In The Raw With Surrealist Photographer Duo Synchrodogs

Natural, irrational and appealing are the methodical descriptors the photography duo known as Synchrodogs chose to characterize their work. Although untraditional in nature, these attributes prove iconic and true for all of their photos.

Tania Shcheglova, the model, and Roman Noven, the photographer, prefer to shoot with film, allowing for a more “colorful,” and honest representation of their surroundings. Viewing the world through an open-minded lens, the Ukrainian couple passionately strives to share their optimistic worldviews contrasted with the natural beauty of the human form within each photo.

Despite their pledge to avoid “too much Internet,” and to stay far away from art blogs and magazines as means for inspiration, Shcheglova and Noven first met in an online photography website forum. Sharing a similar taste inphoto style, Scheglova and Noven experienced an instant connection and, soon after, birthed the world-wide, and mostly nude, photo phenomenon known as “Synchrodogs.”Since their initial emergence into the art world as a twosome in 2008, Synchrodogs’s artwork has become a viral movement, leaving an iconic mark in the digital world and beyond. Their rapidly growing popularity has even earned them an impressive resume of accomplishments, from editorial work for New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and Dazed & Confused to campaigns for companies like Urban Outfitters, Swarovski, SHISEIDO, and more. The duo has been most recently awarded the ‘Best Fine Art Photographer Award’ by Vogue Italia, bringing their success to new heights. 

Today, while Synchrodogs pride themselves on “creating images with a beautiful disregard for the ordinary,” and continue to “push boundaries and challenge convention with [their] pictures,” they also remain humbled by their world travels and continue to promote the preservation and celebration of the planet’s natural-born beauty.Synchodrogs5

Where does the name SYNCHRODOGS come from?

It is just something we associate ourselves with — dogs as best friends of humans whose souls belong to endless fields and whose thoughts are absolutely synchronised with each other.

If you had to summarize your style of photography in three words, what would they be?

Natural, irrational, appealing.
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What do you love about workingwith older cameras and film, as opposed to the latest, DSLR high-quality cameras?

We do not work with low-quality cameras. We work with professional 35mm and medium format cameras because there is nothing digital cameras have to offer. Film gives us more freedom in terms of colors and depth, and it helps us control the process of shooting, as we know we only have several shots instead of a hundred, and they need to be perfect.

What are some major differences you’ve experienced in working together as opposed to working solo?

We never tried working separately. Before we met, we wouldn’t call it  “working” separately, just studying. It wasn’t until we met each other that we became photographers.  Before that, we never took it seriously.
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In today’s Internet age, it is easy to quickly search for artists, share artwork and explore inspiration. However, this overwhelming accessibility leaves a lot of room for copycats and even unintentional artistic mimicking when searching for inspiration. How do you find organic inspiration and maintain true originality with your work?

We try to avoid too much Internet, no art blogs or magazines as well; otherwise, it would be too easy to lose ourselves. We like taking inspiration from dreams. We also use our own meditation technique to acquire ideas. And of course, nature inspires us a lot; it is truly a happy place for us.

Your images are beautifully haunting, both unforgettable and eerie. What message or mood do you aim to convey through your work?

We would like people to see the natural world with as much fascination as we see it and feel how eternal it is. We would like people to appreciate this planet more. At the same time, we simply want to fulfill people’s need for beauty and inspire them to live a better, more pure way of life.Synchdrogs1

How do you feel the art of photography differs the Ukraine in the U.S.?

