Sheraton and mythology

 

Both as a person and photographer I’m fascinated by mythology and how it describes elemental psychological truths about the arc of life we all seem to experience. Myths speaks about a transformation; how we step into the unknown, face our fears and metaphorically “slay our inner dragon”

 

Joseph Campbell described this as the “Hero’s Journey” in the 1949 classic “The Hero with a Thousand faces”. This Hero’s journey permeates all storytelling. Star Wars, where Joseph Campbell was advising George Lucas, is the prime example and John Lasseter of Pixar stated they always reference the hero’s Journey in their animation process.

As a photographer I’m curious about how we can describe this journey, or at least create the feeling of one, in a singular photograph.

I have consciously worked on adding this to my personal work for a long time. (http://blog.erikalmas.com/2015/06/09/crafting-visual-stories-set-to-my-own-journey/)

It is not often I get to apply this to the fullest in my commercial assignment work, but got a great opportunity when approached by Venables Bell to be a part of their latest campaign for Sheraton Hotels.

In these concepts were Sheraton employees “Going Beyond” in helping their guests.

This effort can be described in many ways, but the creatives at VB had pushed this to a place of metaphors where the employees were crossing oceans, skydiving into deserts, climbing a mountain and riding across big planes in their efforts to help. In describing a part of the Hero’s Journey these concepts were spot on, and I could not have been more excited about creating these pictures!

 

In any picture and idea I execute I always try to capture as much as possible in camera. For this assignment it became a question of what was safe and what would give us the best chance of capturing the moments we wanted to create.

How do we photograph a boat in the middle of the ocean with a Sheraton employee elegantly posing with a tray of coffee service?

Or getting a 70 year old bellman with several suitcases riding a horse 25 miles an hour?

And how would we travel from sea to desert to mountain to planes in a relatively short span of time?

To best solve these questions we ended up with an approach capturing some images in two parts with a background plate and talent and some in camera.
The below behind the scenes captures some of the effort made in creating this campaign. In this process, all involved with the shoot did like the Sheraton Employees; Going Beyond to make it happen.

 

 

and the ads you will see placed out there:

Vermeer and a retouching challange

A couple of months ago I was approached by Adobe and their agencies to see if I would be interested in being a part of a campaign recreating stolen or missing artwork.

 

This recreation would be done only using images from Adobe Stock.

 

At first I dismissed the thought.

I’m a photographer and I live and breathe the creating images.

 

 

Yes, I use Photoshop as an extension of my photography to create visuals that is idea driven and at times improbable but the thought of using stock photography to recreate someone else’s art was not something I would be up for.

 

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That afternoon I went running.

A run always starts out heavy. Most of the time there even is a great resistance to put on the running shoes, and the first 10 minutes are always a mind over matter endeavor. After those 10 minutes however the body and breathing finds its rhythm and I go.

This is when I do my best thinking…

 

During this run it occurred to me this would be an amazing exercise. A lot of my work is inspired by paintings so why not take this on and use it as a way to learn what goes into making one photographically?

I had also been resisting retouching, spending more time outside shooting or working on other projects than giving time to the computer to complete some of my recent work.

 

So after a good run among the oaks along Thornsberry Road I decided to put my hat in the ring and take on the recreation of Vermeer’s The concert.

It was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, in 1990 and and have yet to resurface. It is thought to be the most valuable unrecovered stolen painting ever, with a value estimated at over $200,000,000.

Now it was my task to recreate it, only using imagery from the Adobe Stock Website.

 

 

I’m not good about time. My optimistic self always feel I can get more done in less time than actually required.

On my initial call with agency and client I estimated this to take about a week.

3-4 days to find the pieces and 3-4 days to retouch it all together.

 

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I have done a few major mistakes in my estimation of time but this was probably the worst…

Three weeks later with deadlines being pushed I had to call the image done.

It still however is a work in progress. I have revisited it a few times taking notes on revisions needed but for now it stands as is.

At 852 layers and countless pieces of imagery masked, tweaked and reshaped into a recreation of Vermeer’s masterpiece.

 

One of the questions I was asked after we were done was how I would take something like this on?

The only answer I have is; by not knowing what you are getting yourself into…

 

In my cluless estimate of time I’m glad I committed to the effort to create this homage to Vermeer and his work.

You can see a BTS and interview over at Complex here:

 

http://www.complex.com/style/2016/10/promo-erik-almas-use-adobe-stock-to-recreate-a-lost-masterpiece

 

 

 

 

 

Traveling the U.S.

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After the redesign of my website 2 months ago I have been working on updating it with new work and new categories. With this edit and all the new work that is retouched I now feel I have a website that represent where I am today as a photographer.

In this process however I realized one thing was missing til very recently: in the travel section there was not a library of images from the US.

 

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I find it interesting that my initial idea of travel would be of places outside the US. I have lived here for 20 some years now and it do feel more and more like home.
Us Europeans often speak of the US as one entity, defining the country as one place. This does not do this amazing continent justice at all. If one compare it to other continents the US does not have the regional language or culture, but geographically it is just as diverse as any other.

So I started to work on a category with images from my travels within the US…

 

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As a photographer I often get asked what my favorite subject is. If I prefer landscapes or people or the composite imagery?

The truth is that I like it all. It is juts different sides of myself…

Sometimes I prefer a quiet, contemplative landscape. It’s me and a camera and the space I’m in.

Other times I love to interact with people, get to know them and create an atmosphere that speaks to having fun and being in the moment or doing what you love.

 

Yet other times I’m a dreamer, creating the surreal or impossible or solving visual problems through my composite photography.

 

I like it all.

 

This series and edit of landscapes from the US became about a quiet bigness.

The vastness one often finds between the larger cities in this massive country is fascinating to me.

A classic idea in photography is to capture the moment between the moments.

This series of images is the spaces between places…

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Swing by the website and explore the full travel section; http://www.erikalmas.com

The mythology of flying

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As I keep working at my craft of photography I find myself increasingly curious of finding WHY I’m drawn to the elements and stories I want to photograph.

Where does this pull to certain subjects, places and moods come from?

My upbringing? My life at the moment or some innate longing that is part of my, or maybe even the collective, subconscious?

Why this gravity towards some of the consistantly recurring themes in my images?

And why can’t I just break away from them and start a fresh new look to my work?

There’s the obvious answers of how one is shaped through experiences and how, through our art, we relive these and our longings over and over…

So instead of trying to completely renew I seek to understand my visual foundation and shift on steady ground rather than reinventing.

 

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I just finished another series of images with hang gliders poetically floating through landscapes.

I have photographed this floating/flying theme several times through my career. It’s fun for me to see as they are all similar yet different. To me they all stand on the pillars of my visual identity but very much reflect where I was as a photographer at the time of capture.

Erik Almas Photographer past flight imagery

 

The new set of images I find to be more organic and less heavy-handed both in the concept and execution. I like to think it is a reflection of me personally as well. That I now have come to an age where I don’t need things to be so much more than they are…

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So why this fascination with flying?

Turns out the idea of flight is ingrained in our human psyche and, throughout our history, one of the more common mythological themes.
Free as the bird is a saying we all know and a sensation we visit in our dreams.

My older images had a dream quality to them for sure. In 2016 I’m still fascinated by the sensation of flight but the approach more grounded. (Pun intended)

 

 

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Till next time I feel the itch to go flying again and capture the sensation of flying…