As 2016 shutters its harrowing curtains, we are left with a much more chaotic and disparaging cultural scenario than what was at the beginning of the year. But at least a lot of incredibly poignant photography was made throughout these 12 months. We’re checking back in with the 5 photographers and image-makers we heralded as the rising stars to look at in 2016 to see how they’ve aesthetically navigated through the year’s turbulent waves.
“This year I had an important spiritual and psychedelic experience that has had a profound effect on my life and work,” artist Brandon Nichols tells The Creators Project. “I saw a world without distinctions or obstructions where infinite energies melted down eternal forms.” Take one look at Nichols' new body of work titled Flow my tears and the genuine impact of this quote becomes readily apparent. These GIFs, which continue his ongoing exploration of liquefied imagery, are trippy fusions of Greco-Roman statues and gyrating celestial bodies covered in vibrant, oozing paint.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about how all things are interconnected and influence each other and how I could communicate that visually,” Nichols adds. “In this work, I imagine energy pools moving and being transferred all around us with the fluidity of liquid. Through my new visions this year, I came to understand more fully my own work and role as an artist.”
Shifting from GIFs to still images, photographer Corey Olsen saw a year of somewhat commercial highlights. After starting off 2016 with Garage Still Lifes, his first ever solo show at Julie Saul Gallery, Olsen went on to shoot his first magazine cover for Women’s Wear Daily, along with a series of commissioned work for clients like Opening Ceremony, Complex, and Under Armor Sportswear. Although the product images ultimately served commercial purposes, the final shots are so intrinsically interesting that they prove that commercial doesn’t equal soulless.
As for the year’s influence on his work, Olsen believes it had less effect on his style than his approach to taking photographs. “It’s hard to say if my work has changed much thematically because I spent more of 2016 making work for clients,” explains Corey. “But my commissioned work has influenced how I make commercial work. I’ve been making more one-off images; I’ll have an idea or something I’d like to explore and spend a lot more time planning, sourcing, executing, and articulating it into one picture.”
David Brandon Geeting did a little bit of everything this year, from publishing South Korean Nature Photography, a photo book that unsurprisingly depicts the South Korean landscape (although not limited to nature) to shooting editorials of women eating toast made with a Selfie Toaster for fashion platform YouDoYou. The photographer also began a continual photographic exercise titled Neighborhood Stroll, where Geeting walks around and photographs Greenpoint, the Brooklyn neighborhood he resides in, while posting everything he shots onto his Instagram feed.
“I made more work this year than I ever have and I made more diverse work this year than I ever have. I stopped taking corny editorials just for cash and focused on my personal work,” tells Geeting. “My frustration with Donald Trump and the populist (White supremacist) movement that is sweeping the world right now has made me eager to create more frequently and more radically, if for nothing else than to express my first amendment rights in a way that doesn’t suck.”
“It’s hard to make art about politics that’s genuine and doesn’t fall short of getting your point across, but maybe someday I’ll succeed at it. In the meantime, I’m just going to continue cranking out the weirdest shit that comes to me.”
As hard as it may be to make compelling political art, photographer Henry Hargreaves did an incredible job with A Year of Killing. A follow-up to his previous project No Seconds, Hargreaves documented the final meals of every inmate executed by the US government this year. The project combines stunning food images, a diary-like profile of the inmates’ requests and background, and a perpetually ticking clock telling how long it’s been since the meal of that particular inmate was served, compiled together on a visually enthralling website.
Hargreaves’ prolific output extended beyond a singular project this year. Throughout 2016, Hargreaves also created Rice-Ko, a series of recreations of Rothko works made entirely of different colored rice and Staff Meals of the World, a website consisting of a photographic and textual exploration of what workplaces around the world feed their staff and why they do so. The photographer also completed Celebrated for You, a series of cake still-lives arranged in a movie poster-style format, each dedicated to the birthday of an iconic film director, from Stanley Kubrick to Martin Scorsese.
“I do all my work for my own pleasure, so I just aim to keep connecting with others and using photography as my medium to explore the world and people’s relationships with field,” the photographer explains to The Creators Project.
Rounding off the list is Molly Matalon, a recent SVA graduate who quickly garnered attention after graduating for her photographic works exploring femininity, desire, and the intricate machinations of human intimacy. Within the year, Matalon completed Olive Juice, a photographic monograph made in collaboration with artist Damien Maloney that the pair have been working on for over two years. Described as “part road trip journal” and “part romantic travel memoir”, Olive Juice is 104 pages of photographic heaven that puts the viewer in a voyeuristic position through the day-to-day of Matalon and Maloney. Matalon also dabbled in editorial work this year, shooting Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and Girl Pool, an Indie Rock duo, for the covers of Bloomberg Businessweek and The Fader, respectively.
“In terms of how my work has been changing or evolving in 2016, I think I’ve been on the same path. But with Olive Juice coming out it sort of forced me to start thinking about ‘what’s next’,” says Matalon. “I guess what I can I say is that I’ve been trying to put together what I’ve been taking pictures of outside of Olive Juice and the editorial world. Upon sharing new work, a friend said that I’m ‘making provocative pictures in a gentle way’, so I’ll leave it at that.”