It’s hard to compare Ukraine with its several photographers to the U.S. with thousands of artists, just in New York alone. Ukraine is good for other things, like people who are very helpful and sympathetic, or the surrounding nature. We travel a lot these days, all over the world, and we don’t really shoot in the Ukraine anymore, but we think nowadays the lines are so blurred with the Internet, that soon it will n

Decoding Brooklyn Street Artists FAILE

This story appears in “Global Generation” Volume 01

In the heart of Brooklyn, New York live two of the most iconic street artists of all time. Collectively known as FAILE, Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller are best recognized for their artistic renderings of pop culture collages that cover the city streets of New York. It’s the ultimate DIY project: appropriating images, chopping them up, mashing them together, then taking it upon themselves to show the world. Since their inception back in 1999, FAILE, like many successful artists, have gone from the streets to the gallery in an attempt to tell their story on a broader scale. These myths, as the guys like to put it, can now be seen in a variety of forms, from a spinning prayer wheel in the middle of Times Square, to a neon-drenched arcade in Miami Beach. Though times have certainly changed for FAILE, their vision remains the same.  

 What is your memory of street art in the late 90s/early 2000s?

It was just so new, having moved to New York and experiencing (street art) for the first time. It was so active for the participants and even the way it wove into the city. It was alive, there and gone, but continually to be found. Soho, the Meatpacking District, the Lower East Side – such a great amount of work going on by a small group of artists that have really grown to help create a new aesthetic and a new movement, really. I guess today when we look around, you just don’t see that risk any more – not just in putting work up, but the small pieces where artists were just willing to put up work they were doing, to experiment, real-time in a public forum. It almost didn’t matter that much what it was; it was the act of seeing artwork and interacting with it on your walk home or going out. You just saw something raw and fresh happening, and if you were aware of it, you saw this great dialogue happening between artist/artist and artist/public. Things were slower and more personal. There was no social media tie to anything. The artwork was only shared and documented through personal photo books and magazines. Walls had time to develop, and because they weren’t static murals, there wasn’t the feeling that you couldn’t add to something. It wasn’t concerned about how many likes it got or the market or the system of art. It was an act that existed in most cases just to be heard and be seen. That was really romantic from a creator’s point of view.

When you first began pasting, what was the best part of that experience as a whole? Did you enjoy the thrill or was it out of your comfort zones?

I think the thrill of putting work up was one thing, but I think it was also about seeing the work live on the street. Seeing it be alive like that in the elements, how it would change, get written on, torn and aged by time and weather. We would often go back and document work along the way – start a wall and then continue to come back and keep that going. The whole act of scouting a spot, making a great piece to put on it, the act of getting up and then enjoying that as you pass by over time was very holistic. Even to this day, remembering great pieces that were up on a certain spot… We still get people [who] fell in love with images on the street, and they convey to us about the relationship they had with a certain piece as they would walk by it every day.FAILE4RGB

When you walk the streets of New York, what do you notice most? What’s your personal vision of the city?

I think [New York] has changed over the years. First moving to New York, so much of it was about surfaces, signage and graphics, the elements of the street culture. After being here for 18 years and admittedly seeing so much of it change and gentrify,  I think the street is not as captivating as it used to be in that original context – not to say it’s bad; it’s just different. Street art in a raw form, with smaller pieces sprinkled around doesn’t exist like it did 15 years ago. Much of the city is cleaner and potentially more homogenous from the way of signs and symbols via the sort of “mom and pop” shops. It’s less weird, a little less character. That said, there are still visual moments every week that surprise and inspire in new ways we don’t always expect. We try to stay open and look for those new breadcrumbs that lead us down a new path.   

If you were to think of your street work as a sort of narrative, what would be the message you’re trying to convey to passersby?

Notice what’s around you. Look in the corners, at the door that’s covered in graffiti, at the small bits and pieces that exist around you (that) better tie you into where you are. Each of our images are different in their message and [in] their aim. Many are personal but still speak to broad themes like love, greed, fear, sexuality, etc. In the end, I think we’re trying to help create meaning in our urban environment through our lens of experience and share it.  Faile1

What’s life like for FAILE today? Is it safe to assume you’re not roaming the streets at night and scaling buildings to paste?

