Stories, Musings & The Vision Thing

Tag: identity

Navigating Time, Place & Identity

Portraying Women of a Certain Age

A few days ago I encountered some striking portraits of women of a certain age.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

The portraits seemed to have an almost mythic sensibility – posed, yes, but also very natural.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

The more I looked, the more I could feel the character and life experience of each woman playing across her image.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

Such strong, yet simple pieces – so much vitality, poise and personality in each photograph. We rarely see images of older women at all and if we do, they never look so finely honed, as if caught in the middle of a fashion shoot.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

Yet here was one after the other, modeling not clothes, but their grace, dignity and sense of themselves, as if the photographer had managed to somehow portray the very essence of their identity.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

I wondered, who captured these moments and enabled us see these women in this light? Who created these images and why? I think you’ll find the answer surprising.

Introducing Evelyn Bencicova

These photos are part of RIPE, a recent personal project by Natalia Evelyn Bencicova, age 23. Evelyn grew up in Bratislava, Slovakia, attends university in Vienna and is now based in Berlin. Before she first picked up a camera, in 2012, she worked as a model.

Evelyn, from a Bird in Flight interview:

I can communicate well with people and get close to them. Most of the time I photograph friends or people with whom I intend to be friends with. This way they are giving me something for the photo. I really appreciate it and I also feel that I need to give something back to them.

photo of Evelyn Bencicova by Marek Wurfl

Evelyn, from a Design Ideas interview:

I portray women of great courage and character. Ladies who are not afraid to display their natural beauty and aging… In every silver hair and wrinkle is written an extraordinary life story. They are turning social prejudice into nonsense and exchanging usual phobia for a celebration of life.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

Evelyn continues:

Even though I’m very young, I can feel huge social pressure created around aging. According to commercial fashion and beauty magazines, it seems that women above 40 almost don’t exist. Wrinkles and other natural signs of time on human body are considered unwanted and shameful…


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

I decided to show proud female characters who are not only beautiful but also active. They are artists, businesswoman, professors or workers, mothers, grandmother or even great-grandmothers.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

Their inner strength and beauty even exceeds graceful looks and proves that even time can play in your favor, if it is time and life well spent.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

When Identity and Individuality Vanish

As you can see, Evelyn is an extremely gifted artist. Where RIPE opens up a world of strong individual identities, ASYMPTOTE, a project created with Adam Csoka Keller, explores how identity and individuality vanish when confronted by a vast and unyielding bureaucracy. In ASYMPTOTE Evelyn and Adam use photography and a surrealist aesthetic to recreate the psychic ambiance of life in Czechoslovakia under socialism.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

Evelyn, from a Kaltblut Magazine interview:

For ASYMPTOTE I’m using places from socialistic era with real history. It is truth that a location is somehow representing certain state of mind, mood or atmosphere of the photo… If it is the right place I usually know it immediately.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

Besides few technical parameters the most important is to feel the energy of the space. I mean this feeling, that something happened there but you are never sure what was it. It usually activates my imagination more than anything else.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

From a Train to Create interview:

I’m very passionate, impatient and fast. I always know what kind of feeling and situation I want to get from each shoot but I work with composition and posing usually straight on the set. If everything was prepared and planed it would lose part of its magic.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

Unexpected details and accidents are the things, which make me really excited and often they lead the final results. Our shootings are really strong, physically and also emotionally; I need to feel the real presence and connection between people.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

I want the story to be real, truly happening on the set. Creativity always comes when you go out of your comfort zone and try something what you are not already good at.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

Here’s a short video by Adam Csoka Keller that offers another view of ASYMPTOTE: 

ASYMPTOTE from Adam Csoka Keller on Vimeo.

Passion, Art and Identity

Evelyn is seemingly fearless about her art. If you go to her website, you’ll see other projects equally intense and strange. Powered by her fierce artistic energy and passion, as her imagination soars to new heights, her capacity for creative expression seems to flow beyond boundaries.

Marek Wurfl (1)

photo of Evelyn Bencicova by Marek Wurfl

Youth is a passionate time, with a fervor and sense of engagement that won’t quit. That enormous explosion of energy can produce brilliant work, a burn out or both. Still, it’s good to be reminded of the immense artistic power that all that focus and creativity can unleash. As we grow older, it’s easy to be content with a more comfortable path, or to loose one’s way in a thicket of duty, responsibility and practicality.

As Elle Luna showed us, we are constantly finding ourselves at the crossroads of “should” and “must.” Encountering an artist like Evelyn Bencicova may help us navigate a path back to our own forms of creative expression – if we allow ourselves the opportunity to take it.

From a Bird in Flight interview:

I am absolutely in a trance, like an obsessed person, when I am shooting. I am addicted to it.


photo by Evelyn Bencicova

From Chasseur Magazine:

In my pictures you can see a lot of emptiness because that is the thing that scares me the most. I don’t want to spend what life is left in me in a very basic way. I want to fill it with passion and intense moments.


photo by Camilla Stoorgard for the Daily Metal site

I am in my studio from the morning till late in the night. People come, we sit and talk, then we take photos the whole day like this. I need to believe that I have the power to change things, at least for myself. Always learn and never give up – is my basic motto, which I hope to never forget along the way.

So what do you think? Does her work speak to you, too? Leave a comment and let me know.

Time, Place and Purpose: The Identity Art of Jorge Rodriquez-Gerada

Maria Tudela (all images from Jorge Rodriquez-Gerada website)

Some artists like to work on a grand scale.  Then there’s urban artist and former “culture jammer” Jorge Rodriquez-Gerada, and his Identity Series.  

Aurelio Monterrey

Concepcion Buenos Aires
Emma Barcelona

For the Identity Series, he portrays everyday people who have a strong connection to their community and then finds a suitable space for their portrait.

The artist at work on Julio Granada

But these eloquent images are only part of the story.  Jorge creates all of these portraits in charcoal.  As they gradually fade away they encapsulate identity, memory and the tenuous nature of our existence.

Maria Barcelona

Here’s a short video showing the creation of Maria Barcelona, while Jorge explains what he’s working towards.

If the video doesn’t play you can watch it here.

Jorge began the Identity Series in 2002, with a complex vision.  It’s about the process of capturing the person in charcoal, the impact that enlarged image has on the neighborhood as they see one of their own on such a grand scale, and then the collective memory of the work, after the wall portrait fades over time.  Jorge says, “the memory that is left confirms the importance and fragility of every existence. My intent is to have identity, place and memory become one.”

There’s still another dimension to his imagery which, he believes, counters the political and advertising images that permeate the cultural landscape. “I believe that our identity should come from within, not from the brands that we wear. We should question who choses our cultural icons and role models, as well as our values and our aesthetics.” 

David Vitoria

This portrait of local resident David quickly became a political statement when Jorge created it in Spain’s Basque country. The video below explains:

If the video doesn’t play, you can watch it here

There is so much we take for granted about the impact of art and the artist. We assume the artist has uncommon skill and talent and that great art is a creation that lasts for the ages.  

Of course I’m oversimplifying, but in Jorge’s work we have a strong visualization of what the winds of change both create and destroy. And I think there’s something at once inspiring and humbling about his art, as it celebrates our common humanity and points towards the impermanence of everything.

There’s more to his story that you can check out on his website. Here’s a link to an interview he did last year. And I’d like to end this post with two images from his Terrestrial Series. 

He created this homage to a beloved Spanish architect from colored sand:

Homage to Enric Miralles

Here’s a link to a video showing how he did it. 

Then there’s the image below, made from 650 tons of sand and gravel, created just before the 2008 US election.