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5 Photographers Who Are Hitting Big in 2016

Get to know David Brandon Geeting, Molly Matalon, Henry Hargreaves, Brandon Nichols, and Corey Olsen.

by Andrew Nunes
Feb 22 2016, 12:30am

From Henry Hargreaves and Caitlin Levin's Power Hungry. All images courtesy the artists

The past few years have seen photography hit its apex in terms of ubiquity and accessibility; almost anyone has access to the tools necessary to make images and the act of taking pictures has shifted from newish cultural norm to widespread cultural expectation. But where is the medium headed now? What photographers should we shift our increasingly divided and limited attention towards, in this deep, expansive sea of image-makers? We spoke to five stylistically distinct photographers who we believe are going to have a big year in 2016, about their new work and where they see photography going this year.

David Brandon Geeting

The 26-year-old photographer David Brandon Geeting works in the realm of the dull and the mundane. His work processes and reinterprets everyday objects and scenes until they become imbued with a playful originality that drifts between humor and subversion. We spoke to him about his new series, Amusement Park

The Creators Project: Do you often explore ideas in allegorical or symbolic ways in your photography? Can you give us a little info on how you bridge the gap between image creation/selection and larger concepts in your projects?

David Brandon Geeting: When making art of any kind, it's important not to spoon-feed people. They're smarter than that. I don't think that much about symbolism when making pictures, but I think the most important part of photography is how the feeling of an image changes when it's paired with different images. I also think that whatever's on my mind at the time will subconsciously affect the vibe of the image I'm making - for example, if I'm taking a photo of eggs and I'm thinking about a trumpet, the aura of the image will feel much differently than if I'm taking a photo of eggs and thinking about a roller coaster.

Every amusement park is a weird sad mess wrapped in a thin sheet of kitsch and ecstasy, so that vibe was sort of the gold standard for deciding which images worked for this project. Of course there are some wildcards in there, because no matter what I'm working on, I try to keep things kind of loose and rely a bit more on external forces to bring it all together. I can only make so many boring rational decisions before the art starts to suck. In order for the art to be interesting in any way, it has to meet me halfway. It has to make it's own decisions.

Do you have any ideas or predictions on what 2016 holds in photography? Are there any particular stylistic trends you can see becoming prevalent this year?

2016 will be the year when ad agencies fully embrace the idea of throwing a banana on a pastel seamless with a hard shadow and using it to sell tampons or air conditioners or oatmeal or life insurance or Nikes. So maybe I can finally cash out on that, the diluted version of a Tumblr trend I participated in three years ago. On the real though, 2016 will be the year of landscapes and I couldn't be more excited.

Molly Matalon

Sexuality, womanhood, and the psychological disparities between New York and her hometown in Southern Florida are some of the central and recurring themes in Molly Matalon's photographs. Above all else, Matalon seems particularly gifted at capturing her subjects in moments of brooding introspection, despite the looming presence of her camera. We talked to Matalon about her new zine In The Morning and Amazing, which debuted this weekend at the LA Art Book Fair.

The Creators Project: Your new zine In The Morning and Amazing feels like an inversion of the typical male-on-female gaze that pervades most of art and photography's history. Can you explain your thoughts on this dynamic and the impetus behind the series?

Molly Matalon: Sure, I guess it less 'feels like' an inversion of the "male gaze" and more of, it just is. It's the first notion you recognize when you look at the work. 'Ok the photographer is a woman and the subjects are men'. For me the work came together very organically. I gained a sort of 'confidence' to approaching men through taking pictures. Getting to be alone in a room with a man is definitely a power shift inherently when I'm the one with the tripod, but I feel the work is more about a desire for romance and longing. I've never been in a relationship; I've never even dated anyone casually. This is really important to the work I've been making recently.

Do you have any ideas or predictions on what 2016 holds in photography? Are there any particular stylistic trends you can see becoming prevalent this year?

Who's to say for sure? I don't think people are drowning in the sea of images like they think they are, but I do think having exclusivity over projects, unseen work, and not putting every picture on your site is becoming increasingly desirably for both photographers and people looking at pictures (editors, publishers, online content hunters). I always wish for a resurgence of a sort of academic body of work that goes beyond surface level thoughts. You can't find all the answers from looking at the work once or twice. I've been working on a book with photographer and friend Damien Maloney. We've been working on these pictures for a while now and only a select few have seen the work. For me this is what I want to see happening in the future. Knowing that photographers are thinking about work instead of pointing, shooting, releasing.

Corey Olsen 

Less than two years out of undergrad at the School of Visual Arts and with an ongoing solo show at Chelsea's Julie Saul Gallery, Corey Olsen is here to make lasting waves in photography. A lot of Olsen's work feels like a revitalized take on the Americana style, highlighting the intricacies and details of life in America outside of metropolitan hubs like NYC and LA. His upcoming series It's a Dry Heat feels like the psychological epitome of an American summer.

The Creators Project: When creating a photographic project, do you set out with specific ideas, concepts, or moods in mind and then look for the best ways to represent them, or do you start more open-ended and figure out the conceptual details afterwards, based on the images you end up with?

