personal Archives | Page 2 of 7 | Erik Almas Photography

Creating space to be creative

Being creative, for me, is not something I do but something I let happen. I experience, see and observe and as I absorb these impressions of life, a craving to create surfaces with its ideas and visuals.

It is often in the quiet moments while I run or practicing my craft I get ideas. It’s when the mind quiets and I’m in the “zone” and being truly present, that the well opens and ideas surface.

 

The past years I have found that I have been giving myself less and less time for these ideas to come forth…

What I have noticed is me filling those moments between moments looking at my phone; To be “catching up” on all things social media, news and email. The phone is one massive creative distraction, taking me away from those moments of quiet, and in some ways robbing me of the creativity flow.

 

Now, being conscious about the addictive distractions of the phone, I have become way better and I deliberately try to allow for this space to happen during the day.

In this awareness of me clogging up my own creativity there was a new and somewhat unexpected antidote reentering my life…

 

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Yoga has entered my life many times over the past 2 decades.

Inspired, but uncommitted it wavered in and out of the different stages I went through without me fully getting my Yoga on.

 

The first time I did Yoga was a bit of an initiation. I had gotten my dream job out of school, assisting legendary advertising photographer Jim Erickson. The 3rd day at work he says; lets got to yoga!

New on the job and eager to impress, no was not an option and off I went for my very first Yoga Class.

In working for Jim there were these random invitations to a bout of stretching, but at this time in my life it never became more than that.

 

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Fast forward a few years, and marathons, my back started giving in. Getting to the point where I could not run much anymore my chiropractor prescribed yoga.

I dove into the healing process and for a while had a private teacher specializing in yoga for people with bad backs.

 

The back did get better and after reading the book Born To Run, I traded out the conventional running shoes with barefoot shoes, and got back to running again. This is a whole different story, but I went from not being able to run to now running 4-5 times a week. (If anyone want an extraordinary read, Born to Run by Chris McDougall is one of my top 10 books of all time.)

By running correctly the back sorted itself and yoga again disappeared.

 

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I had a short stint with a truly spirited class with teacher Rusty Wells. It was bongo drums and chanting and windows dripping in steam from bodies filling every inch of floor space with Yoga mats.

 

Even this didn’t last.

 

18 years after my first Yoga experience I meet Andrea Bogart, extraordinary Yoga teacher and actor.

I believe life gives you what you need at the time that is right…

This time Yoga will be a permanent part of my life. It’s an antidote to all things cellphones and social media. It’s grounding rather than fleeting and connected being to being rather than through a device.

Now, I come out of a Yoga session with a massive smile and an all-encompassing vibration that has a peaceful tension to it. It’s hard to describe but I feel vibrant and connected and beautifully disconnected all at the same time.

It creates a deliberate stillness that connects me to my own core and allow space for the creative well to open up.

I like to describe it as seeing the world through a super wide angle lens. It’s all in my view. I find it at times when running, when I make pictures and now in Yoga…

 

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We have all read or heard about the concept of solitude and sitting by yourself for an hour. If you do so quietly ideas and insights will begin to flow from your mind. From there, whatever the current situation, the right answers usually appear and one can act on them.

Yoga has this for me. The answers are there when I leave…

 

This series of Yoga images is the beginning of a larger body of work inspired by Andrea Bogart.

Andrea is one extraordinary human being I’m truly grateful to know.

 

 

Committing to my craft like a Trappist Monk

I took my first Photoshop class in the fall of 95.

 

I did it then because my dad was an engineer and I thought it cool to mix some computer classes into the ethereal quest of attending art school.
It was probably the best decision I made, part form studying photography in the first place…

As I learned the craft of image making, putting in most of my school hours in the traditional darkroom, I also learned Photoshop from the bottom up.

As my work matured so did the software and by the time I graduated Photoshop had it’s layers we today take for granted. With the adding of layers in Photoshop a completely new world opened up and I was truly happy to trade my chemical induced rashes caused by my time in the darkroom with time in front of the computer.

 

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(selfportrait, 1997)

 

In the years following school I would assist during the days and spend my evenings and nights, only interrupted by the intermittent bout with some gin tonics, exploring how my pictures could come together in this new digital world.

 

With this exploration I became a part of the first generation of photographers who seamlessly used Photoshop as a true extension of the images captured, shooting for the idea and then allowing the captures to unfold within the software to a final image.

 

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Fast forward 15 some years I started to truly resist the retouching process. I felt chained to it.

I have always been drawn to the big landscape, wanting fresh air and open vistas and I no longer wanted to sit in front of the computer.

 

It became tougher and tougher to honker down, to absorb day after day and night after night for the fulfillment of a singular photograph. I wanted to be outside. I wanted to capture moments and emotions and deepen my visual rather than technical esthetic.

 

What had helped establish me as a photographer and made my career one extraordinary ride of amazing locations and beautiful encounters all over the world had become a battle ground. A barrier I had to push through to achieve the fulfillment of these moments I was hired to experience and photograph.

The battle has been ongoing. I would start avoiding the office and seeking distractions. What once put me in the zone, in complete flow, was now only happening right up against client and self-imposed deadlines.

