Aba Mfrase-Ewur’s Self Intimate Portrait

Aba Mfrase Ewur

ABA

MFRASE

EWUR

photography by Tyrell Hampton

text by Stephanie Wade

“I knew the locs should be longer than my body and as thick as my forearm. Strong roots mean a flexible tree.”

Aba Mfrase-Ewur, a model and a hair artist, was first drawn into the world of art through her experience of being bullied in middle school. “Art was what helped me escape that,” she tells. “I read everything I could get my hands on and listened to all kinds of music. It reminded me that there are places in the world where you are celebrated for being yourself.” Now based in New York, Mfrase-Ewur’s natural creativity takes many forms in a variety of ways. Her artistic expression is not constrained in any particular way, though. “As far as style is concerned, I really just work with whatever speaks to me,” she says. 

 

Mfrase-Ewur started out creating abstract paintings because she loved the way the paint felt on her hands. “I was very influenced by action painting and the energy of abstract expressionism,” she states. “I then moved to sculpture, film, and writing. When I was in college, I began working with my hair as a medium, and moving to New York amplified my creativity.” For the artist, art is inherently political, and her experience at a protest against police violence in Oakland, California in 2009, is what really galvanized her into becoming an artist. “That summer, I heard of a peaceful protest happening in honor of Oscar Grant III who was murdered by the BART Police, and on that day, the police officer had been convicted. It was the first time in over 40 years that a cop had been convicted of unlawfully killing a black man. I convinced my aunt to let me go and at 15, I attended my first protest.”

By carving out space for herself as both artist and subject, her body of work becomes galvanizing through its own creative force. “I wanted to speak to the difficulty of trying to capture the present moment. As soon I recognize the present as the present, it flies by me into the past. So, I wanted to make something that would capture the essence of who I am when I am in those precious and fully present moments.” To Mfrase-Ewur, being present with every breath is an opportunity. “Each moment that I remain present, I raise my vibration, therefore raising the vibration and presence of those around me, too.”

“Being present with every breath is my opportunity and responsibility.”

Melissa Schriek’s Bodies in Flux

MELISSA

SCHRIEK’S

BODIES IN FLUX

Melissa Schriek work image

When I was in primary school we went on a school trip to an amusement park, and my father gave me a small disposable camera so I could capture the day. When I returned and the film was developed, he found out I carefully posed classmates and made a lot of photos that he did not expect from a child. He then gave me one of his camera’s and since then I have been photographing. First my friends and my surroundings and later,  developing a more conceptual approach as I grew older. I studied at the Royal Academy of Art in The Netherlands and graduated five years later from the documentary photography department.

 

‘ODE’ is an exploration of the dynamics of female friendship which started with the idea that female friendships are often misrepresented in our media and culture. It is often shown as toxic, imbalanced and dishonest. This has never been my experience, I think sisterhood is a very strong, bonding connection. Female friendships have always felt highly personal to me and in my experience they are often build on a deep level trust and dependency. I wanted to capture this in a physical and dynamic way. Because of my interest in the human body and my ongoing exploration of the human connections between people around me, I started photographing pairs of best friends together in different positions and settings. How can you photograph a connection between two people? How can you feel sisterhood? And how can I use existing stereotypes in my work without directly acknowledging them? 

 

For me, photography is not about the truth. The truth does not exist, therefore it is impossible to capture it, but I did want to show a different side of female friendship than we might be used to.

The project is in its starting phase and I will continue to work on it in the coming months. What I show here is a preview of the current state of the project. In the end, I hope this work can be seen as I intend it, as an ode to female friendship

 

Often when I start a new project I start by just making photos and do not think about it too much, simply following my intuition. I have a tendency to overthink so I try to avoid that by just focusing on the process of making and reflect on it afterward or on the way. With ODE it went the same way, the idea to capture the dynamics of female friendship popped into my mind and I wrote it down.

Melissa Schriek behind the scenes

Credits: Sara Europaeus, Lisa Faria, Jente Hageman, Lotte Hamelink, Marilou Hemmerlin, Christina Mastori, Whitney Paardekooper, Lara Sluijter, Linde Wagemakers, Hannah Ypma, and SERIÓÓS collective

“Presence for me is about being present in a moment and being able to feel and express the emotions that belong to it.”

Melissa Schriek scans

Only after a month I read back what I had written down and decided I wanted to start making this into a project. Shortly after I learned about the theme of this issue of Plusmagazine,  ‘Present of presence’ and I saw a strong connection straight away. Present of presence for me is about being present in a moment and being able to feel and express the emotions that belong to it. This can be a difficult task in a time in which the digital world seems as big and absorbing as the ‘real’ world. In my day-to-day life, I am constantly searching for ways to be more present in my personal relationships, the people I meet, the friends I have, the things I see. I wanted to relate my project to this theme because I feel the way I show female friendship in a very physical way, symbolizes this same presence of heart and mind. The ability to capture a complex and deep connection between people in a single pose, is for me the ultimate representation (the word says it all) of presence and being present together.

 

I often photograph people I meet on social media, which for me is a great way to get in touch with new people that I do already share some kind of connection with in my daily life. The fact that I do not know most people I photograph in this project personally, gives me the feeling I get a short but intense view of their friendship. This allows me to capture it with an outside view looking in and be open and unbiased from the start. This is the same reason I like to have short and high energy shoots. I feel this works best for both me and the people I portray as it forces both sides to rely on their intuition and be in the moment. For this project, the only requirement I had was that I wanted to photograph pairs of female best friends. 

 

 

ODE is the first project I started completely ‘on my own’, with no art academy to show work to, no deadlines (if you don’t make them yourself), no one pushing me to actually make work. It has been liberating to feel the drive to make work and make my own timeline on the way. It has been so interesting to see how a small idea that once popped into my mind developed into something very visual so quickly. The freedom made me more experimental, working with movement within photography for instance. I have not been afraid of ‘failing’, it has not occurred to me actually. ODE is still very much in development but I feel that in a short time I created a strong base to work further upon.

“I am constantly searching for ways to be more present in my personal relationships, the people I meet, the friends I have, the things I see.”

Jean-François Le Minh’s Joyful Vision

JEAN-FRANCOIS
LE MINH’S
JOYFUL VISION

photography by Alice Grace Wilken

text by Stephanie Wade 

Jean-Francois Le Minh

“For me, an object is something living. This cigarette or this box of matches contains a secret life much more intense than that of certain human beings. When I see a tree, I receive an impact as if it were somebody breathing, somebody speaking. A tree, too, is something human.” 

— Joan Miró 

Jean-Francois Le Minh Portrait

This quote by Spanish painter Joan Miró (1893-1983) aptly applies to Jean-François Le Minh’s own work, which is fitting, given it is the quote that most resonates with Jean-François personally. His paintings and sculptures are rich in color and texture, with contrasting layers that have a realistic quality as if they were full of life. Working between New York and Mexico, Le Minh was raised by his grandparents in a small town on the French west coast. After school in Paris, he was accepted into the Central Saint Martins at the University of the Arts in London. “I remember going to hardware stores with my grandmother when I was a teenager,” he states. “From the shape and texture of the shovel to the color of the lawnmower, I cultivated and developed a virtual cabinet of curiosity. It’s something that I still do on a weekly basis.”