• Topsudan_1

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan (detail)

Photography

Photography: Stunning series inspired by South Sudanese refugee-turned-supermodel

Posted by Sophia Epstein,

When bad things happen in far away places the easiest thing to do is ignore them, but New York photographer Mike Mellia is doing all he can to make sure you don’t. Mike is famous for using his photographs to make analytical statements (remember these guys), and his collaboration with South Sudanese refugee-turned-supermodel Nykhor Paul has made sure his latest work Our side of the story: South Sudan is no exception.

This important series captures the fascinating and heartbreaking stories of 14 South Sudanese nationals in a beautifully simple way, giving a brief but brutal insight into the people affected by this widely unpublicised crisis. South Sudan has been left in a state of disarray by their civil war, and the unimaginable impact it has had on each of these people is exposed stunningly in Mike’s photographs.

The photos come across more like painted portraits; both in their style and in the way they represent a story rather than just a moment. Mike’s work is powerful to say the least, evoking emotion as well as bringing attention to a real life problem; it’s so much more than just a pretty picture.

  • Sudan_2

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

What was the starting point of your Our side of the story: South Sudan project? What or who was your inspiration?

I was introduced to supermodel Nykhor Paul by creative director Laura Lanteri. Nykhor is the founder of the We Are Nilotic initiative for South Sudanese women, and Laura has a background in fashion and international development. I wanted to tell the story of these 14 extraordinary people and the story behind South Sudan’s conflict.

What kind of impact do you hope or expect it will have?

I think the work has already impacted people in many ways, from raising awareness about South Sudan’s conflict, all the way to bringing up concerns that Africa might suffer another genocide, by encouraging people to unite for peace. This project has had a huge emotional impact on me personally. Having an honest conversation about South Sudan in America is already a step in the right direction.

  • Sudan_3

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

  • Sudan_4

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

  • Sudan_5

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

  • Sudan_8

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

Where did your photography career begin? How did you reach the style you have now?

I have always been interested in conceptual art in any medium, and from the beginning I was always coming from an art point of view. I think my style of portraiture is very natural but also very painterly. The light pouring through a window in an old Renaissance painting is very beautiful to me. I think I have reached the style that I have now by constantly working but also by being very critical and conscious of what I am doing. From the beginning, allegory was always very interesting too because for me great art asks more questions than it provides answers.

What would you say has most greatly impacted your career?

I grew up in the Bronx, and in 1998 when I was 18 years old I moved to Manhattan to attend Columbia University for college. My art class took me to the Whitney Museum of American Art for the first time and my mind exploded. After that everything became abstracted for me. Later I saw Richard Serra’s process art Verb List and also his large steel sculptures that interact with the viewer’s perspective as you walk through them. I knew anything was possible.

  • Sudan_9

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

  • Sudan_10

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

  • Sudan_11

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

  • Sudan_6

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

  • Sudan_7

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

  • Sudan_1

    Mike Mellia: Our Side of the Story: South Sudan

Nice

Posted by Sophia Epstein

Sophia spent two weeks with It’s Nice That as part of her postgraduate journalism studies at Cardiff University in April 2014.
@sophstein

Most Recent: Photography View Archive

  1. Listlachapelle_landscape_03

    The dazzling lights of David LaChapelle’s hyper-realistic photographs, glinting from neon and metallic and shimmering objects, send a hazy glow into the dark background; a magical aura that conjures up memories of fairground rides and bonfire nights and hot breath misting up the air in front of you. The photographer’s images are no less magical really; they draw you in, bedazzled and bewildered, like a ditzy moth drawn to a lamp, and then surprise you by being even more brilliant than you realised at first.

  2. List

    Imagine for a moment that the shoebox under your bed was filled not with photos of your Great Aunt June snoozing on the sofa last Christmas, but with photographs taken in space by astronauts on Apollo 14. For a lucky few at NASA this is (almost) true, and fortunately they’re more than happy to share their treasures with us proles in the form of a new exhibition at London’s BREESE Little Gallery.

  3. Main

    I think we can all agree that in the past few years food photography has pretty much reigned the internet as far as image-porn blogging is concerned. And yes, photographing tangerines on bright blue backgrounds does always look nice, we get it. But among the thousands of people documenting food in order to gain online notoriety there are some photographers who are known in the industry as the ones who can really, really shoot food.

