One of my favorite ways to get the kind of surreal pop I love in my photography is to use the simple combination of colored gels and LED lights. Here we look at a few ways to use gels and why they are a valuable addition to any art and portrait photographer’s toolkit.
All images in this video shot with the Fuji X-T2 and the Fuji Neo Classic Instax Mini 90, models include Shasta Wonder, Kaila Stone, Mckenzie Eckels, and L. Shima.
Some video pieces grow out of a plan, and others form organically; “Bernardo” is definitely one of the latter. I had shot with artist Meredith Adelaide, and it went so well we scheduled another day the following week. I had used up my more fully fleshed out concepts on our first day, so we ended up visiting the Phoenix Art Museum and shooting around the Salt River based on 2 ultra-basic FX ideas I had written in my notes (“light painting in firefly room” and “hovering with trampoline”). There was a random encounter with a frog at the Salt River that seemed to shape the experience- Meredith randomly dubbed him “Bernardo”, and somehow he ended up being the focus of this particular video art piece. A random encounter between a woman and a frog leads to a cosmic experience for both. Filmed on the Fujifilm X-T2 Mirrorless Digital Camera> and effects in Adobe After Effects.
The Surrealists of the early 20th Century have always been huge influences on my work- I think when I first learned about Man Ray in my photography class, I thought “…friend!” in that pseudo-horror movie way. As I graduated into making video work I wanted to express myself in a similar way as my photography, and learned a handful of techniques that are not too dissimilar from what those Surrealist innovators were doing when they dipped their hands on filmmaking.
These xerox transfers were created with one of my favorite models in Portland. I had been using acetone for my transfers but since I’ve been teaching the workshops at a local art store, it’s worked out to use the Chartpak blending markers instead of acetone- safer and you can get these sketchy “charcoal”-like results.
The SXSW of art photography, Photolucida, is having portfolio reviews in Portland April 2015, and I was lucky enough to make it through the lottery process they have for registration. The next hurdle is registration costs- roughly $1000 due Oct. 7, 2014, one week. Photolucida is a big enough deal that I am ready to sell my car to pay the registration, but since I do have an Etsy shop full of art, anyone who buys from me this week Sept 29-Oct. 5th will get something extra in their order, to be determined depending on what anyone orders!
As I dive deep into the thousands of images I shot on my travels through Macedonia and Greece (and the previous Kansas City/ New Mexico trip, and subsequent Portland sojourn) it’s worth reviewing my equipment setups/ shooting styles and determining what worked and what didn’t?
having 3 camera batteries in rotation
the small shoulder bag that accomodated the Fuji X-E1, 2 off camera lenses, the Fuji Neo Classic Instax Mini and some instax film
downloading photos every night and working on the obvious best for around an hour each night
availability of wi-fi and archiving edits to flickr/ dropbox as quickly as possible
Shooting every single thing that caught my eye in Macedonia
the Fujinon 35mm 1.4 lens which took the majority of my favorite images- this lens on the Fuji X-E1 made it possible for the camera to fit in my sweatshirt pocket, and traveling that lightly made it possible for me to get some cool reportage style images in very dark scenarios
Traveling in a country (Macedonia) where we had a lot of resources, had a wife who could speak the language and introduce me to people
Following my instincts as far as what activities will yield the best images, for example, visiting the Nuclear Museum of Albuquerque.
What didn’t work:
when I was stuck with just a big backpack full of computer gear and clothes alongside camera gear. I loathe the big backpack. Can’t always get away from it though…
not taking healthy snacks on the plane, relying sometimes solely on the generosity of others or constant availability of pastries/ unhealthy food
the drive from Arizona to Missouri was an insane mistake. It cost a fortune and the only benefit was to be able to bring masks which I didn’t sell, and I would have been better off to fly with only my photographs.
I also tried to set up a model shoot in LA but communication with the model while I was in Europe had some difficulty, and I had to cancel it when I didn’t have everything set exactly before I was to take the long trans-Atlantic flight home. All the travel made these weeks a runaway train and this was something that ended up being cast to the wayside.
Also our trip to Greece was full of difficulty. Language barriers, they don’t like Macedonians in Thessaloniki so Vesna stayed very cautious, and I didn’t have a map. It was very humid, everything was on a hill, and the kids were unhappy, our phone didn’t work to communicate with our dropoff/ pickup driver- overall bad planning.
Kansas City had an issue where I had to wheel masks to my convention table, but the masks were so heavy and I went so far that the friction burned a wheel off my cart making it useless. I spent an hour making trips to my car to remove my art product.
Lastly, there were some issues with my portable lights in Macedonia- for starters, I lost a wireless trigger, and I also declined to take a light stand in favor of a tripod with adapter. The quick release plate of the tripod with adapter is nowhere near as stable as a regular light stand, so when I went to Portland I made sure to take the correct stand.
Every trip, convention, and photo shoot is a learning experience so I’m grateful for even the bad experiences. I know if I returned to Greece I’d have a much better time than my one single day in Thessaloniki, and future art/ comicon appearances will just be flat art of my photography. The next tour segment begins in August and I’m sure it will have its own unique challenges!
Spectrum Fantastic Art Live, a fantasy-themed arts convention, was held in Kansas City last weekend and I was there at my table on Friday and Saturday. I’d decided pretty late that I wanted to bring sculpture along with photography, and that the only way to do that was to drive from Phoenix… a 22 hour drive through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas into Missouri. Somewhere in my head I figured the gas would be equivalent to renting a car and hotel rooms in downtown KC. Silly me!
meeting some of the guys from Sidebar, one of my favorite podcasts
my first “life drawing” experience with nude models (keep in mind I’ve photographed nudes 100 times, yet I’ve never had a life drawing experience)
attending Frank Cho’s live drawing Q+A. I like Frank as an artist. He has strong opinions about Modern Art (“it’s all a scam, it’s crap”) that I think are ill-informed but he has his reasons and prejudices I guess.
meeting a lot of artists from other parts of the country, and seeing some truly stunning sculpture done live.
watching the film “Making It” which premiered at SFAL, which I enjoyed for its collection of honest interviews.
As for some general observations:
The filmmakers chronicled a year in the lives of 3 of their artist friends. After the film, a female audience member questioned the film panel on it’s lack of diversity, and one artist involved claimed it would have cost “twice as much” to include more female creators. The actual filmmakers backpedaled this and eventually got to the point where they said “these are guys we know and have access to,” but it was a weird moment that female creators at the table next to me were talking about that next morning.
I don’t attend that many shows but I’m aware of the ongoing back-and-forth about the presentation of women in fantasy art and comics, lack of diversity among creators, and between Frank Cho (who says he’s a “real pervert” and draws “pornography” in reference to his high T+A quotient) and the “Making It” kerfuffle, the problems are definitely real. There are a lot of guys who perceive geek culture as their boys club- maybe they never could relate to women, or were very introverted and scared around them, so their experience is limited to fantasy representations. People who can’t have positive intimate relationships get weird ideas of how the world works, they develop weird and negative attitudes.
Overall, SFAL was a chance to introduce my work to a crowd very far from home. With the show in the rear- view mirror, I’m turning the “show” trip into a “photo” trip in New Mexico and Arizona to justify the cost of gas.