Process

Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Blog | No Comments

I have been working slowly on my Arctic images. Slowly, because I obsess about everything. I thought I would share my process a little as people are often asking me.

If you have been following my Arctic adventures you know that I took over 2000 pom-poms to the Arctic to involve children in the conversation about climate change. I had numerous ideas going into the project but also gave myself the freedom to let these ideas evolve as needed. Post travel I have spent a lot of time editing the photographs I took, determining which images were strong and would tell the story that I wanted to tell. For me, less is always more. I want the pom-pom images to be strong images but part of a bigger story, and not simply decorative. I endlessly moved thumbnails around to figure out what images stood alone but would also work together as a whole. Some images that I really liked didn’t add to the story so I would add them to the “alternate” folder and sit with that sequence for awhile until I felt that I had made the right decision. Of the hundreds of images I shot (thousands if you include all of the stop-motion shots) people may be surprised to hear that I hope for 12-15 strong images in the series. I am a ruthless editor. This does not include the stop motion and other video ideas which I will also add to the series. And while I have done some small Arctic painting studies, I haven’t quite figured out how my experience will translate into paintings yet.

So first I obsessed about the ideas and images. And once I felt pretty good about a number of them, then I obsessed about the size and paper. I am in love with the color, clarity and depth of Fuji Flex SuperGloss (similar to Ilfochrome.) I have used it on my last 2 series and thought that I might want to use something different this time. I did a number of printing experiments on different papers thinking that I may want more of a matte finish, however, ultimately I decided that the Fuji Flex was my favorite, and that when it was framed behind glass or plexi, it wasn’t nearly as glossy as an unframed print.

I determined the ideal size that I wanted to show them at, based on aesthetics, technical limitations and also practicality. The practical aspect being that I felt if I wanted to get the work out there, that I should offer two sizes, as the exhibition size is sometimes slightly too big for many people. Additionally, several images were also produced in a smaller special edition size for different purposes such as Kickstarter rewards, and the Fraction Holiday Sale.

With the image concept and size determined, I then approach my photographs in a similar way to how I approach a painting. I first work on overall color and light adjustments which are usually fairly minor, and then I meticulously begin the refining process. I have a Wacom tablet and pen and obsess over the entire image, eliminating or adjusting anything that seems to stand out to me. Yes, I have been told I am a little crazy as I remove single strands of hair that look wrong to me while leaving others that seem perfectly fine, or removing tiny specks of dirt or rocks that seem out of place or too bright or too dark. It is a very intuitive process and I keep going until I finally don’t want to change anything else. Having an image blown up to 400% and removing a tiny speck can drive me a little crazy, so I try to listen to podcasts to distract myself if I can.

I proof the images for everything except color on my home printer. I print them to size (having to tile the larger images in 2 or more pieces) and spend a lot of time staring, tweaking and yes, obsessing until I am ready to proof them at my lab. I use West Coast Imaging who do an excellent job. The quality is amazing and the customer service is excellent too. I use their Print Lab which means my images are ready to print and I adjust all of my own colors, but they also provide Custom printing where you can work with a professional printmaker if you would like. They are located near Yosemite so I have never actually been there but my carefully packaged prints show up on my doorstep via Fedex, so it works for me! Because of the nature of viewing images (on my screen vs my printer vs their printer vs different paper stock) I usually find that I need to do 1 -2 proofs before I am satisfied with the color, which is another thing I obsess about. However, a recent blue iceberg image took 5 or 6 rounds of proofing until it was exactly how I wanted it.

For The Polar Pom-Pom Project series most of the images are straight shots where the Photoshop manipulation is as described above, unlike my North and Girls: Fact and Fiction series where all of the figures were added to the background. However, I did know that I wanted at least one image that included a girl, and so in discussing process, I thought I would share that image that I have recently finished.

To give some context, while in the Arctic, we had 3 women guides who were our polar bear protectors, and they were these beautiful, strong, young women. I did several portraits of them and shot some video. The idea behind those images (to be revealed soon) are that these women are guardians and protectors –of the land/environment/Arctic and us, as well as of the pom-poms. I like the juxtaposition of the pom-pom images (traditionally a craft project which evokes some feminine ideas) with these strong women carrying rifles. And the girl below in Scout is our future guardian –which brings me back to my goal of working with elementary classrooms on this project which was to talk about climate change by directly connecting them to the Arctic so they can make smart choices as they grow up and be the future guardians of our planet.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so below is my image, Scout, and a few images of how it came to be…

Scout
Scout, Digital C-Print, 21 x 30 inches and 14 x 20 inches, © Deborah Hamon 2014

Scout_detail
Scout
, (Detail) © Deborah Hamon 2014

 

Scout-background
The original background: My apologies to the 15 fellow Arctic Circle participants that I slowly erased from this image and the lovely Antigua!

Scout-model
I did a number of different poses, ideas and costume changes with this girl and her younger sister. Ultimately this was the winning shot!