Author Archives: GB

Spring’s heart is in bloom, shoots up through the stony ground…

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Zalipie – Poland’s fascinating village that blooms every spring

A small ancient village in South-Eastern Poland, Zalipie, is home to a charming tradition and definitely one of the country’s top tourist attractions. Not because it has five-stars hotels or massive glass buildings, but on the contrary, due to its small wooden houses, which are painted in the most vibrant colors.

This lovely tradition started with more than a century ago, when every single female resident in Zalipie begun to paint her home with floral motives. Over the years, the flower patterns became gradually more and more sophisticated and the village literally bloomed! Currently, Zalipie is considered one of the most picturesque villages in Poland.

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Although no one is completely sure why this tradition began, it seems the reason was the smoke from stoves escaped through little more than a hole in the ceiling of the house. Women would paint over the spots of soot with whitewash. Yet the spots would still be partially visible and it is believed that the women, in order for their house to appear immaculate for religious festivals, took to covering the remnants of soot stains with paintings of flowers. The spreading of this idea may have happened spontaneously throughout the village. Yet I like the idea of a lone woman looking around her kitchen and suddenly having her “Eureka!” moment. And since they didn’t have professionally made equipment, they manufactured the brushes themselves, using hair from the tails of their cows. As or the paint itself, the women used fat from the dumplings they made. Very important is that each year, all the women had to repaint their charming drawings. And they did so, after the Feast of Corpus Christi, when they weren’t so busy with their farm work. Once modern cooking and better ventilation came in to practice, these cover-ups were no longer necessary.

In time, this joyfully and unique habit was passed on from one generation to another. Moreover, women found inspiration in nature and local folklore, so their paintings became both larger and more colorful. Over time, the practice has spread beyond the walls of the cottages too – it seems in Zalipie any immovable object is potentially the site for a florescent flourish. Nothing, it seems, escapes their attention. The chicken coups are painted. The village bridge is painted. The bins are painted. The dog’s cages are painted. Old fountains are painted. Not to mention fences, windows and interior walls. It’s a real delight!

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One woman in particular retained and developed the tradition. Felicja Curyłowa (1904 – 1974) became so obsessed with the floral decorations that she covered almost every possible surface of her three-bedroomed cottage with her ornate adornments. Unsurprisingly her beautiful home has been turned into a museum, to be preserved as the epitome of this wonderful folk art. Yet although Curyłowa’s house is beautifully maintained, the art was not created with the aim of attracting visitors. Some of it looks a little worn around the edges – yet these pieces, left to their own devices, are often those which look both the most attractive and authentic.

The perfect time to visit Zalipie is spring, as during this season, since 1948, the village hosts an important contest: the Painted Cottage competition or “Malowana Chata”. Its introduction was part of the movement to help the country psychologically recover from the horrors of the Second World War, in which it saw over 17% of Poland’s population perish.

Zalipie is quite well known to Poles yet tourists from further afield are still something of a novelty for the villagers. They are said to be as curious of their visitors as their guests are about the gorgeous painted cottages of Zalipie. So pay them a visit, maybe? Meanwhile, let’s take a virtual tour.

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Beauty comes in all colors: superb photographs of people from around the world

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Afar girl’s eyes, Danakil, Ethiopia by Eric Lafforgue

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12 stories for 12 lovers: artist creates 12 heels to represent 12 ex-girlfriends (NSFW)

Well this is one way to walk all over your exes: use them as inspiration for a shoe collection. Artist Sebastian Errazuriz did just that, turning 12 ex-lovers into one wildly imaginative shoe collection.

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Errazuriz worked together with Melissa, a shoe company famous for working together with other high-profile designers like Vivienne Westwood and Karl Lagerfeld. While they surely kicked ass, let’s not forget that this probably wouldn’t have been executed to such a degree if it were not for the use of 3D printing. It’s always superb to see art make use of trending technology, there are few relationships I find so symbiotic. The pairing testifies the tech, while also breathes new life into the art. A reminder that sometimes inspiration and ideation can be born out of simply looking to what’s modern (and how that can be exploited).

Each pair is named for one of Errazuriz’s former flames, from “Ice Queen Sophie” to “Heart Breaker Laura” to the “Gold Digger Alison,” and all personify each woman through Errazuriz’s eyes. To add one more emotional layer, the artist wrote small yet-detailed stories about each relationship (note they are NSFW) and how it inevitably ended. Some of the descriptions are beautiful and flattering, while others are not quite as nice. However, they seem like an act of deliberate public self-exposure and sincerity, and I like how this sincerity makes him extremely vulnerable to these women from his past and to judgement, which gives the project a great deal of power.

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To me, what makes this project really shine is the writing, the stories or the names that accompany every design. Those tiny tales are little slices of Errazuriz’s life, and without them, I feel the project wouldn’t have been so captivating. There’s a degree of relatability that results in an invitation to the viewer. Rather than search for meaning in every shoe, he hands it to us, neatly wrapped in colloquial regard. It’s a refreshing offering, especially in contrast to all the other art usually on exhibit; sure, the shoes look nice, but it’s the accompanying writing and pictures that deliver the charm and make this project so appealing.

There’s much more to 12 Shoes for 12 Lovers than just the shoes; I believe it could have just as easily been titled “12 Stories for 12 Lovers.” And there’s something for everyone in this offering—whether it be the fashion, the design, the tech, the writing, or the photography. If none of that, Errazuriz manages to at least captivate with something we can all relate to: love and heartbreak. Bear with my pessimism (there’s a light at the end of it), but to me, the project prompts the assumption that life generally goes badly, which in turn aids in the realization of a good relationship being unusual. Errazuriz’s offering is a message to be more appreciative of when things do go your way. People who look at you like maybe you’re magic are rare and hard to find. :) So when you find one, make sure you’ll protect and take care of her/him the best you can. :)

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First snowdrops of the year | And spring rushes back to me :-)

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New York: when the city sleeps.