  4. List

    The debate over so-called “ruin porn” has raged for several years now, exploring the cultural and ethical ramifications of turning the decrepit and dilapidated into art. But if anyone could breathe new life into this kind of project, it’s Nadav Kander. The photographer’s new show Dust opens in London today, and takes as its epigraph the T.S Eliot line: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

  5. Listalextennapel1

    The best portrait photography is truly mesmerising; a compliment which can surely be paid to Alex Ten Napel’s series of Alzheimer’s patients. In a somewhat ironic manner, the Dutch photographer has created enrapturing, memorable images of elderly and enigmatic faces. They’re both heartbreaking and joyful, delightful and despairing, as Alex has caught “that specific moment portrait photographers wait for: the moment in which posture and facial expression come together in a meaningful manner.”

  6. List

    There’s not an amateur photographer alive who hasn’t got a roll of film back from the developing booth of their local supermarket to find that almost every picture is clouded over by a giant fleshy finger. Usually it obstructs most if not all of the image and sends the photograph itself catapulting straight into the nearest bin in a fit of frustration.

  7. List

    A year on since we first covered George Osodi’s work on the site he continues to astound us. The Lagos-based photographer produces some of the most incredible photojournalism I’ve ever seen; this series Nigeria Monarchs: The Custodians of Peace and Cultural Heritage documents the figures across Nigeria who, in spite of having no constitutional rule since the monarchy was officially abolished in 1963, remain key personalities in the country’s political landscape. The travelling exhibition had a stint in London last year and is about to open in Budapest, Hungary, serving as further proof (if any was needed) of the curiosity which exists worldwide about these majestic and exotic figures. What’s more George hopes to photograph 100 of the monarchs, so the collection is not due to stop growing any time soon.

  8. List

    September is always a time for nostalgia; it’s that back-to-school, turning-of-the-seasons vibe that goes hand-in-hand with a certain sense of self-reflection. Few moments stick in our minds and come to define our personal stories more than our first kiss; that giddy mixture of nerves, anticipation and a feeling of the moment’s huge significance that rarely tallies with the physical reality! For its latest brief, MOPHOTO are working with Cornetto and asking young photographers to create an image of a first kiss that captures that dizzying array of emotions in a single visual.

  9. List

    I’m loth to comment on summer’s swift disappearance or the vague possibility that it might get warm again in the coming weeks, but how can I miss the opportunity which this series by Anaïs Boileau has so generously handed me? This brilliant photo-series examines the women who live for a tan, happily sunning themselves with foil trays pressed to their chins and eye-protectors plastered to their sockets. There’s something gently teasing and kind of funny but also really well-constructed about her images – the props make for a natural frame so you’re confronted with a very immediate manifestation of our society’s obsession with bronzed skin, which seems more ridiculous the longer you think about it.

  10. List

    Family life can be strange, unsettling and oppressive as well as happy, funny and ridiculous, and it’s this sometimes-sinister underside of the domestic sphere photographer Joanna Piotrowska seeks to elevate with her series FROWST. Her black and white images capture ambivalence and double meaning in the family home; brothers and sisters lie awkwardly across one another and pull at each other’s bodies in strangely stagnant compositions, while oddly familiar environments are imbued with a quiet strangeness that’s not entirely new.

  11. Wrecking-yardtop

    Riley wanted to be like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn when he grew up; he wanted to hunt for treasure and go on adventures. Riley’s never forgotten the magical lure of finding hidden pennies and bottle tops, silver and scraps, and when scavenging he finds himself transformed into a mythical adventurer like a character in a tale by Mark Twain.

  12. Main

    Where do dreams come true? “Disneyland!” squeal the indoctrinated masses. Sadly, the dream’s over for the exhibits of Yesterland, which is a photo archive of rides, restaurants and rodeos which are no more. Or, as Yesterland likes to style itself, “a theme park on the web.”

  13. Kk7list

    There’s something wonderfully honest about Kieran Kesner’s portraits of Ukraine. His camera acknowledges there’s a civil war tearing the country apart – there are protests and soldiers and guns and casualties – but this isn’t the sum total of what is happening there. There are still priests saying prayers and farmers plucking potatoes from the fields and cyclists on their bikes; what we see on the news is only part of the story Kieran suggests.