (sodomites and, as explained in the sixth circle, usurers). 

I feel this photograph is representing violence, war, greed and at the same time the eyes can tell the opposite - regret, grief and sorrow.... So the basic human emotions and actions are colliding together and arising a conflict within a image. 

Eighth Circle (Fraud)

The last two circles of Hell punish sins that involve conscious fraud or treachery.

Ninth Circle (Treachery)

The ninth and last circle is ringed by classical and Biblical giants, who perhaps symbolize pride and other spiritual flaws lying behind acts of treachery.

These 9 circles of Hell are very interesting and they provide a lot of meaning for my own work... It allows me to interpret it much deeper. Not all of this material is relevant but there are significant useful narratives that I can incorporate in my work which deals with war or violence. For instance the portraits of soldiers in helmets of military hats can represent some of these circles of hell. however I don't really want to overemphasise this concept, but rather give it a subtle presence in my work with complementing meaning, ultimately letting the viewer to decide whether he wants to interpret my work in this way. 


I am trying to create a fine art project, that would represent my own opinion on thees two themes War and Religion, emphasising more on War as I am much more concerned with that than I am with religion. And yet to give my work a strong backbone I am trying to represent some of these elements discussed throughout the research I have done. 

Ten Commandments

From Urban Dictionary

A set of 10 rules given out by Moses (AHS) that were passed down to keep people on the straight and narrow. they were: 
1. You shall have no other Gods but me. 
2. You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it. 
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. 
4. You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy. 
5. Respect your father and mother. 
6. You must not kill. - War is inevitable from killing, therefore some of my photographs has an indirect reference to religion. So I am also playing with underlying meanings that has a references either to war or religion. 
7. You must not commit adultery. 
8. You must not steal. 
9. You must not give false evidence against your neighbour. 
10. You must not be envious of your neighbour's goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbour. 

DEFCON (The defense readiness condition (DEFCON) is an alert state used by the United States Armed Forces. 5 stages) 
Readiness conditionExercise termDescriptionReadinessColor
DEFCON 1COCKED PISTOLNuclear war is imminentMaximum readiness     White
DEFCON 2FAST PACENext step to nuclear warArmed Forces ready to deploy and engage in less than 6 hours     Red
DEFCON 3ROUND HOUSEIncrease in force readiness above that required for normal readinessAir Force ready to mobilize in 15 minutes     Yellow
DEFCON 4DOUBLE TAKEIncreased intelligence watch and strengthened security measuresAbove normal readiness     Green
DEFCON 5FADE OUTLowest state of readinessNormal readiness     Blue

What interests me is that each of these DEFCON stages has its own colour label, therefore I can draw parallels to religion and the meaning of colour in that concept. 

For instance this photograph that I have included earlier...

Red color meanings in the Bible can refer to the blood of life, sacrifice, sin or war. Or DEFCON 1 refers to state where Nuclear war is imminent. They Contradict each other at its essence and that is exactly what I want my photographs to be, ongoing conflict.  
Here is another example from most recent work...

Blue tones are for two purposes - Defcon 5 - Lowest state of readiness in military. On the other Blue color meanings in the Bible refers to the sky, heaven (Exodus 24:10) and Holy Spirit. Sometimes blue can mean water, the water of the spirit. And again there is an ongoing conflict between war and religion although there are no direct references to religion apart from the colour cast, and yet it can also refer to something else. I really like the way these photographs are left open for individual interpretation. All I want to give to the viewer is the hint that there is an ongoing relationship and conflict between these two concepts. 

Apple (symbolism in Christianity) Forbidden fruit

Being almost spherical in shape, the apple signifies totality. It is symbolic of earthly desires, or of indulgence in such desires. The warning not to eat the forbidden apple came, therefore, from the mouth of the supreme being, as a warning against the exaltation of materialistic desire. The intellect, the thirst for knowledge— as Nietszche realized— is only an intermediate zone between earthly desire and pure spirituality.

— J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols
    Philosophical Library, New York, 1962, p. 14

It symbolises Fertility; love; joyousness; knowledge; wisdom; divination; luxury; but also deceitfulness and death. The apple was the forbidden fruit of the Golden Age. As round it represents totality and unity, as opposed to the multiplicity of the pomegranate, and as the fruit of the Tree of Life given by Iduma to the gods.

Grenade - as an interpretation of forbidden fruit!

Here are few photographs of this concept. these exempts were only good for research purpose only as they did not fulfill my desired results... 

We all have a choice - follow the temptation or resist. To be violent or peaceful. Create or destroy.... These are binary oppositions I want my work to speak out!

I really like this photograph, however it does not fit within other photographs I created... It represents the temptation of something forbidden. An Apple and a grenade, completely opposite things in their appearance and meaning. One stands for the temptation of something forbidden (apple) whilst grenade represents the violence and assigns the meaning to negative aspect of war and extracting the mineral resources in order to gain money and power by using violent methods such war. And this is one of the messages I am trying to represent through this work. It has to be very surreal and fictional as I am not trying to be accurate, this is my opinion and what concerns me represented through these photographs. 

Inspired from painting "Creation of Adam", Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo, 1508-1512

Since my work is exploring the concept of religion and war and their metaphorical relationship I thought it was very useful to include a short description of traditional colour meanings in religion. 

I am incorporating these colours as a metaphorical reference to religion without making my final work too religious. For instance I might use a kicker lights with coloured gels in order to achieve this rather soft and interesting colour cast as seen in religious paintings. Therefore the work itself might not be about the religion but the way I light and edit these files might have a feel for spirituality. Most important element is the way I ask my models to pose as I want them to look like in religious paintings with a fascinating, often sad and concerned facial expressions (especially the gaze in the eyes). 

Below is some of my newest work in progress...

Colors of Religion: Christianity

Color Symbolism and Bible Meanings
√ Updated: September 14, 2010

Color meanings play an important role in religion worldwide. In the Christian tradition, color meanings come both from the meanings in the Bible and from the traditions of religious art. The colors meanings below are based on biblical references.

Red or Scarlet

Red color meanings in the Bible can refer to the blood of life, sacrifice, sin or war. Specific bible references include the dragon of Revelation (12:3) and ritual sacrifice (Numbers 19:2). Red could also be a mark of prosperity (Proverbs 31:21). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Green color meanings in the Bible is usually a reference to growth, vegetation or fertility. Specific references include pastures (Psalms 23:12), marriage bed (Song of Solomon 1:16), papyrus plant (Job 8:16) and trees (Luke 23:31). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Blue color meanings in the Bible refers to the sky, heaven (Exodus 24:10) and Holy Spirit. Sometimes blue can mean water, the water of the spirit (John 4:13) or the Lord's commandments (Numbers 15:38). Blue can also be for chastening or describe drapes or holy coverings. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Yellow or Amber
Yellow color meanings in the Bible refers to God's glory (Ezekiel 1:4) or the brightness of Christ (Revelation 21:23). Yellow can also refer to God's fire (Hebrew's 12:29) or judgment (Genesis 19:24). Yellow is also used to describe the color of gold (Psalm 68:13). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Color Meanings in Bible: Black
Black color meanings in the Bible refers to sin (Job 6:15), disease (Job 30:30), death (Lamentations 4:8), famine (Revelation 6:5) and the night (Proverbs 7:9). Occasionally black indicates health (healthy hair) or marble. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

White color meanings in the Bible refers to manna (Exodus 16:31), righteousness (Revelation 19:8), forgiven sins (Psalms 5:7), the garments of angels (Revelation 15:6), gravestones (Matthew 23:27) and the throne of judgment (Revelation 20:11).
White symbolizes purity and joy. White can also mean beauty (Song of Solomon 5:14), costly decorations and wealth (I Kings 10:22). Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Purple color meanings in the Bible refers to royalty and kingship. Purple dye was rare and precious. To obtain the dye, an incredible amount of mollusks shells had to be crushed and processed. Purple was used in the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1) and for the garments of the wealthy. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Silver and Gray
Silver color meanings in the Bible refers to truth (Psalms 12:6), old age (Genesis 42:38), the beauty of age (Proverbs 20:29), weakness (Hosea 7:9) and ashes (Genesis 18:27). The association withes connects the color gray to sorrow, destruction, purification, mourning and repentance. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)


Grey in Religion 

In the Christian religion, grey is the color of ashes, and so a biblical symbol of mourning and repentance, described as sackcloth and ashes. It can be used during Lent or on special days of fasting and prayer. As the color of humility and modesty, grey is worn by monks of the Order of Friars Minor CapuchinFranciscan order and Cistercian order.

