Defy Genetics Campaign

Posted on: May 27th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

Photographer Andreas Smetana, a very popular F STOP photographer from one of our early interviews back in 2007, has put together a great piece about creating a stunning campaign for Skins. Totally kick-ass.

Andreas Smetana image #1Andreas was commissioned by The Furnace Sydney to shoot the recent Skins Defy Genetics campaign.  The brief for the campaign was all about empowering women to make them feel like they are not limited to the “body shape” they were born with. It shows a confident young women dressed in Skins SHE battling against thousands of versions of herself.

The campaign draws on the insight that women are continually battling with themselves to achieve the body they want. In this way the campaign embodies the Skins core brand belief, which is “fuelling the spirit of fierce competition.”Andreas Smetana image #2

In each execution our hero mimics movements that she would use in exercise classes to defeat the unwanted versions of herself. The client wanted women to walk away from the ads saying
“That’s me. I can win the battle and get the body I want!”

To bring the brief to life Andreas’ production team cast hero talent who were martial arts experts in Wu Shu Kung Fun as well as Praying Mantis and TaeKwondo.  We then turned his studio into ‘the battle scene’ by filling it with 6 tons of black soil, tree stumps, rocks and dead grass.Andreas Smetana behind scenes #1

Additional talent were cast in various body shapes and sizes but with similar colouring to each of our hero talent.  The extras were dressed and had hair & make-up done so that they all looked as though they had been through a bloody battle.

Andreas then locked his camera in position and shot our hero talent and one extra.  The additional extras were shot in singles and groups in variations formations starting from the back of the set moving forwards.Andreas Smetana behind scenes #2

Our hero talent then stepped back into set and were shot mimicking the body and head positions of some of the key extras.  These hero heads were then comped on to the extras bodies.

The shots went into post production with Andreas Art Directing the retouchers at Electric Art.

The end result speaks for itself.

The Showcase: Lane Coder

Posted on: May 21st, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

“The Showcase” is a weekly publication featuring a photographer that has caught our eye here at The F STOP. I’ve asked Lane Coder to answer a few questions about his photography.   

Your images have a certain purity and simplicity to them, why do you think people respond to this stylistic approach?

Hopefully for just those reasons. Aside from aesthetics, I believe it allows the viewer to engage and sometimes relate to the image more easily. On the surface there is a certain beauty and simplicity to my pictures, but I am always looking to bring the viewer in deeper by creating an emotional space, which I have to find in the subject, that way it has a voice and a certain complexity. I like for people to read into my pictures and try to figure out the narrative, that way people come back to them.

Lane Coder #1


You don’t use a lot of artificial lights in your work, have you always preferred ambient light? If so why?

I do prefer natural light or the look of natural light and I use artificial lights quite often to achieve that look, it’s just not always very obvious and that is the goal. Often natural light will be the foundation in my pictures and I will layer artificial lights into them. I have to make a distinction here though, I am speaking about my personal work or jobs that I have complete creative freedom. In most commercial capacities, I am using a lot of artificial lights on big sets, etc. The client usually has a very specific vision and I need to have complete control over my set and not be chasing an unpredictable light source all day, but even those jobs don’t stray far from the look of my other pictures.

Lane Coder #2

Much of your beautiful imagery features windows, open or closed, in dark rooms and bright rooms, is there a reason – aside from lighting – for including them so often?

Quite often it is because it’s a beautiful source of light, often I am even asked to recreate that light in the studio by clients for commercial jobs, but it goes deeper than that I think… I hope it adds a complexity to the photographs. I think it gives the image a sense of environment and adds to the narrative; I want it to feel provocative, a very private moment that induces a sense of voyeurism.  It helps pose questions like, where is that person, and why are they there? I almost want them to feel like stills from a film, and that hopefully there’s a greater narrative happening that will draw you in to the picture and encourage exploration.

Lane Coder #3

You shoot a lot of landscapes and fashion, very different subject matter, does shooting one prepare you in any way for the other?

I actually don’t feel they are that different. I often like to include landscapes, interiors and still life details in my fashion stories because they do just that, they tell a story; they help give a sense of environment and narrative. I am always interested in blurring the lines between commercial and art photography and I think infusing fine art sensibilities such as landscape imagery into a genre of photography that is typically very superficial, is far more interesting.

