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March 03, 2004

Idanda: Contemporary Design and Visual Culture With Some Depth

I have no idea how I stumbled upon Idanda, an online magazine focused on modern design and visual culture, but I'm glad I did. It's sort of similar to In Magazine, which I discussed a couple of days ago, except there seems to be a stronger focus on work created for commercial purposes...but the good news is that all the content is online, and a lot of it is quite cool.

Biggest pluses: a good amount of photography is featured from a varied range of artists, and photography isn't compartmentalized into a category separate from other art and popular culture, but is treated as part of an large, rich mix of media that influences us all in unpredictable ways. Also, the layout and navigation are generally simple and intuitive, very refreshing for a contemporary web magazine, though getting at some of the content on the site is the usual video-game style puzzle solving that Flash designers like to inflict on site visitors (though it's really pretty minimal here compared to most other sites).

And the "Editorial Section" features discussions between leading professionals in various fields (Art Direction, illustration, architecture, etc), many of which feature a surprising level of depth and range of ideas. Navigating the text of the discussions is one of the bigger annoyances with the site (you'll see what I mean), but in the case of Idanda's latest exchange between designer Michael Jager and architect Albert Abut, the discussion is rich and detailed enough to (mostly) overcome the annoyances. (For photographers, the archived exchange between art photographers David Levinthal and Stephen Frailey is also enjoyable and easier to navigate).

Biggest minuses: Some navigation issues as noted above, and the visuals are reproduced in rather small sizes...mostly, it's not a problem, and some portfolios actually gain from the interesting presentation, but some of the work --photography, illustration, whatever -- just looks tiny and flat.

Overall, this is a very good site worth reading and viewing, very stylish, but rather humble, modest in scale, and low-key considering. Highlights from my recent visits include:

A portfolio in the current Talent section from emerging UK photographer Jason Orton, who says simply: ‘My work’s a lot about looking at peripheral or forgotten places and finding their inherent beauty,’


Sunbather image by Jason Orton

In the Talent archives, a brief feature on photographer Phil Toledano...the portfolio that's included is something of a mixed bag, but there's good work on his home page...in particular, I like the "Nightfall" series and the "Videogamers" series is a clever set of contemporary portraits that effectively isolates the rapt concentration of gamers with a good sense of humor. Idanda compares Toledano to Nadav Kander, which I'm not sure I agree with (Kander seems to me to have a moodier and richer quality to his work, and any commercial compromises are better concealed), but Toledano's best stuff is still quite nice.


Phil Toledano image, from Videogamer series

Finally, the Talent archives also profile Mike Slack, who has a way with Polaroids, color and form...hardly sounds unique, but he has a very refreshing eye. Based on what I've seen, I imagine his recently released book OK OK OK is probably worth a look as well.


Pool, polaroid by Mike Slack

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