Antiquity through the Middle Ages 

In antiquity and the Middle Ages, grey was the color of undyed wool, and thus was the color most commonly worn by peasants and the poor. It was also the color worn by monks of the Franciscan order, Cistercian Order and the Capucine Order as a symbol of their vows of humility and poverty. Franciscan monks in England and Scotland were commonly known as the Grey friars, and that name is now attached to many places in Great Britain.

Here is one of most influential contemporary fashion advertising and portrait photographer -
Annie Leibovitz, considered one of America's best portrait photographers, developed her trademark use of bold colors and poses while at Rolling Stone.

Here are fantastic portfolio of series "Disney Portraits" where she recreates disney characters in her photographs. It is a very surreal, dreamy and fantastic project where imagination is in its core. 

World renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz has been capturing shots of celebrities as popular Disney characters for years, as part of her ongoing collection of Disney Dream Portraits. The latest addition to her portfolio of work is Academy Award nominated actress Jessica Chastain as the fiery-haired Merida from the animated feature film Brave.
Leibovitz's series takes beloved cartoon characters from the classic Disney films and transforms them into live-action versions of themselves with the help of a few celebrities. While not all of the photographer's renditions are direct copies of their cartoon counterparts, they offer a sense of magic and fantasy come to life.
While Scarlett Johansson looks like a real-life Cinderella who has lost her slipper as she escapes the Prince's ball, a brown-haired Beyonce offers a new perspective for Alice in Wonderland. Even the ageless Peter Pan is matured as Russian dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov portrays the playful young boy. ( 
Beyonce, Oliver Platt, and Lyle Lovett as Alice in Wonderland

Scarlett Johansson as Cinderella
Whoopi Goldberg
Rachel Weisz as Snow White
Queen Latifah as Ursula from The Little Mermaid
Julianne Moore as Ariel and Michael Phelps as a merman

I really like her style, the way she represents these characters. It is indeed very cartoon, Disney, surreal and fictional work. This project has a very coherent and clear narrative which explores the Disney characters and makes them alive through photographic medium with real people. I believe that is one of the strengths of photographic medium - the possibility to extend the imagination and make it alive. I have always been interested in constructed photography, Since I cannot paint well, I can create my own photographs of things I imagine. The photography allows me to extend my vision and achieve something I could not be able to do with other art mediums. That is another reason of why I am so interested in this genre. 

Luc Delahaye - War art photography.

(born 1962) is a French photographer known for his large-scale color works depicting conflicts, world events or social issues. His pictures are characterized by detachment, directness and rich details, a documentary approach which is however countered by dramatic intensity and a narrative structure.

Delahaye turns war photography into an uncomfortable art
Luc Delahaye's giant, painterly photographs of real-life conflicts wield unsettling power. 

Detailed and dramatic ... Luc Delahaye's Jenin Refugee Camp (c2001) on show at Tate Modern. Photograph: Luc Delahaye/Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris
Delahaye, is a French photographer who used to do straight photojournalism, often up-close and graphic, but whose recent large-format, single-plate photographs from global conflicts have crossed over somewhat uncomfortably into the art market. 
Delahaye, like Polidori, is not just questioning the role of reportage in an increasingly over-mediated world, but asking the thorny question: what happens to images of human suffering when they are taken out of magazines and hung on the walls of chic downtown galleries? In 2003, in a revealing interview with Artnet magazine, Delahaye said: "Photojournalism is neither photography or journalism. It has its function but it's not where I see myself: the press is for me just a means for photographing, for material – not for telling the truth."
His images  are undeniably powerful, but in a more subtle, questioning way than his previous work. In their epic scale and detail, they evince an almost painterly sense of stillness that is utterly at odds with the devastation they depict. 

Delahaye's big pictures ask more questions than they answer about the increasingly blurred line between reportage and art, the importance of scale, and the tangible sense of detachment that characterises a certain strand of contemporary photography. Most of all, though, as the curators acknowledge in the show's online catalogue, they "question the relationship between the documentary value of photography and the museum as its proper context". As this work shows, that remains a vexed question.

Ambush, Ramadi 
For me his work is very interesting as it explores a military conflict and represents it in a fine art style. It arises questions whether this kind of photography can be seen as a fine art rather than a traditional photojournalism. It also explores the boundaries between reality and the imaginary, they constitute documents-monuments of immediate history, and urge reflection "upon the relationships among art, history and information".

Luc Delahaye, French, born 1962, Taliban, 2001, Chromogenic print.

"He was dead a few minutes lying in a ditch," Luc Delahaye said, indicating a 1994 photograph of a Taliban soldier stretched out on the ground. Dressed in a khaki uniform, without boots, the corpse has a grace that almost seems posed. The photograph itself looks like it might have been taken by someone floating high above in a balloon. All time seems to have stopped. "This is an example of fast," Delahaye continued. "In my head I am thinking only of the process. Do I have enough light? Is the distance good? Speed too? This is what allows me to maintain an absence or distance to the event. If I impose myself too much, look for a certain effect, I'd miss the photo. This happened very fast; I need to make it slow. I see the two crossing in my mind."

Delahaye's photos  began to evolve into images that elude easy interpretation. His work began to reveal a state of mind caught somewhere between clarity and confusion. "In war, there is a visual disorder, something extraordinary that works on appearances. Often in a devastated city, one has the impression that the forms are released. A building is not locked up any more in its function, it is not any more this beautiful object designed by an architect. It starts living again in a kind of insane way, before final collapse."

I am trying to create aesthetically beautiful photographs of not so beautiful things that they stand for... the war, violence, greed. Similar than Delahaye is trying to capture the beauty in the war zone. For me the aesthetic beauty and quality is the key of success in order to represent this conflict between war and metaphorical meaning of religion in a beautiful and yet contradicting way. 

Shaped by War: Photographs by Don McCullin

I was deeply affected when I discovered Don Mcculin's war photography. The first photograph I encountered from his work was the  portrait of a dazed American soldier, entitled Shellshocked US Marine, Hue, Vietnam. And this particular photograph is also one of most celebrated photographs from his work. 

Shell-shocked US marine, Hue, Vietnam, February 1968. Photograph: Don McCullin

An article from:
It was taken during the battle for the city of Hue in 1968 and, in its stillness and quiet intensity, says as much about the effects of war on the individual psyche as many of McCullin's more graphic depictions of conflict and carnage. The eyes that stare out beneath the grimy helmet are not staring at the camera lens, but beyond it, into nowhere.

