Thursday, November 19, 2015

Three Kings and a Couple of Queens - New Print Collection Released (Nov 2015)


Some time ago I purchased a book entitled “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon. I found the title quite challenging, and I somewhat predicted the message of the book before reading it, but later I realised that the message was merely a confirmation of what I had always believed.

You see, I have always said that art comes from within, no matter what form it takes, and it is underpinned by a mixture of one’s beliefs, experiences and influences. The simplest of things can ignite a spark of creativity, and from that brilliant ideas can flow.

Also, I love the saying by Yogi Bhajan who said, “If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.” This series was birthed by a bit of all of the above.

The story began with a Fine Art photography class that I was teaching. I needed to present a workshop on photo collaging, which I had not really done before, so I decided to get some help and called a good friend, student and artist Sandy Mclea whose work I deeply admire, and sat in on his workshop that day.

He took out a whole lot of things from a box, things which had a vague connection to each other, and began putting them together in a loose collage. I remember sitting there thinking that this was going nowhere, but then near the end he pulled out some brushes and paint and began tying the visual elements together by painting over the unnecessary parts and only exposing what was important. He then added in some three-dimensional objects and connected the dots using paint and ink. Lastly, he took the art piece and photographed it using studio lighting. I felt both inspired and blown away by the whole concept.

About two months later another Fine Art workshop came around, this time with a new group of students. I picked up the phone to call Sandy, but then decided to rather try it myself. As I began preparing I very quickly realised that I needed a theme to make it work. Unlike Sandy, who was able to build a story from random items, I needed some kind of structure.

I cannot remember why, but Elvis Presley came to mind. I researched the life of Elvis and clipped out a number of interesting facts about him. I then collected some items around the house that would work with the theme. The workshop went better than I anticipated and by the end of the day a life journal of Elvis had been created. I have always warned against “emotional attachment” when it comes to liking one’s own photography or art, but in this case, probably because it was all so new, I really loved this piece.

Later I decided to continue with the “dead icon” theme, and with a new workshop tackled Michael Jackson. With this collage I photographed texture overlays that I included in the artwork. Concrete really worked well as a texture with the Jackson collage, and before I knew it my love affair with the Elvis attempt began wearing off. It was then that I decided to do a collection of five music icons and decided on the title “Three Kings and a Couple of Queens”. Freddie Mercury jumped out as a wonderful choice as one of the queens.

A few months later I wiped the first Elvis collage off the easel and re-did it using the Jailhouse Rock theme. Marilyn Monroe followed a few months later, and two years after the project began, John Lennon was crowned into my hall of fame.

What makes this body of work rather special is the intricate detail that can be enjoyed, especially when printed in large format. They are celebratory pieces, put together using recordings of time – little moments, quirks, and headlines that come together to give the viewer a brief snapshot into the life and times of these five icons who lived on planet earth and who were considered larger than life.

Technically, it is the camera that has had the largest influence on the artworks. Not only has it been used initially to document these iconic heroes, but also later in the re-photographing of the collages, where highlights and shadows were used to add depth and dimension and to bring them back to life.

I have always embraced the saying by the photographer Garry Winogrand who says, “I photograph (things) to find out what something will look like once photographed”. The experience of having been able to both create the collages and then photograph them was such an absolute joy. I hope you enjoy them too.

Martin Osner

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Artwork


Michael Jackson photo collage is the first of a number of artworks intended for a series called THREE KINGS AND A COUPLE OF QUEENS. Inspired by using mixed media; with random snippets and visual pointers the idea is to create a poster effect as a tribute to the life of iconic artists. Next on the hit parade will be Elvis Presley, followed by John Lennon and then Freddie Mercury. Marilyn Monroe will be last of the queens to enter this hall of fame. Print medium, size and edition has not been finalised yet. View all new projects here >>

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Understanding the digital darkroom (Processing vs. Editing)

Article by Martin Osner [September 2013] It still amazes me how much misunderstanding there is around the issue of processing and editing of digital images. On a daily basis I find myself having to defend questions regarding the post-production of my own work, as well as helping folk who are getting into digital photography. But, before I begin my explanation around this topic let me first discuss a few important issues. One must understand that digital photography evolved out of analogue film photography. Electronic capture was pioneered by Kodak in an attempt to find an alternative to silver halide technology. Ironically, though, and by not really believing in the future of digital technology, the very thing they created sunk their corporation in just fifteen years – but this is a topic for another day.

