For more photos from Sara’s colorful collection of artistic toys, follow @4theloveoftoys on Instagram.
“My personal collection is quite large,” explains designer, illustrator and stylist Sara Harvey (@4theloveoftoys) of the assortment of toys she’s pieced together over the last 15 years. “I have no idea how many I have, but it’s in the thousands.” Far from the children’s playthings many think of when they hear the word ‘toy,’ the objects that fill Sara’s home in San Jose, California, are better considered works of art.
“I started collecting designer toys in the late ‘90s and early 2000s when my favorite artists started creating them from their illustrations,” says Sara. She shares her collection with the world through her photos, complete with information about the artists. And as she composes, she focuses on bright colors and the emotions they evoke. Her photos often include a personal cameo as she inserts herself — complete with vivid clothing and ever-changing colored hair — to add a sense of story and scale.
Above all, though, Sara says that the toys bring her happiness. “At the heart of it all, I love how they make me feel. I’m a giant child. Life can get way too serious.”
“I spend a lot of time taking photos up – at the sky, at trees, at flowers, at buildings,” says Eric Whitacre (@ericwhitacre), a Grammy Award-winning classical composer and conductor, and photography enthusiast.
Much of Eric’s visual work leans toward geometric compositions – starkly structured elements and pieces of architectural wonders, often presented in dramatic contrast. “A huge part of that is my music brain,” says the 45-year-old musician, who gained notoriety in 2010 for his Virtual Choir, a project that featured 185 singers from around the world. “I think there’s a big crossover between photography and music, and one of the things in music is just this endless search for symmetry and balance and patterns.”
Eric’s musical background can be traced to his childhood in Nevada, where he began playing instruments at a young age. “I thought I was going to be a pop star,” he says. “I still want to be the fifth member of Depeche Mode.” At the time, he couldn’t read music nor had much familiarity with the classical world he now inhabits. That would change when he got to college, where he had a musical epiphany. “I started singing with this choir,” he says. “We sang this piece by Mozart, his Requiem, and that was it. I was hooked.”
Soon after Eric wrote his first classical piece, which was subsequently published. Before he knew it, he was conducting on his own and went on to receive his master’s degree from the Juilliard School in New York.
“I sort of woke up one day and was a classical composer and conductor,” he says. “It’s like a dream. It felt like I was hearing my true name for the first time.”
Today, Eric is based in London, where he writes music and takes photos in his spare time. The density of his adopted home city has been an enormous creative inspiration for his photography. “You feel really closed in,” he says. “It’s like a rat’s maze a little bit, and so they’re kind of aspirational. In some ways, the photos are a way for me to express where I am emotionally at the time.”
In addition to his architectural and landscape photos, Eric often posts sheets of songs he is writing. “It’s not even music. It’s just shapes and ideas, and it’s all about looking for formal structures.” Sharing those brief sketches with a larger community of artists, musicians and regular fans has been tremendously beneficial.
“I can picture them in my mind, so I have faces I can actually see when I turn around and look out at the audience. It’s everything. It’s a gift, really.”
–– Instagram @music
Around the Community
May 23 marks World Turtle Day, an annual observance started in 2000 by the American Tortoise Rescue to bring attention to protecting turtles, tortoises and their environments. Los Angeles graphic designer Kyle Huber (@asenseofhuber) has been highlighting his own turtles in creative ways every week for the past three years through his #turtletuesday series. While Kyle’s day-to-day shots include drone-captured aerial videos of the California coast and vibrant, colorful photos that experiment with perspective, each week without fail there will be a cameo appearance by at least one of his seven red-eared sliders: Shelly, Myrtle, Franklin, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo.
“I got my first baby turtle when I was 12 years old and have been obsessed with them ever since,” Kyle shares. “Coming up with a new and original turtle photo each week can be challenging, so occasionally I have to bring a couple with me on my adventures so I can photograph them in new places. So far, they’ve been all over LA and even road-tripped as far as San Francisco.”
To see more of Sun Club’s photos, head over to @sunclubband on Instagram.
A 15-passenger van had recently transported the band Sun Club (@sunclubband) thousands of miles, from Baltimore to Austin and back, so they could play eight shows in three days at South by Southwest, the annual music and tech conference in Texas. Two weeks later, she couldn’t even make the short trip from Baltimore to Washington, D.C.
“Our van didn’t start so we had to cram into a minivan,” bassist Adam Shane texts me before their show at D.C.’s U Street Music Hall. “So we’re running a little late.” Later, he texts, “Again, sooo freakin’ sorry.”
