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Photos Get Physical

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Published Mar 4, 2016 | View the Assignment | Features Photos From 15 Contributors

    19 photos selected by

    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions

    I dipped a leaf-like looking coral ( that I found in the sand while walking around Miami beach ) ...

    #mannequin #reflection #patern #water #portrait #face #nature #gender

    For this assignment I asked you to look at photos in a new way: as physical objects. In our digital age, this requires a high level of conceptual thinking and often a significant time commitment, so I applaud all who made the creative investment. The act of making something with your hands flexes different parts of the brain than photography’s act of seeing, and using your hands also helps widen the eye. The best entries deployed surreal and psychological themes to convey what would be impossible to capture with a camera alone.

    STRANGE WAYS: I was delighted by the wide range of materials used for this assignment, and nobody surprised me more than Ivan Lesica. A piece of coral dipped in water, brown sugar, and tin foil are all in his creative toolbox, and they were used to create new works of art— not as window dressing on top of prints—expressing a sophisticated surreal sensibility. (Try saying that phrase five times fast!) Joe Chowaniec used a simple piece of wax paper to create a nostalgic landscape, and Heather W. combined a salt rock lamp, plastic butterfly and LED light to startling effect.

    I placed my photograph of a Nicobar Pigeon on a piece of glass, covered it with brown sugar ,lit ...

    #ngmcreate_3 #ngmcreate #bird #ngmcreate_2 #ngmcreate_1 #portrait #food #sugar #nature

    Editor's Note

    Sugar! Very creative. The muted palette suits the image well and the texture of the sugar grains recalls jumbled pixels, so the real world mirrors a digital one.

    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions

    Photograph of a man holding a rhinos head in his hands placed under the silver wrap ( that I prev...

    #ngmcreate_3 #texture #ngmcreate #abstract #ngmcreate_2 #ngmcreate_1 #portrait #animal #black__and_white #rhino #nature

    Used a piece of wax paper and made it as wrinkled as possible, laid it over top of my iPad with o...

    #landscape #ngmcreate #abstract #a_spark_of_genius #nature #photos_get_physical

    Also Icarus flew too close to the sun...My daughter was jumping at the beach in Portugal, when I ...

    #butterfly #photos_get_physical

    Editor's Note

    The conceptual thinking at work is impressive, and final execution is flawless.

    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions

    It is very hard to be "yourself" when there are so many voices around you and sometimes you feel ...

    #collage #ngmcreate_3 #ngmcreate #natgeoinspires #ngmcreate_2 #ngmcreate_1 #photosgetphysical

    Editor's Note

    Intensely creative. Putting the photo in water was a compelling idea since the magnification created gives the face a 3-D effect. Beautiful composition and execution.

    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions

    INNER STATES: A number of entries paired portraits with various techniques to reveal the emotions of the subject, often showing a contrast between a placid “public” face and the private turmoil seething below. Interestingly, the subjects of the most powerful examples were all women. I thought Berrak E. Lajoie captured the category best with a haunting image of herself in a glass of water, surrounded by lace, seemingly imprisoned by society’s confining definition of femininity. By cutting and crumbling, Georgia Matsamaki made a fascinating series of self-portraits with disjointed facades. The battle between darkness and light, shown both literally and figuratively, appeared in two other striking examples.

    Self portrait made by two photographs, shot from similar angles. I printed and cut both of the ph...

    #portrait #physical

    Editor's Note

    Nicely done. This is the most compelling of the entries using braided effects. Having some variet... More

    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions

    Self portrait printed on paper, crumpled and placed on top of a black see through shirt on cardbo...

    #shirt #portrait #physical

    We lost my niece, Rachael to suicide at 18 years of age. She was beautiful and strong-willed but ...

    #conceptual #natgeoinspires #darkness_and_light #followme #photosgetphysical #rachael

    My teacher asked me to combine photography and art in one piece, and it turned into an exploratio...

    #drawing #bw #gold #woman #portrait #strong_women #thread #charcoal #strong_women_assignment

    Editor's Note

    The physicality of the piece – the scratches and rips – is a strong way to get at what is unseen, what lies below the placid surface expression.

    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions

    I cut up a photograph print of mine and laid it on a computer motherboard, attempting to marry th...

