DPP Home Profiles Colin Anderson: Visual Alchemy

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Colin Anderson: Visual Alchemy

Colin Anderson’s high-impact, hyperstylized imagery is proving that, with digital photography, the only limitation is your imagination

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Anderson’s exceptional abilities in the digital darkroom have given him a lot of leeway with commercial clients. They know he’ll be able to translate their concepts into the real world, no matter how strange the requests may seem. Anderson says that he’s used to their challenges. “Someone might say, ‘We need to show a man made out of steel, with steel wings, but it still has to appear light, yet strong. How can we do this?’”
“As soon as you introduce 3D into a shot, it’s going to take a lot longer,” he explains. “You’re often looking at building something from scratch. Once it’s built, it has to be textured and convincingly lit, which can be one of the hardest and most time-consuming parts of the process. Then there’s rendering. Once you’re using something like global luminosity, you can easily be looking at 15-plus hours of render times.”

Still, time-consuming or not, technical prowess is one of the talents that clients come to Anderson for, and often in the long run, he can put together projects that are seemingly impossible. On his blog, he discusses a striking image that he put together that features a prominent F-1 race car. “Getting access and time with an F-1 car is near impossible,” he writes. “To get around this, the car was created and rendered in 3D and then brought into Photoshop where all the elements were combined.”

Previsualization is key to working with elements that don’t exist in the “real world” yet. Anderson notes that it’s “crucial when you’re doing conceptual stuff, especially for clients who are expecting something from often just a thumbnail sketch or description brief.” The lengthy procedure, from initial concept to final image, can be an extended one for a photographer who puts together so many disparate pieces of the puzzle, as can be seen on Anderson’s blog. He’s nothing if not open about how he puts together his images, as a cursory read through the many lighting setups (he uses Broncolor exclusively) and element breakdowns available on his blog will show.

When asked why he’s unafraid to uncover the secrets behind his magic when so many other photographers hold their tricks of the trade so closely to their chests, Anderson answers, “I just thought that once you broke it all down, it was kind of interesting, and maybe other people might get something from it. Plus, it used to piss me off when I was starting out and trying to learn something and would read that the photographer’s “secret technique” was kept to himself. I mean, really, get over yourself. If a career is so vulnerable to a technique, then you’ve got bigger worries you should be concerning yourself with. It also gets back to this whole thing we do as photographers, which runs deeper than equipment and technique.”

With all of this hocus-pocus possible, the question begs as to when the role of photographer stops and the role of animator begins? To Anderson, all that matters is the image.

“To be honest,” he laughs, “I really don’t care if people see me as a photographer, and I’m not really worried about what defines one. My only interest is translating a message. How I get there is totally irrelevant. The beauty of what we do as photographers or image-makers is that we don’t have to follow rules. I’m not out there trying to sell myself as a photojournalist or National Geographic photographer. My images are lies. If you want the truth, you’re in the wrong place. My whole desire is to escape from reality.”


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