It’s hard to begrudge band members so courteous about being tardy, and so self-assured that they’d admit to borrowing the minivan from a parental unit. Sun Club, which grew out of a grade school band in suburban Baltimore, still straddles youth in a manner that’s both captivating and delightful.
In one breath, the band members want to be grown up: they admonish the writer who mentioned their “tour,” as though they were playing dress-up, they nonchalantly add a year or two to their early-20s ages and they long to make enough money to quit hourly jobs or share proceeds with their parents. But in the next moment (or more often, in the middle of the same sentence), the topic changes to sexting acronyms and tree climbing. The band has been known to post photos of faces covered in ice cream, feet in mismatched socks and all five musicians’ naked bodies contorted into a bathtub.
But alongside the frivolity and glee, Sun Club keeps a busy tour schedule and is known for its percussion-heavy, crazy-infectious, high-energy shows. Last year, independent label Goodnight Records put out Sun Club’s debut EP, called Dad Claps at the Mom Prom, and the band has recorded its first full-length album, expected to be out in the next few months. This spring, they’re preparing for a European tour, with a stop at The Great Escape in Brighton.
Before SXSW, I stopped by a practice session on the second floor of the CopyCat Building in Baltimore, a gritty warehouse where musician Dan Deacon once lived, and the place Sun Club guitarist Shane Justice McCord now calls home. The flat looked like an artist workspace, with giant canvases, exposed brick walls and an electric pink skateboard hanging from the ceiling. A sewing machine sat alongside a number of dead plants on the windowsill.
Shane walked out of his bedroom sipping hot coffee and almond milk from a Mason jar. The band was preparing to leave for Texas the next day and still needed to rehearse a few of their new songs, like “Durty Slurpy” and “Tropicoller Lease.” Once they began, the sound in the cavernous loft was deafening, sending a paint chip plummeting from the ceiling. When they finished, Adam crawled outside to smoke on the window ledge, and a cat named Mailbox walked on the coffee table, around a chessboard and bottle of black nail polish.
Sun Club was formed in 2012. (A session with refrigerator magnetic words yielded the name.) Shane and his brother, Devin, were childhood friends with guitarist and vocalist Mikey Powers. The three began playing instruments and covered songs in middle-school, and after high school, Adam and Kory Johnson joined the band. To display their loyalty to the state of Maryland, three of them have its outline tattooed inside their forearms.
The band’s sparse website proclaims, “Sun Club tis a group of buddies playing happy music.” Adam and Mikey get together to write lyrics, but oftentimes, the words come without the music, or vice versa.
“It’s more about the vibe than anything else,” Mikey tells me, describing the music as “loud, feelsy pop.” The group has been compared to the Beach Boys and Talking Heads, and they often say they’re influenced by Animal Collective and Tom Waits. These days, they’re listening to Baltimore bands Goblin Mold and Ponytail.
“Sometimes, I feel like we’re not weird enough for Baltimore,” Devin says. To that end, the band is careful to remain independent — the Chevy commercial that used one of their songs and provided a nice cushion to finance touring is barely an afterthought in conversation.
When we met up before their D.C. show, everyone agreed that SXSW was “crazy awesome,” especially the burritos. Shane says, “We went down there to get in front of people in the music industry and so in that respect, it was a success.”
That night, Sun Club opened for Athens, Georgia, band Reptar, playing in a dark basement hall for about 30 minutes — they rarely play longer, because it’s too physically exhausting.
The set began with “Worm City,” and they played two of their new songs, wasting no time warming up before the rambunctiousness began. The percussionists played with such vigor, it often looked like they were battling their instruments. The guitarists whipped their long hair around, sometimes ending songs with it hanging, curtain-like, across their faces. Most surprising was the dynamic range of Mikey’s voice: One moment it was a scratchy psychotic scream, the next, it was startlingly melodic.
After the show, Adam, wearing black-rimmed glasses, stepped outside for a cigarette — part of his post-show unwinding ritual.
“It’s nice to be playing in a more relaxed environment now,” he tells me, his long orange curls finally at rest. “Just to get up there and have fun, not worry about who is out there. Just be weird and move around a lot.”
––Melanie Kaplan for Instagram @music
For more photos and videos from Gloria’s food travels, follow @foodandtravelhk on Instagram.
“Eating these buns brings you blessings, which is why they are called ‘safety buns’ (平安包),” explains food and travel writer Gloria Chung (@foodandtravelhk), on her image of the traditional treat featured at this weekend’s annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival in Hong Kong. “Fast-food restaurants will have exclusive veggie burgers during this time when everyone is suppose to eat vegetarian food,” says Gloria. “And shops have special items such as macaroons that look like safety buns.”
