Like every year, our team at DIYP has seen plenty of wonderful photo projects throughout 2021. As we’re wrapping up the current year, it’s time to get reminded of all those creative folks we got in touch with and who generously shared their work, stories, and good vibes with us. We have selected the top ten amazing photography projects of 2021… And some honorable mentions, because it was so darn hard to pick only ten!
If you are a fan of dreamy, whimsical images, you’re probably familiar with Bella Kotak‘s work. She creates her own fantasy scenes and stories that take you into magical worlds when you look at them. Thanks to SmugMug Films, we can take a peek behind Bella’s dreamlike worlds and find out more about how she creates them and what stands behind her inspiration and ideas.
Photographer Aaron Draper describes his Underexposed project as a means by which to “enable people to gain a more humane view of the homeless.” However, some others have described it as predatory and exploitative, sharply criticizing Draper for choosing to focus his camera on less fortunate members of society.
In a written response to the critics, Aaron challenges their assertions and shares what his vision is for the future of the project.
As photographer Aaron Draper believes, photography of homeless individuals is quickly become a cliché. “Far too often, photographers who are searching for urban wildlife stalk the homeless. Unfortunately, this does nothing to increase our understanding of their lives or situations; it just shows how we are elevated and photographing them from a place of privilege.”
His artistic response was to photograph the homeless with the same attention and dignity that he would any traditional client, trading in the typical black-and-white for color, and bringing a mobile lighting setup with him. His goal isn’t to share an image that makes us feel bad for a moment and whisper a half-hearted prayer before going on with our privileged lives. His goal is to share lives.
I dislike people who define the undefinable. No, there is no singularly “best” flavor of ice cream; it is impossible to prove that Concierto de Aranjuez is the most inspiring piece of music ever written (although it is!); and beauty simply cannot summed up in a 10-point, bulleted list.
This is the fundamental message of Carey Fruth’s American Beauty portrait series. “The images are meant to speak about real life sensuality and femininity,” says the San Francisco-based photographer, who drew her artistic inspiration for the project from the movie of the same name. “America is made up of all types of women. Women who are hungry to see themselves represented in a beautiful way. And why shouldn’t they?”
So frequently within society, whether by conscious decision or not, we tend to look upon wounded veterans with pity, if for no other reason than to satiate our on insecurities. But many of them simply want to retain their dignity and show the world that they are still powerful, viable humans beings and that not even the voice of death can stop them.
That is exactly what Los Angeles-based photographer Michael Stokes set out to do when he conceived the idea for Always Loyal. The image series and upcoming photo book is a rather unique way of paying tribute you to those who have literally given of themselves in the defense of others.
(Warning: Potentially-offensive images after the jump.)
Science and photography are inseparably linked, but it’s always interesting to see photography used to further explore the realms of science.
Dutch photographer Maurice Mikkers was curious to explore the composition of tears. Tears are like snowflakes, with each bearing chemical similarities to another yet being uniquely different, often based on the type of tear produced. So, what does an insatiably-inquisitive pro in his twenties do when he wants to examine the photographic quality of tears? He throws a house party and spends the evening making his friends and loved ones weep.
For ten years, Italian photographer Valerio Bispuri traveled throughout South America, documenting life inside seventy-four of the roughest and most deplorable prisons. Filth, disease, and death was all around him. Wanting to convey the emptiness of color and hope felt within the walls, Bispuri shot his emotive collection in black and white.
“One day, some detainees prepared a siring of infected blood to inject me,” he says. Yet, despite threats to his health and life from inmates and conditions during his travels, when I asked if he had any regrets about the project, he readily replied, “No regrets. I would do absolutely everything as I’ve done!” (WARNING: Graphic images after the jump.)
Growing up in Kenya, photographer Bella Kotak developed a love of the warm and vibrant hues that surrounded her. Now living in the UK, her longing for those same rich tones is evident in her work. Her series entitled “In Bloom” is the beautiful embodiment of her fascination with a fanciful world, drawing the viewer into the mystical images full of life.
I was intrigued by the series and curious about the work that went into it.
To me, black and white photography is one of the most mesmerizing art forms ever created and has the ability to draw a viewer into a scene like few others. Swedish photographer Pekka Järventaus capitalizes on its detailed nuances in “Prowling with Lions,” an ongoing photography project focused solely around the lions of Africa. Unlike some photographers who are content with simply snapping a good image of a captive lion, Pekka searches for truly wild animals roaming freely on the savanna, getting up close and personal with some of the most fearsome beasts on the planet.
Here, along with his stunning photography, Pekka provides insight into his process, the gear he uses, and the driving force behind his work, along with some very simple yet poignant advice for aspiring photographers.