The Wall Street Journal sent several photographers out overnight to shoot New York City during the hours when most of its citizens are sleeping.

Here are photos of those awake when most of the city is not.

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Delivery man Rich Lopes carries a stack of newspapers to a vendor on Wall Street at 5:57 a.m. (Keith Bedford for The Wall Street Journal)

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A food vendor walks up 11th Avenue near 47th Street. (Ramsay de Give for The Wall Street Journal)

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Steve McCurry: gorgeous photographs of people reading around the world.

Photojournalist Steve McCurry is best known for shooting one of the most famous photographs ever taken -– 1985′s “Afghan Girl,” an image of a young girl with sea green eyes staring defiantly into the camera. But war and those affected by it are not his only subjects. “Like most photographers, I’m fascinated by people in everyday situations,” he says. “The work I do is mostly wandering and observing human nature and human activity, working and playing and leisure time. As you’re walking around the streets of China, India, New York, whererver -– it is fun to photograph people simply doing things.”

One of his ongoing projects is compiling a collection of photos of people reading, entitled “Fusion: The Synergy of Energy and Words” (Part I and Part II). The idea to shoot photos of people reading was itself prompted by his relationship with legendary Hungarian photographer André Kertész, who was also fascinated with images of people reading. (You can view a gallery here).

McCurry’s photos cross these cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. His personal favorite of his collection is a photo of a young Thai man reading a book while nestled up to the back of an elephant, shot earlier this year (and reproduced below). Among the two dozen images posted online is  photo of a group of Chinese men perusing newspapers through a shop window, another of  an Afghan shopkeeper reading in his modest stall, and one Italian monks in contemplation with their Bibles.

As a photographer, McCurry is always on the hunt for the “unguarded moment,” that slice of time that reveals something personal and honest. “Reading offers a time for contemplation. Even in Afghanistan, where life is not easy, you notice people in unlikley circumstances reading,” he says. “I have a picture of a man in a manhole (below) -– he was using it as a bomb shelter between air raids — who was reading the book. Reading is something any literate person is drawn to do and it becomes a part of your life. It’s just one of the things that connects us all together, that reminds us that we’re all the same.”

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00418_05. Man reads a book from a hole in the ground.

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Material World: A global family portrait.

I’m longtime fans of photojournalist Peter Menzel, whose visual anthropology captures the striking span of humanity’s socioeconomic and cultural spectrum. His Hungry Planet portrayed the world’s sustenance with remarkable graphic eloquence, and today I’m turning to some of his earliest work, doing the same for the world’s shelter: Material World: A Global Family Portrait — a beautiful visual time-capsule of life in 30 countries, captured by 16 of the world’s leading photographers.

In each of the 30 countries, Menzel found a statistically average family and photographed them outside their home, with all of their belongings. The result is an incredible cross-cultural quilt of possessions, from the utilitarian to the sentimental, revealing the faceted and varied ways in which we use “stuff” to make sense of the world and our place in it.

Though the book is now 17 years old, it is still relevant and it’s still a curious meta-evidence for the material world we live in. Some of these families may have more today, but the disparity is probably the same in most cases. It still circulates. And for another excellent companion read, see Menzel’s 1998 follow-up, Women in the Material World — a fascinating look at an even more intimate aspect of the human family.

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Mali: The Natomo Family

It’s common for men in this West African country to have two wives, as 39-year-old Soumana Natomo does, which increases their progeny and in turn their chance to be supported in old age. Soumana now has eight children, and his wives, Pama Kondo (28) and Fatouma Niangani Toure (26), will likely have more. How many of these children will survive, though, is uncertain: Mali’s infant mortality rate ranks among the ten highest in the world. Possessions not included in this photo: Another mortar and pestle for pounding grain, two wooden mattress platforms, 30 mango trees, and old radio batteries that the children use as toys.

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Hungry Planet: what the world eats.

Well known for his eye-opening book Material World: A Global Family Portrait where he asked an average family in 30 locations to empty out their homes to show their possessions, Peter Menzel came up with another brilliant book idea. He teamed up with his wife, Faith D’Aluision, and together traveled the world exploring how the eating habits differ from country to country. Then the duo presented their results in a photo album, called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.

Apart from being interesting and educative, the project brings up some social issues. The exposed weekly grocery list provides information not only about dietary habits, but also about health, economy, lifestyle, etc. It also clearly shows the division between the first world and the developing countries. Interestingly, less affluent families eat more nutritious food than those who could actually afford it. On the contrary, more economically stable families eat more processed food, while fresh products constitute just a small part of their diet.

The wife and husband’s team visited 24 different countries and 30 families to photograph them at home, at the market, and surrounded by their weekly food supplies.

Website: Peter Menzel, Book: What the World Eats

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Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp

Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23
Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat

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Toy Stories: photos of children from around the world with their most prized possessions.

What was your favorite toy as a child? In Gabriele Galimberti’s wonderful series Toy Stories, which I recently spotted over at Feature Shoot, the Italian photographer traveled the world to photograph children with their most prized possessions, be they pink or blue, new or old, plentiful or scarce. The resulting photo series is in turns haunting and funny, but Galimberti’s reports from the field are equally interesting. “The richest children were more possessive. At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them,” Galimberti says. “In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”

Toy Stories doesn’t just appeal in its cheerful demeanor, but it really becomes quite the anthropological study. And, ultimately, these photos give poignant insight into poverty on a very basic level – children’s toys.

Page through a few of our favorites from the series after the jump, and then be sure to head over to Galimberti’s website to see many more.

Tangawizi – Keekorok, Kenya

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