Gloria’s passion for food developed as a child. Her father was a chef and her mother is what she calls her “food hero,” whose home-cooked dishes are still some of Gloria’s favorite meals. “I have always been a crazy foodie,” she admits. Today, not only does Gloria find relief and satisfaction in home cooking, but she now ventures out into the world looking for good food and dining settings that drive her creative energy. “I love styling my food — when I’m cooking at home or eating out, I arrange the food to make it more beautiful.” For Gloria, food presentation is one of the most elegant forms of artistic expression that exist in this world. “The figs from Turkey, the strawberries from Japan, the oysters from France — they are the most photogenic objects provided by Mother Nature, and that is more inspiring than anything else.”
Weekend Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram’s Community Team. For a chance to be featured on the Instagram blog, follow @instagram and look for a post announcing the weekend’s project every Friday.
The assignment this weekend is to create images that use light — the most basic tool of photography — in an unconventional way. The goal is to capture moments that might often be overlooked, because they fall outside the classical lighting condition known as “golden hour.” Some tips to get you started:
PROJECT RULES: Please add the #WHPstrangelight hashtag only to photos and videos taken over this weekend and only submit your own images to the project. Any tagged image taken over the weekend is eligible to be featured Monday morning.
To see more of Lucille’s dualistic photography, follow @iamthegatekeeper on Instagram.
“In my real life, I like to live in ‘spring,’ but through my art, I live in ‘winter,’” explains Lucille Lares-Kiwan (@iamthegatekeeper), referring to her ongoing photo project that she started after experiencing several personal tragedies. “I created Gatekeeper as sort of a personal outlet for me to channel the melancholy I felt,” says the Oakland, California-based technical designer. Despite the fact that Lucille’s alternate realities may seem dark, they have a cathartic effect, making Lucille feel lighter and lifted. “This ‘safe space’ I create in the dark atmosphere of my photos allows me to release those negative emotions. By letting go of the melancholy and sadness through my work, I’m able to move on,” Lucille says, hoping to set a positive example. “If my story can help anyone feel hopeful about their path, that would mean the world to me.”
For more photos of Tamra’s artwork, follow @tamra.cha on Instagram.
When Tamra Chatikanon (@tamra.cha) started exploring with watercolor painting four years ago, he quickly became drawn to its delicate techniques. “I like watercolor because it is difficult but challenging,” explains the 24-year-old artist from Bangkok. “It uses water to melt the colors, and it’s hard to control the water. Also, in other types of painting, you can start from painting the shadow and add the light in the last step — but in watercolor, most artists do not use whites.”
Tamra, who now also teaches watercolor painting, believes that the best way to master the skills is by learning the basics and practicing as much as you can. “Sketching in location is good experience,” says Tamra. “In Thailand, you will find that the heat of the air dries paper very quickly,” he says, explaining that it’s harder to fix mistakes once the paper dries. He also likes to take note of moments that impress him, since most of his drawings are inspired by things that he encounters in real life. “When I see something and love the light and shade of it, I will take a photo or do a sketch on the spot so that I can paint it at home. I often do work from my imagination and add or cut little details to make the painting look beautiful.”
Was there a point where your creative partnership turned into a lasting friendship?
Erin Rambo: I think it was instant.
Leon Bridges: Yeah, from day one.
Some connections just fall into place. Rambo (@rambo) took classic black-and-white portraits. Leon Bridges (@leonbridgesofficial) sang soul music and had a vintage sense of fashion. Their story begins in 2014, after Rambo sees Leon in concert for the first time. Still new to photography, she decides to send him an unsolicited message after the show, asking if she can take his picture. Leon accepts.
They would eventually meet face-to-face, on a rainy day in Fort Worth, Texas. The first photo they worked on was taken on her porch, with Leon in silhouette, holding a guitar. Talk soon turned to mutual interests, of which they had many. They both ate Chipotle, both watched cartoons and both liked listening to music. They were friends before the day was out.
A year later, the pair found themselves on the road in Nashville, taking photos inside the expansive turn of the century Union Station Hotel. A lot has changed in both Leon and Rambo’s lives since their first meeting. Leon, now signed to Columbia Records, has been crowned “The Next Big Thing” by almost every major music publication. Rambo, too, now works for the label, traveling on the road with her best friend to collaborate on photos.
At the hotel, they set their sights on a winding staircase.
“So walk down to that level?” asks Leon.
