Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo recently interviewed Magnum photographer Alex Majoli about his recent Obscura Magnum Commission, TUDO BOM. They discuss the current economic crisis in Brazil, the aesthetic strategies for conveying conceptual ideas, the limitations of photography and how outside influences like theatre and performance inform the artist’s work.
DE: TUDO BOM, meaning “Everything Well?” in Portuguese, is a continuation of work you’ve been doing in Brazil for some time. The pandemic has amplified the economic and safety concerns in the country. Can you speak to what you were most concerned with, in the present moment, when documenting Brazil and the main concern with this project?
In Season 1, our Curated and Magnum Season Passes have funded more than 30 photographers to produce new and exclusive Web3-native photography projects.
In Season 2, we want to expand and carry on our missions to:
Obscura is a growing and vibrant community of artists, collectors, curators, and builders brought together with a mission to produce NFT native photography. Since our inception, we have envisioned the blockchain as the first place for photographic images to commence their cultural circulation. Through thoughtful curation, we enable collectors to support and assemble new work from a diverse group of artists around the world.
Our organization empowers emerging and established photographers by bringing their projects to life. We are an organization run by artists for artists. While commissioning world renowned photographers in projects with full creative autonomy, we redistribute a sizable portion of funds through grants, exhibitions, and more opportunities with input from our burgeoning community.
Since its founding in October, 2021, Obscura has provided more than 1.2 million dollars to 366 artists within nine different commission-based initiatives with the support from over 500 collectors in the NFT space.
Alejandro Cartagena is an artist, photographer and photo book publisher. His work is collected by major museums including the SFMoMA, J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. He is interested in the cultural meaning of photographs. Collector of NFTs. Founding artist of theRAWdao.
Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo recently interviewed Magnum photographer Hannah Price about her recent Obscura Magnum Commission, It’s Expensive to Be Poor. They discuss the systemic and economic issues that many people face in this country, the responsibility of using your platform for change, and how the power of text and image can work together to deepen narrative context in a visually saturated culture.
DE: It's a pleasure to meet with you today. I'm curious if you could give us an overview of this project, It’s Expensive to Be Poor, as well as, how and when you met Lisa, the main subject of this project?
Obscura Journal Contributor Brileigh Hardcastle recently interviewed photographer Todd Hido for the drop of his Obscura Curated Commission: The Black Mechanism. They discuss the role of inclement weather in this new body of work, how it might relate to an underlying existential anxiety while searching for the unknown in this “ambient darkness.”
BH: Todd, I like the variety of subject matter across all of your work, from portraits to suburban homes, and now landscapes. As an artist, do you feel that you work against the idea of being “pigeon holed”? How has this allowed you to grow as a photographer?
TH: I tend to have a natural resistance to being boxed into anything. It has served me well as an artist because I often tend to work on many projects at one time, which allows for thoughtful iteration between the genres I work in. It basically gives me the time and distance to back away from something and see it from a different spot, instead of keeping my head down working on one thing until it is completely done, which, for me, at least, is somewhat unnatural when it comes to making art.
The photographer Jim Goldberg is well-known for his expansive toolbox of storytelling techniques, and his work is often heralded for new innovations in the documentary tradition. Goldberg often trains his lens on the types of subjects that other photographers ignore, and his work frequently dispels the misconceptions of people on the fringes of mainstream society. All the while, the photographer speaks in various visual voices in a multi-faceted form of storytelling that acknowledges the complexities of his subject matter. It is with these practices that Goldberg presents his latest body of work, Whirlpool.
Hannah Whitaker’s body of work, Ursula 3 examines our relationship with technology and digital servantry in contemporary life. Working meticulously in the studio between both analog and digital tools, Whitaker engages in a process of world-building around the development of a character named Ursula. As a continuation of an existing body of work, in this new series Whitaker incorporates special effects lighting, silhouettes, rear projection and fabricated sets to evoke a more established language of the Ursula lineage. She continues to push the exploration of gender stereotypes, AI, digital consent, and dehumanization. Whitaker is challenging the ubiquitous public domain of female bots and servants and highlights their consequences, damage, and complexities as we usher Ursula into a synthetic universe.
ARCHER: This series, Ursula 3, is an extension of your previous bodies of work featuring the same character. She is a female form, obscured in silhouette, against celestial, sci-fi inspired luminous backdrops, exploring the ever-present gender bias found in an increasing era of digital servants, AI, and sex-bots. In your new Obscura commissioned series, you overtly cover her form with futuristic, iridescent gloves, a hood, and a turtleneck, almost as if you were trying to unsex her image. Was this an attempt to see if you could in fact make her less objectified and perhaps more human?
Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo recently interviewed Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak about his recent Obscura Magnum Commission, « Bitcoin Nation » - El Salvador. They discuss the current economic and political complexities of El Salvador as it relates to cryptocurrency, the divide between Bitcoin enthusiasts and the NFT community, and the challenges that failure can bring when developing a project.
DE: In 2021, the President of El Salvador suddenly declared Bitcoin the official currency of the country, the operative word here being ‘suddenly’. Can you give us a little bit of context about that event and some of the after-effects?
Tania Franco Klein’s Obscura Curated commissioned drop of Subject Studies is a collection that recontextualizes narrative and the mechanics of othering by taking an anthropological approach to the perception of the gaze. Klein examines the gravitas of a “Subject” by maintaining constants through location, composition, and lighting. The differentiating variable is the person in the photograph and the viewer’s projection grounded in their own unique worldview. We as viewers experience how our own subjectivities shape the meaning, story, and intention within each scene. In essence, Klein holds up a mirror to reveal one’s own personal history, cultural gaze, preferences, and traumas. To distill the body of work down to a quote by writer Anaïs Nin, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
ARCHER: With the cinematic quality of your work, who were your greatest influences and what inspired you the most that left an imprint on who you are as an artist today?
On Tuesday, February 7, 2022, The Billboard Collective (TBC) collaborated with Obscura to launch its latest exhibition of 30 NFT photographs on billboards throughout the streets of Los Angeles. The images on display were submitted from artists across the globe to an open call on Discord and then selected by artist Mona Kuhn and Obscura’s co-founder Alejandro Cartagena. By combining billboards and NFTs, the exhibition blurs the line between the tangible and the digital. The exhibition will run for one month, with a map containing the names of all artists and the location of their works which can be found here.
It is so important to get out there and see the location of the billboards in person because you immediately start making connections between the urban setting and the artworks, and that is when it starts coming alive. — Mona Kuhn
Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo recently interviewed Magnum photographer Lua Ribeira about her newest work for the Obscura Magnum Commission, Agony in the Garden. They discuss the subcultures surrounding trap and drill music, how these subcultures are influenced by the complexities of economic crisis and late-stage capitalism, and the ways visual lyricism and metaphor can be used to transcend pure documentary gestures.
DE: What is this body of work all about and where did the idea come from?
Obscura Journal contributor Kristyna Archer interviewed Irish photographer Niall O’Brien for Obscura Journal in advance of his Obscura Community Commission drop. They discuss O’Brien’s entry point to photography, his process, and his recent Obscura Community Commission, an NFT photo essay titled 405.
Niall O’Brien is a photographer looking to tell stories from an honest, raw, and unfiltered truth. He is an active Obscurian, a WHO WE ARE grant recipient, a part of Fellowship Futures, and was commissioned by the Obscura Community Commission Two years After the Storm. Niall had actually taken my portrait for the Who We Are grant and it was selected to be minted on Foundation for WWA 200. Our exchange was brief but mighty. I had not been properly photographed since 2019. I was so humbled to see Niall take out his 4x5 and medium format cameras, solidifying how special this moment was in connecting me back to my roots with shooting on my Hasselblad.
Obscura Journal Contributor Brileigh Hardcastle recently interviewed Obscura Community Commission artists: Natalie Sosa, Summer Wagner, Alize Jireh, Amanda “A.B.” Martinez, Heather N. Stout, Yogan Muller, Badir McCleary, Niall O’Brien, Jahnny Lee, and Matthew Reamer for the drop of the first Obscura Community Commission. Each responded to the theme “Two Years After the Storm,” a commission about the current state the United States of America. They discuss their process, and their projects which explore the pandemic, politics, environment, social and gender inequality, the police and more.
It's nice to be alive by Natalie Sosa
Natalie Sosa is a Mexican photographer making work that explores our everyday relationship to the urban environment. For Obscura Community Commission, Natalie traveled to New York to depict how the pandemic had affected a bustling city’s livelihood, while finding beauty from all of the dramatic changes.
Obscura Journal Contributor Gregory Eddi Jones recently interviewed Magnum photographer Alec Soth in advance of his Obscura Curated Commission drop, Dissolutions (Sleeping by the Mississippi). They discuss Alec’s latest commission and how the value of a photograph doesn’t necessarily reside in the image itself.
GEJ: To start Alec, and not to flatter you too much, but Sleeping by the Mississippi is one of the most iconic photobooks in recent memory. Before we get into the details about your process, can you talk about why you decided to revisit the project for the Obscura commission?