Surprisingly, when I ask McCullin about the photograph, which features in this retrospective of his reportage in Manchester, he grimaces. "It kind of gets on my nerves now," he says, "because it has appeared everywhere. It's like the Eddie Adams shot of the execution of a Vietnamese prisoner."

There is a sense when talking to McCullin that he carries a great burden of loss and regret. He has, he says, seen too much in his lifetime and it has left its mark on him. He is recognised as our greatest living war photographer, though he bridles at the term. "Whatever I do, I have this name as a war photographer," he says, ruefully. "I reject the term. It's reductive. I can't be written off just as a war photographer."

It fascinates me in how he reflects on his own work and the way it has changed him during these decades of working as a war photographer. On some level I feel connected to his photographs and the issues they represent. They are all aesthetically pleasing and powerful, with a strong sense of quality and purpose. 

US marine in Vietnam, taken in 1968, Don McCullin

Here is a very emotional war photograph I just wanted to include in my journal, since it represents a lot of human emotions and tension. 

Al Chang, American, 1922-2007 A grief-stricken American infantryman whose buddy has been killed in action is comforted by another soldier. In the background, a corpsman methodically fills out casualty tags in Haktong-ni area, Korea, on Aug. 28, 1950.

I have just discovered this rather interesting and unique photographic work by Lalage Snow which documents soldiers before service of Afganistan War , during and after the service....

"We Are The Not Dead"

Photographer Lalage Snow photographed and interviewed members of 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland before they were sent to Afghanistan, after three months' service, and days after they returned home. Their faces show the toll that fighting in Afghanistan takes on our troops.

Artist Statement: I began working with A Company, 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 Scots) in January 2010, 3 months before they deployed and joined them on the end of their training, thereby building friendship and trust with individuals. The ‘before’ portraits were taken the day before they deployed. The ‘during’ shots are almost exactly 3 months into their deployment in Nad-Ali and the ‘after’ shots were taken the week they returned almost 4 months later apart from those who were sent home with injuries. 
It was a very personal project and stemmed from having embedded with the military on and off for 4 years in Iraq and Afghanistan and bearing witness to how many young men return as shadows of their former selves and, in many cases, with deep, psychological scars. As the body count of British servicemen killed or wounded rose and the political ramifications of the British army’s presence in Afghanistan became increasingly convoluted, more and more soldiers felt like they didn’t have a voice, or at least, weren’t being listened to. ‘We Are The Not Dead’ is an attempt at giving the brave young men and women the chance to explain how it really is.
Photography and text by Lalage Snow

This project indeed is very personal, being documentary with fine art feel in its structure. I really like the short stories and their individual experiences and how these elements have shifted during their service in war. It has a very coherent, clear and strong narrative that makes this work very meaningful and interesting. These portraits are backed up with short text and that works very well, by loosing one of these elements this project would not be as strong. 

Private Chris MacGregor, 24. 
11th March, Edinburgh: “Obviously I’ll miss family but other than that I am going to miss my dogs more than anything. They are my de-stressers and keep me sane. I think I’ll miss TV too though. I try not to think about the worst case scenario.”
19th June, Compound 19, Nad Ali, after the IED: “Most people get used to being away from home but I find it hard. It’s your fear that keeps you alive here. But I believe if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen and theres nothing you can do about it. If the big man upstairs could do anything, there’d be no dead soldiers. They’d all be alive. It still hurts when you hear about a soldier dying. You think about what their families are going through. You ask what they died for and what we are achieving here. I am not sure any more. That Afghan soldier loosing his legs just now… I don’t know….”
Some points are made that these soldiers sometimes are loosing their belief in this war, they start to ask them selves of what are they doing....
28th August, Edinburgh, casevaced due to sustained knee injury from Iraq: “My legs just gave up. I think it was the weight – 135 pounds or something. I just had to accept, my body was telling me to give up as I had pushed it. I was telling it to go, it was telling me to stop. When squaddies come back they still have a lot of adrenaline and anger in them. I had to have anger management after Iraq. If I get like that now, I just go for a walk with the dogs. It is the best way to deal with it, instead of being all tense and ready to snap at folk. The first thing I did when I came back, appart from kissing and cuddling the misses and my bairn, was go for a massive walk with the dogs. I walked for miles and miles not caring where I stepped.”
Private Becky Hitchcock, 23.

13th June, PB Khamar, the day before Operation Tor Lari Pakawal: “My civvie friends think I am brave but I don’t see it like that at all. It looks so bad on the news but its alright really. I was scared just before leaving the UK — I didn’t know what to expect. I haven’t been scared here but I know there will be times when I will be.”
19th June, Compound 19, Nad Ali, after the IED: “The first casualty I dealt with was just a shrapnel wound but the Afghan one this morning was serious. His eyes were wide open but his face was just white and I thought he was dead. But he grunted. Me and him were exposed to the firing which was really scary but I managed to drag him on the other side of the ditch. He had lost his right leg above the knee — it had completely gone. His left leg, I went to pick it up around the calf but every bone was shattered. The skin of it was under his back so I had to pull it down. It was thick like leather. It smelt…it’s a hard smell to forget. I can’t even describe it. Just burnt, rotting flesh.”
2nd November, Derby: “A day after that IED it came over the radio that the Afghan soldier was in intensive care but stable. That was the best feeling ever. A few months later I treated a little boy with burns to his whole body. He was dead tiny, a lovely looking lad. We made him stable — stable enough to get to Bastion. But two days later his body went into shock and he died. They had to return the body for us to hand back to the family. Carrying him dead having carried him alive two days previous… it was a weird feeling. But it’s part of the job. I think I have grown up a bit, and see the light a bit more. I don’t think I take things for granted as much as I used to. It makes you appreceiate what you’ve got and how little others have but still get by.”

Second Lieutenant Adam Petzsch, 25.
6th March , Edinburgh: “I suppose I am a bit apprehensive but I want to see what it is really like’. It is what I joined the army for but I don’t know what to expect.”
19th June, Compound 19, Nad-Ali After the IED: “It was my first IED incident and first casualty. You don’t think about it ’till afterwards though as your priority is getting the guy away and back into safety. Then you start thinking about what happened, if it was preventable, if it was your fault in anyway and how the others are doing. Before we were on this op I was thinking about how quiet the tour had been and that we had to be careful and fight complacency.”
10th October, Edinburgh: “We took over a new compound and if we ventured any more than 2-300 metres we got shot at. At the start of the tour you could patrol kilometres away and no one would touch you. But I think yes, in parts we are making a difference.”
These soldiers are experiencing the same issues although the way they react, remember and talk about these experiences are deeply personal. There is a great sense of grief, sorrow, unknowingness, concern, confusion. This is the way I feel  when I am thinking of a War or any other violent conflict. I feel confused and bitter when world is turning upside down. 

When I was introduced to Joey Lawrence, Jill Greenberg, Gregory Crewdson, Oleg Dou and many more fine
art photographers my style, taste and interest in photography dramatically changed. I was no longer
interested in Landscape photography but rather in fine art portraiture with very fictional and surreal representation
of everyday life. 

Here is little bit of Oleg Dou work that has really influenced my photography. It is all in the eyes, that makes
his photographs extraordinary interesting and mysterious. 

The human face is the regulator in portraiture. Undertones in body language and focus enhance the understanding of personal climate. Although family photographs and identification card sessions are formative moments in the genre, their staging often counteracts introspection. Oleg Dou (b. 1983) is a digital photographer rebelling against the fabricated photographs of his childhood.

Dou’s series is simultaneously forward and nonintrusive, melancholic and stirring. 