“Probably just that one,” replies Rambo, pointing one story higher. “Anything lower than that and you’re just going to look like a person. Also their rug is crooked. I wonder if they know.”
“Oh wow,” he says, before pretending to jump off the balcony. Rambo laughs. She’s afraid of heights and holds onto the bannister, snapping a few rounds of pictures, then huddling with Leon to discuss the details.
“Oh man, that’s awesome,” he says, pointing at one of the images.
“I love that,” she says. “I actually like that one too.”
“We’re always talking,” she adds later on, about how they approach their often-impromptu photo shoots. “And that’s been the cool thing creatively. He still has a vision.”
When labels first began courting Leon, the discussion would inevitably turn to his look: Was it just for show? Did he actually own all those outfits? And who was taking those beautiful photos of him?
“It was crazy because in the meetings, that’s all they talked about,” he says.
Those tailored suits and shiny shoes were one of the main reasons Rambo reached out to him in the first place. She was tired of using her friends as models and styling them herself. With Leon, she wouldn’t have to touch him. He looked like he stepped off the cover of a Motown record –– ironic, considering the complaints he hears now about his look, it being some carefully crafted brand awareness scheme by his record company.
“My style is not something I put on at shows,” he says. “It’s a lifestyle. When I am at a show, same thing. When I am at the laundromat, same thing.”
Fashion aside, getting Leon signed was the primary goal. But the singer also wanted Rambo to have a home too.
“It was awesome because he totally went to bat for me,” she says. “He could have been like, ‘Yeah, thanks, it’s been fun.’ But instead he was like, ‘Every image you see, it’s Rambo, it’s Rambo, it’s Rambo.’ Now I am here, and it’s cool because I – just to be cheesy – I like representing him. I love his music. I hear it every night. Still not sick of it. I like the man that he is. I like the music that he makes. I like the meaning behind it. Everything about this has been one of the weirdest relationships I have ever been in, but one of the better friendships I’ve ever had.”
Later on, when the sun begins to set over Nashville, a few hundred people make their way toward 3rd and Lindsley, a bar and grill located on the south side of the city, where Leon and his band are set to headline. The night before, they opened for Lord Huron at the historic Ryman Auditorium and got a standing ovation. The venue tonight is a bit looser and low-key –– people are sitting around eating chicken wings and chatting with friends. Rambo is in the back an hour before showtime, standing by the merch table, greeting fans, who give her compliments on her photos of Leon.
The 29-year-old is new to photography and has no formal training, which is surprising considering the skillful touch she brings to her work. Before taking pictures, she was a neuromuscular massage therapist. Her decision to switch careers came out of difficult circumstances.
“I was running two years ago and someone attacked me,” she says. “It’s just one of those things where I didn’t know how to talk about it and nobody knew what to do for me, so I picked up a camera.”
Rambo sometimes wishes she had the instincts of a professional photographer, but not enough to question the work she produces now, which she’s both comfortable and confident with –– particularly the stuff she does with Leon. It not only speaks to her sensibilities, it speaks to his.
“A lot of people are like, well it’s his music and your photos,” she says. “But some of it is our photos, because we have such a similar vision and because he is such a part of the process with me. We go take photos. That’s how we grow our friendship, that’s how we connect.”
Now here they are, two friends and collaborators, going from town to town, sharing their art with the world. They balance each other perfectly –– Rambo, the outgoing, rambunctious photographer; Leon, the quiet though powerful front man. They’ve been winning over crowds on every stop along the way, and tonight’s show is no different. By the time Leon hits the stage, the audience is hanging on every smooth note, every emotional lyric, every vocal inflection. Rambo watches from the back. She’s not taking photos tonight –– there will be plenty of time for that, particularly when you spend every day with a singer who understands and grasps the power pictures have in the first place.
“We haven’t seen an artist appreciate photography in a really long time, which is cool because there is a whole market of people like me,” said Rambo, earlier in the day.
“And it’s cool for me,” added Leon. “I couldn’t do this music thing without her.”
–– Instagram @music
(This interview was conducted in Spanish.)
In Oma forest, located in the Basque Country of northern Spain, art and nature coexist in harmony. The artistic work of Spanish painter Agustín Ibarrola can be observed captured on the trees.
“When you are in Oma forest you feel joy,” says Ida Johansson (@artessano), a Finnish artisan who has lived in Spain for several years. “Being there means having a great time because there’s so much color. You can see one image or a completely different one depending on where you are standing,” she says.
