Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Imitation or Inspiration

As many of you know already, I am a big fan of Vincent O'Byrne's photography.  His fantasy images prompted me to experiment in Photoshop (Elements) and produce images of my own.
I first saw him in Drogheda Camera Club where he gave a presentation.  His opening words (and I paraphrase) were something like: "If anyone has any problems with nude images or images portraying religious content then they should leave now."  Nobody left and I was intrigued.

He showed us a series of stamps he had created that he used as a cathartic tool to purge his angst about the religious community and his school time.  On their own, the images were incredible.  When he explained that he had hidden relevant texts and symbols in his images and went thorough some of them, I was blown away.

He was also generous with the technical aspects of how he had produced his images.
He showed how he extracts a subject from his original image for use in other backgrounds.  He also showed a simple technique for creating a glowing mist around a person in an image.  I did some searching on the Internet after that and learned more about him.

The first image I created from scratch is the one above.  It was the first time I had imagined an end image and planned how I was going to do it.  At the time I was aware of several guys I knew who had been dazzled by new girlfriends.  They had changed completely.  It was almost like they had been infected by the love bug.  And that was my inspiration for the photo above.

I bought a mannequin head, borrowed the daughter of a friend of mine and went to work in my kitchen.  Then, days later I emerged from my computer room with a print in my hand and a proud look on my face.  In hindsight, the photo is not brilliant but  I had used a myriad of new techniques I had never used before including making the mannequin change its expression to fear and inserting my own eyes in place of the blank ones he had.

I printed it, mounted it, titled it "Love Bug" and entered it into a competition in Drogheda Camera Club which was judged by no less a person than Sean Casey.  All the photos were arranged around the meeting room while he went from one to the next and made his comments on what was right and wrong and how improvements could be made.  When he got to mine, he stopped, paused for a while and said "I have no idea what is going on this photographer's mind", scored it low and moved on.

Yep, I was a bit deflated.

In the years to come I did more in the lines of stage, portraits and art nude photography but I always hankered to do some fantasy work.  I don't know why I didn't.  It might have been that remark that Sean had made - I don't really know.  I did some setups with models but nearly always fell short of producing anything because of lack of backgrounds or ability.

Earlier this year, I was asked by a member of the DCC Council who I would have on my wishlist of  guest speakers.  Vincent O'Byrne was top of my list.  In May my wish was granted and Vincent made his presentation about how there was a formula that guaranteed success in creating winning photos.  It was a brilliant night.  Superb images, witty conversation and a great insight into the creative process he uses.  From that night on, I had in the back of my mind to 'do' a VOB fantasy photo.  So recently, a friend of mine Lily Greibere who works as a MUA but also works with me to produce some art nude images was happy to pose for this shot I wanted to do in Vincent O'Byrne style.  The photograph was based on one of his classic images - you can view it on his Model Mayhem page.
As usual the image from the shoot was left in cold storage for a while but I dug it out and started work.

Lily was shot in the Dublin Camera Club studio on a black background, a hard floor (sorry Lily) and a large softbox on a boom (mine) directly over her.  In the original her hand and her feet project beyond the paper and there are two light stands plainly visible.  The background is a shot taken from my bedroom years ago with my Canon 10D of a sunset.
I used a slew of techniques to produce the final image that are too complicated to explain here but they included masks, gradients, dodge and burn, 'screen' layer blending and more.

I also did a version in monochrome with a warm tint:

Yes, it will definitely be going into the Dublin Camera Club monthly competition (December 2011).  The only question is which one - colour or mono?

I wanted to make it viewable to a wider public but because I have more or less imitated Vincent's photo I felt it would be unfair to make it public without reference to him.  Making reference to him required me to contact him and let him know my intentions and ask his approval.  Recent acts of plagiarism that I am aware of have generated severe reactions and a lot of debate.  I would say it would be almost impossible to take thousands of photographs and not find someone somewhere else in the world had a similar idea. 

So I sent him a link to the photos and an explanation and asked for his approval.
Then I sat back and waited ......
But not for long.  A couple of hours later I checked my Facebook mail and got the following:

"Hi Paul, no problems whatsoever.  Delighted that some of my images in some way inspired you to create ths image. It is quite beautiful. Off you go...the very best, Vinnie"

So with Vinnie's approval .....