Pho­tog­ra­phy, com­puter, and mixed me­dia

Kaye Davis dis­cusses the evo­lu­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy and tech­nol­ogy, ref­er­enc­ing 2016 Il­lus­tra­tive Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year Harry Janssen’s win­ning image, Ocean

The Photographer's Mail - - Column - Kaye Davis

The medium of pho­tog­ra­phy has changed greatly over the past 10 to 15 years. The com­bi­na­tion of cam­era and com­puter has largely al­tered the per­cep­tion of pho­tog­ra­phy as be­ing merely a me­chan­i­cal record­ing medium. The use of Pho­to­shop is now an ac­cepted (and ex­pected) part of the pro­duc­tion process that pho­tog­ra­phers have learned to mas­ter, with tech­nolo­gies and tech­niques ap­plied ei­ther sub­tly or in a more overt man­ner.

More­over, dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy has pro­vided the pho­tog­ra­pher with an ex­ten­sive cre­ative tool­box and means that they have to con­sider two dif­fer­ent phases within the image-mak­ing process, be­cause post-pro­duc­tion is now con­sid­ered just as im­por­tant as the cam­era-cap­ture stage.

While tech­nol­ogy can be seen as mim­ick­ing tra­di­tional dark­room tech­niques in some ar­eas, it also greatly ex­tends cre­ative ca­pa­bil­i­ties and op­por­tu­ni­ties. Now, we are see­ing how the com­bi­na­tion of com­puter and cam­era is be­ing used to en­gage our imag­i­na­tion and thought, with the use of tech­nol­ogy push­ing pho­tog­ra­phy in new, in­ter­est­ing, and artis­tic di­rec­tions.

I wit­nessed this at the re­cent Ep­son/NZIPP Iris Pro­fes­sional Pho­tog­ra­phy Awards. In par­tic­u­lar, one image cap­tured the hearts and minds of the judges. Ti­tled Ocean, and pro­duced by Auck­land pho­tog­ra­pher Harry Janssen, the image pre­sented us with a pow­er­ful mes­sage.

The idea for the image came about nearly two years ago, around the time of the dis­ap­pear­ance of the Malaysia Air­lines plane in the In­dian Ocean. What piqued Janssen’s imag­i­na­tion were the satel­lite re­ports that re­vealed the ex­tent of float­ing de­bris be­ing car­ried by ocean gyres (cur­rents) that cir­cu­late the ocean water around the planet. This, and a state­ment seen about there be­ing more plas­tic in the ocean than there are fish, be­came the cat­a­lyst for cre­at­ing the image. The chal­lenge then was fig­ur­ing out how to por­tray this, as well as the mes­sage that, as hu­mans, we need to turn to our­selves and stop blam­ing oth­ers when it comes to pol­lu­tion.

The devel­op­ment process first in­volved em­u­lat­ing the vast­ness and shape of the ocean. This was achieved by trans­form­ing a blue-water panorama — made up of 25 images cap­tured along the coast near Thames, here in New Zealand — us­ing po­lar co­or­di­nates in Pho­to­shop to pro­duce the cir­cu­lar shape. Af­ter per­fect­ing the base for the image, the se­cond stage in­volved adding all the other el­e­ments into it.

The oil slick was pho­tographed in the stu­dio us­ing blue-top milk mixed with a few drops of food colour­ing to get the right colour. Janssen then del­i­cately added dish­wash­ing liquid us­ing cot­ton buds. He spent quite a few hours on this be­fore he was happy with the shape of the ‘slick’. Next, the oil pud­dle in­volved In­dian ink be­ing dripped on white paper — a process he de­scribed as “tricky”, as he needed to en­sure the paper was “dead level to stop the ink from run­ning off”. The float­ing rub­bish was also pho­tographed in the stu­dio, af­ter do­ing a bit of scav­eng­ing for cans, bot­tles, etc., while the ‘dead’ fish came from a photographic ex­cur­sion to the Waikato River. Other items came from photographs that he had pre­vi­ously taken, in­clud­ing a stranded car wreck on a beach, an out­board en­gine, an old ship­wreck in Ka­iaua, a fish­ing boat off the Corn­wal­lis jetty, a guy in a dingy, a tan­gled fish­ing net on the beach, and so on.

The third step — which be­came the pièce de ré­sis­tance that pulls the nar­ra­tive to­gether and strength­ens the mes­sage — was the un­usual mixed-me­dia ap­pli­ca­tion of a small cir­cu­lar mir­ror to the cen­tre of the image. Janssen’s state­ment on ap­ply­ing this was that, “if you want to make the world a bet­ter place, take a look in the mir­ror, and start with your­self”.

As a pho­tog­ra­pher, de­signer, and dig­i­tal ex­pert, Janssen’s image epit­o­mizes how ef­fec­tive com­bin­ing pho­tog­ra­phy and the com­puter can be. The in­no­va­tive ap­proach taken through the use of mixed me­dia in the image, the level of de­tail, tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise ev­i­dent, print qual­ity, and the pow­er­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion por­trayed ac­cord­ingly and de­servedly not only earned Janssen a Gold award for the image at the 2016 Iris Awards but also the ti­tle of 2016 Il­lus­tra­tive Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year.

You can see more of Janssen’s imag­i­na­tive and cre­ative work by vis­it­ing har­ry­janssen.nz.

Harry Janssen

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