Lane Coder #4

You have a lot of new work you’ll be adding to your website, what have you been shooting? What’s next?

There are a lot of new portraits and landscapes, some blurring the line between fashion and typical portraiture. There a new fashion stories, a new catalog I shot for Shipley & Halmos, lots of tear sheets and a new project I have been working on about aviation. My father was a pilot and it’s basically a tribute to him and his love of planes and flying. The first part of this project that will appear on my site are aerial landscapes and next part will be pictures from the ground up and then an exploration into culture of aviation.

Lane Coder #5

From Comp to Creativity

Posted on: May 19th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

Photographer David Stuart, who I was very pleased to interview back in 2007  has written a nice little piece about the opportunities photographers sometimes have to express themselves creatively through commissioned advertising work. We get an inside look at the comps Stuart was given by the ad agency (on the left side of each image) and the image that he created. Stuart has certainly taken each comp to the next level. Well done.

By David Stuart:

I’m sure that most of us get in to this business to express ourselves creatively; we have ideas and concepts that we want to translate into images. The catch is that in the advertising world, the vast majority of the time, the concept is handed off  to us and our job is to expand upon it,  to add our creative touch. So how far do we get to push it, how much of our own vision goes into the image? I’ve always been the most successful, and by successful I mean  a happy client as well as personal satisfaction, when I’ve approached a commissioned piece as if it were a portfolio piece. With that in mind, here are a few comps, side by side with the final images, from a couple of recent jobs where I was given lots of room to create.

Children’s #1

Children’s #2

Children’s #3

For the image of Big Boi, the comp was really more of a general concept than a visual guide. The agency also provided some verbal descriptions detailing energy and realism. Aside from a few minor changes in the crowd and a slight shift in color, I was given free reign on this project. The split frame series was similar in that the comps were also non-specific. One of the nice things about this job, was that I had a bit more time then usual so this one evolved a bit over time. Jeremy Estroff was the art director on this one and Scott Dorman was the retoucher.

Big Boi image

The Showcase: Ed Freeman

Posted on: May 14th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

“The Showcase” is a weekly publication featuring a photographer that has caught our eye here at The F STOP. I’ve asked Ed Freeman to answer a few questions about his surf photography, some of which is featured in the new 2009 PDN Photo Annual.  

These aren’t conventional surfing images, please explain what you’ve done to create these images.

They’re shot conventionally with the same equipment all surfing photographers use; a digital SLR and a lens as long as your arm – literally. But then I do a lot of Photoshop work on them – compositing, dodging and burning, retouching. I’ve taken out waves and added new ones, enlarged waves, changed skies, erased extraneous bodies, even combined pieces of two bodies into one – I do whatever is necessary to create images that say what I want them to say. They aren’t “true to life” any more than a Vermeer landscape is “true to life.” What’s true about them is that they FEEL the way surfing FEELS – at least to me they do.

Ed Freeman image #1

I don’t think your technique has been replicated often in the surfing photography world. Where did you get the idea to break off from the reportage style and turn these images into more conceptual fine art?

I’m not a reporter and I never have been one. If photography is about conveying faithfully what was in front of the lens, then I’m not even a photographer; I’m more of an illustrator. I don’t know anything about surfing, and I can’t – and don’t – approach it from the point of  view of somebody who does. Surfers and real surfing photographers can spend hours discussing the fine points of one surfer’s technique versus another’s, one wave versus another. I’m completely blind to those subtleties. Instead, I’m interested in composition, lighting, the texture of the spray – I’m looking at it from a purely visual perspective. That makes for a very different emphasis, a very different picture.

Ed Freeman image #2

What was your inspiration in creating this body of work?

I was in Hawaii shooting stock – your basic “palm-trees-swaying-in-the-breeze-at-sunset” stuff, and I happened to drive by a surfing beach one day – the first time I ever saw serious surfers confronting serious waves. And I was blown away by the real life drama of it – men, women, even ten year old kids – who risk their lives to have what surely must be a transformational relationship with the ocean. I couldn’t participate in what were doing – I can’t even swim – but I thought I could convey some of their peak experience in pictures, the adrenaline rush they must have every time they catch a good wave.

Ed Freeman image #3

How has the surfing community reacted to these images?