“It reminded me of when I was a little girl and I was treasure hunting. It’s a very playful place and every time you discover something new you get all excited,” says Ida, adding, “More often than not, art feels institutionalized, as it lives in a museum or a gallery. Seeing it in the woods is very different. You don’t have to be an art expert, you just need to go with all your senses open.”
For more photos and videos by LAZY MOM, follow @lazymomnyc on Instagram.
Last year, when Josie Keefe (a prop stylist) and Phyllis Ma (a window dresser) were brainstorming ways to collaborate, they made up a character of a bored parent who plays with food instead of preparing meals for her family, and their LAZY MOM (@lazymomnyc) project was born. “We both think meticulously about objects in our day jobs and this collaboration was a way for us to channel our skills as prop stylist and window dresser into art,” says Josie, who, along with Phyllis, is based in New York City. “We work in a very spontaneous way — shopping for colors, textures and shapes that inspire us. Then we also consider the environment and work with what’s available. We like to keep things simple, so the food can express itself. In the case of the ‘fruits in toilet,’ we were at the Ace Hotel and it was the funniest ‘bowl’ for us to keep our fruits in.”
Recently, LAZY MOM has become even more than a fun project. “When we started we joked that it’d be really funny if someone hired us as food stylists,” Phyllis says, “and then it happened.” But they’ll maintain a lighthearted spirit. “We make sure we’re having fun on set, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Phyllis says. “This makes for the best photos.”
It’s warm, breezy and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. It’s almost 3 p.m. in the heart of Miami’s South Beach. Outside the Surfcomber Hotel’s lush pool and beach yard, nearly every DJ in the world roams the vibrant strip. It’s Thursday of Miami Music Week 2015, and Ultra Music Festival kicks off in 25 hours. The secret guest at Pete Tong’s All Gone pool party could be anyone, but when 24-year-old Shikita Vuntarde sees who it is, she’ll cry.
“It’s my first time seeing him live, so I’m super pumped. I’m freaking out,” Shikita says. She’s front row center and has no plans to leave. “[His music] is unexplainable because it comes from the heart –– it comes from deep down, and you let it all go. It’s problem-free music.”
Shikita is not alone. She stands proudly among the millions of fans of Norway’s brown-haired golden-child, Kyrre Gorvell-Dahll. Known to EDM super-fans and industry execs as Kygo (@kygomusic), he leads the charge on the so-called “tropical house” movement. He’s the Pied Piper of island resort jams. His music is the sound a piña colada would make.
On paper, Kygo is the hottest-rising electronic star since Swedish DJ Avicii. The comparison would make the 23-year-old happy, as it was Avicii who first inspired him. Now, Kygo can’t go 10 feet without someone asking for his picture. But that doesn’t stop him from taking a fair share himself, mostly of crowds screaming and dancing in unison at his shows. Today, he’s being followed by two cameramen. When he finishes DJing for the sun-drunk masses, he’ll be shuffled to a radio interview, rushed through a meeting with Pioneer DJ, then off to rehearsal for a special showcase.
To think, a year ago, he was just skipping class.
“I was studying finance, accounting,” he says from the backseat of a car. “I went to one or two, and then I figured like this is not going to work because I was focusing on music.”
It was around this time that he got a call from Myles Shear, an upstart Miami-based manager who would help veer his career toward total scene takeover. It’s not hard to pick Myles out of the crowd. Kygo wears a black and white jersey that says “Kygo” on the back. Myles’ matches in one that reads “Manager Myles.”
“He was really good looking,” Myles jokes. “Seriously though, I heard his music and I was like, This is amazing. I didn’t realize what it would come to, but I heard it and wanted to push it.”
The push is real. Billboard magazine called Kygo “Dance Music’s Next Superstar” last October, and every dance music blog on the Internet has the kid on a close watch. Still, the plan is to be more than an EDM star. He’s primed to be a pop sensation, hence the move from DJ to live performer.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” he says. “I’m originally a piano player, and I’m more into the production side, not the DJing.” He learned piano at six but picked up DJing a year and a half ago. Whatever he lacks in experience he’s more than made up for in media hype.
It’s interesting to watch him, the young man at the eye of a marketing storm. He remains humble and appears truly unmoved by the forces at work around him. At rehearsal, people move swiftly to rebrand the rooftop venue with Kygo’s X-mark logo. His name must be seen from any angle by the business insiders who attend, but sitting at his piano, the man of the hour seems blissful and at peace.
