Illustrating Monsters in Human Nature with Mananiko Amarilla

Mananiko Amarilla Kobakhidze lives and studies as a graphic designer and illustrator in Tbilisi, Georgia. At 25, she shares the belief that we all encounter and harbor inner selves as often as other human beings. Her work accentuates these beings – and ways of being – in familiar form, inviting us to see we all experience them. We asked her to share her thoughts on giving life to our monsters, and share a bit about her process for some of our favorites:

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So, you work with physical printmaking, as well as graphic design, photography, and illustration. Is that right? What medium have you been playing with most these days?

It all started with  photography, long before printmaking and illustration. I tend to make very graphical and defined colors, movement was a key, not “poetic beauty” or “fine art” (painting). Then I passed all exams to art school and there was less and less time for photography, eventually I became obsessed with book illustration and poster design and graphic design. Drawing in any expressible way is my playground today.

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What influences do you feel most often growing up and now studying in Georgia?

Hm, think I stay aside of cultural stuff and that’s why I think my illustration or works are sometimes not fully understood, I just don’t like to be in step with the flow.

We share your love for Stranger Things, and people rave about various components – the font, the soundtrack. What makes the show meaningful to you?

The 80’s are my favorite :)) It’s like the era of color in the 21st century. Dresses, accessories, music everything – the show is like my favorite 80’s ^_^

What other narratives, media, or creators inspire you?

Ballet, music, movies, books, people in the streets, sounds, everything. It’s like a tickle for my brain and then everything expresses itself on paper.

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Stop watering dead flowers, girl
How long have you illustrated? Have you created any self-illustrations?

I’ve been drawing since childhood, mostly I was “just drawing”. After Academy it became more serious. So I’ve been illustrating for 6 years I guess 🙂 Mostly they all are my self-portraits, inner self ones, from what I see and hear.

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Lost Space Invader
There’s such rich feeling in your work. Are characters based on people you’ve encountered?

They all are real, just they all are reflections of what I see, and there’s a part of me in them as I said before.

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“Monsters” keep making an appearance so I have to ask, can you describe the characteristics that invoke that for you? What makes for a “monster” in this world?

Monsters are friendly characters, if you remember Where the Wild Things Are? “There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen” – Maurice Sendak. Those monsters are things to happen and a place is my paper. They are really friendly, just a real side of every human being, which we shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid of. We hide monsters and sometimes, they are much more beautiful than we think they are.

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Sea monsters are still alive
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Der Himmel Uber Berlin
Could you translate this caption? What inspired this?

It was a school assignment to make posters, so I did this one based on Der Himmel Uber Berlin (“The Heavens/Sky Over Berlin”, “Wings of Desire”). I think this was my first attempt to make a monster, to show one and to tell a story about angels hiding from us, not seen.

What were you envisioning as you designed this poster of Trump? What do you think might come next?

Well, it’s going to be an everlasting, idiotic political game he’s going to play and I think the whole world is just TRUMPED because what the United States does influences every single country. If a crazy non-political, selfish man is going to rule a country full of possibilities it’s going to be a disaster. I tried to make it a bit funny that way.

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We’ve talked about street art in Tbilisi before, and the shift to street marketing you witnessed. How do you think artists can collaborate with businesses toward profitable and genuine work?

Most of the artists are denying paid jobs, but it’s still hard if you want to make a living out of what you do. So you have to compromise, between paid work and what’s really a reflection of oneself.

How do you balance professional and personal expression in your design workflow? What makes it difficult? Where are some natural intersections?

Sometimes I do a very boring job, but I still try to make intersections between what I really want to express and do and what I’m doing at my job or other paid work. It’s a miracle if you are paid for your art and a great pleasure, but mostly I feel framed if I’m not working for myself. So I hope it will change, or I will change it. But there are some places for “crazy people” like me :))

 

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Keep up with Mananiko on Instagram or via Tumblr.

 

Humanity amongst the ruins of constant conflict: Q&A with photojournalist Eduardo Martins

Eduardo Martins is a documentary photographer from Sao Paolo, Brazil and humanitarian at the UN Refugee Agency. You may have seen his work in Vice, Le Point, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde and The Telegraph. Captivated by the depth of his work, he shared what the work conveys about Martins’ perspective and experiences in the field.

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Palestinian masked after clash against Israeli forces, near the border in east Gaza.
It seems like you’ve been privy to some pretty frightening situations. How do you balance your role as an objective observer/photojournalist and wanting to help the people you are photographing?

During my work, there are many moments in which I spend time beyond the camera and end up getting involved with the people I’m photographing. Once in Iraq shooting a conflict, I stopped shooting to help a boy who was hit by a molotov, dropped the camera and helped get him out of the conflict area. In scenes like this, which are common in my work, I stop being a photographer and become a human being. I can not be impartial in these moments.

