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Legendary Photos: The Stories Behind 7 of Ryszard Horowitz’s Iconic Images

How a master photo-composer crafts his mind-bending images

Allegory, 1992

Surreal photo by Ryszard Horowitz

I was working with Bob Greenberg, a pioneer and a visionary of digital imaging and his studio was packed with various computers and full of young programmers and operators ready to support me. I felt like the proverbial Willy Wonka in his chocolate factory. Bob was approached by people interested in exploring digital technology for their own film business. They were looking for an image that would depict that effort in a form of a digital photocomposition to draw a parallel with music composing. I was asked to produce a concept and came up with the process I described as Photocomposing. It is very similar to what a composer of music does in putting unrelated sounds into a coherent, harmonious, and lucid piece of music. I assemble together my seemingly unrelated images, taken at different times, in distant parts of the world and create seamless compositions. I want all the elements to appear in the same space frozen in time. Ever since Allegory I’ve been calling myself a Photocomposer.

This final image consists of five photographs. The background landscape is made of the sky taken in Cusco, Peru and foreground water is from the San Francisco Bay. I devised a specially built tank that would allow me to photograph a piano keyboard section plunged with a special pneumatic arm in the water to create air bubbles. A specially adapted violin as a raft was photographed on a water surface. A sail with a Mozart score silkscreened on it, and finally a pair of dancers from a world famous Pilobolus company to create a human mast. I created this image in 1992 and it was one of the most complex composites. It won numerous awards and put me and my digital photo composites on the map.

I have always looked for inspiration from great masters and discovered everything I wanted to learn about composition and lighting from painters such as Caravaggio and Rembrandt. I looked to Mantegna for his perspective, admired color of Picasso and Matisse, and attempted to absorb a sense of whimsical from Magritte and Klee. I consider digital imaging a magnificent tool that has made it possible for me to explore my visual ideas and has helped me to consolidate my love of painting with photography.

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