It’s not really a question. Kygo will be a superstar. He’s attractive but not too pretty. He’s kind, quiet and happy to be here. His melodies are stylistically inoffensive and idealistically untroubled, perfectly “problem-free” as his fan Shikita says. As an artist, he won’t rock the boat, but he’ll provide the soundtrack for a perfect sunset sail. Add to that the weight of powerful players behind his meteoric rise, and you’ve got an unmistakable recipe for success.
Whether you dig his style or not, you can’t fault the guy. He’s living in an absolute dream.
“When I see people dancing and going crazy, I start laughing,” he says. “I just want to make good music, basically, and continue making music for as long as possible.”
– Kat Bein for Instagram @music
To see more of Luis’s photographs, follow @mileu on Instagram.
(This interview was conducted in Portuguese.)
Luis Mileu (@mileu) got to know his father through photographs. As a professional sailor, his dad spent most of his time traveling around the world. “He would send our family Polaroids and cards from his trips. I think my fascination for photography began back then, while I waited for those photos,” says 42-year-old Luis, who grew up to become a photographer and graphic designer in his native Portugal.
Taking after his father, Luis also now roams the world, documenting his journeys and capturing portraits of people he meets along the way. What once allowed him to get to know his father is now about self-discovery. “Travel is a vital priority in my life. It’s the way I get to know the world, people and myself. It always amazes me how different people can capture the same places in very different ways. The photographer’s perspective changes everything,” Luis observes.
Just like the young boy who held on tight to his father’s words and Polaroids, Luis clings to his travels long after the journey is over. “When I look at a photograph I took two years ago, I’ll remember exactly how I was feeling and actually relive that day through the image. This is one of photography’s great powers.”
When Dave Portner (@aveytare_voiceofthefly) leads an informal tour of his neighborhood in Los Angeles, where he’s lived for the past three years, he bypasses more conventional landmarks like the Griffith Observatory and Guisados Tacos. Instead, he steers us down an alley that seems unremarkable until a parrot beneath a nearby tree squawks and a cluster of low-hanging, feathery branches suddenly part to reveal a glimmering vista of the city’s downtown.
“I’ve always really liked hidden things, the thing that looks like something more is going on within it,” says the 36-year-old musician better known as Animal Collective’s Avey Tare. “With Animal Collective, we wanted to insert that into our music — mystery, some stuff you might have to listen to more than once to really put your finger on. Not being about the most obvious thing.”
That’s an understatement. In 2000, the experimental group released its singular, freak-fairy tale debut, Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished. Ever since, they’ve been tucking Easter eggs into their albums, much to the delight of their obsessive fan base. To date, the quartet has nine records, a visual album titled ODDSAC and a long list of starred reviews and raves.
Almost as weird and stunning as the music are the tripped-out photos and videos Dave shoots on his own — partially obscured objects and animals, torn posters and subdued nature shots. The same cryptic quality makes its way into the non-Animal Collective work too, with his newly formed group Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks. Their video “Little Fang,” directed by Dave’s sister Abby Portner, features a puppet from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop careening through the hills and ending up in a carnival funhouse. An avid reader of both Stephen King and Choose Your Own Adventure books, it’s the stuff Dave’s childhood dreams were made of.
Wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt, khaki slacks, Merrell hiking shoes (“They’re good for my ankle”) and a little scruff, Dave’s style today is a pleasant mix of granola and day-off dad. He’s soft-spoken, open and likable, especially when he tells a story about a recent DJing misfire or stops mid-sentence to point out houses he’s particularly taken with. He nods toward a stately old Victorian that’s boarded up. “When we were growing up, stuff like this was amazing,” he says.
As a child, Dave lived in Baltimore, but he often went to see his cousins who lived on a wide swath of land in northern Maryland. Most of their entertainment came from playing hide and seek (“You really feel like you have to figure something out, and in the end, know”) and roaming into the woods, making up games and using their imaginations to transform the scenery. The effect on Dave was lasting.
“We drove across the country when we were really young, and you realize how the landscape changes so quickly,” he says. “You see a whole different side of things. It changed my way of perceiving. Especially ‘cause listening to music and taking in landscape has always been important to us.”
Three years in, it’s hard for Dave to deny the influence of Los Angeles’ cloudless skies and eternal summer on his songwriting. Of the cheesy horror movies he loved as a kid, many were shot in another of Dave’s favorite Los Angeles enclaves, Pasadena. With its homage to those films, Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks feels like it couldn’t have been created anywhere but L.A. And a very specific carefree, druggy but sunshine-y quality imbues songs like “Strange Colores.” It’s no surprise that a review compared the group’s debut album to L.A.’s own Jane’s Addiction.
