There’s something charmingly mysterious about the 24-year-old Lithuanian photographer Kimm Whiskie. The name alone sounds like an alias (turns out the second half actually is — Whiskie did time in a rock-and-roll band) and its gender is ambiguous (an embarrassed email straightens this out). A request for an interview is politely downgraded to a Skype chat; when a portrait arrives, it’s a grainy Lomo shot of the photographer lying face down on the pavement. Then there’s Whiskie’s portfolio website, titled Kimm Hides in an apparent nod to the laughable transparency of the Internet. “I’m rather shy,” he says by way of explanation, as you begin to wonder if it’s all an elaborate construct. “My photography is personal and an expression of self, but at the same time art can never be anything but fictional.”
Ultimately, all that matters is that the fictional world Whiskie creates is so compelling: beautifully moody, occasionally imprecise portraits of friends, nature, and strange geometries, all clearly influenced by how and with whom he was raised. “I grew up in a forest in a small town in Lithuania,” he says. “My father was a funeral musician. He didn’t tell me much about it — though he once told me about a gypsy child’s funeral, when the mother jumped into the grave — but I know he must have had interesting experiences during Soviet times. The musicians and gravediggers used to appear completely drunk. At the time I actually thought it was an inspiring job, but now I would agree it’s rather melancholy.”
Event that inspired you to become a photographer: When I was little I used to watch my father develop black-and-white photographs. I’m not sure if it was the inspiration, but it’s as if it was inherited.
First photograph you ever took: Was heavily underexposed. Although I rather liked it, so you can’t really regard it as a mistake.
Style movement you most identify with: I can’t help it, but I get involved in sentimental narratives. I also like it when photography turns abstract or impressionist.
Fictional character who would own your work: I’m not sure, but I’d like it to be the surgeon refugee Dr. Ravic from Erich Maria Remarque’s Arch of Triumph. He fell in love during the worst moment of his life; he drank melancholic Calvados during long sleepless nights. It’s haunted me since my teenage years.
Album most played while you work: Biosphere’s Dropsonde
Favorite shop: Any eco shop. I feel better this way.
What a stranger who saw your work for the first time would say: I hope it would be “let’s be friends.”
When Sarah Illenberger picks up the phone, the first thing she does is apologize: There's a loud, repetitive popping noise going off in the background of her Berlin studio, which turns out to be the firing of a staple gun. She doesn't say what her assistants are constructing with the staples, but judging from her past illustration work, it's likely they'll be built up by the thousands onto a substrate until their glinting mass reveals some kind of representational image — a skyscraper, maybe, or a ball of tinfoil. Almost all of Illenberger's work involves using handicraft to manipulate one thing into looking like something else entirely, and almost all of it entails such a meticulous construction process that there's no time to silence it for interviews.
Julien Carretero's work invites metaphor the way cheese fries beg to be eaten — make a bench that's perfectly shaped in front and slowly morphs into chaos in back, and suddenly it could be about anything: humans' ultimate lack of control over the universe, politics, the pressure to succeed, mullets. For the Paris-born, Eindhoven-based designer, though, it's mostly just about one thing.
It started with a dead hamster. In the late ’90s, Dutch photographer Danielle Van Ark was living in Rotterdam, reacquainting herself with the charms of the grain-eating, wheel-chasing starter pet. Her hamster expired right around the time the Beastie Boys were coming out with a single called "Intergalactic". “The cover of that single was basically a giant hamster attacking humanity, and it inspired me to have my hamster stuffed,” Van Ark says. “I found someone in a village near Rotterdam who does it, and I loved the place instantly.”