Bald female sitters with bone-white porcelain skin (smoothed over in post-production) and irises might inhabit both dreams and nightmares. 

Monochrome backgrounds of peach and grey neutralize the images further. Layers of paper and drawings adhered to the faces, oftentimes mimicking smallpox or pressure points, are a break in the uniformity. Textured skin and the repetitive use of sinewy red lines between the mouth, nose, and eyes summon marionette dolls in all their frightening beauty. Dou’s images incriminate the face as a mask, one that is as decorative as it is concealing.

Oftentimes portraiture will attempt to extract a pulse from subjects that might not be readily available in everyday life. Dou’s seemingly neutral subjects, however, allow one to pose questions that are intentionally impossible to answer. Are images such as Clown (2012) and Smile (2011) taken to humiliate the subject or elevate their mystery? Is the moisture welling in the eyes of Smile 2 (2012) tears of joy, fear, or neither? Over the course of these 13 images, Dou reveals how simple it is to trump a portrait’s ability to provide context. 
His portraits situate viewer and artist in the same position of doubt, unable to discern the truth beyond physical appearance.

These photographs are on some level disturbing but also very neutral. They are representing fictional 
human body, the mystery and fantasy. I really like the way he is focusing on a naked human body without 
any distractions from clothes or background. 

It is hard to find Fine art photography with religious elements within it, therefore I do look for paintings 
and other medium which reflect religious narratives or style they are created with. 

McNaughton Fine Art

Jon McNaughton is an established artist from Utah whose new paintings have attracted the international attention of millions over the last few years. Highly detailed religious and patriotic subjects are the focus of his paintings. The artist’s experiences and faith are the inspiration for his work.

I prefer to paint pictures that I believe have relevance to what is going on in the world, that make a statement, that stand for something. I hope people will study the paintings and try to understand the deeper meaning. Some of the themes are controversial, but I feel strongly about what is happening in our world today.

There are three kinds of people who view my paintings: Those who like it, those who hate it, and those who simply don’t understand. I am especially interested in this last category. I hope my work will create conversation and reach people on a deeper level. I like to use metaphor and multiple levels of meaning to reach my viewer. If it makes them think and feel, then it is successful.”

More Information about his work can be found at his website,

In my work religion has a metaphoric meaning that allows me to create multiple levels of meaning, 
it is also achieved by using warfare themes, or characters in my work. Most noticeably it is the use of 
black body paint which has many other meanings - it has a reference for religion, fuel, and also works 
as an aesthetic tool.

When I was very young I would imagine that someone would hang one of my paintings on their wall 

and a person from across a crowded room would say-"That's a McNaughton!"

Today, as my work crosses over many boundaries, from religious, to landscape, and beyond, I strive 

to create art that will affect people and create the kind of feelings that help them recognize it as a 


Here are some of his paintings under title of PATRIOTIC

Title itself states and gives a little hint that the following work indeed has a very patriotic feel, the way he describes his work and crucially what is all about... 


About the Painting

The Vision of George Washington is not so well known by most Americans, but it is worth consideration as our country stands in peril of loosing everything we hold dear. At a time when our financial solvency and our national security are more vulnerable than we have ever been, what will save us from the doom that lurks at our doorstep? I chose to paint this vision at the triumphant moment when the Angel of Liberty bursts upon the scene. Whether or not the vision is authentic, is debatable, but the message it contains is timeless. 

In the National Tribune, 1880, an article appeared giving an account of the "Vision of Washington" at Valley Forge. The account was told by a gentleman named Anthony Sherman, who supposedly was at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-78. The story has been published several times.

One Nation Under God

Each figure including Christ represents a symbol. Everything about the painting is symbolic. I don't pretend to know what Christ looks like. As I stated in my interview, I wanted to create an image that would instantly be recognisable as Jesus. I am not painting an anthropological Jesus. Nobody would recognise him if I painted him that way.

Peace Is Coming

McNaughton Responds to Questions About Peace Is Coming.

For me this painting is a direct representation of what my work partially is! 
It represents the collision of religion and war, and peace. 

Where did you get the idea for "Peace Is Coming?"The initial inspiration for this painting came from a friend of mine, Jason Bullard, who offered the general idea with the scripture from Isaiah 2:4 that reads, "They shall turn their swords into plowshares…neither shall they learn of war anymore." As I grabbed hold of this concept I could see in my mind clearly the finished painting. It was quite an emotional experience to paint this.
Why did you choose to paint Christ the way you did?
I didn't feel He should be painted in a typical fashion. This would be the God of Heaven, the glorified Christ, and since we don't have any particular reference to go by, I chose to create a golden embroidered robe filled with Messianic symbolism. I wanted His face to be peaceful and yet you knew He was coming to do business.
How did you decide which soldiers to include?It was a slow and careful process. I tried to put mortal enemies next to each other where I could. For example, the U. S. soldier and the Arab Terrorist; the Conquistador and the Native American; the U. S. Vietnam and the Chinese; and the U. S. Pilot and the Japanese (Samurai).
What kind of reaction have you had to the painting?It has been overwhelming. I have witnessed many people come into my gallery and break into tears over the meaning of the painting. Often they are veterans or family of those who have loved ones serving in the military. Sometimes they are regular people who feel great gratitude for those who serve our country or who empathize with the heartache of war. I don't know, everyone has their own story they bring to the painting.
Why did you put Satan in the painting?As I have said, wherever war has been, Satan has been lurking somewhere nearby. In the painting I chose to put him directly beneath the World Trade Center. As all the soldiers are gathering around Christ, Satan is fleeing in the opposite direction.
What do you hope people will get as they walk away from this painting?I hope they will think about a couple of things. I hope they will consider the great sacrifices that our soldiers have made in defending and keeping America safe. The horrors of war are almost beyond my comprehension. Unless one has experienced it, how could we begin to comprehend the heartache and anguish of those who have gone before? And second, to know that Christ is real and that peace is coming. As a Christian, I truly believe that He will come again and bring peace to this Earth. All the spirits of the dead who have died in war who have ever prayed for peace will finally see the answer to their prayers.
His work has so many underlying meanings that are phenomenal. Everything is carefully considered and placed in a specific order and place. The level of detail in his artwork is outstanding. There is so much going on in his work that it takes a time to realise what his work is all about. I am very pleased that he provides his own interpretation of each painting, that allows me to get an accurate insight of what he is trying to achieve with his work. From then I can start my own interpretation. 

I am trying to incorporate Religious and War symbols in my work in order to make this relationship work... It is that element which holds my work together and gives it a very interesting and meaningful narrative. 

Here are few examples from my own work with a description of symbolic meaning that they convey.

Crown Of Thorns
Thorn (Represented as a Barb Wire). Thorn and thorn Branches signify grief, tribulation, and sin. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, thorn bushes suggest the minor sins, and growing briars, or brambles, the greater ones. The Crown of Thorns with which the soldiers crowned Christ before the Crucifixion was a parody of the Roman emperor's festal crown of roses. The tonsure of the priest is a reverent allusion to this thorny crown. The Crown of thorns, when shown is connection with saints, is a symbol of their martyrdom . St. Catherine of Siena is often depicted with the stigmata and the crown of thorns which she received from Christ. It is also one of the emblems of the Passion and the Crucifixion of Christ,  (Ferguson, 1959).

Circle ( The Crown is in a Round shape). Circle, or ring has universally accepted as the symbol of eternity and never-ending existence. As the monogram of God, it represents not only the perfection of God but the everlasting God, 'Who was in the beginning, in now, and ever shall be, world without end', (Ferguson, 1959).

