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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Album Review: Villagers – Becoming a Jackal

Conor J. O'Brien of Villagers has been compared to Bright Eyes and Elliott Smith, but this Irish singer songwriter has a charm all his own.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Post Punk

A little while ago I wrote an article about fashion in Berlin. It wasn’t particularly amorous to say the least; save a few incredible museums, and I wasn’t overtly impressed by the grade of the fashion I saw on the street. I was only there for the weekend, malady mind.

Coincidentally an email popped into the fashion inbox pretty soon after from Cynthia Berger – German born and Berlin based fashion photographer. I failed to mention my less-than-flattering view of Berlin, but her photographs completely stole my attention.

Cynthia is a fashion photographer through and through, and her early years were spent wielding a camera with the help of her photographer father.

The images Cynthia creates are often stark portraits of the citizens of Berlin, and with minimal settings and styling, there is a real photojournalistic realism to her photographs (it’s no surprise to discover, then, that her influential father was also a journalist). Her work reminds me much of some of the work that was featured in Amelia’s Magazine – Louise Samuelson in Issue 08 for example.

Cynthia uses street-cast models in her photographs, giving each picture added verisimilitude, along with the designs of up-and-coming Berlin fashion designers; with most of her work being set within the dramatic urban landscape of Berlin herself, Cynthia’s photographs embody the spirit of this historical city entirely.

From the series Berlin Fashion

I managed to have a quick chat with Cynthia about her father, her work and her future…

How did you get in to photography?
My father was both a photographer and a journalist, so at a very early age I was surrounded by photography.
Aged 8 I start to take my own photos.
 
What did you study?
I studied Photography in Germany and worked later in Capetown as a photographer’s assistant. Back in Germany, I studied Communication and worked for a while as a researcher in the media world, finally coming home after that.

How do your shoots come together?
The photograph is already taken in my mind before I go and shoot. I plan the shoots entirely, so that I have the freedom to experience everything and to allow the ideas to evolve.

What about photography in particular keeps you focussed?
I like to involve and inspire people.

From the series Boys in the Suburbs

What messages do your photographs carry?
Every photograph always carries a variety of messages.

Which photographers do you admire, and why?
I like Richard Avedon, particularly his portraits – they have such high density and intense impression. I also like the work of Anna Gaskell, her mysterious atmosphere and symbolic storytelling.

How is the fashion/photography scene in Berlin?
Berlin is the fashion capital of Germany. Berlin is a city that is immensely inspiring through constant change. It’s a melting pot for design, fashion, art, architecture, music and photography.

Have you travelled as a photographer?
I lived three years in Capetown, a year in London and did a few travels through the USA and Europe.

Do you think photographs can change opinions, challenge ideals, inform, provoke or otherwise?
They can – if you put them into the right context.  

What are your plans for the future?
I write any ideas I have in my “Idea Book” that I have with me wherever I am. I have many projects planned for the future, with an exhibition here in Berlin high on the list.

From the series Laura’s Story, exclusive to Amelia’s Magazine

You can see more of Cynthia’s work here.

Post Punk

A little while ago I wrote an article about fashion in Berlin. It wasn’t particularly amorous to say the least; save a few incredible museums, see I wasn’t overtly impressed by the grade of the fashion I saw on the street. I was only there for the weekend, cialis 40mg mind.

Coincidentally an email popped into the fashion inbox pretty soon after from Cynthia Berger – German born and Berlin based fashion photographer. I failed to mention my less-than-flattering view of Berlin, but her photographs completely stole my attention.

Cynthia is a fashion photographer through and through, and her early years were spent wielding a camera with the help of her photographer father.

The images Cynthia creates are often stark portraits of the citizens of Berlin, and with minimal settings and styling, there is a real photojournalistic realism to her photographs (it’s no surprise to discover, then, that her influential father was also a journalist). Her work reminds me much of some of the work that was featured in Amelia’s Magazine – Louise Samuelson in Issue 08 for example.

Cynthia uses street-cast models in her photographs, giving each picture added verisimilitude, along with the designs of up-and-coming Berlin fashion designers; with most of her work being set within the dramatic urban landscape of Berlin itself, Cynthia’s photographs totally embody the spirit of this historical city.