But that spirit is also a reflection of Dave’s own state of mind these days. After going through a divorce a few years ago and dealing with persistent sickness in 2013, he says the past two years are the most grounded he’s been in a long time. Yes, he’s working on a new Animal Collective record, but he also hikes, gardens, swims laps and plays with his two cats. And he takes walks, listening not to an iPod but to the sounds of his hood, which today include chirping birds and a tinkly ice cream cart, whose vendor’s radio is playing Yes’ “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
“It feels comfortable right now. I recently worked on a video thing with kids. And rather than controlling the situation, it turned out best just letting the kids be kids and capturing that. There is a little bit of accidental stuff to it, but I feel like it’s natural,” he says.
Turning the corner, he stops suddenly and beckons to a house. “This one’s yellow. Really bright,” he says, beaming. It’s obscured beneath thick branches, but when you finally see it? It’s almost blinding.
–– Rebecca Haithcoat for Instagram @music
Every year celebrities and actors flock to the French Riviera for the Cannes Film Festival (@festivaldecannes) to celebrate emerging talent in cinema, with 19 feature films ‘In Competition’ for the acclaimed Palme d’Or prize, awarded on May 24.
“It’s a huge event,” says French photographer Bálint Pörneczi (@balintporneczi), who is originally from Hungary but lives in the South of France. “I was interested just to see and feel how it happens.” Bálint aims to capture the diversity of those involved in making Cannes so special, away from the glitz and glamour of the red carpet. “I find people here and immortalize them, to put everybody at the same level,” he says. “In my photos there is no difference between the celebrities, or a homeless person, a guy who works in a fast-food chain or sells flowers on the street corner.”
For French fashion and celebrity stylist Camille Seydoux (@camilleseydoux), the festival is her busiest time of year. “It takes around two hours to prepare,” she remarks on her role of fitting actresses into complicated dresses ahead of red carpet events. “We talk about the makeup, the hair. I check if everything is OK, then when it’s done I help dressing the actress, put on some jewels and high heels and then she’s ready to go.” This year is Camille’s fifth festival, but her favorite memory was when her sister, Léa Seydoux (@leaseydoux_genuine), won the Palme d'Or in 2013 for her role in Blue Is the Warmest Color. “Cannes is all about glamour, red carpets, movies and parties. You can really feel the energy and the excitement,” Camille adds.
Weekend Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram’s Community Team. For a chance to be featured on the Instagram blog, follow @instagram and look for a post announcing the weekend’s project every Friday.
This weekend’s prompt was #WHPcolorfulcooking, which asked participants to take photos of healthy food using colorful ingredients. Every Monday we feature some of our favorite submissions from the project, but be sure to check out the rest here.
Photos of the artist James Turrell’s “Amarna Skyspace,” located at the Museum of Old and New Art (@monamuseum) in Hobart, Tasmania, are the focus of this week’s #whereartthou, a series that highlights works of art that inspire visitors to photograph and share. Visible from miles away, Amarna provides an opportunity to capture the sky in a whole new light. At sunrise and sunset every day, visitors turn up to witness light compositions that complement and play with the colors beyond. “Turrell designed Amarna to have optimal color and light saturation making for very photogenic compositions, but there is nothing like experiencing it in person,” says Nicole Durling, senior curator at MONA. “Due to the artwork’s design, scale and location, we’re able to give visitors 24-hour access every single day of the year.”
Amarna is one of many works at MONA that can be engaged with – and interpreted – in many different ways. “For example, someone can simply jump on the Chen Zhen trampoline work, ‘Danser la Musique,’ or they can seek the artist’s deeper motivations,” Nicole says. “Either way, though, the visitor ends up with some sort of experience, whether it be exhilarating, profound or both. It’s the same for me as a curator.”
(This interview was conducted in Spanish.)
“Take a picture of me standing here in front of the brown wall so it looks like I’m an elephant bathing in mud,” five-year-old José Balcazar told his father (who goes by the same name), before heading out to a spring festival. Father and son also share an Instagram account @balcazardescansa that records their weekend trips to Michoacán, in the west of Mexico.
“It’s a really nice relationship. He is not only my son, he is my friend,” says the older José, who adds that his son chooses the locations to be photographed while he takes care of the composition and framing of the picture.
“The idea is that when he is comfortable doing his own photos, I can add them to the account,” says Jose. “Sometimes he looks at other users’ pictures and says, ‘Let’s do something like that.’ For instance, I have a photo of a paper boat with a blue background and that is because he saw it on someone else’s feed and wanted me to do something similar.”