The only time we’re out (roaming the streets and scaling buildings to paste artwork) is when we travel. It’s more rare that we roam NYC looking to put up work. We still enjoy getting pieces up and all the things we loved about it back in the day. Yet, with young families and more responsibility, the idea of getting arrested on a random Tuesday night just doesn’t seem as useful as trying to create a large experience or new body of work that can hopefully move people, even if it happens indoors or outdoors with permission. If we choose to use the tool of the street for that delivery of artwork, we will; otherwise, we will try to take all we learned in the last 17 years and channel that into creating images and artworks that resonate with meaning no matter the stage.

Jen Stark’s Colors of Consciousness

This story appears in “Global Generation” Volume 01

Miami-born, LA-based contemporary artist Jen Stark burst into popularity through her recent collaboration with Miley Cyrus and Wayne Coyne on the music video “Lighter.” Working with ecstatic color palettes, there’s a subtext of psychedelic shamanism and dimensional consciousness interwoven through every piece. Articulating her style by layering colored paper in repetition, she turns two-dimensional material into three-dimensional sculptures. It’s an artform Jen fell into by happenstance during a brief semester abroad in the south of France, when construction paper was all she could afford. Fueled by a love and deep fulfilment from the process, Stark continued into what is now a very successful career, with major solo exhibits across North America. With boundless curiosity and a sense of wonder for the intangible, Stark offers an eloquent opinion on art as a method of meditation and on finding balance as a modern-day artist.

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“I’ve always had a deep fascination for nature and how it relates to science and spirituality.”

On transcendence through art. For me, the act and process of creating art is just as important as the final product. My art practice is very meditative and brings me to a trance-like state when I’m creating – especially with very repetitive tasks. Art is an expression of my inner fantasies, dreams and thoughts. Creating art pushes me to brainstorm and challenge myself, which is very therapeutic and helps me understand myself better. With much of my work, I’m diving into questions about the universe and consciousness and trying to understand what it is all about and why it exists. I’m trying to reach that transcendental state through artwork.

For Jen, nature inspires. Much of my work is inspired by the natural world. In nature, color is a way to get someone’s attention – from a poisonous frog warning a predator off with its vibrant color patterns, to a ripe, red berry ready to be eaten. To me, color brings a sense of awe and wonder. I’ve always had a deep fascination for nature and how it relates to science and spirituality. I feel there is a parallel between different shapes within our universe: like how the Fibonacci spiral equation relates to so many things in nature – from the shape of shell to how a fern unfurls. Sacred geometry is a big inspiration in my work. Lately, the psychedelic world and the mysteries of consciousness are things that have been most prevalent in my work and thoughts. Through my work, I’m trying to create a bridge between all these magical things, and hopefully, make a great discovery or inspire others.

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“Working with Miley Cyrus was a fun cosmic coincidence…”

On her process. Typically, I sit down at my studio desk and begin sketching ideas in my sketchbook. I write down lots of words in addition to images. Then, once I pin down a favorite idea, I’ll begin to create it. If it is a paper sculpture, I’ll cut each layer out by hand with an exacto knife and sequentially put it together. If it is a painting, I’ll hand-sketch the lines with a pencil, then mark what each color should be with a tiny dot. Then, I’ll have assistants help me color them in. Much of my work is very labor-intensive, so process is a big part of it.

On the career of a modern day artist. Today’s art world seems very different than it used to be. Artists can have more freedom now and write their own rules. The internet definitely helps by connecting people to each other.  I balance both the art and business side and realize both are important to keep growing and being able to do exactly what I want to do.  I think it’s important to be able to fund the work but not create work that is purely a commodity. I think it’s important to create great work that challenges and inspires. As long as I am creating work that I believe in and am inspired by, I feel like others will see its importance and the business side will in turn follow.

On gaining popularity. Working with Miley Cyrus was a fun cosmic coincidence. I had met her one night through my friend Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips), and a couple of days later, MTV was pitching my work to her for the VMAs. It felt like it was meant to be and was a good psychedelic match. She has a very creative vision and is a free spirit who speaks her mind and knows what she wants. That project was surreal and really helped my art grow and think outside of the box. I’ve had a lot more eyes on my work because of that exposure, which has been amazing.

