The adventure story behind this work is worth telling.
A good buddy had seen ‘Alone In A Crowd’, the work featured in my most recent post, and liked it enough that he enthusiastically encouraged me to set up shop creating caricatures of people using the same techniques. What an opportunity, he suggested!
I pointed out two things. First, the idea of cranking out the same assembly line product day after day for a line of clients sounds too much like, well, work! Also boring! Second, as I’ve stated here any number of times, every photograph is a life unto itself. It’s almost impossible to apply the same techniques to different captures and have them come out exactly the same. All it takes is just the slightest difference in lighting or hue or, shoot, humidity from one shot to the next to throw everything into a different reality.
But for some reason, when I brought up this capture, for the hell of it I thought I’d try.
After all, the two captures in question were taken in the same place on the same day, and each featured a crowd of people in front of a wall-sized artwork. Why wouldn’t it work? So I opened both works and applied each technique used in ‘Alone In A Crowd’ step by step into the new work. And, actually, I came really, really close. I mean, it doesn’t look that way now because I’ve changed it. But before that, yeah, I got those people here close to those people there, using the woman holding the camera above her head as contrast, the same way the first work used the woman with the notepad.
And it was awful!
The problem wasn’t the people, it was the background. The artwork they were standing in front of was a sort of earth-toned, highly textured abstract that came out as an icky blob. No matter what I did it came out as an icky blob. I started changing the crowd away from my intention to try to create something resembling harmony between it and the icky blob. At which point everything looked icky.
Several hours into it, many versions of icky passing under the bridge, I realized I had to get rid of the background. Now, I almost never do this. There is, to me, something inviolate about every photograph that renders as sinful the act of combining elements of several images. It’s something of a point of pride – I take a single image and I create art from it. But, in this case, that background had to go.
I had photographed a Matisse just around the corner – just a touristy shot of Henri Matisse’s ‘Bathers With A Turtle’ (the Nazi’s considered it “degenerate” and it was purchased by Joseph Pulitzer Jr. to prevent its destruction), but it was my own photograph, not something taken off the internet, which WOULD have been a sin. It’s about 87 inches across; certainly not large enough to cover an entire wall as I’ve recreated it here. I’ve also desaturated it and blended the crowd to be slightly transparent before the painting. The crowd also required new filtering and lighting to fit its new background – the woman with the camera above her head had to lose her individuality.
The result, I think, is not icky. I feel it actually all works quite well!
I’ve mixed feelings about altering the look of a great master’s work and featuring it so prominently in my own, and for that reason this is a work I’m unlikely to ever exhibit. It’s more of a travelogue; a tourist’s journal. A typical adventure in photo artist.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.