From the series Berlin Fashion

I managed to have a quick chat with Cynthia about her father, her work and her future…

How did you get in to photography?
My father was both a photographer and a journalist, so at a very early age I was surrounded by photography.
Aged 8 I start to take my own photos.
 
What did you study?
I studied Photography in Germany and worked later in Capetown as a photographer’s assistant. Back in Germany, I studied Communication and worked for a while as a researcher in the media world, finally coming home after that.

How do your shoots come together?
The photograph is already taken in my mind before I go and shoot. I plan the shoots entirely, so that I have the freedom to experience everything and to allow the ideas to evolve.

What about photography in particular keeps you focussed?
I like to involve and inspire people.

From the series Boys in the Suburbs

What messages do your photographs carry?
Every photograph always carries a variety of messages.

Which photographers do you admire, and why?
I like Richard Avedon, particularly his portraits – they have such high density and intense impression. I also like the work of Anna Gaskell, her mysterious atmosphere and symbolic storytelling.

How is the fashion/photography scene in Berlin?
Berlin is the fashion capital of Germany. Berlin is a city that is immensely inspiring through constant change. It’s a melting pot for design, fashion, art, architecture, music and photography.

Have you travelled as a photographer?
I lived three years in Capetown, a year in London and did a few travels through the USA and Europe.

Do you think photographs can change opinions, challenge ideals, inform, provoke or otherwise?
They can – if you put them into the right context.  

What are your plans for the future?
I write any ideas I have in my “Idea Book” that I have with me wherever I am. I have many projects planned for the future, with an exhibition here in Berlin high on the list.

From the series Laura’s Story, exclusive to Amelia’s Magazine

You can see more of Cynthia’s work here.
villagers_jackal_album

Since I noted the idiosyncratic name of first single Becoming a Jackal, sickness Villagers have been skimming around on the periphery of my aural radar: once I realised I liked the band I did what I am wont to do and went looking for them on twitter, decease only to read a devastating last tweet: Conor’s sister was dead. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting to find and threw me a little, healing which is to say nothing of how he must be feeling right now. Becoming a Jackal – now also the name of the debut album from Irish singer songwriter Conor J. O’Brien – marks a coming of age that seems all the more prescient, released at such a momentous time in his life.

Front man Conor has been making music since the tender age of twelve and has enjoyed chart success in Ireland as one half of The Immediate, but a series of knock backs and disillusionments with the industry has ensured that his second foray into music comes with a more sanguine attitude. Scarred by his experiences of working with other musicians Conor wrote and recorded the entire album himself – starting with a basis of poetry from which hang some beautiful folk tinged melodies, he has already been compared to Elliott Smith and Bright Eyes. Clearly no longer a wide eyed ingenue, he shrugs off such comparisons: “I guess I’m cursed, because I sort of look like a more hamster sized version of Conor Oberst,” he said in a recent interview with Contact Music.

Conor J O'Brian

When on tour Conor is accompanied by a band of friends who become the Villagers. As befits a man who regards himself as first and foremost a poet, his words are a cut above your usual pop ditty… but the melodies are no shirker either. Opening tune I Saw the Dead starts off the album with the dainty ringing of sleigh bells and an angelic violin, before descending somewhere altogether darker: “Let me show you the backroom where I saw the dead dancing like children on a midsummer morn. And they asked me to join…. ” There’s a dark undercurrent to these tunes and the opener ends in crackling oblivion. On the title track the jackal is an unusual metaphor for a difficult love affair, but it works beautifully. “Where the jackals preyed on every soul, where they tied you to a pole and stripped you of your clothes…” New single Ship of Promises follows straight on with a hasty strum, Conor sounding curiously American in brogue – maybe that’s just the similarity with the Irish accent. Home returns once more to the twilight hours, somewhere halfwhere between reality and the dreamworld, backing vocals muffled behind lyrics that talk of weapons and running. Things start to look a bit more upbeat by The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever) which sees Conor falling in love, in harmony. “Your newness is all I need.” Set the Tigers Free is about heading for the open plains, rather than a potential health and safety situation with some furry beasts, and To Be Counted Among Men ends this endearing debut on a quiet reflective note. This album marks a coming of age all Conor’s own, no hamsters required.

You can catch Conor on tour all through May, and he will be playing the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 15th tune supporting Field Music as part of the Meltdown Festival. Becoming a Jackal is out now on Domino Records.

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