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

Q&A: Reaching New Heights with Adventure Photographer Jimmy Chin

This story appears in “Global Generation” Volume 01

Hailing from Mankato City, Minnesota, Jimmy Chin has soared into the spotlight from humble upbringings to be recognized as one of the world’s most proficient adventure photographer-filmmakers. His most familiar tale has become one of a harrowing climb up Mount Meru, a 21,850-foot climb located in India’s Gharwal Himalayas. Believed by Hindus to be the center of the universe, The Shark’s Fin is renown among the climbing community to be one of the hardest climbs in the world. The trio composed of Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk defy all odds to scale the jagged peak without a sherpa team or base camp for support, all while Jimmy is capturing the climb behind the lens. Jimmy and his wife, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, co-direct the thrilling story of the trek and events that led each man to the slopes in a documentary. Premiering at Sundance Film Festival in 2015, “Meru” is a summation their experience that has brought high alpine mountaineering to the forefront. Inspired by his story, he takes a moment in between a bi-coastal schedule in preparation to promote his “Meru” Academy Award nomination for best documentary to chat with me about his philosophy on life, raising his daughter and building his career.

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Did you travel much when you were younger?

I did quite a bit. We drove around the States in the summertime, visiting National Parks probably when I was twenty. 1999 was my very first major expedition that I put together to the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan.

What advice would you give an emerging climber that is passionate about climbing, but may not necessarily have the funds for an expedition?

Well, I didn’t have funds either. I lived in a car and I sold t-shirts to fund my first trips. If you commit and want to do it, then you make it happen. There’s no easy trick to doing it. It’s hard work and taking risks. And committing; saying you’re going to go do it and doing it. I get asked all the time, “how do you do it?” like there’s some easy way. Nothing great is accomplished without a lot of hard work. Crowdfunding has changed [the game] by providing more opportunities to raise money to do a trip but, the best trips are the shoestring budget, you know, slim trim expeditions where it’s tight.

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What’s the one big pull that drives your work as a cinematographer, producer, director, and athlete?

Stories about heart and passion. Stories about incredible characters, landscapes, and people who are tied to the wild places… ultimately it’s stories and telling people’s stories. Hopefully it will inspire people to get outside and be connected with the wilderness. The greatest first step towards conservation and protecting our environment is to actually appreciate it. ‘Meru’ was about friendship and loyalty and characteristics that I find important in in human relationships. It’s what elevates us from just being monkeys I guess.

What is your philosophy on raising your daughter, Marina, with a worldview in this day and age?

I think it’s important for her to have a broad perspective on the world and a broad understanding of all the different ways to live. I want to share a lot of opportunities with her so she has a chance to find what she’s passionate about. I think I want her to be grounded, because I feel like so much of what I see now is kids growing up with a certain sense of entitlement. I want her to know that not everything is given to you, and that it takes work, passion and vision to achieve something that’s meaningful.

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During the avalanche in the Tetons, you mention in a diary entry on your blog that you felt moments of clarity during the experience. Did this last for you?  

It’s certainly enforced things that you that I already knew in a way, and that everyday counts. You never know when your time is up. You know what is important in life. That clarity is hard to achieve, as there’s a lot of clutter in life. Climbing to the top of a mountain isn’t necessarily about standing on the top of the summit. It’s about life as a process and climbing as a process. The process is actually living. Standing on top of the mountain is fine, but it’s the journey, ultimately.

How is technology paving the way emerging photographers and creators for better or worse?

I built my career without social media. I put all my exhibitions together and got sponsored. It took a lot of work before Facebook and Instagram and I think that my career was a good foundation for building my current social media platform. I think that Instagram has been great for photography, because it’s kind of democratized it in a way. Everybody has an opportunity to shine, share their work, and show their creativity. It’s pushed people to be more creative and you know, some people complain like “oh, everybody can be a professional photographer,” which is probably true, but it pushes people to elevate their work. It continually pushes the standards. You can’t just sit on your ass and expect things to come to you. You have to get out there and push the boundaries a bit, get noticed, and also be really creative in how you build your business as a photographer. I think it makes people access a lot of different parts of being creative, not just in the work, but how they present it, and how they talk about it, how they share it, and how they connect the dots. There’s all these different ways to do it now. And if you’re creative in that way, you can build a career for yourself.

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Photography © Jimmy Chin | www.jimmychin.com

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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