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Photography by: Pat Martin

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Chloe Norgaard Launches Charity Initiative To Save The Bees

We need to give our bees a break. The survival of this essential pollinator is threatened by human interference. From habitat loss caused by urbanization to the use of harmful pesticides, it comes as no surprise that hives aren’t thriving. The good news is, it has never been easier for us to take action to help reverse the damage. The best part? It’s all in the name of art. Rainbow haired beauty and model, Chloe Norgaard has joined forces with fellow environmental advocate, Cole Miller to form ‘Wildflower Boom.’

This collaborative “guerilla planting” project aims to provide an abundance of food for bees and other crucial pollinators while infusing the colorful beauty of wildflowers into our landscapes. Forget pristine rows in guarded gardens and imagine untamed blooms growing fearlessly through sidewalk cracks. Wildflower Boom gardens are more than bee sanctuaries. They are a chance to let your own inner wildness take root and blossom. Read on as we catch up with Chloe on the importance of keeping it natural and what you can do to help #savethebees.


 

Tell us about Wildflower Boom and how it came to be.

Chloe: I had this idea a couple of years ago where I just wanted to guerrilla plant a ton of flowers everywhere. When I was little, my mom and I would get big bags of wildflower seeds in Texas and scatter them all around and wait for them to grow. I figured this would work in cities too. Without the bees we are in trouble, they pollinate a third of the food we eat. I remembered Cole was very into bees and helping them so joining together in this made perfect sense. It’s a natural art project for the aesthetic of sight, smell and color, but also beneficial for the environment.

If you were a flower, what kind of flower would you be? Where would you want to be planted?

Chloe: I love flowers that grow in extreme places. Flowers are so resilient; they grow in the cracks of cement on sidewalks and highways, through the snow in spring and in the desert. I love peony’s, wisteria, jasmine.

It seems like we can all find a way to help out. How can we ‘join the boom’?

Chloe: It’s pretty simple: just find a plot of land and figure out what plants are native to that area and start a little garden, or what we like to call, ‘bee sanctuary’ (butterflies too). We suggest using only natural pesticides and fertilizers, because if they are synthetic it defeats the purpose.

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How do you see this movement gaining momentum globally?

Chloe: As we have been researching, I have found that a lot of people are doing similar things. We want to team up and support all the other groups as well to start a chain reaction.

Wildflower and Dirty Girl have already teamed up. Are there any other collaborations in the works?

Chloe: Liberty was so fun to work with. I loved her soaps even before this and getting to make these with her was awesome. We also have bee hats made by Cathy Jean Millinery which will also be for sale on Dirtygrl soon.

In the spirit of mindful and ecologically responsible planting, where should we turn for further guidance and information?

Chloe: We support a nonprofit called New York Bee Sanctuary who has an amazing team of specialists. NYBS has a very informative website with lots of information. Pollinator.org is also a great source.

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 Learn more about how you can help at wildflowerboom.com 
Support by purchasing a ‘Wildflower Boom’ hat here
Photo Credit: Emanuele d Angelo of Livin Cool

 

ASTR: ’90s Wild Child

The ’90s were a time of upbeat, party-ready hip-hop and R&B the likes of which the world had never seen. Tapping into that era of music, with a spin of modern-day electronic dance music is New York’s very own singer and producer duo, ASTR. Fresh off the release of their latest EP Homecoming, Zoe Silverman (singer) and Adam Pallin (producer) have made an imprint on the scene with their pulsating eerie-sexy hits like Activate Me and the more recent single Bleeding Love.” Peep our quickie Q&A below with the guy and gal twosome on their journey to trip-hop history.

Why as a band is ASTR drawn towards the dark, noir-esque aspects of music?

We draw a lot of inspiration from the dark times in our lives; those are the times you can be the most vulnerable.

What is it specifically about ’90s-era dance music, or ’90s music in general, that speaks to ASTR?

We grew up in that time so that’s the music we soaked up. Both of our roots are dance music and R&B.

Adam, what’s your favorite film score from the ’60s or ’70s? 