    #abstract_photography #abstract #leaf #cut_photograph #motherboards #bio_tech

    Editor's Note

    Elegant composition and interesting way to show how manmade and natural systems often mimic each other.

    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions

    Photolab prints of a single windmill patch worked to make a composite image. My goal was not...

    #prints #composite #joiners #windmill #ngm_create #patchwork #photos_get_physical

    A CUT ABOVE: Creating a compelling collage is not easy. Merging disparate elements into a cohesive whole takes planning, practice and the discipline to know what to leave out as well as what to include. A clear concept and clean execution will win the day, as in Tyler Mitchell’s elegant combination of a leaf and a circuit board, showing how natural and manufactured systems mirror each other. Don Quixote would find an admirable adversary in Patricia Fortlage’s cubist windmill, faceted with various perspectives. 

    A trio of other entries showed the transformative power of collage: a reflection of a building becomes a cat, a woman morphs into a coastal city, and a walk in the woods is elevated to a spiritual quest.

    You may think that you can leave behind the city that you grew up and you lived so many years...I...

    #collage #ngmcreate_3 #ngmcreate #natgeoinspires #ngmcreate_2 #surreal #ngmcreate_1 #selfportrait #photosgetphysical

    Coming from an artsy family-painters,sculptors,composers (on my mom's side) I always used to look...

    #collage #photogetsphysical #ngmadventure #ngmcreate #natgeoinspires #creative #kolev #culture

    This composite is especially meaningful to me as the picture of the trees was taken on the second...

    #path #get_physical_assignment #camino

    Editor's Note

    Less is often more when it comes to collages. This has impact because of the restraint shown.

    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions

    PRINTS IN PLACE: When prints were used in environmental situations, reality intersected with a document of reality, all captured in another document of reality. Whoa. How do images in the real world interact with and inform the spaces they are in? I would have liked to see more of this category, and would recommend Nick Brandt’s “Inherit the Dust” series as an inspiration.

    Vicky Enyeart combined spring and winter into a single image, Mike Melnotte offered a 3-D take on the family photo album, and Molly Sanborn time traveled three years with a self-portrait

    My favorite tree down the road is looking quite cold. I wonder if trees dream in color?

    #winter #summer #photo #tree #brown #green #photos_get_physical #picture_of_a_picture

    Editor's Note

    Lovely. A vibrant meditation on spring in the midst of winter. I would suggest trying one without... More

    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions

    They read NG and NG Kids magazines. They watch various shows on the NG channel. They are all over...

    #collage #ngmcreate_3 #ngmcreate #natgeoinspires #ngmcreate_2 #ngmcreate_1 #portraits #family

    Same bed, same background, same hair, same pose: what separates these two images is time. Three ...

    #monochrome #abstract #memory #portraits #selfportrait #people #film #style #suspended

    How much more deforestation are we going to stand for???!!!- ...

    #landscape #ngmcreate_3 #ngmcreate #abstract #weather #ngmcreate_2 #deforastation #ngmcreate_1 #photos_get_physical_assignment

    Editor's Note

    Setting a print on fire is such a wonderfully simple concept, and the subject and excellent execution are what make it work as an artistic statement rather than a mere stunt.

    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions

    LIGHT IT UP: Finally, if you get stumped creatively and don’t know what to do, just set something on fire. Shannon Hunt burned a photo of trees, and from the ashes arose an evocative image with an environmental message about deforestation.

    Thank you all for your submissions. This assignment was my first deep dive into the Your Shot community and I was heartened by how creative and supportive it is. Creativity needs to be nurtured and challenged, and you are all helping each other develop your crafts. Several of you mentioned how this assignment brought back memories of childhood, when creating was second nature. My parting encouragement is to approach your art like a child, open yourself to wonder, let go of fear and doubt, and, above all, have fun.

    About the Editor
    Darren Smith
    Deputy Editorial Director, NG International Editions
    Darren Smith supervises the 37 local-language editions of National Geographic Magazine. From Brazil to Iran to Japan, the magazine is reflected through dozens of cultures, where local teams of journalists make original stories to satisfy the curiosities of their diverse audiences. Having windows into these other worlds is a source ...

    Photographers Published In the Story