assignment Archives | Erik Almas Photography

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

 

 

 

 

 

Is the trail steep enough?

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A few months back I was hired to travel to Spain to capture a set of 12 photographs.

I was truly excited as Spain, and its people, are very special to me. Work has taken me to this great country more than any other and I have been fortunate to travel across it several times to photograph ad campaigns representing their tourism industry.

 

This time I would not only go back to a place I love but also learn a good lesson.

 

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One of my primary efforts in my photography is to tell a story.

A story that is compelling enough for its audience to pause for brief moment and take it in.

I start with my own experiences and find a way to relate emotionally to the campaign I’m about to shoot. This so I can stand in our location and capture an image that feels honest and authentic.

I think big brushstrokes;

It’s a grand landscape set in the tones of the blue hour. Up the hill comes 3 generations; father, son and grandfather.

That’s the picture.

I then ground myself in memories of me hiking with my own grandparents as a kid and what that felt like. I build an emotional frame of reference that greatly informs the image we are to create…

 

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We have arrived on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. It’s 4.30 am and we are setting up in the dark.
With the cool color palette we want to achieve we have to shoot during dawn, prior to the sun comes up. It’s a small window that requires all prep to happen in the very early hours before the sun illuminates the landscape. After hours in the dark, wading in the way to plentiful cow dung, we are pretty much set to go.

I got my memory bank filled with hiking memories when the client shows up and says; “The trail is not steep enough.”

I quickly went from a quiet focus, being in flow, to an adrenaline driven focus of getting things done. It’s a massive scramble; When the sun hits the landscape our shoot window is over…

We have less than 30 minutes to find a new spot and set up again.

 

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It was much later, when sitting down with the experience, I realized I had to ask better questions. I have heard it many times over: The key is not to be the smartest, but to ask better questions. In that moment I learned what the better question is:

What is the client’s story? How do they see it? What is their memory of hiking and what does their market research tell them about the grade of our hill?

I believe all photography in some way has to be personal to be successful but other peoples’ memories can visually be just as intriguing as my own.

I learned from my mentor early on to always listen to my clients, understand their idea and what they try to accomplish.

Now I also ask; what does this look like to you?

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The best place you have yet to visit.

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Through photography I have been lucky enough to visit a great amount of cities and countries around the world.


Some of these travels are now reflected in images within a new Travel category on my website. I have chosen 12 locations from 6 different continents that all in some way have shaped and influenced how I see the world and myself. After more than a decade of extensive travel the biggest shift however is in realizing WHY I find it so intoxicating to travel, and why this can be found anywhere…

 

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My travels often come up in conversation and a very common question is: What is your favorite place among the one ones you have visited? My answer has always been; the one I have not yet been to.

This however is beginning to change and I’ll share with you why.

 

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What have enticed me so much about travelling, putting me on the road for 200 to 250 days out of the year, has been this intoxicating feeling of newness.

As I come to a new place the mind somehow quiets. There’s no thinking about what I should have done different in the past or what I need to do in the future. All the thoughts my mind is busying itself with are gone and the mind get’s in the flow of observing, seeing and getting to know. It settles into the present and engages fully in what happens in the moment. As it is all experienced for the first time I, like a kid, soak up all the new impressions.

The exhilarating feeling of seeing and experience something new awakens us and puts us in a sensation, or a rapture of being alive.

At least it does for me…

 

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As this newness fades it does not take long before I again crave to travel and access this experience of appreciating anew. Of being in the moment, present, and soaking up all a new place has to offer.

 

This is a part of what the Buddhist calls “the wanting mind”. As soon as we have or understand something, the mind craves something new. It is at it’s worse when we over consume, but it also applies to my experience of travel.

I have realized that I don’t have to travel to find this intoxicating newness in a place. It exists everywhere and can be accessed everywhere. One just has to approach it from a “beginners mind”, as if the familiar is experienced for the first time.

 

My work has always been location driven and early on I chased new places to create what I thought would be better pictures. I have realized however that it was not the new location that was better; What it did was to put me in a better state to create.

Travel still excites me like a kid, but it has taught me a very valuable lesson; To approach the familiar in the same frame of mind. That my treasure is everywhere and that I just need to know where to look.

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Years ago I saw an interview with Paolo Roversi, a photographic hero of mine. I’m paraphrasing here, but he in essence “pray each day for the divine to enter his studio and to allow him to create something special”. At the time I didn’t understand this for more than a simple saying; Today I think it one of the more valuable lessons I have learned. Unless I connect to the place or the person I try to photograph and am present in the process I will never fully allow myself to see it and to understand it.

 

Erik Almas Advertising Editorial Photograper Blog Norway

 

So now I pause, I breathe, I say my own prayer and try to ground myself in the space I take pictures.

This process have made me a way better photographer. It also helped me realize that there is no “best” place.

All the places I have been have offered their own, very unique experiences, and I now know this full awareness I experienced while creating in a new location is with me all the time.

Erik Almas Advertising Editorial Photograper Blog Costa Rica

So, if you’re a young photographer reading this I would love to impart one small lesson. Go travel, see, absorb and be inspired, but do not let yourself fall in the trap I did starting out; Believing a different place or a better location is needed to make a better picture.

Look around you and the place you live in anew. Dig into your memories and find stories of growing up which you can retell in your images. Find what you love about the place and see it from a traveler’s perspective. See it as if for the very first time…

 

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I hope this series of travel imagery, most of which are taken within the past 2 years, are just as much a refection of me as the places I photographed.

If so, then, maybe, my prayers have been heard…