They’ve never been published, so I don’t really know. Many surfers are so caught up in the technical aspects of the sport that they look at all pictures analytically – how big is the wave, how good is this particular surfer’s form, what kind of board is he riding, and so on. But some have seen these pictures for what they’re intended to be – impressions, not recordings of specific events. The highest compliment I ever got from a surfer was, “yeah man, that’s what it’s like when I’m out there.”

Ed Freeman image #4

These images were all done for a book project. What was the experience like of getting this book made?

This is still a book in progress – I don’t have a publisher yet, although I do have an book agent who’s waiting patiently for me to  finish putting it together so she can go find one. I’ve published a  couple of other books and I can say with some certainty that publishing is more work and less money than you ever thought possible. But it’s also immensely rewarding. There’s still something magical about the printed page – seeing your images on it, and knowing that people you will never meet will see and get value from what you’ve done.

Ed Freeman image #5

New York Photo Festival 2009

Posted on: May 13th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

Tami Mnoian, Editorial and Daytime Programming Coordinator for the 2009 New York Photo Festival has written a piece for us about the festival which opens today and runs through Sunday May 17th. Thank you Gabriela Herman for getting in touch with Tami for this piece.

This is our second year at producing the only festival dedicated to the future of photography, and the office mood is like a Zen beehive. Located throughout Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood, the Festival centerpiece is four exhibition pavilions that are curated by William A. Ewing (Director of the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland), Chris Boot (London-based publisher), Jody Quon (Photography Director, New York), and Jon Levy (Director, Foto8). Additionally, there are Satellite Exhibitions and a Review Pavilion, where aspiring and professional photographers may present their body of work for review and critique by leading experts in the photography and art worlds.

For most of the Festival I’ll be overseeing the Green Room at Water Street Restaurant. Situated in the heart of Festival locations, the Green Room will function as a hub for artists, journalists, and Festival VIPs. But I will find time to get out and see a few of the Artist Talks that are happening at St. Ann’s Warehouse. On Sunday, Christopher Clary’s presentation will be projected in 3-D! I also want to head over to the powerHouse Arena to witness The Flow, an interactive component to William A. Ewing’s All over the place! The Flow utilizes technology developed by Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale (the Swiss MIT) that allows any photographer (professional, amateur, or otherwise) to upload an image via website that is stored on a server in Switzerland and then sent to a projector in the powerHouse Arena and broadcast for all Festival attendees to see. Simultaneously, as each image, labeled with the photographer’s name, flashes on screen, a camera will photograph the projection in its environment as proof of its inclusion and emailed to each photographer. Enter here.

But this is just me, here are a few things that fellow staffers are looking forward to:

“Seeing people walk around with mouths agape, wondering, “WTF?!” Daniel Power, Co-Founder

“Tiina Itkonen. Her work of icebergs, with its blue aesthetic, makes me think of raw meat. It’s truly beautiful.” Sam Barzilay, Director of Exhibitions

“Catching up with old friends, making new ones, and watching people’s reaction to the exhibitions!  Plus, my Mom is coming, so naturally I want her to love it!” Frank Evers, Co-Founder

“The New York Photo Awards, because I have a few friends who submitted work.”—Jinai Jenny Chen, NYPH Staff Photographer

“Mattresses, plastic, body heat.” Chaz Requina, Pavilion Captain, Gay Men Play curated by Chris Boot

“All that amazing talent in one place at one time is outrageous!” Amy Labagh, Ticketing and Check-In

The Showcase: Sarah Wilmer

Posted on: May 7th, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

“The Showcase” is a weekly publication featuring a photographer that has caught our eye here at The F STOP. I’ve asked Sarah Wilmer to answer a few questions about her photography. 

You have many unique band images in your portfolio, how do you get musicians to open up and try new ideas?

I just ask them.  Typically the record label, publicist or band has hired me to do what I do and if I am excited about an idea everyone will come along. I think it has a lot to do with being open with the subjects and giving direction and positive response while working together.

Sarah Wilmer portfolio image #1


You’ve received a lot of recognition over the past two years, what has been the biggest help to your career?

Probably the PDN 30 award because it was the first piece and opened a lot of doors; it led to gallery representation, and editorial and commercial assignments. Then the work made in conjunction with those opportunities led to features in other magazines, more shows and representation with Julian Richards.

