A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I come up with ideas for my art, and in this post I'll continue explaining my workflow with the next step: photography!
To illustrate this part of the workflow I thought I'd share and talk a bit about the photography I did for my work "Puppet".
My work is 100% photographic, and all my pictures are composed of my own photography. I always try to do as much work as possible in camera because I think that well planned and photographed source pictures are a much better option than doing excessive work in Photoshop. In my opinion camera work will always have better quality and look better than something "fixed" in Photoshop. If you do the photography really well you could technically just print your pictures, cut out the parts you want with scissors and paste them onto an empty piece of paper and be done with it. I find that to be a good reference to have in mind when planning my composites.
Trying to do as much work as possible with the camera also poses an interesting challenge. When I have an idea for a picture I have to figure out a way to realize it in the best way possible. I really enjoy this part of the work, it's a fun problem-solving exercise and since I don't have an unlimited budget for photo-shoots I am often forced to think outside the box to get the end result I want. The picture above, "Puppet", is a rather simple idea, but it presented a few problems to solve.
I had to come up with a way to make it look like the model is being picked up by a giant hand. One idea is to try and build some kind of rig to hang him from, but that would be very time consuming and expensive (and probably dangerous, since I'm not exactly good at building things), there would also be wires and stuff interfering with the clothes that would have to be removed in Photoshop. Another solution would be to have him stand on his toes, but that would require a lot of "fixing" in Photoshop to make his feet look like they're not on the ground, possibly merging the main picture with one of his feet above the ground. Both these solutions are also "static", meaning that there is no movement and I would have to try and pose the model in a convincing way, which is very hard to do. Also, to get the movement in the clothes we would have to use a fan. The solution I chose was to have my model jump up and down in the studio, trying to snap the pictures at the highest point of the jump, at that exact moment when he's not going up nor down. This solved all the above problems at once, there is movement in the clothes, and the pose is much better than anything we could have done with a "static" shot; He is actually floating in mid-air.
As for the hand shot we tried a few different techniques, but this one worked out best. My model is holding a mobile phone, and by holding an actual object with some weight the pinching looks more realistic than if we tried just posing the hand.
In my art I try to make simple, scaled back compositions with few elements, where every part adds to the story. Sometimes less is more, and for me one of the most interesting challenges of creating the kind of work I do is to try and find a simple but yet ambiguous visual representation of something very complex. In many ways the photography part of my workflow presents the same kind of challenge; the most simple solutions are often the most successful ones!
Of course, there are many more aspects to photo montages, like angles, lighting and backgrounds, but I'll leave that to a future blog post.
I often get questions about how I come up with ideas for my art, so I thought I would try to explain my process a bit more in depth.
I don’t believe creativity is something that “strikes” you, but rather something you have to work actively on. I’m nowhere near to fully understand my own creative process, but I do have a work flow I follow. I try to schedule creative sessions of one or two hours a couple of times each week where I don’t do any actual work. In these sessions I shield myself from the outside world and the distractions of everyday life and try to come up with ideas. I believe for creativity to happen I need to be in a calm, playful and open mindset where I can focus and hear myself think. This is easier said than done, it takes a lot of effort to force yourself to take this time to not think about or do anything else. I have mainly two tools to "collect" ideas, my notebook and my camera.
One way I collect ideas is taking a walk with my camera looking for interesting things to photograph. I think there are endless ideas out there just waiting to be discovered. On these walks I force myself to really look at my surroundings and think about what I am seeing. I can walk down a street I walked on a hundred times before and every time discover something new I can build an idea and picture around, it's all about mindset; what's going on inside and what you are receptive to in that moment. I like to think of it as "sampling" reality to make a new one, like a music producer samples old songs to make new ones. Often I can have something I've seen on these walks, like a beautiful tree or a cool rock, in the back of my mind for a long time and when the time is right and I get an idea where I need it, I know where to find it.
The other main way in which I collect my ideas is my sketchbook. I simply just sit or lay down, letting my mind wander and sketch down ideas that pops up. I find that the ideas start coming after about 30-40 minutes of wrestling my mind into submission, not to think about bills, dishes or other distractions. The sketches I do are in no way finished ideas, and often very, very sloppy, but they give me something to work on. An interesting thing I've noticed is that if I, despite of my very limited drawing skills, can get an idea through with a simple sketch, then the idea is often simple and powerful enough to translate into a finished piece I'm happy with.