Two weeks ago I submitted a story for a guest post, called “Haunted Memories”. It was published in this place. Today I want to talk about the process behind those images, not just the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’. What distinguishes an artist and photographer is the ‘why’, or his/her vision behind the work. That is what sets apart the great photographers that you and I admire. Throughout this entire assignment, I felt connected to the story in a way that I’ve rarely experienced before, and I think that one of the reasons is that I was able to successfully merge the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of this story.
First, I must admit that this story represents a real milestone in my personal life. It marks an ending, as well as the beginning of a new Heber. So one of my motivations was to create a visually strong story, because I experienced the story in such a strongly visually way. What I saw in my mind during that time has stayed with me in such a powerful way, that it forever changed my perspective on life. It pierced my soul, so I had to put emphasis on that in the images.
I had that clear concept fixed in my mind, and then began to write the story in a way that would strike a cord with my readers. I wanted the illustrating images to add to the experience, to evoke the feelings of repression and hopeless that I felt in childhood. Because I had this powerful experience while reading a book, most of the images I associate with the story I created in my mind. To illustrate my own story, I wanted to create images that would evoke the feeling of being in a dream.
So that’s basically the ‘Why’, the concept… the way I envisioned this work.
There are two main elements in the illustration of this story: the location I chose for the images, and the way I post-processed them. I decided to use my iPhone instead of my DSLR because of the post-processing technique I wanted to use. When I started this project, it was only available as an iOS app that I was using on my iPhone. Now it’s also available for Mac, but I’ll say more about that in a minute.
Element One: The Red Prison (location). Choosing this location is totally related to the ‘Why’ of this story. I have been in the Red Prison more than 10 times, and am still impacted by that place every time I go. I normally end up being really quiet, full of thoughts. Now that I think about it, I guess I’ve been connecting the Red Prison with those difficult thoughts from my past, and that’s why this story became so moving for me. Once I was able to connect contemporary elements with the emotional theme of the main story (the ‘why’), I was able to “get into the zone”. I know that sounds really zen, but once you make the connection between your vision and concept for a story, with the visual elements around you, you are ready to portray a story.
Element Two: Post-processing. Last December I began to use an app on my iPhone call Snapseed, and I fell in love with it because of several of its features. One of them is a filter called “grunge”. When I was thinking about illustrating ‘Haunted Memories’, I couldn’t stop thinking about this grunge look. It is edgy, dreamy, and has a lot of texture; ideal for what I wanted to convey in these images. The best part is that by the time I was ready to process the images, this app had become available for Mac. This meant that I could use it on my computer as well. Without that, I would have used the iPhone exclusively to capture and post-process the images.
Well, that’s the process behind “Haunted Memories”. The most important lessons?
1. Identify a concept or a vision before you even start to work on a project. Think about how you want this story to make your reader feel. Know in your own mind why you want to work on this story. Close your eyes, and become aware of the visual images that come to mind when you think about the story. Pre-visualize.
2. Look for the elements that can best represent your story. Think in terms of what kind of reaction you want to provoke in the readers; think of elements that will generate that kind of emotional response.
3. Finally, think about how you can use those elements in the best way possible, so they become the interpreter of your story. In this example, visually. But it can also be through another type of sense, like using sound in a multi-media piece.
I hope this post will be useful for your stories as well. Have a great week.