Eyes symbolise the all-knowing and ever present God, (Ferguson, 1959).

Crown (Barb Wire). The crown, from early days, has been the mark of victory or distinction. From this, it came to be accepted as the mark of royalty. In Christian art, the crown, when on the head of the Madonna, indicates that she is the Queen of Heaven. When the crown is used as the attribute of a martyr, it signifies victory over sin and death, or denotes that the saint was of royal blood, (Ferguson, 1959).

Colour meanings in my work....

Black - Skin of my models, why? Associated with death caused by War and violence.
Black, as a symbol of death and of the underworld, was familiar before the days of Christianity. It was a pagan custom to sacrifice a black animal to propitiate the gods of the nether world. In Christian symbolism, black is the colour of the Prince of Darkness, and, in the Middle Ages, it was associated with witchcraft,  the 'black art'. In general black suggests mourning, sickness, negation, and death. Black and White together, however, symbolise humility and purity of life, (Ferguson, 1959). 

Red is the colour of blood, which is associated with the emotions, and is, therefore, symbolic of both love and hate. Red the colour of sovereign power among the romans, has a similar meaning in the dress of the cardinals. St. John the Evangelist is clad in red to suggest his love of action. Red is the Church's colour for martyred saints, because many of the early Christians suffered martyrdom in the Roman persecutions, or at the hands of the barbarians, rather than deny their faith in Christ, (Ferguson, 1959). 

This one will not be included in the portfolio, however it represents the development of my earliest work and what is all about. "Blood" 
Blood, by its very nature is the symbol of life ad of the human soul. Christ, the son of God shed His blood upon the Cross to redeem mankind for its sins. 'And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins' (Matthew 26:27, 28). Red, the colour of blood, has become the common attribute of all those martyrs who died rather than deny Christ, (Ferguson, 1959). 

White Monk

Cross is one of oldest and most universal of all symbols. It is, of course, the perfect symbol of Christ because of His sacrifice upon the Cross. In a broader sense, however, the cross has become the mark or sign of the Christian religion, the emblem of atonement, and the symbol of salvation and redemption through Christianity, (Ferguson, 1959).

White has always been accepted as symbolic of innocence of soul, of purity, and of holiness of life.White is worn by Christ after His Resurrection. White is the colour of light, and is sometimes represented by silver, (Ferguson, 1959). In this example the monk is symbol of religion and the colour is emphasising the purity and holiness it conveys. 

Blue is the colour of the sky, symbolises Heaven and heavenly love. It is the colour of truth, because blue always appears in the sky after the clouds are dispelled, suggesting the unveiling of truth, (Ferguson, 1959). 

I am incorporating blue colour in various ways. Most often in my work I am using separation lights with blue gels that separates my model from the background, and most importantly it gives the work metaphorical and indirect link to the religion. Besides lighting and technical processes I am also toning all of these photographs slightly blue, that gives me similar look as seen in religious paintings. I really like this effect and find it fascinating in these paintings, therefore I have applied similar techniques to my own work, however it has a very subtle presence. For me it is all about the look in the eyes, the pose, expressions, colour and the overall quality of light. When these elements combine together they form much stronger and aesthetically pleasing work, and that is how I am working with this project form day 1. 

Wings are the symbol of divine mission. That is why the angels, archangels, seraphim, and cherubim are painted with wings. The emblems of the four evangelists, the lion of St. Mark, the ox of St. Luke, the man of St. Matthew, and the eagle of St. John, are all depicted as winged creatures, (Ferguson, 1959). 

Military Beret Berets have been a component of the uniforms of many armed forces throughout the world since the mid-20th century. Military berets are usually pushed to the right to free the shoulder that bears the rifle on most soldiers, but the armies of some European countries have influenced the push to the left.
Berets are in some countries particularly associated with elite units, who often wear berets in more unusual colours. Examples include the grey of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, maroon of Commonwealthparachute troops and the Danish Jægerkorpset, the green (Lovat Green) of the Royal Marines Commandos, Finnish Marine Commandos (Coastal Jaegers), French Commandos (Bérets verts), French Foreign Legion, Irish Army Ranger Wing, Rhodesian Light Infantry and United States Army's Special Forces (Green Berets); the scarlet of the Royal Military Police and the elite Soviet Internal Troops (Spetsnaz); the beige or tan of Commonwealth special forces units (SAS) and United States Army Rangers; the grey of the new Polish GROM; or the wide black of French Chasseurs alpins, the first military unit to have worn berets.
The informal use of berets by the military of Europe dates back hundreds of years, one example being the Blue Bonnet, that became a defacto symbol of Scottish forces in the 16th and 17th centuries. As an officially required military headdress, its use dates back to the Carlist Wars of Succession for the Spanish Crown in the 1830s by order of General Tomás de Zumalacárregui who wanted a local and non-costly way to make headgear that was resistant to the mountain weather and easy to care for and be used on formal occasions. Other countries followed suit after the creation of the French Chasseurs alpins in the early 1880s. These mountain troops were issued with a uniform which included several features which were innovative for the time, notably the large and floppy blue beret which they still retain. This was so unfamiliar a fashion outside France that it had to be described in the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1911 as "a soft cap or tam o'shanter."
I would like to juxtapose the Military Beret with the Crown of Thorns or crown itself. They are like antonyms and yet they seem to be somehow connected. 

Here I am directly placing things in conflict. Above The Soldier with back wings represent the opposite of what angels stand for in religious context, however the Soldier with the White angel wings below is representing  holiness and purity, this photograph is also depicting grief, sorrow, concerns and most importantly remorse by covering his face with this hand.

Grey is the colour of ashes, signifies mourning and humility. It is sometimes used as the Lenten colour. Because grey symbolises the death of the body and the immortality of the spirit, Christ is sometimes shown wearing grey in paintings of the Last Judgement. Grey is also the colour of the habit of the Vallombrosian Order of Benedictines, (Ferguson, 1959).

The Colour Yellow may have either of two opposed symbolic meanings, depending on the way in which it is used. A golden yellow is the emblem of the sun, and of divinity. The backgrounds of many Renaissance paintings glow with a golden yellow, symbolising the sacredness to that which is depicted. On the other hand, yellow is sometimes used to suggest infernal light, degradation, jealousy, treason, and deceit. In periods of plague, yellow crosses were used to identify contagious areas, and this use let to the custom of using yellow to indicate contagion, (Ferguson, 1959). 

Photographs below are representing the yellow and golden yellow. Although the plague is caused by War and conflict, it also has a black paint incorporated which references to death, mourning, sickness, negation, and death. 

A little bit of Combat Helmets 

combat helmet or battle helmet is a type of personal armor designed specifically to protect the head during combat.
Helmets are among the oldest forms of personal protective equipment and are known to have been worn by the Akkadians/Sumerians in the 23rd century BCE, Mycenaean Greeks since the 17th century BCE, the Assyrians around 900 BCE, ancient Greeks andRomans, throughout the Middle Ages, and up to the end of the 17th century by many combatants.
Their materials and construction became more advanced as weapons became more and more powerful. Initially constructed from leather and brass, and then bronze andiron during the Bronze and Iron Ages, they soon came to be made entirely from forged steel in many societies after about 950 CE. At that time, they were purely military equipment, protecting the head from cutting blows with swords, flying arrows, and low-velocitymusketry.
Military use of helmets declined after 1670, and rifled firearms ended their use by foot soldiers after 1700 but the Napoleonic era saw ornate cavalry helmets reintroduced for cuirassiers and dragoons in some armies which continued to be used by French forces duringWorld War I as late as 1915.
World War I and its increased use of artillery had renewed the need for steel helmets, with the French Adrian helmet and the British Brodie helmet being the first modern steel helmets used on the battlefield, soon followed by the adoption of similar steel helmets, such as the Stahlhelm by the other warring nations. In the 20th century, such helmets offered protection for the head from shrapnel and fragments as well as for specialist roles such as Paratrooper helmets. (

For me helmet becomes an interpretation of Crown, which stands for the mark of victory or distinction. Or alternatively it can be interpreted and linked with Crown of Thorns that signify grief, tribulation, and sin. 

