A distance of almost 10,000 miles isn’t to be taken lightly, but West knew a challenge when he saw one.
"I felt that he was wondering if this guy from Australia was for real," recalls West. "’I’m going to test him to see if he would really fly to New York City to make this happen.’"
Two weeks later, West was in Sawaya’s studio.
"Right then, we committed that we would do whatever we needed to do to make it happen," he says. For West, that included moving to Toronto, Canada, and taking his photographic career to the other end of the globe.
Their creative collaboration began in Amboy, California. From there, they embarked on a road trip, which provided them with an opportunity to discover locations that would serve as the building blocks for their photographs. It also provided a chance for each artist to learn about the other and to cement their mutual passion and commitment to their craft.
"The photographs are an emotionally charged series with the subjects at a point of self-reflection," says West. "They’re asking themselves, ‘How did I get here? What am I doing?’ It has a lot to do with the idea of creating one’s own identity."
Vision: The Most Important Tool
Though West’s work might make it appear that much of his time is spent in the field shooting with his Contax 645 and Zeiss lenses or sitting at the computer, the bulk of his time is spent doing the footwork to make sure the images can be pulled off. It’s that work that allows him to see his vision manifest itself into the final photograph, which he produces using Adobe Photoshop 6 and a Mac Pro with 32 GB of RAM.
"I have two Dell screens side by side," he says. "On the left, I have my work screen, and the right screen is filled with my brushes, actions, layers, history, etc. I don’t use plug-ins on any of my composites, as the images are so stylized from the set design to styling that they don’t require additional color grades. Images are always saved as 16-bit RGB files."
As adept as he is with the technical, it’s the pursuit of his vision that has allowed West to achieve success on two continents. It’s not something that he takes lightly or for granted.
"As a photographer, you have to accept the fact that failure is going to happen at some point, but it’s how you process that failure and help it to take you to the next level," he says. "You really have to believe in what you’re doing and where you’re going with it."
See more of Dean West’s work at www.deanwest.com. Ibarionex Perello is the host and producer of The Candid Frame (www.thecandidframe.com), an interview show that features conversation with the world’s best emerging and established photographers. He’s also the author of several books, including Chasing the Light: Improving Your Photography Using Available Light.