To read an Introduction about the project and portrait series, Click Here.
To read the interviews, click here.
I knew from the get go that these images needed to be composites with some elements of digital art. The first reason for that is simply the fact that I don't have access to the places and things in my imagination. It is hard for me to travel with POTS and SVT so I rely heavily on compositing in order to design the desired landscapes.I also wanted to challenge myself. I’ve only been compositing since January, it takes me a long time to create a decent image which means I need to keep practicing to become more efficient. In my mind, compositing requires more post processing skills than regular photography because you have to match lighting, tones, clarity, and colors for each individual object. I’m not the best at it yet, but I’m determined to get there eventually. My series is non linear because emotions don't have a particular timeline, although most of my mages take place around dusk. That happened subconsciously but it is my favorite time of night, and sometimes I would find myself staying up until 2-3 A.M talking to a friend from another country, so it’s fitting that most of my images would take place during sunset/night.
I have to tell you, this was not an easy task! I’m not a fan of self portraiture, mostly because I prefer to be behind the camera. I also misplaced my remote, and my camera does not have an automated burst mode, so I had to take each shot individually and pray I timed the movements and hairflips correctly so they were captured in one shot. I have about 1 hour of good lighting in my yard because of the trees, so I had to rush a bit to get each portrait taken (I also left a party during golden hour, ran home to take some portraits, and then went back to the party
haha) So all of those were my struggles. Also keeping the color schemes and style consistent. I actually had this idea before the class started. I was listening to Mika’s Stuck in the Middle while texting my friend from another country. The lyrics resonated with me because I really wanted to visit them but because of my health issues I can’t fly on planes so I felt a bit stuck with a case of FOMO. As I was listening I suddenly saw an image in my mind of a portrait of me on a floating bed in the ocean looking out at the horizon and wishing I could get to the shore faster. I wanted to create the portrait, and then when I saw the assignment everything started clicking and I started having more ideas. I tend to be slow at creating the concepts because I literally listen to music and meditate and images come to my mind, I explore them in my minds eye as though they were 3D until the details and colors become clear, and then I recreate them. There’s no planning so sometimes I don’t even know what the images mean, other than their connections with what I was thinking when they appeared. Thus, I feel like my project definitely needs the captions to clarify the ideas behind it.
It was incredibly difficult because I did create this project with a close friend in mind, things ended up not working out and I chose to walk my own path right in the middle of the project. I questioned the entire theme of this project, I had no motivation to shoot because it was and still is one of the hardest experiences I’ve gone through. You can, in fact, miss an online friendship just as much as one that is in person. The truth is, it is harder to tell who people are over the internet, sometimes it’s a bad match but it’s a slow process to discover that because you don’t have that face to face interaction. You could connect on every other level but a deal breaker could come up and you can’t always see that at first when you’re talking over the internet. That being said, I’m so grateful for the inspiration that kickstarted this project and for all the lessons learned from the experience. The biggest challenge was regaining my energy and interest in the topic. I wouldn’t have been able to go through with this theme for myself, but, I have a lot of other long distance friends who have kept me motivated for this series, I’m doing it for them, and for all the wonderful stories of their own long distance experiences. The slap of reality changed the course of my narrative slightly, - it highlights the good parts of this type of relationship, but also the misconceptions and the gap-fillers and expectations we have in long distance friendships. It’s more real, I think, than how I originally planned it. I think my images portray feelings rather than events because the images, if viewed by themselves, wouldn’t seem to have any ties to the theme. I took the emotion, say FOMO, and to me that feeling is best portrayed by me being stuck on a bed in the middle of the Atlantic ocean not being able to get to either shore fast enough. It’s a matter of seeing the image after thinking a thought, then having to go back and analyze why that particular emotion created that particular image. I think when we get caught up in an online relationships especially, we think it’s so wonderful and everything is being viewed through a mystical romanticized lens because our brain fills in the gaps of what we can’t see. So for me, everything I pictured about the person, and the friendship, and the stories they told, was very much “butterflies and rainbows” When I pictured my friend visiting I could see the plane flying through pink bubblegum skies as I stared up at it wistfully from the shore. I tend to romanticize everything that I have limited knowledge about, which definitely has pros and cons.
