Elderly Animals: Photographs by Isa Leshko

Elderly Animals: Photographs by Isa Leshko

Elderly Animals: Photographs by Isa Leshko is a touching five-minute documentary short film created by Mark and Angela Walley at Walley Films, about a collection of extraordinary images by the young photographer Isa Leshko. Elderly Animals is a portfolio of luminous photographs that are a moving expression of empathy, as well as a celebration of life. Leshko began the project after she spent a year caring for her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. Instead of photographing her family, she found an outlet for her experience in this series of portraits of aging farm animals.

Elderly Animals: Photographs by Isa Leshko

(Best Viewed in HD Full-Screen Format)

A gallery of these photographs can be viewed here.

Read more about Elderly Animals in The New York Times here.

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Still Life Photography: Courting Surprise and Allegorical Meanings

Ori Gersht (Israeli, 1967 – ), Blow Up: Untitled 15, 2007

Marian Drew (Australian, born 1960), Lorikeet with Green Cloth, 2006

Edward Weston (American, 1886 – 1958), Bananas and Orange, April 1927

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894 – 1985), Bowl with Sugar Cubes, 1928

Sharon Core (American), Early American: Still Life with Steak, 2008

Still Life Photography: Courting Surprise and Allegorical Meanings

In Focus: Still Life is a selection of photographs from an installation of wonderful still life photographs presently on view at The J. Paul Getty Museum Center for Photographs. The collection presents a survey of some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre. During the 19th century, still life photographs tended to resemble still life paintings, with similar subjects and arrangements. Beginning in the 20th century, still life photographs have mirrored the subjects and styles that have more broadly concerned photographers in their time.

In addition to early experiments of pioneers of the photographic medium, some of the works that have been newly acquired by the Getty Center are presented here: Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser (1985) by American Irving Penn, Lorikeet with Green Cloth (2006) by Australian Marian Drew, and Blow Up: Untitled 15 (2007) by Israeli Ori Gersht.  Gersht loosely based his Blow Up series on traditional floral still life paintings. His arrangements of flowers are frozen and then detonated; the explosion is captured using synchronized digital cameras, with the fragmentary detritus caught in remarkable detail.  This contemporary approach to still photography belies the notion of still life as something motionless, as it explores the relationships among painting and photography, art and science, and creation and destruction.

This piece also presents the experimental video Still Life (2001) created by the English artist Sam Taylor-Wood, a three-minute short film that focuses on a classically composed bowl of fruit as it decays. Also, there’s a pen. Still Life has been said to be one of the most classical works in contemporary art, carving a permanent record for itself in art history with hardly any commentary. This is not just a Still Life; it is based upon a particular type of still life painting that developed during the 16th and 17th centuries in Flanders and the Netherlands, part of a classical genre that contains symbols of change or death as a reminder of their inevitability. Its focus was upon confronting the vanity of worldly things through often subtle signs of elapsing time and decay.

Sam Taylor-Wood’s film represents yet another step in that direction: the image, beautiful as ever in Taylor-Wood’s universe, decomposes itself. By the end of the short film, nothing is left but a grey amorphous mass. But upon closer inspection, one detail distinguishes this picture from its predecessors. The plastic ballpoint pen, a cheap contemporary object. One that doesn’t seem to decay and doesn’t seem to be a part of the universal process of self-disappearing life. Is this what is really left here to stay after we are gone, this nothingness, this ridiculous attribute of ourselves?

Sam Taylor-Wood: Still Life (2001)

Slide Show: Still Life Photography/Courting Surprise and Allegorical Meanings

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Kris Kristofferson: Melancholy Reflections on Love, Separation, Loss and Mortality

Kris Kristofferson: Music from Closer to the Bone

Kris Kristofferson: Melancholy Reflections on Love, Separation, Loss and Mortality

Fill your heart for the morning tomorrow
You’ve still got a long way to grow
And the love that you’re dreaming will guide you
And live like a song in your soul.

Kris Kristofferson has always been a reflective musician, thinking about the mysteries of the soul with honest observations about love, separation, loss and mortality.  The soul, to which Kristofferson addresses the majority of his concerns on his excellent new album, Closer To The Bone, is something that he’ll still be trying to figure out until the very day of his final ache, his final breath and his last fading dream.  He sounds solemn and determined to finally reach some of the answers that he’s been seeking for so many long years.  Most of the album revolves around simple guitar playing and  simple melodies, which never fail to bring a sense of gravity into focus and to make all of his revelations sound as if they were there all along, but it just took an older him to finally see or hear them.

Closer to the Bone can be experienced as a sequel to its much-acclaimed predecessor, This Old Road.  While Closer to the Bone doesn’t entirely replicate the seemingly casual approach of This Old Road, it aims to deliver the same sense of earthy simplicity.  While his new album approaches the same profound issues as its predecessor, the intimate sense of the new album strongly conveys a general mood of reflection about where we all are at this end of life.

Both albums mark the latest works of a distinguished career that has given us such classic American songs as Me and Bobby McGee, Sunday Morning Coming Down and Help Me Make It Through the Night; stardom in such feature films as Lonestar, The Blade Trilogy, A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid and A Star is Born; honors including three Grammy Awards and a Golden Globe Award; and years of outspoken political and social activism.  This November, he will be honored as a BMI Icon at the performing rights organization’s Country Awards.  Kristofferson is currently a member of the Songwriter Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Kris Kristofferson: Closer to the Bone (2009)

Kris Kristofferson: This Old Road (2006)

Slide Show: Kristofferson Reflects on Love, Separation, Loss and Mortality

(Please Click Image to View the Slide Show)

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And the Walls Came Down: Two Voices of Shared Mortality

And the Walls Came Down: Two Voices of Shared Mortality

They weren’t asked: Will you?
They  were asked: Can you?