Profondo Rosso (Dario Argento) by Goblin 

Zoe, what was the most memorable moment you had when traveling the world?

On the last day of the Misfit Toy Tour, we went with an incredible fan to a tattoo shop to watch her get an ASTR tat. It was super special and meaningful to see the music have an impact on others.

 

Decoding Jazz Legend Kamasi Washington

Jazz takes on a different persona, one of youth, eccentricity, and vibrancy. Jazz that feels more cosmic and experimental draws in fans of electronic and hip-hop, and artists like saxophonist Kamasi Washington are leading the way. Washington is LA-bred, having performed with the likes of Raphael Saadiq, Lauryn Hill, and Snoop Dogg, even playing a part in the production of Kendrick Lamar’s ridiculously popular 2015 album, To Pimp A Butterfly. Washington recently released his first full-length entitled ‘The Epic’ via LA’s Brainfeeder, to the delight of young jazz fans everywhere.

Electrify had a chat with Washington about his thoughts on today’s jazz scene in Los Angeles and his hopes for the future of the genre.

What’s it like to be a jazz musician in 2015?

Well now it’s been amazing, people are really open to the music, very open to what myself and my particular music community have been doing, so this year’s been amazing for jazz and in particular myself and our collective of musicians.

Why are your thoughts on jazz music on the west coast and it’s recent resurgence?

LA has been kind of overlooked within jazz for a long time, probably always pretty much overlooked. I think we’ve kind of cultivated a sound that’s pretty unique in the overall jazz scene, that you haven’t seen in other jazz scenes across the world. Being a jazz musician in LA was always a hard thing to be, (with your work with so many different people), you ended up playing all kinds of music that’s made more towards a larger audience.

I think jazz on the west coast, (particularly) the major players in jazz on the west coast have a sound that connects with people. LA’s a big city, and almost every type of person you can think of that lives in the world, lives in LA, or at least a representative of them. You find all different types people at jazz shows in LA, from all walks, all different levels of education, all different levels of involvement in music. I think that the style of jazz that we play here, in some ways, fell victim to being ignored, but in being ignored, it hasn’t fallen into a lot of the pitfalls that jazz has gone to like elitism, it being background music (etc.) In LA, you’ll find jazz in all kinda of clubs, festivals, deep in the hood, everywhere. I think that’s why guys like Kendrick Lamar we’re so inclined to put such a heavy jazz (sound) into the forefront of his album. Because here, the separation isn’t as clear. The jazz club is right next door to the hip-hop club. People go from the hip-hop club to the jazz club, then back to the hip-hop club. You know, we all know each other, and everybody’s all connected.

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Much of the youth of the 50’s and 60’s were completely enamored with jazz music, it was seemingly the sound of their generation for quite some time. What do you think changed over the years that sort of sent jazz to background of popular youth culture?

Terminology. Music, from one artist to the next, is different. I think jazz somehow fell victim to the terminology. In the 60’s you had the split of jazz, which was funk, soul, (etc.) then you had actual jazz, which was the term people used, and it was the kind of music that didn’t go as far. In the 60’s… jazz started to separate itself… it became a sort of elitist kind of term. That sort of made it turn off from the music. That still had a great attachment to the people, but the term didn’t have a great attachment to the people. John Coltrane, people loved him, they’d go see him, they’d go see jazz artists, but the term sort of lost it’s appeal along the way. Jazz has been present in all these different genres, hip-hop, funk, r&b, rock n’ roll, it’s been present in there. I think now, people aren’t so standoffish with the term, and in that they’re embracing even more of the music, embracing even more of the connection that music has with other styles of music.

Concerning jazz in our generation, did you feel personally compelled to bring jazz to the youth of today? Do you think working with artists like Kendrick and FlyLo helped facilitate this regeneration of jazz into youth culture?