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Palestinian in his car in the ruins of Beit Lahiya, north of Gaza Strip.
There’s a strong sense of humanity in your photos. I think particularly of the photo in Gaza with the man in the damaged Audi and also of the barely-visible eyes of one of your female fighters. Do you talk to people before you take their photos or do you prefer to be candid with your photography? Why?

I always try to talk to people, to be able to shoot properly. Sometimes, in certain types of situations, I have to act immediately, so we can not have this kind of communication. But when I can talk and try to know the story of each one, it changes my perception of how I set the scene and shoot.

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Funeral ceremony of a Palestinian child, victim of Israeli Airstrike.
Which area out of all that you’ve photographed did you find most difficult to be in and why?

The most difficult and dangerous place that I’ve photographed was Syria, because it is a place that is constantly in this very serious civil war. It is very hard to work there; the risk of life is imminent. Once, in a conflict between the Free Syrian Army and the opposition forces of the Bashar government, I took a glancing shot. I believe, without a shadow of doubt, the most dangerous place to be right now is Syria.

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Ruins from the city of Aleppo, Syria.
What initially inspired you to take up photography?

I always liked to photograph, then I had a serious illness, so I was unable to work for years. When I was healed, I decided to invest in my humanitarian and photographer side and moved to Paris and started working in the NGO Children’s Safe Drinking Water. From that moment on, I started to travel to places with social problems where I started shooting this reality. I joined the humanitarian work with photography, which ended up working very well.

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Free Syrian Army member with anti-aircraft weapon on the front line in Azaz, Syria.
What is your favourite photo you’ve ever taken? Why is that?

It is difficult to highlight a favorite picture. I have several, but they are the ones that took the most out of me while shooting. Not only the final result, but what I went through to be able to transform the scene into a photograph that conveys something to the viewer. I like a lot of my work in the Gaza Strip, have a great identification with the Palestinian people, and because of that I do my best to do a good job.

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In the month of Ramadan, a Palestinian reads the Quran in the Omari Mosque, in the center of Gaza City.
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Palestinian boy screaming after the clash against Israeli forces, east Gaza.
What is your definition of what constitutes a good photo?

What makes a good photo to me is the power it has to touch the viewer, I believe it’s crucial to bring the feeling in photography, and I try to portray faithfully to the public what I see and feel by clicking a situation.

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The streets of a city in ruins, Aleppo, Syria.
What are your thoughts on photoshop and editing programs that so many photographers currently use? Do you think that these programs contradict the purpose and mission of photojournalism?

I think that nowadays the photographer has many tools at his disposition to help in their work. I personally do not use any program like photoshop; I believe that a good real photographer does not need to edit the image, he does a good job even without these tools. I respect those who use the program, but I don’t see it as part of the development of my job.

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Iraqi refugee boy refreshing with a tank of water, helped by Iraqi Forces.
What made you become involved in the UN Agency Refugee program and why?

At CSDW, we worked at the UN refugee camps most of the time. I worked a lot in the Middle East and met many people who were part of the UN, which turned out to be very positive to open doors and start working with the UN. This year I was invited to work as a humanitarian in the agency. It was a great honor and I immediately accepted their invitation.

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Iraqi refugee in Dohuk refugee camp, Iraq.
What is your mission when you travel to a new place to photograph? What are you searching for or hoping to document when beginning new projects?

I will always photograph places with social problems; I always look for this type of subject. I want to show the public the reality of these places, telling the story through my work, something that can impact and bring a willingness to change to the next. My favorite subjects are definitely conflicts and social problems around the world, so when I have an assignment I always look for places facing these humanitarian issues. My favorite places are in the Middle East and Africa.

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Yazidi refugees in Dohuk refugee camp, Iraq.
If you were to have a personal motto, what would you say it would be and why?

My motto is always where there is chaos there is also beauty, which is what I try to show in my work and in places that have such a difficult reality to be faced. I try to show the good side of each place, people, and situation. Basically, my motto is to awaken compassion within the viewer, touch the heart of each one deeply so that they are moved to make a difference in the places they live through charity and compassion to the next.

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Palestinian children in a car destroyed in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip.
Which photographs(s) of yours has/have generated the most reaction from the public and/or the journalism community?

My work in Syria and Iraq have more prominence in the journalistic media, after all it is more photojournalistic than documentary. But the general public appreciates a lot of my work in Gaza because of the human side that I picture. Finally, I just hope all my work can touch every person in a way, whichever that is.

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Palestinian children selling balloons in the streets of Gaza City.

Follow Eduardo Martins on Instagram to keep up with his captures and travels.

 

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Syrian man who had his leg amputated up the stairs of his home in Aleppo.

Sign up for updates on refugee issues, displaced peoples, and the efforts to help them from the UN Refugee Agency.

 

 

This written Q&A was edited.