Sarah Wilmer portfolio image #2

Many of your images have a mysterious quality to them, what are you trying to communicate with these images?
A lot of what I do involves creating an open space in which  unexpected things can occur.  I guess basically to foster spontaneity and then craft it, mould it.  I’m interested in those oblique hints at an otherness, the kind of situations that leave you with a strong feeling but perhaps not a clear understanding, an emotional rather than cerebral thing.  I think a picture can be a visual expression of that sensation.

Sarah Wilmer portfolio image #3

If you could dream up your perfect assignment what would it sound like?

Time travel-past and future with my own machine equipped with all the necessary gear and cameras. In the meantime, any portrait, fashion, animal, advertising, landscape, still life, music, or travel assignment is perfect.

Sarah Wilmer portfolio image #4


Where do you see your career going over the next five years?

It looks like all kinds of exciting adventures, projects, people, places and stories with enough money to eat and take care of [my cat] Tubs.

Sarah Wilmer portfolio image #5

Matt Hoyle

Posted on: May 1st, 2009 by: Zack Seckler

Final image created by Matt Hoyle Written by T.K. Dalton
Edited by Jesi Khadivi

For a series of pieces on sideshow performers, Matt Hoyle called on the talent of an unconventional modeling agency, Ugly NY. “The hardest part was getting a giant,” he recalls. If that sounds like a recited line of surrealist poetry, imagine weeks of preparation along the same lines. His conceit was to document the fictional town of Barnumville, itself based on a Florida town of retired circus workers. “It’s one of the only towns that was zoned for elephants. The post-master general was a midget,” he says. But the fictional set had a few specifications the real town did not, such as a lack of hotels to discourage gawkers. So he turned to CGI out of necessity.  “It would have been nearly impossible to find a town fitting the specifics of the story,” he says. Each set he produced without CGI would have cost $20,000 but digital supplements allowed Hoyle to fulfill leave his aesthetic vision without compromise. Our featured image comes from this series and it is appearing for the first time here on The F Stop.File before it was combined fully with the CGI background

To create this image Hoyle first created a rough wireframe of the background in CGI and then matched the camera angle and lighting based off the light sources in the background image. Next he photographed the people individually in his studio using two large umbrellas to emulate a softer light that he can later add contrast to in Photoshop if necessary. In the case of the Siamese twins Hoyle notes “one umbrella was to the right emulating the streetlight, the second was a soft wraparound fill from the left that made sure we had the detail on the shadow side of our subjects.” Hoyle chose a Canon 1DS Mark III “which gives me a large enough digital file and allows me to be more mobile than a larger format camera,” he says. He shot with a 35mm lens “as that was the same angle and framing as in the background shot.” The exposure was f/11 at 1/125th of a second and he shot about 4 feet from the subject in order to fill the frame. After the shots were captured he used a deep etching program called Vertus fluid mask “which works beautifully on masking hair and other hard to select areas,” he says. When the image is ready he imports the Behind-the-scenes on the shoot of the Siamese twinsbackdrop, which he would have already created in CGI with the program Vue Infinite, into Photoshop.  He then composites the two together which “involves playing with contrasts, white balance, curves and color balance.” Hoyle continues on “once the images feel right and natural, I distress the background and create a depth of field to give a sense of space in the shot.” After all the tweaking Hoyle tones the shot with a hero color “which in this case would be a cool blue to emulate a night scene. Night time does not really throw a blueish tint in real life but for artistic shots, including ones in movies, a slightly blue feel will give a sense of night.” The last step is to create a final layer of a a black vignette with 10% opacity to “subtly frame the subjects in their environment.”

Hoyle preceded his photography with a 20-year career in advertising. “I left because I was quite simply disillusioned. I worked in management and there wasn’t much room for creativity. After leaving, I just started shooting. It was just this natural outlet. I hadn’t picked up a camera before then in any serious manner. People in the industry said ‘you’ve got a good eye you should really do this.’” He gained attention and respect at a pace he calls “laughably quick.” After his series “Icebergs” he found an agent; within four years he had gone from a hobbyist to a fully-fledged professional living solely off his images.

Naturally, he learned something in his two decades on the other side of the desk. “All that discipline that I had learned as a creative in advertising I can now do without restrictions.  It definitely helped me think of themes rather than just aesthetic one-shots.  I can think in holistic themes, and extraCGI background before people were importedct each theme differently unto itself. I feel if you can create a great common thread, but also each one is striking in its’ own right, then you’ve got something strong,” he says. That’s not to say it ‘s easy: to create the realistic effect he desires for his CGI images can take more than 40 hours in front of the computer.