The point I am making is that digital was founded out of film and chemical technology, and a lot of what we see in digital processing is similar to that of film technology. As someone who still shoots in both film and digital, it is still incredible to me that not much has changed in the processing of photographs, even though there has been a crossover of technologies. Let me explain. With film, once exposed, firstly we need to develop the negatives or slides. One cannot see or evaluate the exposed latent image until the film has been put through this development process. Digital is somewhat the same. When shooting in Camera RAW we also need firstly to process the digital exposure. A RAW file is known as the digital negative where the red, green and blue layers are recorded separately.

As with film processing this is where the quality lies. Unfortunately, when shooting in a JPEG format, you allow the camera software to automatically process your image without custom control. Convenient, yes – but not a good idea! When processing in silver halide one has the ability to over or under develop the film to control contrast and exposure. This is known as pushing or pulling the film. You can also choose to process in cross-over chemistry, known as cross processing, i.e. negative to slide or slide to negative. In digital, the RAW file processor equally allows for pre-editing control. This is where we correct or enhance the colour, manage contrast and detail, tweak exposure, apply sharpness, and so much more. The important thing to understand in both technologies is that the quality of the final image is established at the point of processing, and not when editing.

One needs to understand that there are two distinct steps in the process of photography, and this applies equally to film as it does to digital imaging. First you process the file – this is where most of your pre-editing should be done. Then, once “developed” the processed file is flattened out of RAW and ready for final editing in photo-editing software of choice, if indeed necessary. As with film, we first process the negative or slide, and then we print. In this process we have the ability to enhance the print using exposure and chemical techniques known as burning and dodging. We can also choose the colour saturation and surface texture of the paper. Using advanced darkroom and post printing skills one can also do layer printing, masking, as well as apply airbrushing techniques. Finally the print will be spotted for dust marks. Digital editing is very similar. Opening the processed RAW file in a photo-editing suite like Photoshop or Aperture (to name a few), the photograph can now be corrected or enhanced and spotted for dust marks. The skill required in darkroom processing is equal to that needed today in digital editing. The only difference is that you don’t come away from your computer smelling of chemicals. I think where many amateur photographers go wrong, is simply that they shoot in JPEG format at time of capture. In doing so the image quality and latitude of colour depth is compromised. JPEG is a compressed file format, and can never be compared to Camera RAW when it comes down to control and quality.

You must realize that image processing is part of digital photography, period! My advice would be to do most of your processing and pre-editing in Camera RAW, where the colour layers have not yet been flattened. And amazingly, the best software available to us to do this is actually free. The technology today in Adobe Camera RAW, or DNG, is just unbelievable and can be downloaded free of charge. It is here in the RAW processor where you will set your colour temperature, tweak your exposure and contrast, set your saturation, apply graduated contrast controls, repair or exaggerate lens aberrations and vignettes, and apply a sharpness value, to name but a few. Learn to do as much pre-editing processing in Camera RAW before saving as a flattened file. Then, if necessary, you can apply any further corrections or enhancements in a photo-editing programme like Photoshop. To speed up the processing and editing process I suggest you find a workflow procedure that works for you. At the end of the day nothing has changed in photography, as it all comes back to quality. The public at large considers digital as a quick, convenient and simple format of photography. This is really a myth. Don’t be fooled, digital is as challenging as film and requires just as much technique and skill as chemical processing.

Learn how to process out of RAW, then set your camera to record in RAW only! Do 80% of your corrections in RAW processing. Now you’re cooking!