ARC Presents: Sebastian Mlynarski

Posted in Photography, Video by Nathan Lee Bush on January 20, 2011

Some of the best photographers and videographers in the world walk through our doors every day. ARC Presents is our series highlighting their work on our blog.

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Sebastian Mlynarski is an photographer and filmmaker with an experimental temperament and restless desire for new aesthetic modes of expression.

In the music video for the trance-inducing “Helium,” by MAYa, cloaked figures with broad hats wander the desert, dragging large nets behind and between them. Within this simple motif, Mlynarski is constantly experimenting.

He underexposes much of the footage (which was shot on the RED One), reminiscent of day-for-night techniques of classic westerns. The sky is matted black in some shots. In others the landscape glows with a radioactive haze. Some shots are static, some violently handheld. Some distant, some alarmingly close. Some night, some day, some under blinding sun, others cloudy skies, seemingly at random. Whenever a narrative seems to be forming, it dissolves. Even the choice of framerate, which looks to me like 30fps rather than the more commonly used (and more “cinematic”) 24fps, shirks convention. Some of the shots are stunning and some, in my mind, don’t quite work. But this willingness to keep pushing in new directions, even within the same video, is something I admire greatly.

In Interpol‘s “Barricade” music video, shot on Canon DSLRs, Mlynarski introduces a few simple yet effective motifs, which take us through the song. In the main scenario, band members, contained in borderless square video screens almost matching the larger “real” backdrop, play their instruments isolated in an abandoned field. This effect was achieved with green screens with the video superimposed on the eerily three dimensional square in post. In another scenario, full color projections of the lead singer are beamed onto half-naked bodies, themselves illumined by ghostly monochrome lights. The alienating distance this evokes accentuates the song’s chorus: It starts to feel like a barricade / that keep us away / to keep us away, it kind of does.

Similarly, the amazing photography on Mlynarski’s personal site is tantalizingly sparse and varied. He experiments with collage, color matting, multiple exposures to create opaque, beautiful and unknowable collections. The human mind is evolved to seek patterns, and is frustrated when it can’t find them. Mlynarski’s work perfectly plays with this impulse. Eventually, you stop trying and just look forward to what comes next.


Nathan Lee Bush is a photographer and filmmaker in New York City. His work is on his blog and site, and on Vimeo. He’s also on Twitter.

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  1. […] this blog, Through The Looking Glass, we reach out for guest bloggers; and I write about Sebastian Mlynarski for ARC […]

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