Hoyle believes the time is worth it, if only to record the true nature of his subjects. “I’m primarily interested in colorful characters,” he says, taking the phrase literally as well as figuratively. “It was going to be a real wasted opportunity to have this amazing group of people together and not capture them in stark black and white.” With nearly three dozen images of Barnumville’s residents, his goal was to capture “a contextual shot of what they do,” working as a pharmacist or a sheriff.

The search for raw reality is evident in his personal work. Regularly eschewing the beautiful for the exceptional, Holye finds himself drawn to subcultures: aging boxers who used to be champions, winter swimmers or sideshow freaks. “I love the beauty in imperfection. They make great stories,” he says. “Every great story has a flawed character. I just try to magnify them.”

Hoyle was interviewed by our Editor Zack Seckler about his career and his craft:

F STOP: Please tell us about the Barnumville series.

Hoyle: Barnumville is a fictitious town in Florida that I loosely based on Gibsonton, Florida a real town where sideshow performers, or freaks as they used to call themselves, spent their winters. It’s one of the only towns that was zoned for elephants. The post-master general was a An image from Hoyle’s portfoliomidget. It just inspired me to create a town of circus performers. The series does have a little bit of a darkness to it, but I wanted it to be hauntingly beautiful. I wrote a back story for the town. A ring master in the 30s and 40s got tired of the exploitation of his friends and colleagues and wanted to create a town.  We found residents for the town through this great casting guy, Oliver, at Ugly NY.

F STOP: Is that a modeling agency?

Hoyle: They cast people that aren’t really models. Anyone from tattooed people, to twins or sideshow performers. We made a wish list that included everyone you could imagine in an old school circus sideshow. The hardest part was getting a giant. We got someone who absolutely looked the part, a giant from the film The Wrestler. The project evolved from the back story I wrote and hit a more cinematic approach, which was where my work was headed anyway. The town had the look and feel of an old Florida town with an urban feel; a little bit dilapidated and a little bit darker. I started creating the backgrounds in CGI, cast the characters and got some great stylists involved.

F STOP: Was the decision to shoot the background in CGI out of practicality? An aesthetic reason? A thematic reason?

Hoyle: It was all of those. I wanted a town that would’ve been inhabited by sideshow performers. For example, part of the story was that Barnumville didn’t have hotels because they didn’t want outsiders coming in. It would have been nearly impossible to find a town fitting the specifics of the story. As for the aesthetic side, I really wanted to create something where my vision wasn’t compromised by budget. CGI was a tool that allowed me to not compromise any of those things.

F STOP: You mentioned that it was a total cast and crew of forty. Did you photograph them over a period of several days, weeks?

An image from Hoyle’s portfolioHoyle: Several weeks.

F STOP: Did you have one location or did you go on location?

Hoyle: We shot at the studio here. It was easy to do in this central location. We shot them here with widescreen background. Whether I shoot CGI or a photographic plate, what I do is consider the lighting and camera angle.  I’d already created very rough wire frame back drops to the 14 scenes and then I matched the camera angle and the lighting for the scene I had already created with my portrait shoot here at the studio. Basically I shoot for that exact scene. Then I cut it out, obviously in post, and drop it in. I spend a lot of time trying to create reality with the two scenes, trying to composite them. Creating reality means making things imperfect because a lot of times everything becomes too angular in CGI. I use photographic textures to begin with so it should look real in a lot of ways because it’s a plate of a photo just wrapped on a wire frame image. One thing that helps is my lighting experience. Many CGI artists really don’t have that lighting experience. When I’m compositing the two scenes together I make it as organic as possible. And that takes time: scratches, dents, paint falling off, dirt, trash, blurs, depth of field. There’s a whole bunch of tricks and things you do that you learn and they take some time, but it’s worth doing. And then you create this fantastical thing that would’ve otherwise cost $20,000+ for each production piece.

F STOP: Do you do everything yourself?

Hoyle: I do everything myself for personal projects. On commercial jobs where I have a budget, I work with a team.

F STOP: How much time does it take to do one background?

Hoyle: Anywhere from 3 days to a week.