Jazz is in me. You listen to my music, and it has that connection to other music that people call jazz. I’m no so hung up on trying to make people like something… I’m just trying to express myself and make my music and I think it relates people because I have a sort of experience and I feel like I’m bringing that experience into my music. I think the ideas that go along with jazz, like improvisation, long-form instrumentation, complex arrangements, playing live… those things are necessary for me to express myself musically, so I’m trying to get people to understand that a song doesn’t have to be 3 minutes long. So in a larger sense I’m just trying to push who I am and my music. I love jazz, and I think it’d be great for people to kind of open themselves up to that music and check out people like John Coltrane and Charlie Parker, and (jazz musicians) around today as well.

As far as Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar, they’re just opening people’s minds to the possibilities of music, jazz or otherwise. Just like me, they’re kind of pushing back on the idea that music people will like has to be put into this very small, very limited box, and that’s not really true. It’s about expression, it’s not about the tools you have, like a crazy music video and a drum machine. It’s not the method that you use, it’s what you use those things to do.

Casey Weldon

Casey Weldon’s work has meme-level appeal without sacrificing substance. Even after repeated encounters with his pieces you will find yourself noticing something new each time. Whether it’s an element you overlooked or a more nuanced interpretation of “what it all means,” you will never walk away empty handed. He aims to channel the infinitely “reeseable” quality of Wes Anderson’s movies by emulating his devotion to detail. Casey strives to invite his viewers into an active experience rather than a passive reception of his art by making it inherently immersive instead of just something pretty and appealing to hang on the wall.

Casey’s talent for combining meaning with mass intrigue is truly impressive. Even behind his now famous feline portraits, (think: cats with a few more eyes than you’re used to) there are comments to be made and questions to be asked and pondered. Perhaps, for example: “When did cats begin ruling the internet?” or “What is it about the web that triggers this sort of obsession in the first place?” After all, just as these are not your run of the mill cat pictures, Casey Weldon is not your run of the mill artist. Read on to see for yourself why you need to keep an eye on this one.

What is your favorite aspect of illustration and being an illustrator?

It’s been a while since I’ve done any real editorial illustration, but my favorite part was coming up with the idea. It’s a challenge to create imagery that illustrates the story, but doesn’t just merely depict each word for word. It has to be unique and separate, but yet share the point of view and work cohesively with the article. It can be very difficult!

Your work has been described as nostalgic. Do you feel a longing for earlier days?

I used to. Nostalgia is such a conflicted feeling. You can feel a real love for a certain moment in time and a great sadness that it no longer exists. You heart aches for something that was never going to last, essentially because it never could have lasted. Lately I’ve been trying to focus on making memories to cry about in the future.

Within your body of work, cats often claim the spotlight. What’s the story behind them?

Ha! Well it kind of just happened. I have painted all kinds of wildlife, but for some reason cats elicit the most response. At some point I started to enjoy capitalizing on their adorable irony and using it to either make a point about our obsession with them as “awww” fodder, or our obsession with internet culture as a whole. Also sometimes, they are just fun to paint.

Who or what are some of your inspirations from beyond the world of fine art?

Music for sure. I close my eyes and listen to whatever song I can’t get out of my head and visualize how I would direct the video for it. It’s childish, but some good ideas come out of nowhere that way. Movies and television also have quite an influence on my compositional sensibilities. Lately I’ve been actively trying to pay more attention to how a great cinematographer frames a shot. I want to invite the viewer into the scene more, and not just present it to them. A good looking movie will suck you right in, even if the script is terrible.

How has Wes Anderson’s work influenced you?

It’s hard to get a prettier movie than a Wes Anderson movie. His attention to every little detail is inspiring. It really encourages you to keep building the imagery past the normal standard. I see something new every time I watch one of his movies and that keeps every viewing exciting. I can only hope to create work that retains a similar level of ‘reseeability.’

What can we expect from you, artistically, in the next few years?

Hopefully more layered compositions in a more candid perspective, telling stories universal enough to interest every kind of viewer, but ambiguous enough to let everyone come to their own conclusion as to their meanings. And probably more cats.
Learn more about Casey Weldon and stay up to date at caseyweldon.com.