Connor Stefanison was born on May 31, 1991 in Burnaby, Canada. He was introduced to the world of photography while indulging his other passion, mountain biking. Since then Connor devoted ample time to better understand the nuances of the craft. And when, less than a year ago, he became the first Canadian to receive the prestigious Eric Hosking Portfolio Award, presented to him in London, he knew he is on the right track. The honour not only granted him instant international recognition but also provided him with motivation to broaden his horizon even further.
Being a student of Zoological Sciences, Connor Stefanison’s deeper understanding of the wildlife seems to positively affect his capability as a photographer. This in turn is reflected on the images captured by him of birds and other animals in their natural habitat, such as the baby American dippers screaming for food or a solitary Agalychnis callidryas peeping from behind two slender branches of a tree.
The scenic landscapes closer home or in other parts of North America do not escape Connor’s keen eyes either. Using his enthusiastic mind and roving camera lenses he keeps on registering the lavish flower bed in Mount Revelstoke National Park, the threadlike streams of Fern Falls or the frozen tunnel in Summer Melt on photographic plates — the ever changing grand canvas of nature fresh and fragrant at one point, eerie silent the next.
Legendary artist Paul Gauguin said, Nature has mysterious infinities and imaginative power. It is always varying the productions it offers to us. The artist himself is one of nature’s means. Even considering all his accomplishments Connor Stefanison’s career as a visual artist has only begun. It will be of infinite interest for all the aficionados of photography to follow his development as a visual storyteller closely and find out for themselves if he has done justice to his natural talent. Encouragingly for him, he will always find inexhaustible sources of inspiration in nature that will never fail him if he continues remaining truthful to it.
We would never know if the famous Rascal Flatts song Life is a Highway was in the back of the subconscious mind of Joe Simpson, the gifted artist from England, when he created Across America. For the paintings, often consisting fleeting images of a vast country, evoke a feeling of Life’s like a road that you travel on / When there’s one day here and the next day gone / Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand / Sometimes you turn your back to the wind. If noticed closely the sketches, monochromatic and denuded from any distraction, feel even more intimate. As if you may find your own home or the corner of a street of your neighbourhood staring back at you from the frames!
Joe Simpson is one of those artists whose faith is firmly rooted in realism. He uses facets from everyday lives to weave his story on canvas. So common men and women with their hopes and aspirations, love and affections, despondencies and rejections become loci of his narratives. In that respect his work is a golden link between him and the masters of Dutch Golden Age who brought genre paintings into the centre of attention. Appropriate to the age the backdrop changes as much as does the characters. The rustic folks busy in merrymaking or a lonely girl working at a corner of a room are replaced by men and women jostling with each other in an urban setting or a forlorn figure intently reading a letter with a smirk on the face. And at times objects like telegraph poles and pylons set up against the wide blue yonder are personified to communicate their own story.
Born in 1984, Lancaster, England, Joe Simpson acquired critical acclaim showcasing his work in a number of galleries in United Kingdom and beyond. Not only did he manage to excel in a relatively short period of time but also exhibited his entrepreneurial and organisational skills. His series Almost There and Musician Portraits required considerable efforts from his part to make the collaboration between him and some of the busiest musicians of this day as smooth as possible. To provide for Across America he depended on crowd funding and returned the favours of the contributors by sending them his paintings. His favourite artist Edward Hopper asserted, The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm. Let us then try to peep into the heart and mind of this young painter.
Robert van Koesveld’s passion of photography found able allies in his artist’s mind which in turn joined forces with his restless feet always in search of wonders in distant landscapes. Still it remained largely a hobby for him until recently and only received primary focus during his many sojourns. About four years ago, he took a break from his full time profession as a psychotherapist and educator. As usual he enjoyed his journey through different places and relished the opportunities of photographing the known and unknown facets of the land and the people living there. But this time he did not go back to his work, instead, he devoted time in exploring the world even more. To ensure the imagery what his mind absorbed is presented faithfully to the audience across the globe he started maintaining extensive visual diaries. While many locales unmasked themselves in front of the camera lenses of this photographer, Bhutan — a tiny nation nestled into the Himalayas, enthralled him most.
Illustrious sojourners or a common man, who keep an open mind during their trips to foreign land, have discovered for themselves the immensely nourishing experience of travelling on both mind and body. Yet, with each of our perspectives being unlike, even if slightly, the other person’s standing next to us, an image may uncover different versions of a story to each one of us. A reflection on a dewdrop hanging from the edge of a blade of green grass, a wildflower thriving on the roadside in defiance of the tramples she puts up with everyday of her existence or the octogenarian woman sitting beside an earthen oven and fanning the fire not essentially out of necessity but more of habit may evoke varied emotions in different person’s hearts. But irrespective of that shade of sensation, it will stir a creative mind enough to let it yearn for an expression. And for an artist it is vital to be truthful to his or her own vision. While erstwhile travellers like Marco Polo resorted to cartography to have the viewers retrace the places he visited, modern technology has given us camera for capturing tiny moments of this rapidly flowing time. And while people like Robert van Koesveld are striving to hold the glimmering gems in palm before their sparkles are lost forever in the annals of time, let us not dither any longer in retracing the steps of his photographic journey.
Michelle Dunaway was born in Alaska where she spent many of her nights watching the fascinating colours of the night sky created by the northern lights. She moved to New Mexico in her teens and was greeted by the enchanting beauty of the land. But the enigma that captivated her most since her childhood was the expressions, often ephemeral in nature, on the faces of human being. As her fondness for painting grew with time, she actively engaged her brushes in tracing the obscure language of human sentiments being expressed through the whole body. In the process she took training in the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California; earned awards and recognition including an Award of Exceptional Merit from Portrait Society of America’s International Portrait Competition, 2010; involved herself in teaching at California Art Institute, Westlake Village and at Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art; and established herself as a premier visual chronicler of life. Her portraits and figurative paintings, ‘Remembering Home’, ‘Strength and Grace’ or ‘Poetry’ aptly depict what has long been suspected, that, ‘Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.’
The name of Broken Hill, located in the far west of outback New South Wales, Australia, seems almost ironical. The wide vista spread till the horizon is covered by cupric red soil. Sunlight plays all day long on the undulating plain that is interspersed by the rocky ridges. The eerie silence of the desert is broken only by the vehicles journeying to and fro and the heavy machineries at work, unearthing the precious metal both above and beneath the earth’s crust. But that is not all. If you strain your ears long enough you will hear the voices of working men and women; the sound of their bustling activities; their unified chatter, music and even sighs. Bring your ears close to the ground and listen, for the earth may tell you stories that heaven knows nothing of.
On this sun soaked forsaken land another person is earnestly shifting the Golden Soil to reveal the tales of Broken Hill. Camera in hand, Sébastien Millier is busy unravelling the precious chronicle of this rich land. His efforts, as documented in Golden Soil, earned him awards and admirations from Prix de la Photographie, Paris, International Photography Awards (IPA) and Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize, Sydney in 2013.
Sébastien Millier’s photographic exploits do not end with Golden Soil by any means. His commissioned project Pay With A Kiss also received the Caples Award, 2013 and accolades worldwide. From Nuit Blanche to Debris, Sébastien Millier’s peering eyes explore the cycle of life and decay and raise some serious questions about what lies Beneath the Surface. Learn about this curious traveller and photographer’s journey from his own mouth.