F STOP: 8 hours a day?

An image from Hoyle’s portfolioHoyle: Oh yeah! And then, of course, there’s rendering. Rendering takes a good day.

F STOP: So it’s a lot of time in front of the computer?

Hoyle: Yes, but it saves so much time. Try getting a crew to fourteen multiple locations in a town of forty and it’s going to cost a lot of money and coordinating everyone will be difficult.

F STOP: Do you prefer a white background to a green or blue screen?

Hoyle: Back to when I was directing or shooting TV for advertising, you shot with a chroma-key background and it was easier to key with technology. But, in terms of photography you want the background to contrast against the tone of the person. It depends on what they’re wearing and it’s as simple as that.

F STOP: So, it’s all about contrast?

Hoyle: It’s just about contrast and being able to capture that. I work with a pretty progressive piece of masking software that I also endorse. It also gets the hair. It’s pretty advanced. It sees the scene like your eye sees and it’s been designed so that it captures things and separates things from the background. You have to look at it when you light it that way to separate it.

F STOP: Tell me how your black and white portraits without CGI fit into the series.

Hoyle: I’m primarily interested in colorful characters. That obviously can manifest itself with a black and white shot of a forked tongue, a tattooed giant, some sort of interesting person. While they’re black and white, they’re still colorful and a character without anything else. It just seemed like such a shame to limit it to a full color scene when they have so many interesting features on all of their faces. From the giant where his elongated features were very prominent to the little people to the circus fat lady to the tattooed people, it just seemed like it was going to be a real wasted opportunity to have this amazing group of people together and not capture them in stark black and white. The 28-30 images are going to be the town residents of Barnumville. You’re going to see them for who they are. And then of course, we’ll take you into their life. The scenes will be a contextual shot of what they do. Some of them work in the local drug store. The strong man is also the deputy of the town; the sheriff.

F STOP: So is this a fine-art project meant for a gallery setting?

Hoyle: Yes. There will be large format black-and-white portraits peering at you throughout the room. There’ll also be wide-screen scenes. What I’m trying to do is to extract as much character as I can from our collective imagination of what sideshows are. There is a collective cultural imagination that we have of them whether it’s the series Carnivale or just what we remember growing up or what was depicted during anAn image from Hoyle’s portfolio X-Files episode. It is an amazing thing that doesn’t really exist that much anymore; it’s seen as politically incorrect. I just want to extract as much personality out of this in a way that hasn’t been done before, both in a cinematic way which creates an entire experience, and with black and whites which show them in a beautiful way. There’s a nice symmetry about them; the way that they’ve been lit that makes their features seem extraordinary.

F STOP: As of the day of this interview, people haven’t seen the CGI backgrounds, but they have seen the black and white portraits. How have they responded so far?

Hoyle: With any work it’s very subjective. But by all accounts and comments, this has probably been one of the most successful things that I’ve created. I think that there are comments anywhere from, ‘Matt’s captured what’s been in my imagination for a long time, but haven’t really seen’ to ‘he’s made these guys beautiful and almost seem just like you and me.’ To the more sensational, ‘these guys just look like they’ve stepped out of an X-Files thing.’

F STOP: This is your third project where you’ve created the backgrounds in CGI. Do you think you’ll continue in that vein?

Hoyle: I don’t know that I will. As an artist, I’m going to go back to really just shooting characters. I’m still working on Barnumville, but I really want to get up close and personal in terms of going back to exploring faces and everything, similar to the black and white. I’ll let the CGI happen when a client in my commercial life requests it, especially for movie posters or Broadway posters.

F STOP: Has the personal work that’s been based on CGI gotten you work in the commercial realm?

Hoyle: Yes, for the more cinematic magazine features as well as a few bigger production Ad jobs.  I think creating CGI backgrounds is definitely a technique that helps a vision be realized. But, it shouldn’t stand out on its own. It should just be there to help you realize that vision. So, in commercial work sometimes I use CGI as a more cost-effective way to create a set.

F STOP: Is your previous work where you used CGI backgrounds fine art?

Hoyle: Yes.

F STOP: And has it been for sale?

An image from Hoyle’s portfolioHoyle: Not yet, but people have expressed interest; I want to choose the right gallery. Barnumville is the first series I’ve done with a proper launch.

F STOP: So tell me how you got your start as a photographer.

