about this series
I started this series while I was studying painting at San Francisco Art Institute. Painters have traditionally had so much creative freedom relative to photographers. If painters visualize an image, they can create it out of thin air. Photographers can only create images from what they find in the real world – especially in the days before computers.
My first forays into photo collage were double exposures I did in the camera. I’d shoot a roll of film at half exposures, take the roll into the darkroom and respool it back into the cartridge, then put it back into the camera and shoot another set of images on top of it. The results were unpredictable and never even close to what I had in mind. I also tried collaging images in the darkroom, but the work was painstaking. Nothing I produced was ever good enough.
Then along came Photoshop and the world changed. Suddenly there was a tool where that allowed me to combine the freedom of conceptual expression with the visual impact of photography. The early years were frustrating though - the computers were so slow it sometimes took hours to make one simple change to an image. My first images were simple – like Traquilidad – where I took one image and placed it inside another scene. But as I got more into it, and the computers I was using got a little faster, I started to approach it more like painting. I would have an idea in my head, then go out into the world to capture pieces of it, one by one, until I had what I needed. Then I would merge them together to create a scene that didn’t exist in the real world.
Some of the artists using Photoshop in the early days were taking things really far, layering and abstracting photos to the point that they resembled paintings. I prefered walking that fine line between reality and surreality, much as I did in the camera with the elemental victories series. When I exhibited the work, people would commonly ask, “Where did you take that picture?” I found that a supreme complement due to the complete impossibility of many of the scenes.