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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chris Borgman: Shockingly Vivid

Inside Chris Borgman’s super-saturated world, it’s not what colors you use, but how you use them

chris borgmanBrowsing Chris Borgman’s portfolio, you quickly assume a few things about the artist. He likes color (a lot), his images look perfect so he must be a technical gearhead—and he might be a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Assuming a photographer is a weirdo based solely on his portfolio is pretty unfair, and in this case, it’s dead wrong, too. When you actually interact with Borgman, you discover he’s a totally normal guy, but he does have a quirky sense of humor and he likes to have fun.

“I’m a pretty conservative guy most of the time,” says Borgman. “I’m pretty mellow and even boring, I think, so creating a fun fantasy world is a nice escape. Coming from the oh-so-serious land of fragile egos, aka the fashion industry, I really wanted to do something fun and lighthearted. We’re only photographers in a luxury-based industry; we’re not curing cancer.”

If there’s one constant in Borgman’s work, it’s the blurring of any line between fantasy and reality. Some of his images may be funny, some serious and some just downright beautiful, but all of them showcase a flair for the fantastic. The common thread, it seems, is the one visual tool he uses consistently to create his look: color.

“I’m trying to push color way past normal,” he explains, “but still keep the image looking like a photograph. Some people push it so far that the result looks more like an illustration than a photograph. I like that, too, I just don’t do it. The big trend right now is the mostly dark, undersaturated, hypersharpened HDR look. It’s a very gritty and serious look. A lot of photographers have jumped on that bandwagon, and many do a really great job of it. I love the look, but now it’s very common. So I’ll just keep working on my fun colorful images. Maybe this is just me, but as the economy has been tanking in the last two years, I feel more compelled to do something pretty and happy.

“I’ve always been impressed by colors on the edge of reality,” Borgman continues. “Years ago, when I first started experimenting in photography, I was cross-processing and I loved the supersaturated look, but it was too hard to control, and the magazines had a hard time with the separations. Now with Photoshop, we have the technology. [But] you can’t just pump up the colors in post and have a great colorful image. Well, you can try, but it doesn’t always look clean and bright and have a consistent look. You have to plan for it if you want to have a consistent look.
Seeking the ethos behind Chris Borgman’s images, you’ll find color to be the cornerstone upon which he bases his work. The compelling and often ethereal dreamscapes and portraits he creates show a flair for the fantastic and reveal an approach that pushes past the boundaries to the edge of reality. Borgman plans shots carefully, capturing the elements he needs and then embarking upon extensive Photoshop work to generate his final images.


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