I’m usually reticent about discussing my own work, thinking it a rather grandiose attitude to strike. Nonetheless, what emerges from my summer “shooting spree” often surprises me (which is what I intend), and I thought I would tell you a bit about how much attention I’ve paid to these particular images.
The folder of images of snapdragons became very compelling to me, although they were not immediately images which I looked to for my primary body of work. They were quite “traditional” images, by which I mean they seem straightforward still lifes mimicking the Dutch and Flemish flower paintings of a few centuries ago. And I haven’t been so much about the traditional lately, what with jumping around with my camera and creating surprises for myself.
One thing which I work to achieve in these pieces is minimal light, which can be a tricky thing in digital. If your brain is rewired by your camera, you start to over-illuminate and just aim for that digital clarity and detail, which can only take you so far. But most of the data in the digital file is in the upper midtones and highlights, so if you under-light the actual shoot, you lose information and you get a lot of noise. So it’s usually best to light a little brighter than you want, then bring it down in post.
As far as process goes, I take the original into Camera Raw (a Photoshop plug-in which is a kind of gateway to PS, allowing a first pass at “correcting” exposure, contrast, etc., in the digital negative.) I usually take the image to a quite neutral place, actually lowering the contrast and evening out the image until it’s a little flat. In PS itself, I work with layer modes “Multiply” and “Screen”, applying the layer modes, masking out the transformation, then “painting in” the shadows and highlights respectively.
The effect I am working for, in Nostalgic Deception and similar pieces, is a mysterious, out of time/out of place feeling in which the subject is barely emerging from darkness, as a memory might, and illuminated in a way that creates a subtle but definite modeling (emphasizing the three-dimensional quality).
There is a sense of disquiet and foreboding, of elegy, and disintegration in the blooms that have fallen away. The deception is the tension between an exquisitely beautiful memory, which we allow ourselves to be seduced by, and the treachery of decay that must take place. Our memory lives for a moment, but then is taken away again. It’s the pain of imminent loss.