Beyond photography, the account lets them create shared memories. “When the weekend is approaching, I start to review places I visited as a child and that’s one of the ways in which we decide where to head on the weekend,” says José. “Memories take us to those places.”
Bea Miller (@beamiller) is choked up.
Onstage at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, she cocks her head to the floor, causing her artfully messy bottle-blond locks to flop over one eye. It’s a familiar look, one Bea’s fans have come to appreciate through her photos –– beautifully sparse images of white, muted grays and blacks. But in those pictures, Bea is often peeking out from the shadows. Here on stage, she’s in the spotlight, looking out into a crowd of screaming fans.
“Demi uses her position to do something like this,” the 16-year-old singer tells the audience, her already husky voice even thicker with emotion. “So many celebrities don’t use their power.”
Bea is decidedly not one of those celebrities. Tonight, she’s one of the special guests at the concert Demi Lovato has organized to benefit mental health and addiction treatment at the non-profit organization Regular Hero. Several of Demi’s famous buddies are here—Joe Jonas is spinning hip-pop, lots of Destiny’s Child and Justin Timberlake; Kelly Rowland and Christina Perri are set to perform; Perez Hilton is in the sold-out crowd.
It’s a good PR opportunity for Bea, yes. But there’s something markedly different about her. She seems less like one of the “big names” than just a particularly badass member of the mostly teenage audience. Turns out, that’s exactly what she’s going for.
“A lot of girls, young girls especially, don’t speak their mind very often because it’s not the ladylike, proper thing to do, unfortunately,” she explains during an interview before the show. She answers questions definitively, never trailing off or dissolving into ums and uhs. “A lot more frequently men get away with saying whatever they wanna say. So I think it’s interesting for girls my age to see an outspoken young female artist.”
Bea had to grow from a cherub-cheeked little girl to a striking young woman in the public eye. Three years ago, she appeared and made it to the top 10 on season two of The X Factor, where both her talent and her outspokenness nabbed attention. Soon after she got cut, she was scooped up by Syco Music and Hollywood Records, and last spring, put out her first EP, Young Blood. Over the past year, she’s dropped two songs and videos from that project, the title track and “Fire N Gold.” Now, on the verge of releasing her debut album, Not An Apology (July 24), you might expect at least a little hesitancy to creep into her voice.
Born in New Jersey, Bea grew up tagging along with her mother to work. Because her mom was a stage manager for CBS, Miller met plenty of artists before she even entered kindergarten. A music lover and one-time DJ, her mom would make mixtapes for the car rides into New York and sprinkle the Beatles and the Rolling Stones tunes in along with kiddie songs like the “ABCs” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
That Bea was strong-minded was apparent early on. “I’ve always been that type of person to step in and speak their mind where everyone’s thinking it but no one’s saying it,” she says. “I’m not gonna respect you just ‘cause you’re an adult and I’m supposed to. I’m gonna respect you if you earn it.”
Meanwhile, she was developing her creative vision. She loved Barbies, but her play was very structured, with detailed storylines and characters. At the beginning of the summer, she’d start a new “series,” and it would continue throughout the whole summer. “I was super weird,” she says, bursting into laughter. Or she just always knew what she wanted. In fact, that was the biggest challenge of being a contestant on The X-Factor.
“X Factor is a show made to entertain people. You’re a character, really,” she says. “So I didn’t get to pick my songs, my hair style, a lot of my clothes. That was hard for me. I have a very specific vision for myself. It gets me in trouble a lot. I’m a big pain in the ass.”
Perhaps that resoluteness is why she seems so balanced for a teenager who’s spent her adolescence in the spotlight. Even so, haven’t there been struggles?
“It’s been kinda a roller coaster, mainly because I was 13 at the time and [now] I’m 16. Every one year is like two years,” she admits. “I, as a person, have changed so much since then. So it’s mostly been personal struggle. I could change my opinion on this sometime down the line, but for now, I still make time to go and do things with my friends and be a normal girl.”
A normal girl who glows, whether she’s tossing off a “Thanks, babe!” to a fan who hollers that she’s beautiful or goofily pointing out that one of her pinkie fingers doesn’t “work.” Onstage, she launches first into her anthemic single “Young Blood” and finishes with “Fire N Gold.” It’s easy to see why she’s so beloved by her peers. In her music, Bea insists they’re special, one-of-a-kind. Obviously, she makes them believe it.
“Baby, we were born with fire and gold in our eyes,” she belts. Indeed.
–– Rebecca Haithcoat for Instagram @music