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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

George Fulton: Master of Characterization

George Fulton’s hyperreal imagery has brought him considerable notoriety, but his work goes much deeper than any superficial technique



“I often work in LAB instead of RGB,” Fulton continues, “with the goal in mind of affecting luminosity independent of color. There are countless ways of heightening contrast in Photoshop, and since I start with an image with a wide tonal range, with a complex set of masks still available, I can work on a micro level with the aim of doing so without distorting the color or creating an overly saturated image. But I seldom work an image the same way twice.”

Adds Fulton, “Mostly what I do stems from being picky about what’s in the frame. There’s often a lot of production behind most of these shots. When we shoot, we’ll close down streets or control traffic and build out the frame, piece by piece. As with the runner in San Francisco in the rain, we had to time the shot with cable cars at the sunset hour while using multiple rain towers. It’s wonderful fun, but there’s a tremendous amount of work in the taking of the shot.

“Because I know that my goal is an image file that has a wide tonal range,” Fulton continues, “lighting becomes critical, even if it looks relatively simple when all is said and done. I want my shadows well detailed without being flat. I tend to light directionally enough so that shape and texture within the shadow yield character that will pop out later in post. Being concerned with characterization, the models and their wardrobe in my shots are what I am most picky about.

“People tend to remember the more extreme examples of my ‘characterization,’” he says. “I suppose it’s only natural. But meanwhile much of my work has a quieter approach in terms of post effect. My preference is my images where the post work is allowed to be more subdued. Often my clients have wanted the effects cranked up, and I’m happy to report that their obsession with doing so is waning. What drives me to create images has nothing to do with the computer, even though it’s a powerful tool. I’m driven by what’s in the frame.”

Concludes Fulton, “I feel my most successful images are those that are far less about technique. My hope is that the viewer will recognize that my work is driven by an obscure something that shall remain unlabeled by me at present.”

Although George Fulton’s work displays a distinct and instantly recognizable technique, it’s what’s in the photographs that sets him apart. Fulton is a master of HDR (High Dynamic Range), and he manipulates the images to give them a hyperreal look. That look may grab a viewer’s attention, but once fixed on the image the content is what holds your gaze. Fulton brings an element of wit and imagination to the photograph that sets him apart. His visual sense of humor is in the same vein as Cartier-Bresson. Fulton constructs his decisive moments from a collection of parts and produces a finished image that defines what it is to be a master.

To see more of George Fulton’s work, visit George Fulton Productions at www.georgefulton.com.

 

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