Hoyle: I started as a creative director in advertising and worked in the industry for twenty years.  I left because I was quite simply disillusioned. I had worked my way up into management and there wasn’t much room for creativity anymore. After leaving, I just started shooting. It was just this natural outlet. I hadn’t picked up a camera before then in any serious manner. People in the industry said “you’ve got a good eye you should really do this.” I did a series about Australian winter swimmers called “Icebergs”. That is where my career catapulted because the “Icebergs” series hit a chord.  The retouching was minimal, but still it captured the essence of what my work is about.  Almost slightly hyper-real and very textural with raw characters.  The series got me an agent.

F STOP: How long did it take between picking up a camera and working professionally?

Hoyle: It was laughably quick.  I didn’t have to be an assistant.  It was about 2000 when I left the ad industry and I picked up a camera. In 2001 I started my personal series.  Between 2003 and 2004 I was a fully-fledged professional in that I was making my career and money off of photography.

F STOP: Do you think working in the advertising world has helped you?

Hoyle: It’s helped me amazingly. All that discipline that I had learned as a creative in advertising I can now do without restrictions.  It definitely helped me think of themes rather than just aesthetic one-shots.  I can think in holistic themes, and extract each theme differently unto itself. I feel if you can create a great common thread, but also have each image being striking in its’ own right, then you’ve got something strong. That is what advertising has taught me, among other things.

F STOP: How do you feel about where the advertising industry is right now?

Hoyle: I am optimistic about it. I think that I have seen the aesthetics cycle even in my entry into the field.  At first it was a very raw, then it went to the other An image from Hoyle’s portfolioextreme where it was over-retouched and very plastic.  With the tools that we have with us today and people being more educated, there is starting to be a maturity to not over-use all the different techniques now. I am optimistic and I see more art buyers and photo editors being open to new ideas.

F STOP: Stylistically, where do you see things going?

Hoyle: I used to think that I could predict things; especially when I was a creative director. But now I absolutely don’t know.  I think that things work in cycles. There will be more sophistication with post-production. I hope people won’t over-use Photoshop and use tools more sparingly to help realize their vision, rather than over compensate for their lack of.

F STOP: So you don’t think CGI will overtake the photography industry?

Hoyle: No, photography will still be photography. But CGI will be another tool the same way a set builder or a retoucher or even a filter might be a tool.

F STOP: Is your visual style a conscious decision? Did it arise out of experimentation?

Hoyle: I developed a visual style in “Icebergs.” I had found a group of extraordinary
swimmers. They weren’t the beautiful people of Bondi Beach, which is similar to Malibu, but Baltic Russians or giant freckled kids. I wanted to make the images beautiful and not Photoshop the hell out of the essence of the subject.  So it was natural to do the contrasting. It wasn’t done as a style. I did it to bring out the freckles, laugh lines and character of each person. Toning was also important. I toned them a certain aquamarine, blue-green because they are winter swimmers and I wanted to give the viewer the same feel that I got when I photographed them.

F STOP: Can you tell us a little bit about how you work.An image from Hoyle’s portfolio

Hoyle: Often I’ll shoot a person very simply using three-quarter, Rembrandt lighting.
I never flatten out the person. I want a sense of dimension and for them to
pop off the page. So obviously I use some angular lighting and shadows. In post I try to de-accentuate anything that’s going to get in the way, anything that competes with what I’m trying to get out of the subject.  I’ll do that with exposure. I’ll play with the depth-of-field. Once I have the exposure and the depth-of-field then I accentuate unique features like freckles, baby fat or piercing blue eyes. I avoid the overly sharpened degree a lot of photographers use and try to stay quite natural and raw. Sometimes I’ll tone a background to compliment the model’s skin.  A lot of time cyans or blues and greens work nicely because they are at the other end of the spectrum of the peach or flesh color.

F STOP:What made you interested in portraiture.

Hoyle: People have always interested me. It may actually  be as boring as that. I love sub-groups and the sub-cultures. Whether that be aging boxers who used to be champions, winter swimmers or sideshow freaks. The imperfections of society are what interests me also and that’s why I try to unapologetically bring them out. I love the beauty in imperfection. They make great stories, don’t they? Every great story has a flawed character. I just try to magnify them.

To see more of Matt Hoyle’s work visit his website.