Here is a standard workflow I do for each photograph, it usually takes me up to 4 hours of retouching per photograph. I have spent enormous time editing and selecting only the best photographs from each session. Usually in one session I photographed around 150-300 photographs and only 2-3 photographs were selected for further editing and portfolio. 

After each studio session and few days of consideration for best 2-4 photographs I have naturally selected the best photographs I want to appear in my portfolio. The final number is around 31 photographs and only 15-17 from them will go in the final portfolio. In total during the year I have photographed over 1 100 photographs. Each studio session normally was scheduled from 9am till 5pm, so it was very intensive and demanding work both form me and the models. Besides photographing, research and preparation took the biggest part of this project. Oftentimes I was challenged to find the best narratives and elements I want to include in my work. Also this project was finically demanding, since I had to buy props and other materials that I needed for the best results. 

Here are few examples of before and after retouching my photographs. I will not show all of them since it is only for illustration purposes to give an idea of the extensive work I have put in each of this photograph. 

I work on a colour calibrated monitor in a light controlled environment for the maximum colour accuracy and reproduction. It is extremely important to me as I want these prints to match on screen displayed photographs. Here is a quick process of colour management in my workflow. 

I am using an X-Rite iDisplay pro monitor calibrating device, It also has an inbuilt ambient light meter which is very handy for adjusting monitor brightness according to the changes of ambient light in the room I am working in.
Once my monitor is calibrated (usually on a weekly basis) I can accurately edit my files knowing that the colours and brightness will be accurate. 

After the files have been edited I always do a soft proofing, so that I can preview how these photograph would look when printed on a chosen paper and printer combination. In this example on the left is before soft proofing and on the right is a soft proof with my chosen paper (Canson Baryta Gloss - the paper I am using for my exhibition and portfolio). I can see that there are no colur warnings - everything fits the gamut of the printer and paper so it is perfect for printing. Besides colour accuracy I do check that these files hold good shadow and highlight information, sometimes these files needs a slight adjustment (colour, exposure) so that everything would be as close as I view on my monitor. 

Every Single photograph has been soft proofed before printing and converted to a specific colour profile for the maximum accuracy. These little extra tweaks really help and make these prints much much better, it also saves me time and guess work which is not acceptable for project like this. 

Below is the contact sheet of my work in a chronological order starting from the earliest development. 

There are 31 Photographs in total, but only 15-17 will be selected for portfolio. Some of them are similar, therefore these will be first ones that I will consider to take out. Below are the same photographs, but larger. 

Here is a very interesting concept of a traditional Chinese philosophy, that actually places my work in exactly same concept and meaning. It represents all elements from this interesting philosophy.
These motifs would be very interesting to explore deeper, however my work only has a metaphoric reference to this concept since I am exploring Christianity, rather than Chinese motifs, religion and art.

Yin and Yang(in Chinese philosophy and religion) two principles, one negative, dark, and feminine (yin)  and onepositive, bright, and masculine (yang)  whose interaction influences the destinies of creatures and things.

Yin and Yang is used to describe how opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many natural dualities (such as light and dark, high and low, hot and cold, fire and water, life and death, male and female, sun and moon, and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept. The concept lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan (t'ai chi),qigong (Chi Kung), and I Ching. (
Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (instead of opposing) forces interacting to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation.
This Philosophy really inspires me!!! I feel that the religion cannot exist without the war since many wars have caused in the name of religion for its protection and spreading across the world. And the war often is caused for protection of what is known as good - people, land, etc. 

 Consideration of dimensions and numbers for the final portfolio are crucial, therefore I have prepared a guidelines on my living room's floor. One which reflects my desired print size variations for portfolio and also guidelines for the final exhibition prints. 

The top frame is 16''x12'' and represents the print size form my portfolio. Initially I was considering to print 10''x8', but it seemed rather small, since my work has a lot of detail I want to show.

Middle frame is a representation of 300dpi print size.

Bottom three frames ultimately represent the possible variations for the final exhibition print sizes. 

Smallest print 24''x18''
Middle print 28''x21''
Largest 32''x24'' (4x larger than portfolio)
I have been looking and considering these variations for past 2 weeks, therefore this decision has been carefully considered and made. In terms of exhibition print sizes I am still considering either 24''x18''as default (cost effective and still has a major impact) or alternatively on a cheaper substrate I could push up to 28''x21''. 

Initially I would like to exhibit around 3-4 photographs on either Aluminium DiBond or Foamex substrate with Acrylic seal for protection and maximum effect (foamed is a cheaper and more affordable substrate with a professional feel).  

If I chose Aluminium DiBond I will exhibit 3 photographs, but If I go with the cheaper option I will possibly go with 4 photographs. I want this work to have the best possible quality, and finish, however I have to consider my budget. I believe that 3-4 photographs would perfectly represent the context and idea I am trying to communicate with this work, although it might be a little bit challenging. 

Portfolio Dimensions 16''x12'' 406mm x 304mm

Here Are Few Test Prints and substrates I have tried, before my final decisions. 

Top Right is the test print for my portfolio size 16''x12'' , and it is also on a Foamex substrate which is a very rigid foam core board - very hard material and affordable. 

Top Left is a C-Type print gloss finish 10''x8''
Bottom Right is a C-Type print matt finish 10''x8''
Bottom Left is a Canson Baryta museum grade white paper gloss finish 10''x8'' - the paper is 308 gsm thick and very high quality. It has a 40 years daylight life expectancy and up to 200 years expectancy when stored in archival boxes. This in with no doubts my favourite paper and the final work will be printed specifically on this paper. It is equivalent to a fiber based paper. 

Here is a list of substrates that I have considered. 

I absolutely love Dibond substrate, however it is much more expensive. Foamex substrate seems to be a better option over MDF and it is cheaper than Dibond. 

Another significant part of this project was the portfolio preparation, the right print size and the presentation. 

Initially I was planning in producing around 20 final photographs for the portfolio, however it looks like I will go with 15-17 prints as it will achieve a stronger impact on viewers without being too repetitive.  

The print size will be 16''x12'' as it will show the detail of my work better than initially considered 10''x8''prints. 

I want to present this project in a high quality museum grade archival portfolio box for the maximum impact. Moreover each photograph will be placed in a Polyester Archival Image Pocket for protection and professional look. 

Here are few possible portfolio boxes I have looked at...

Silverprint Portfolio Box 12"x16" (1/2 Depth)
Internal dimensions: 314 X 414 X 30 mm 
External dimensions: 428 X 327 X 41 mm

This box is very good quality although on the expensive end, however there are options for depth... Since I only would have around 17 photographs I do not require extra depth, so the 1/2 depth would make it perfect. 

