The Wildwoods' Embrace
Model: Skyelar Casada
Dress made by me from a shower curtain
Have you heard the phrase "Don't worry about that. I can fix it in Photoshop"? Chances are, if you are a photographer or know one, you've heard this phrase at least once. Maybe you've even said it yourself. I've said it myself in the past, but I have heard it so often it makes me cringe now. Don't get me wrong, Photoshop can be a great tool to enhance your photographs, but should it be a catch all fix or an excuse for not taking the time to create a better photo to begin with? It seems we are always looking for a shortcut these days, always looking for the easy way out in everything we do. We have let the frenzied pace of life creep into every fiber of our being, infusing even our creative processes.
Are we paving the way for forgetting time honored skills like using proper camera settings, correct lighting, and doing work with our own two hands by creating our own props and wardrobe? I read an article today on how people are forgetting cursive handwriting on paper because they now type everything on a keyboard, but I digress.
Let's step back to my first blog posts and my first discovery of Photoshop. I thought it was the greatest invention ever! The possibilities were endless and I dove in enthusiastically, teaching myself all kinds of creative tricks including composting layers. I thought it was great because I didn't know anyone in the community, didn't have models to work with, and I didn't have the money to purchase props. I began photographing all the locations, props, and anything I could use to create a composite scene, and I was quite good at it. When I did find a lady to model I didn't bother with makeup or wardrobe because I could 'fix it in Photoshop'. I made whole dresses from a single feather and whole gardens from a handful of flowers. I was having fun creating my own fantasy world from nothing. It wasn't until I started to think about the motivation behind creating the images that I realized something. My message didn't make sense with the work I was creating and I wasn't reaching my audience. I was creating fantasy imagery using Photoshop. At the time Photoshop composites weren't in favor. People would just say "Oh, that's not real, that's Photoshop." and walk away. Their minds were closed and they lost interest. I continued to experiment with layers and textures, but my enthusiasm was waning. You see, I started photography in the film days where shots were carefully set up and thought out. We experimented with new tricks and processes, but the emphasis was on taking a good picture to start with. We practiced patience. I wasn't being true to my values.
As I got out and explored my town I found cool locations to shoot and got to know more people in my community. Something wonderful happened. I learned to network. I found ladies that were happy to be part of my creative process and model for me. I found people that were willing to lend or donate items for wardrobe and props. I found items I could purchase for little money and re-purpose them. I began to remember how much I enjoyed making things with my own two hands. That wonderful satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes from saying "I made this!" I took pride and enthusiasm in my work like never before. I became a better person and a better artist. I loved the challenges of figuring out how to create the scenes I wanted without compositing layers. I realized that my previous rationale for using composites in my work no longer suited me. In fact they were a crutch, an excuse to be lazy. In many ways it had stood in the way of my growth as a creative person. I had grown up in an environment that forced me to be resourceful, and I had been wasting that gift when it came to my art. Now I had chosen to become a more resourceful artist.
I have not used composites now for quite some time. What you see in the frame of each photo was actually there at the time of shooting. It is my dream to expand the mind of viewers to what is possible in this word. We create our own reality with every choice we make. I apply this philosophy to my life and to my art, working to bring each scene into our own reality. Even if it is only for a moment in time, my hope is to somehow make a difference for our own world. Almost everything within the frame of each picture has been either designed or made by myself including the costumes props and sets. The landscapes within the scenes are constructed by Mother Nature and not by Photoshop. The scenes are as real as I can make them, hand-created and constructed like a miniature film set. Sometimes it takes months just to prepare a photoshoot, but the wait is so worth it! Now I use Photoshop just for touch-ups and color toning with Exposure 5. I sometimes use a filter for a painterly look, but I may someday abandon that too. Who knows what the future holds? Right now I am excited to be creating on a better level than ever before and it feels so good!