Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Anatomy of a photograph


Many people ask me:

"What is your process for coming up with your photography pastiches?"

Actually, no one has ever asked me that. 

And come to think of it no one ever asks me any questions about my process for anything. But nevertheless I am quite keen to talk about my process. I think I'm kind of even now drifting into talking about my process for talking about my process.

So let's make a deal. 

I won't talk about my process for talking about my process if you can be okay with me talking about my process. And, BONUS, I am not just going to be talking, there will be pictures, because this is about my process for coming up with my photography pastiches. Which people ask me about all the time.

Oh, right, they don't. We've quite circled all around, haven't we?


Now I am going to show you our finished picture for the day first. 

Is it our best picture? No, but I like it and it's a good case study, and I've only lost one of the source photos for it, which is pretty good in something with a complicated trail like this. 

So here's the finished picture in all its glory:

Okay, cool, so it's a picture of Snoopy, in kind of a ghost town, smiling down at a plate of green eggs and ham. That may seem to be a very natural, almost inevitable picture to you, especially now that you've seen it. But it didn't start out like this at all!

There was a process.

First I took a small ton of pictures of Snoopy, which I do almost any time I come across a likely Peanuts volume at the library I work at. I am very partial to this source and have hundreds of Peanuts pictures on my phone. Here is our starting point:

The sweetness of Snoopy's expression here is most appealing!

At the time I singled out this Snoopy picture I had recently taken a large group of photos from a book called something like "Abandoned America". These were a lot of very nice black and white photos of empty, desolate American street scenes. Here, as you will recognize, is one of these:

I was experimenting with putting figures  at a small scale in these photos to accentuate the loneliness of these scenes (you'll probably see more in the next few days, sans the process discussion, though you never know...). I placed a carefully cut out (digitally) Snoopy into a spot that seemed to work in the photo. Shadow and lighting and size and scale and luck all play a part in my figure looking like it is in the scene, rather than on the scene:

This worked out well, and the shadows were agreeable. But clearly Snoopy was looking down warmly at something. It seemed to be an opportunity. 

So I poked around in my files. I tried this:

This one seemed okay, but left me a little flat. The snail didn't sit well or resonate with the environment. 

I felt Snoopy's gaze was too good an opportunity to just pass on.

And then I remembered some green eggs and ham I had been messing around with a little while ago. Oddly I can't find my original shot from the Green Eggs and Ham book, but here is how I had used the image previously; an image in my library that I could not decide whether it was too subtle to work:

So I grabbed up my green eggs and ham, set them before Snoopy on his abandoned street, and there we are. Our photograph complete!

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