Here are similar boxes from other Supplier 

 Agency Portfolio Box 16''x12'', Handcrafted, museum quality, archival box, designed for safe storage and presentation of photographic prints, digital images, and other documents. Available in 37mm & 65mm depths.
Silverprint Polyster Sleeves 16''x12'' 10x

12 x 16"  Print Size 305 x 406mm - Pocket Size 313 x 412mm (Process Supplies London)

Polyester Archival Image Pockets

Crystal clear acid free archival pockets for presentation and storage of  prints & documents 
Manufactured from 75 micron Melanex manufactured by Dupont.

The day has finally arrived, my prints with the portfolio box and Polyester Sleeves have arrived!
It was a very stressful time as my order was mixed up and everything that seemed to go wrong actually did. Luckily I started to work on my portfolio production well ahead the deadline, so I had a plenty of time for unexpected errors, such as stock availability and the final print quality inspection before I do put them into the portfolio. 

Initially my prints were sent to the wrong address so I lost a few days, however when they are reprinted I only received 15 out of 17 prints due to a glitch in their online server. Therefore I had to reorder two missing photographs. I am very pleased with the quality of these prints as I was putting an enormous energy and time into this project. 

My standards were exceptionally high and I did not settle for less than I wanted, I guess that really made me to reach the perfection and every single drawback was very important to me since I spent  a lot of only on there museum grade archival prints. 

Here are few photographs of the delivered goods.

Prints and Portfolio Box

Prints from the

Portfolio box from Process Supplies London
This was the last 16''x12'' 1/2 depth portfolio box available. Since my original order with Silverprint on early April was messed up I had to find an alternative. Luckily after few calls and hours of searching I found Process Supplies London where they had this extremely quality portfolio box. I am very happy, since it takes a lot off pressure off from my shoulders. 
Besides choosing the right substrates and print sizes I am now focusing on Exhibition titles and descriptions as it is a most crucial element which introduces my work to viewers. 

Since my portfolio is sorted I am focusing on Evaluation, title of my work and exhibition. 

Here are few titles that I have considered to be appropriate, at this stage it is only a development process and the final title will be chosen at the end of this process.

Since the work is exploring and juxtaposing two opposite things I want the title to state that, but in a very subtle way, so that viewer is asked to start thinking deeper of its meaning.

Some possible titles that I have considered.

"In Between"  Translation form Dictionary a person or thing that is between two extremes, two contrasting conditions, etc. 
By far "In Between" title is most interesting and suitable since it introduces the work just enough without being too much descriptive. 

"Between Fiction and Reality"  

"Between Faith, Hope and War"  Last two titles seems a little bit too descriptive, however this allows me to think and find the best possible title. 

The photographs will not be individually titled as the Title sets all photographs in a coherent and strong series under a single title.  I feel that it is very suitable for this kind of work. 

"Piece and War" I feel this title is way to descriptive, making it less interesting. My goal is to create a mysterious, ambiguous and opened title, so far the first title "In Between" does it all. 

There are few more photographers I feel that I should include in this research since they have influenced me in a way or other. 

Mostly I am researching portrait and conceptual photographers  as they provide me with fresh ideas and contexts form fine art and also portraiture. 

Here is a work of one of most influential portrait photographers Sally Mann

Sally Mann (born in Lexington, Virginia, 1951) is one of America’s most renowned photographers. She has received numerous awards, including NEA, NEH, and Guggenheim Foundation grants, and her work is held by major institutions internationally.

“Few photographers of any time or place have matched Sally Mann’s steadiness of simple eyesight, her serene technical brilliance, and the clearly communicated eloquence she derives from her subjects, human and otherwise – subjects observed with an ardor that is all but indistinguishable from love.”
– Reynolds Price, TIME

My favourite work by Sally Mann is from series "Family Pictures'' they are nothing like the standard family photographs, but rather pure fine art. 
To her, they were little more than tender, maternal photographs of her children.
Yet to others, they were child pornography, and the mark of an irresponsible mother. Sally Mann’s “Immediate Family” shows us the sensuous and sometimes disturbing side of childhood. The controversy that “Immediate Family” stirred up is a direct reflection of the times in which it was produced, and says more about the adult viewer than of the child subject. Sally Mann chooses to explore the concept of childhood and “growing up” using a variety of the sensual, reality and the fantastic; all through a maternal eye. 
“Immediate Family” is a collection of photographs taken in rural Virginia, where the children, and Mann herself, spent their childhoods. Mann photographed the children and the landscape through a massive 8 by 10 view camera, staging elaborate portraits that still lie within the realm of possibility. Mann states that these photographs are “of my children living their lives here too. Many of these pictures are intimate, some are fictitions and some are fantastic, but most are of ordinary things that every mother has seen” (Mann) In most of the images, the children appear nude, or partially nude.
They posture, as children do, but through a combination of suggestive titles and lack of clothing the images take on a more overtly sexualized appearance. Many have hastily labeled this as indecent, and consequently, something they would rather ignore.

Lee Jeffries 

Faces of the forgotten: How haunting portraits of homeless people changed photographer's view forever

The homeless rarely find themselves in the limelight, but amateur photographer Lee Jeffries has made them the focus of his work.
He’s produced a haunting set of black-and-white portraits of people living on the streets of Europe and the U.S.
Every face is shown in incredible detail and is full of emotion.

Forty-year-old Jeffries, from Bolton – who’s an accountant by day - first began photographing the homeless in 2008 while visiting London.
While walking through Leicester Square he took a picture of a homeless girl in a sleeping bag from a distance without her noticing, but she spotted him.

His initial instinct was to slip away, but instead he decided to strike up a conversation with her.
‘She kicked up a right fuss! I was incredibly embarrassed and was faced with a decision - walk away, or go and apologise,’ he told
‘I chose the latter and her story and subsequent images I took of her changed my approach to street photography forever.’

Since then he’s captured the homeless of east and west coast America including Los Angeles and New York, as well as Rome and Manchester – but he only ever has a few seconds to take the picture, because they sometimes change their mind about posing for the camera.
His method is to befriend them - and always to give them some money afterwards.
The photographs are then enhanced with software, primarily, adds Jeffries, to capture the mood of the eyes.
He told the website: ‘I process, predominately through dodge and burn, to develop the mood of the eyes. It’s the eyes that attracted me to take the photograph in the first place and this is always the starting point for the emotional element of the image.
‘I process with light and shadow in an almost religious way.’

Here are my favourite photographs from his work. 

Brittany, Ovetown, Miami, Homeless
His work is phenomenal, it captures the essence of a person, yet very sad, dramatic and powerful portraiture.

Jeffries work is haunting, he captures the emotions of his subjects and that is the most important aspect for me in portraiture. 
Gratitude: Jeffries always gives the people he's photographed money to say thank you
Quick work: Jeffries often has just a few seconds to capture his subject

Below is a very interesting and important input of his work by Conran.

Conran on Jeffries

"If you will forgive my indulgence, This work is most definitely NOT photojournalism. Nor is it intended as portraiture. It's religious or spiritual iconography. It's powerful stuff. Jeffries gave these people something more than personal dignity. He gave them a light in their eyes that depicts transcendence, a glimmer of light at the gates of Eden, so to speak. The clarity in their eyes is awesome to behold, as if God is somewhere in there. He has made these people into more than poor old broken homeless people lazily waiting for a handout from some urbane and thoughtful corporate agent. He infused them with light, not darkness. Even the blind guy has light pouring from his sightless eyes. I think Jeffries intended his art to honor these people, not pity them. He honors those people by giving their likenesses a greater meaning. He gives them a religious spiritual significance. He imbues them with the iconic soul of humanity. I think that's what he was trying to do, at least to some degree thereof."