Obscura is excited to unveil the first generation of the Obscura Community Commission. Each season, Obscura designates a commission theme or subject to photograph for the community. As a platform dedicated to facilitating photographers to pursue their projects, 10 artists were selected to go out and make work responding to pressing issues happening today around the world. “Two Years After the Storm” is commission about the current state the United States of America. This includes the pandemic, politics, environment, social and gender inequality, the police and more.
Each artist is provided a mentorship program and a curatorial partnership to help develop their work during the commission. Obscura’s first guest mentor for this commission will be Magnum photographer Jim Goldberg. He has assisted the Obscura team to help and inspire the selected photographers, as well as curate the final collection drop. Each artist delivered a collection of 15 NFTs to become part of a 150-piece curated collection. The funding for these commissions are secured through season passes to collectors which grant holders five 1/1 NFTs.
I took the theme “Two Years After the Storm” very personally. It's been a project that has pushed me to new boundaries, to focus on new things and from alternate perspectives. Sometimes we get so stuck in our own box and when we have great mentors teaching us how to see things from a different perspective, you can learn quite a bit about yourself quickly.
Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo recently interviewed Magnum photographer Sabiha Çimen about her newest work for the Obscura Magnum Commission, Transfiguration: The Double Life of Şeyma. They discuss the collision of contemporary culture and Muslim tradition in Turkey and one woman’s relationship with both.
DE: It’s such a pleasure to get to talk with you about this project. What is Transfiguration: The Double Life of Şeyma all about?
AA: I want to ask you about your first experiences with photography. What drew you to the medium? What was your first camera and when did you feel the "calling" as they like to say?
FG: Since I can remember I was interested in film and photography, my grandfather used to have some weird old cameras in his studio, those 3d 35mm cameras and other stuff. The first camera I remember owning for myself must be the Gameboy camera, but I believe the camera with which I learned photography was a Minolta x700. I think I felt “the calling” when I saw American Surfaces by Stephen Shore, it was just so strange to me that one of the most respected living art photographers was making such mundane images, it got me wondering how is it that photography works as an art, from there I couldn’t stop thinking about it to this day.
Obscura Journal Contributor Brileigh Hardcastle recently interviewed artist Claudia Pawlak in preparation for the first ever Foundry Commission drop, where five artists were awarded the opportunity to envision and work on a new project of their choosing. The first generation of artists received mentorship and curatorial assistance throughout the process. Pawlak discusses In Translation, a series of twenty five images created for the commission and how the AI generated project meets at the intersection of history, photography, and technology.
NFT’s are part of the new digital frontier: they are an emerging asset that has transformed the photography world and renewed a sense of excitement within the community. Coming from a traditional art background, I have mostly interacted with new faces as the majority of my artist network remains hesitant to come aboard. I was surprised when I discovered someone I knew long before I immersed myself in the world of web3: Claudia Pawlak.
Carousel Curated, Obscura's first community project, features a collection of found slides minted as NFTs. Co-founded by Felix Denomme and Oliver Dahl, this ongoing project aims to become the world’s largest archive of found slides, immortalizing moments of the past onto the blockchain that were otherwise left to fade away. Each “drop” of curated, tagged, and cataloged slides will contain 80 photographs, matching the tray capacity of the original Kodak Carousel.
Felix and Oliver met within the NFT photography community after being selected for Obscura’s WHO WE ARE grant and discovered their mutual interest in found slides. Both had the idea to launch their own NFT collection and decided to come together to create a collection of found slides that anyone could contribute to. Carousel Curated creates a more diverse memory of the past while echoing the decentralized nature of web3. It also makes for an easy onboarding experience into NFTs: anyone can post images of their found slides in the carousel-curated discord channel, the team will mint the works, and if selected they will receive 70% of all sales. The remaining 30% will be split between the Carousel Curated Team and the Obscura treasury to help fund future projects and grants.
When I brought up NFTs in my local community there was a lot of resistance because of the media’s negative portrayal of NFTs but after mentioning this project it was the first time people were excited and wanted to contribute.
Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo recently interviewed artist Gregory Eddi Jones in preparation for the first ever Foundry Commission drop where five artists were awarded the opportunity to envision and work on a new project of their choosing. The first generation of artists received mentorship and curatorial assistance throughout the three month process. Jones discusses Hanami Blocks, a series of twenty-five images that question the increasingly blurry lines of the photographic medium, and how it contends with the intrinsic properties and behaviors of the NFT space.
DE: Tell us about Hanami Blocks.