And the Walls Came Down is a challenging, thought-provocative short film by Adam Witten, a crime drama set within critical moments of mutual confrontation with potential death.  The film uses the duality of its two main characters, the criminal and the agent of the law, to reveal the reciprocal nature of interpersonal relationships, in this case through a tragic awareness of human mortality.  Although each believes himself to be the opposite of the other, in fact each is disclosed to be the co-constructor of the other person’s fate.  They are interwined voices singing the same anthem of self-destruction, which Norman Mailer titled The Executioner’s Song.

And the Walls Came Down: Two Voices of Shared Mortality

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We Have Decided Not to Die: Spiritual Rituals of Reversible Destiny

We Have Decided Not to Die: Spiritual Rituals of Reversible Destiny

We Have Decided Not to Die is an award-winning, very unusual and deeply intriguing eight-minute short film by the Australian filmmaker Daniel Askill.  A Triptych.  Three Rituals. Three Figures. Three modern-day journeys of transcendence.  From the post-modern quirk school of filmmaking, this piece transforms the power of ritual actions into an emotional allegory that creates a world beyond evolution, creationism and intelligent design.  From a mental state where logic drops away, the film embarks upon a visually lyrical odyssey along a poetically surreal road to reversible destiny, where death is no longer inevitable.

We Have Decided Not to Die: Spiritual Rituals of Reversible Destiny

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No Time: Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

No Time: Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

No Time

In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side under a smooth slab of granite.

Then, all day long, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down.

Billy Collins

U. S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003

Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

During an interview focusing upon our perceptions of the dead, Collins touched upon his portrayal of death in the poem No Time:

“The underlying theme of Western poetry is mortality. The theme of carpe diem asks us to seize the day because we have only a limited number of them. To see life through the lens of death is to approach the condition of gratitude for the gift, or simply the fact, of our existence. And as Wallace Stevens said, Death is the mother of beauty. Only the perishable can be beautiful, which is why we are unmoved by artificial flowers….

We visit graves because they give the illusion that the person is somewhere, in some place. But like a mandala, the gravestoneitself is a focusing device. The treatment of the dead as if they were still alive is ancient. The Egyptians would entomb you with your favorite food, flowers, even pets (poor dears). In that way, maybe we are all in some form of hopeful denial.”

No Time: Seeing Life Through the Lens of Death

Animation by: Jeff Scher

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Sam Taylor-Wood: “Still Life” and the Acceptance of Mortality

Sam Taylor-Wood was born in London in 1967 and is a contemporary artist who works mostly in video, video installations and photography. She has been identified as one of the leading figures in the younger British Artist Group. Sam Taylor-Wood’s video installations and photographs depict human dramas and isolated emotional situations, such as a quarreling couple and tense social gatherings, people shown in solitary, awkward, or vulnerable moments. These psychologically evocative artistic narratives are often presented on a grand scale, in room-encompassing video projections or 360-degree photographic panoramas that are accompanied by sound tracks. Taylor-Wood was nominated for England’s Turner Prize in 1998.

Her works after 1996 have often featured celebrity friends: Elton John was included in a large photo-work, and he commissioned Taylor-Wood to make a promotional video starring Robert Downey Jr. for his recording of I Want Love (1986). In 2002, she was commissioned by London’s National Portrait Gallery to make a video portrait of David Beckham sleeping. Taylor-Wood’s film David (2004) allowed gallery visitors to watch Beckham, who was then England’s football Captain, sleep. It provided viewers with an intimate, serene vision of an otherwise heavily exposed celebrity. She has also been a long-time collaborator with The Pet Shop Boys, having produced films for their Somewhere concerts in London. She was also a guest vocalist on two Pet Shop Boys produced songs, their rendition of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Je t’aime…moi non plus” and Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby.”

Still Life (2001) has been said to be one of the most classical works in contemporary art. It carved a permanent record for itself in art history with hardly any commentary. This is not just a Still Life. It is based upon a particular type of still life painting that developed during the 16th and 17th centuries in Flanders and the Netherlands. It is part of a classical genre that contains symbols of change or death as a reminder of their inevitability. Its focus was upon confronting the vanity of worldly things through often subtle signs of elapsing time and decay. Some of the older works had obvious references like skulls, but others simply had a watch or slightly rotting fruit.

Sam Taylor-Wood’s film represents yet another step in that direction: the image, beautiful as ever in Taylor-Wood’s universe, decomposes itself. By the end of the short film, nothing is left but a grey amorphous mass. But upon closer inspection, one detail distinguishes this picture from its predecessors. The plastic ballpoint pen, a cheap contemporary object. One that doesn’t seem to decay and doesn’t seem to be a part of the universal process of self-disappearing life. Is this what is really left here to stay after we are gone, this nothingness, this ridiculous attribute of ourselves?

This is a very poor reflection of our vanity. We have become more and more accustomed to believing that our feelings of real success and personal worth are to be measured vicariously against the lives of celebrities, business magnates and influential politicians, along with the images that they convey of power, wealth, designer fashions, and rich interiors filled with gold and crystal. But Taylor-Wood’s message is that we don’t need all of that. We get the point, nothing more is necessary. A simple basket, some light. Time. And a cheap plastic pen.

Sam Taylor-Wood: Still Life and Mortality

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