When I first found Lee Jeffries work it affected me very personally, It is the humanity he captures and yet it is so pure and realistic. This is an ultimate achievement in portraiture, the capability to record the essence of personality, the unstated and real moment. These photographs are very disturbing, yet representing the homeless and poor which we tend to ignore that exists. His photographic style is very inspiring and strong. If I had to choose one photographer I wanted to be/ or to say "I wish I took that", perhaps Lee Jeffries would be on top of the list from all of them. 

It is all about the eyes - they are inviting viewer and making them stop and look again, they are honest and real, yet sad and failed in some way. 


Here is another fashion photographer that has influenced my visual taste and thought processes. 

His photographs are bizarre, cleverly manipulated and surreal.

Sølve Sundsbø is one of the great innovators in contemporary image-making. His capacity for visual experimentation has brought him enduring respect within the industry. His advertising clients include Chanel, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Hermès, Armani, Louis Vuitton, H&M and Yves Saint Laurent. Sundsbø has also created editorials for Italian VogueLove MagazineVisionaireV,Interviewi-DThe New York TimesVogue Nippon and W Magazine. He has directed short films for Chanel, Gucci, Biotherm and SHOWstudio. His New York Times piece “14 Actors Acting” won an Emmy Award for New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming: Arts, Lifestyle and Culture in 2011.
Sølve Sundsbø was born and raised in Norway and has lived in London since 1995. He has had catalogues published in conjunction with his “Perroquets” exhibition and "Savage Beauty," the Alexander McQueen retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He has also created artwork for several album covers, most notably Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head.
Despite his versatility, it's easy to spot a Sundsbo image. "People assume my work has been through a computer but actually I also use a lot of old-fashioned techniques," he says. The concept is also more important to Sundsbo than the finish and he probably has more in common with a fine artist than slick fashion snapper. 

Here is some of his work. 

His pictures look as if they've been digitally altered, when in fact often they haven't. His fashion photographs often look like fine art with fantastic sets and fictional feel. 

Most notably the biggest influence what made me create this specific work was combination of Lee Jeffries, Juha Arvid Helminen and Mark Laita work. 

More on Mark Laita's extraordinary portraits which explore binary opposition and stark contrast between subjects. 

Here are photographs form project "Created Equal" 

A little bit of info about this project.

 In America, the chasm between rich and poor is growing, the clash between conservatives and liberals is strengthening, and even good and evil seem more polarized than ever before. At the heart of this collection of portraits is my desire to remind us that we were all equal, until our environment, circumstances or fate molded and weathered us into whom we have become. Los Angeles- and New York-based photographer Mark Laita completed Created Equal over the course of eight years; his poignant words reflect the striking polarizations found in his photographs. Presented as diptychs, the images explore social, economic and gender difference and similarity within the United States, emulating and updating the portraiture of Edward Curtis, August Sander and Richard Avedon. This volume includes an introduction by noted culture writer and editorial cult figure Ingrid Sischy.

When considering presentation in Diptychs I feel that that is the most appropriate way in organising my own work since there is a lot of comparison and contrast going on. Therefore I will arrange my portfolio as close as possible to achieve this diptych effect. 

Here is some of my favourite Mark Laita's work. 

Bank Robber / Deputies 2000

Ballerina / Boxer, 2000/1999

Baptist Churchgoer / White Supermacist, 2004/2003

Baptist Minister / Ku Klux Klan, 2002/2002

Homeless Man / Real Estate Developer,  2002/2005

Astronaut / Alien Abductee, 2003/2005

Motorcycle Gang / Altar Boys, 2004/2005

Southerner / Hassidic Jew, 2002/2007

"Created Equal" does not airbrush out the scars of life, wrinkles, triple-chins, missing teeth and other more extreme aberrations of so-called "normal standards". Apart from a few expectations, what is obviously missing is the upscale view we have gotten so used to-the sense of money and power and glossied-up beauty that has been such a staple of recent times. His work is definitely a personal view.

I have not been researching a lot of war photography  although I found that work by Eddie Adams is really inspiring. His is arguably one of most influential war photographer's and his photographs speak for themselves. Here is some of his work that I find relevant to my project. 

A little bit about Eddie Adams and his arguably most iconic photograph. 

“Eddie’s genius is his talent for capturing tension in every photo, whether it be the still of a murder or the animation in the eyes of a movie star,” says PARADE Chairman Walter Anderson. “He is eclectic, incomparable and cantankerous. He is unyielding in the pursuit of excellence.”

Adams' photograph of Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing Nguyễn Văn Lém on February 1, 1968

The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapons in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. ... What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?' 

Major Issues with presentation of my work I encountered in last minute (Prints, Portfolio Box, Polyester Sleeves)

This project has taken a lot of time and effort, but in the end I am very pleased how it is turned out. 
I had many obstacles and problems during the project. I was finished with my production (photographing) processes in early April so that I would have plenty of time for final editing and printing. 

Everything seemed well-organized and planned good time ahead in case of unexpected problems which obviously happened. 

As I mentioned earlier I ordered my portfolio box and sleeves well ahead the deadline (8th April) so that I would have loads of spare time to organize my prints and the sequence I wanted them to be presented. Although my order was messed up and in a last minute I had to find an alternative portfolio box with sleeves since my original order was out of stocks till 5th of May, which was absurd. Luckily I fond the place in London and they had just last box left, problem sorted. 

However that was not the end of my stressful week. My prints were accidentally sent to the wrong post delivery office. In meanwhile they reprinted all of my ordered prints and dispatched the same day for next day delivery guaranteed. It seemed to be perfectly reasonable and I received them the very next morning. They were printed just the way I wanted - matching my onscreen output on a computer.  Although two prints were missing, it seemed that with each problem sorted I got the next one.  Luckily I was able to re-upload two missing photographs and receive them few days later. 

Now my portfolio box and prints are sorted, however the print sleeves I ordered seemed to be a little bit too small for my exact 16''x12'' prints. I was not able to fit them nicely without force (even with backing board) and damaging the actual prints in the process. It took me a lot of planning and seeking for alternative ways of professional presentation without using these sleeves since it would be a nightmare to take the prints out of these sleeves and put them back in. 

All the options I considered seemed not to satisfy me at all, however after a while of thinking I had a very good solution for that - to modify sleeves itself by cutting of one side (make them into L shape opening) This seemed to fix the problem - it is easy to put in and take out these prints without force any damage. 

Now my prints are presented in Polyester Sleeves in a very high quality portfolio box! 

Since the actual exhibition is while after my portfolio hand in, I am still not sure which photographs I will include in this show; therefore I am not able to identify these finals at this point. 

Also the possible exhibition texts and titles will change and evolve as I plan the show in next few weeks. 

The whole project was very interesting and challenging, I have explored various photography genres and artists. Some of them are more closer to me others not so much, however each of them helped me with my thought processes and ideas. I have looked at many books and journals in order to structure my work. Most crucial book that helped me to construct meaning in my work was "Signs and Symbols in Christian Art" by George Ferguson. It is almost like an encyclopedia that contains definitions of most common symbols used in Christian art. 

Besides major influence from Mark Laita, Lee Jeffries, Juha Arvid Helminen's work, the concept of this project was developed based on my personal belief system and experiences. This work represents my opinion towards war and religion, ultimately It should promote an idea of freedom, independence, security and peace which are most important values for many people. 

More detailed information about my project is available in Critical Evaluation, that sums up my influences and key points of this project. 

There are few more things I will work on:

Exhibition Text / Titles
Exhibition Preparation


  1. Thanks for posting the art of Juha

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