Obscura Journal Contributor Kristyna Archer recently interviewed artist Josip Artuković in preparation for the first ever Foundry Commission drop, where five artists were awarded the opportunity to envision and work on a new project of their choosing. The first generation of artists received mentorship and curatorial assistance throughout the process. Artuković discusses Tea Soaked Madeleines, a series of twenty five images created for the commission and the project’s relationship to Proust, August Sander, and the depiction of textures inflicted by inherited traumas.
Josip Artuković's vibrant enthusiasm for photography radiates out of the Contemporary Photography channel in the Obscura Discord. He’s a tried and true educator, not looking to impose his own assumptions or preferences of the medium, but purely providing information and context to form your own opinions and push the conversation forward. When I had the chance to interview the man behind the thoughtful Discord channel, I was excited for the opportunity to dig deeper, reveal his personal relationship with photography, and understand the intention behind his work. Here we discuss Artuković’s Foundry Commission on behalf of Obscura, learn more about his process, and his intention behind his photography. Artuković set the stage for the context behind these images:
Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo recently interviewed artist Mickey Smith in preparation for the first ever Foundry Commission drop, where five artists were awarded the opportunity to envision and work on a new project of their choosing. The first generation of artists received mentorship and curatorial assistance throughout the process. Smith discusses TIME & AGAIN, a series of twenty five images created for the commission and her experience with archives, libraries, and the unique relationship they share with grief.
DE: Before we get into your Obscura Commission, can you tell us about your practice at large?
Obscura is the natural bridge between the traditional art making world and web3. It combines the idea of community, market, and artistic vision to produce NFTs that offer value to both the collector and the artist. - Alejandro Cartagena
Obscura is pleased to announce the first generation of the Foundry Commission. Five commissions have been awarded to emerging and mid-career artists working with photography. Over the course of four weeks, each artist is assisted through a mentorship program and curatorial partnership to develop a project. Each artist will produce a collection of twenty-five NFTs.
The five photographers selected for the first Foundry Commission are as follows:
Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo recently interviewed Magnum photographer Carolyn Drake and her creative partner Andres Gonzalez in advance of their collection debut, Ficciones. They discuss their approach to the Obscura Magnum Commission, collective and individual histories, and collaboration as a mindset as well as a creative vehicle.
DE: Tell us about Ficciones and how did the project begin?
in the words of Lorenzo Meloni
The day before yesterday the artillery fire was quite intense as civilians tried to escape from Irpin. Both the Ukrainians and the Russians accuse each other of breaking the truce. Impossible for me to understand, because in the end the artillery fire comes from both sides. The result however is that some civilians are killed and others wounded. As the fighting intensifies, the number of civilians leaving the country obviously increases.
Obscura Journal Contributor Gregory Eddi Jones recently interviewed photographer Deanna Templeton in advance of her Obscura Curated Commission drop, The Village. They discuss Deanna’s background in photography, her long term approach to documenting an endangered place from her childhood, and using the camera as a portkey to her family history and childhood memories.
GEJ: To begin, Deanna, can you offer a brief background of your career in photography for those who aren’t yet familiar with your work?
in the words of Lorenzo Meloni
Kyiv now experiences two parallel and opposite dimensions. On the surface, young men and women prepare for battle, while in the basement of buildings and metro tunnels, families seek shelter. From hour to hour the mood changes, there are moments when everything seems to be going well and then suddenly for reasons beyond logic the tension rises. The tanks are still at the gates of the city. Yesterday I went to take pictures on the front line, it seemed relatively calm, but it seems that tomorrow I won't be able to return to the same place because the Russian Army have advanced.
in the words of Lorenzo Meloni
Today I spent an hour or two on the streets of Kiev. The logistic is very complicated as most of the fixers have left or decided to fight and the same goes for having a driver or just a car. Apart from a bombing on a TV antenna the situation is tense but calm. It’s probably the calm before the storm, as I see from the news that there is a 60km (?!) queue of tanks at the gates of Kiev.
Along the streets I found many barricades and checkpoints set up by citizens. I saw many young people, especially in the suburbs, protecting their neighbourhood. I don't know if they know or not that those barricades won't stop any tanks. But I didn't feel I had to tell them that, if they want to hope so.
NFT WAR REPORTING
In an effort to support reporters covering breaking news and conflict zones independently and without the support of the media outlets, Obscura facilitates this Emergency Reporting Commission launching the first edition with Lorenzo Meloni from Magnum Photos reporting from Ukraine.
Using the power of NFTs to document historical moments unfolding in real time, this is an opportunity to directly fund independent professionals that are committed to reporting from the field and stay connected to a supporting audience.
Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo recently interviewed Magnum photographer Lorenzo Meloni in advance of his Obscura Magnum Commission drop, The Kabuler. They discuss his approach to the commission, the role of photojournalism and the nuanced function of storytelling in times of crisis.
DE: Tell us about The Kabuler, your newest commission with Obscura?
A conversation with NFT photographers Mia Forrest, Lily Hatten, and Amy Woodward
Web3 offers the power & promise of sovereign equitable democratized storytelling, with the freedom to own your narrative on the blockchain. Yet we are still held back by the ties of Web2 that quickly confront that alluring “progress.” Albeit, the baggage of Web2 will continue to haunt us, yet this digital Renaissance allows us the opportunity to rewrite the rules.
Obscura Journal Contributor Danielle Ezzo recently Interviewed Alessandra Sanguinetti in advance of Alessandra’s upcoming Obscura Magnum Commission drop. They discuss her iconic photo series “The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and The Enigmatic Meaning of Their Dreams,” and her approach to the Obscura Magnum Commission.
DE: I see the ‘Adventures of Guille and Belinda’ series not just about girlhood and female companionship, but also about you reflecting on your own childhood, by way of these two close cousins. What would you say the similarities or differences are?
“Eight Magnum photographers have been commissioned to create new work in a partnership between the agency and Obscura. [The Artists] were asked to contribute to the inaugural season of NFT (Non-Fungible Token) collections.”
Official from Magnum Photos
Reuben Wu Interview
AA: I’m very interested in the start of your career as a photographer? What inspired you to pick up the camera? How did that grow into the landscape photographer you are known as today?
RW: I trained and worked for a few years as an industrial designer, but as a child, all I wanted to be was an artist. Becoming a designer, and then a touring recording musician for 10 years after, was a kind of a primer to help me ease into a career in art, through photography. My arrival in photography came about via a number of things: a lifelong desire for adventure and solitude in wild places, the compatibility photography has with travel, and the opportunities for innovation and experimentation in photography as a craft.
My time in the NFT space has been brief but it has introduced me to a myriad of talented artists and photographers. Within this space, I have found myself in awe of a specific kind of photographer that displays a vulnerability in their work that has utterly gripped me. Today, I will be discussing the work of Lily Hatten, who is an Australian portrait photographer that specializes in capturing the intimacy and rawness of motherhood.
Cristina de Middel Interview
DE: What intrigues me about your oeuvre is that many of your projects are framed within two frameworks: an overarching, often universal idea, and a more localized, personal narrative within that. How do you choose and research your projects? And in the case of The Royal Pinedo, can you tell us how the project began?
CM: I participated in a big exhibition called Africa Americanos, a survey of all the remains of African descent in Latin America. That’s when I learned about the king of the Afro-Bolivians, but it's always been a story for one day in the future. I thought*, I will do it, I will do it,* but I kept postponing, or waiting, maybe for someone else to do it. Then all the stars aligned and I could actually do it this year just a couple of months ago.
Whenever one is new to a community, you first need to find your bearings. As a female lens-based artist, I was searching for more unique female and non-binary voices in the space. I stumbled upon Danielle Ezzo’s work and immediately connected to it. I was very intrigued by her aesthetic, which has a similarly disruptive sensibility to the medium of photography that I utilize in my craft as well. In a few short months Ezzo has already led the creation of Obscura’s “Girls, Gay, and Theys” Discord channel, been a recipient of the Obscura Who We Are grant, and released her NFT collection “If Not Here, Then Where?” on OpenSea, carving out a path focused on diversity & inclusion in NFTs.
Let’s dive into this interview with Danielle Ezzo, learning more about her NFT journey, the release of her first project, and her vision as a community member of Obscura.
Obscura is a new kind of funding collective that endeavors to build community and empower photographers to create their dream projects by bringing back the concept of the photographic commission and funding projects in advance. By providing grants, commissions, leadership, education, and partnerships with seasoned photographers in the NFT Photography space, Obscura is creating real-world opportunities for photographers of all career levels entering the Web3 ecosystem.
At Obscura Journal we plan to build further context around the Obscura artist community, commissions, collectors, and initiatives in the form of interviews and essays published weekly on the Web3 publishing platform mirror.xyz. We believe the value of Photography NFTs does not begin and end with the drop of a new collection. The act of discussing, contextualizing, and historicizing these new works and initiatives in a critical way brings new meaning and value. Through documenting in writing the thinking around the photography community and the projects that Obscura is helping to build, we can provide insights to our readers by giving further access to the people, ideas, and stories driving this new frontier. We intend to preserve our contribution in this new and rapidly developing chapter in the history of photography. We hope that you find it informative. - Brett Cody Rogers - Publishing Lead