Because they are mostly composites, I focused less on location, all images were shot on my property except for the beach photo. I tend to be more of a lazy photographer- I’m self taught so the majority of my time learning through trial and error was spent learning how to correct my hot mess photos in post. I know how to take proper images in camera now, but because I know how to fix a lot of things in photoshop, I tend to not pay as much attention to detail during the actual shoot. I did however, have to be careful about what angle I took the images, so I could put myself into the external landscape correctly. I was so thrilled with Allure of the Unknown because I nailed the positioning first try! I was squeeing my pants off when I put it into my image because I didn’t have to do much. I shot the photo on an actual bed, so the way I sunk into the mattress fit perfectly within the composite.
Originally, I wanted the series to be vibrant blues, which ended up morphing into a mix of blues, pastel, and vibrant red. You can see elements of each image bleeding into each other, for example, Escapism is sort of a transition image because it ties together the other photos taken at night, with the vibrant red of The Meeting Tree.
All of the images reflect my vibrant style, however, the first image I created was Wistful Thinking. I originally had a much different look in mind, but I was messing with the hue/saturation to blend the plane better, and found something that looked more polished. I upped the lightness slider on all of the images to give more of a matte finish, which is something I don’t usually do for images, but for compositing I’ve found it makes the image more coherent. Also, selective color is my best friend! That’s what I use most often in my images. Editing was a pain though, it takes up to three hours for the composites- there are techniques I’m still learning so I tend to do everything the hard, slow way. If you were to ask me to recreate the process I honestly couldn’t tell you, it’s different for each composite, but I always use selective color, curves, and adjustment layers.
I created a shot list a long time ago, although I ended up switching out some of the stories. There are a lot more images I want to create but I’m waiting to improve my current skill level before I attempt. The thing with my planning is that I can’t force it - I have to see it and create it from my internal canvas. I’ve realized when I try to create something without having a vision for it it doesn’t turn out. I have to visualize a foundation and then once that is created I can design the rest consciously. That’s the complaint I get from all my professors, that I’m not describing the technical process of how I plan and shoot the images - If I plan, I don’t create anything I’m happy with. I grab a camera, take the image wherever I can do so, and then see what I can create with it. My competitive sprit thrives on that challenge.
I’m not used to taking self portraits, usually my ideas don’t include people, so I had to set the intention that I was going to be somewhere in the shot. Most of these poses I visualized which is sometimes difficult because I’m not a model - so usually the image randomly appears in my head when I’m meditating or listening to music, I’ll see a certain expression or head turned a certain way, and I’m like “Really? How am I going to pull THAT off?” So it was a challenge in that way too. Not surprisingly, my least favorite images were the two where I didn't have a planned pose to start with. I will say I’m impressed by the skirt shot though, because that’s not a composite, I had to throw my skirt up and pose at the same time and I’d get one shot at a time before I’d have to go back to the camera, check the image, adjust, and set the timer again.
I always say that art is subjective, I want my viewers to feel however they want to feel when they see one of my images. I think that’s why I like abstract compositing so much because there are so many emotions and ways to interpret it. Heck, half the time I don’t even know what the story is, but when I do, I keep it to myself usually because I want people to create their own stories. I have anxiety, so I like creating art that I can look at later when I need an escape. It makes me happy. It took me 6 years to be able to create art that, if created by another artist, I would totally hang on my wall (I still feel weird about doing that with my own art haha) So I hope that by creating these pieces, maybe not this particular set, but my art in general, I can help other people with anxiety by creating calming images, or busy images that take awhile to take in all the detail. I like distraction and pretty colors, and that’s what I want to pass on to others.