 

Then there was a shift…

 

Instigated by a break up there was a search in me, or maybe a longing, to get back to where I started. To both reignite the old and to redefine and push forward creating new, meaningful work.

 

Maybe the biggest step in this quest to create anew was moving to the country side, finding a place of less distractions. Way smaller but more impactful was the suggestion to read the book Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks, by August Turak.

Reading Turak’s book completely changed my view of spending post production time with my images.
In short the premise is the human archetypal longing of a transformational experience. We all seek it…
Therefore the fascination of films, books, concerts, theatre, travel and adventure, who all gives us a brief glimpse of a what this human transformational experience can feel like.

 

Turak argues that there’s a void in us after these short experiences, leaving us feeling incomplete or unfulfilled. (As I write this Burning Man is just over and all I keep hearing from the ones participating is “decompression”…)

 

Turak then goes on to describe the traditions of the Trappist monks and their commitment to effort in all things and how labor is for them almost as important as prayer in their own seeking of a transformation.

Their experience however, spanning years of dedication to craft and prayer, is lasting…
It’s a fascinating read and I walked away with a completely renewed commitment to my time spent at the computer. Commitment to doing the work, joyful or not…

 

I learned, it is in this resistance one find oneself. It’s in the commitment to the process, working through this opposition, one learns, renews and see things from a slightly different perspective.

 

It’s in this resistance greatness and transformation lies and I’m again committed.

Committed to do my best work ever, letting all my adventures and captures on location manifest itself during evening and nights in solitary time spent with my images, my ideas and myself.

 

Crafting visual stories set to my own Journey

Moving from a small town in Norway to San Francisco to attend art school was a massive cultural change. And that’s an understatement…

 

I soaked it all up searching for my identity and spirituality but found true resonance in the “Symbolism and Mythology” class. Joseph Campbell quickly became a favorite as he made initial sense of the stories told through religion and mythology.

That he had advised George Lucas in shaping the journey of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars sure helped and “The Hero with a thousand faces” became THE book…

 

Today, as I continue my effort in crafting images that reflect my own story, I always refer to the Hero’s Journey. I find it to be the most powerful tool there is in shaping stories around my own life events that I want to describe and share through my photography.

Mythology tells the human story in such an engaging manner, and Joseph Campbell has offered a key to help understand their metaphors. His writings are my continuous support as I try to become a better photographer, depicting my own story…

 

Erik Almas Advertising and editorial Photographer Crash

This image of the car crashing into the river is from 1 of 4 shoots I just did based on recent life events of mine.

I could depict these in a literal manner, or look to the journey of all transformation and their cycles to help translate emotion into visual stories;  Stories truly connected to me but photographed with models and in some metaphorical way describing the emotional context…

 

 

 

To make it all happen the image was photographed in 2 locations and then blended together in post.

 

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Erik Almas Advertising and Editorial Photographer IMG_2366

 

Practicing; #The100dayProject

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Last year I spent almost a month in Buenos Aires.

Half of that time was vacation, during which we took 2 hours of tango lessons every day. It left me with some amazing experiences, some basic Tango skills too embarrassing to ever use in public, and a very obvious reminder.

During these 2 weeks we got to know our tango instructors quite well. They were master dancers at the very top of their game, but they would still, every week, take lessons from other dancers. I was curious about this and in conversation asking why, the answer was the quite obvious; One can always get better and always learn a different way of moving.

 

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I often feel that as a photographer I am in a bit of a learning vacuum. It is learning by doing and exploring, but not with the constant input of a mentor’s direction. I constantly think about the tango dancers in Buenos Aires and them learning from others every single week, and I recognize I crave this.
The best athletes all have coaches. They push forward on their own but always with guidance. Why would us photographers work different?

The environment for a location photographer like myself, putting in 250 days a year of travel, is not very conducive to a classic mentoring environment, so I’m not quite sure what this will look like for me. I have done a few workshops with other photographers, and go to lectures given by all kinds of inspiring people as often as I can.  This helps, but it is not a classic “master”…

A few weeks back I was having dinner with my great friend and photographer Thayer Allison Gowdy and the discussion came upon this subject of constant practice and learning. Friends of Thayer’s had initiated the “100 Day Challenge” online, and we decided to tag along.

Our challenge: To create one portrait a day for the next 100 days.

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In this there will be learning by doing, but by doing it together there is accountability. Accountability to get things done and to explore and compare the daily portrait.

It’s intimidating to share work that is a part of practicing, but it is also liberating to put images out there with no other purpose but to keep myself to the daily effort of photographing someone.

Self-help gurus say the way to instill new habits are to consistently do something over 100 days. It will then become habit…

So on I go to create a habit of making a portrait every day. Through this hope to learn something new; a daily way of deepening my understanding of the elusive quality which makes a great picture, and my ability to connect with the people I photograph.

 

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The pictures in this series are inconsistent in their quality, but I’m still utterly excited about the work. The series is not about the singular image but about me becoming better at my craft.

I’m excited about learning and excited to be doing something new. To create a new habit of constantly carrying a camera and constantly observing.

Here is an outtake of some of the 43 images so far…

 

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All of them are posted live on the below tumbler blog if you would want to follow.

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/erikalmasphotography

 

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