Corey Olsen: I'm always trying to see how I can push what photography can do best and exploiting its weaknesses. When I set out to make a new project I usually have a good idea of what I'm going to do before I get into it. Most of the time I'm starting with a question, hypothesis, or an object/subject I'd like to explore. I find something to use as a stage or canvas to explore and expand from. With It's a Dry Heat I wanted to unpack the idea of understanding a place through pictures and how one can imagine a place based on photographs, art, TV, movies, and advertisements.

I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Maine and I didn't really travel most of my life. I moved to New York City to go to SVA, but during that time I still didn't get to see many other places. Despite the fact that I wasn't well traveled I felt like I had a pretty good grasp of what distant places looked and felt like – though I was sure I wasn't 100% right. For example, I had never been to LA but there was a specific kind of imagery depicting it that created a certain mood or tone. It may be because Hollywood is there and its history is more recent than most other major cities. The region also seemed very foreign to me compared to the northeast. Because of this, I wanted to make a vision of the place before going, then knowing there would be some failure, I wanted to re-draw that vision with the restriction of photographs I made using LA and some surrounding cities including Las Vegas and Palm Springs.

Do you have any ideas or predictions on what 2016 holds in photography? Are there any particular stylistic trends you can see becoming prevalent this year?

I'd just like to be surprised.

Brandon Nichols

Some of Brandon Nichols' work falls under the classic idea of 2D, still photography, but in a lot of his newer work, the artist has explored other mediums and in some cases pushed the word "photography" to the edges of its definition. Regardless of the output, the core of his practice is rooted in image making and notions of representation. His latest project, Post Human fuses hyper-contemporary forms of image making with classical ideals of beauty and form, incarnated as futuristic GIFs.

The Creators Project: Your latest project, Post Human, fuses classical references like Greek sculpture, busts, and ideals of anatomy with a digitized aesthetic that feels rooted in a sort of sci-fi-esque, possibly dystopian future. What are your aims in combining references of antiquity with a "post-contemporary" aestheticization? Do you think that linking the past and future in such a way brings new insight into the present?

Brandon Nichols: The intent of this project was finding a link from a variety of sculptures that exhibit common humanist qualities (the heroic, the idealized, the romantic, etc.) and tie it into this newer concept of the post-human. If you are unfamiliar, Post humanism is a rich and fascinating subject that explores how we envision ourselves in an age of technological innovation and information. It conceives of a state where information, or even a mind, could be separate from its material form or body. It's a very sci-fi/strange/postmodern idea that completely fascinates me. The dripping liquefied moving images are a metaphor for this change in the conception of ourselves.

To your second question I would say yes, the past is what we have to build from, the future is what we have to dream about, that is where insight is delivered.

Do you have any ideas or predictions on what 2016 holds in photography? Are there any particular stylistic trends you can see becoming prevalent this year?

One thing I am noticing more is digital photography and computer graphics becoming indiscernibly mingled. I see this hybrid style of image making as a major trend in future. Check out works by Quasimimicry and Pussykrew, for other artists working on the boundary of the real and the simulacrum.

Henry Hargreaves 

Henry Hargreaves is one of the only photographers in the world working in "conceptual food photography." Through images of the edible, Hargreaves probes a variety of societal issues, setting aside stereotypes of food photography and pushing the genre in an unconventional, invigorating direction. His project Power Hungry, made in collaboration with Caitlin Levin, is currently on display at Berlin gallery Kwadrat, and consists of "tables for two" depicting the foods eaten by the upper class of different governmental regimes next to the foods of its economical lower class.

The Creators Project: Your series Power Hungry delves into ongoing issues of worldwide starvation and nutritional deficiency through a lens of the power and wealth gap within different societies. What sparked the "table for two" as your visual metaphor? What is the most rewarding part about creating works that engage with relevant societal issues?

Henry Hargreaves: This project actually started as thinking about "doing the dishes of conquerors and dictators." I was interested in how Genghis Khan ate versus Julius Caesar. But it kind of became much more of something like "Hey, I'm sure they all ate crazy elaborate meals, but lets see what they ate in comparison to the people they are suppressing." That's how it became a "table for two" and not so much about the dictator, but how the dictator can be symbolic of the ruling class as well.

I think one of the most rewarding parts of any project is coming up with an idea and essentially not knowing what it's going to become. I suppose the most rewarding part of it is when people write back and say "Hey, you've opened up a discussion and made us see and relate to topics in a different way."

Do you have any ideas or predictions on what 2016 will look like in terms of photography? What stylistic or conceptual trends do you think might be popular in the medium in the coming year?

Just a continuation of the way that social media is becoming so much more important. 10 years ago, 99% of pictures were taken by professionals and now 99% of pictures are being taken by people on their phones. There is this kind of power shift where people who are traditionally 'the great photographers' are now the people who have great social influence. We should see this as a way to change how things have been done and as a new way to communicate ideas. There is an audience out there that is thirsty for great imagery and good content is still king.

Related: 

Pictorialism: The Movement that Birthed Modern Photography

Street Photographers Reveal the Raw Side of New York Living

Photographers Tell the Stories of America's Most Maligned City

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