Monday, May 13, 2013

I PhotoShop, Therefore I Am

I thought it would be fun to illustrate my schlock-horror-movie-inspired cicadas essay with an image resembling a 1950s movie still. Only after completing it did I see it could also serve as a fun profile picture. Never one to let even the merest slip of an idea go unexploited I decided creating images in different styles, with me as different characters, would be a fun project and would help keep me off the streets. I love working in PhotoShop. Love love love love love it. I’d marry PhotoShop if I could. Even the most mundane project is fun for me, and this series held the potential for whiling away the idle hours.

Settling on a theme of homoerotic imagery (imagine!) I looked around for some ideas and came across “Golden Boy,” a statue from 1914 originally commissioned for the pinnacle of the AT&T Building in lower Manhattan. The statue has had several official names over the years, including “The Spirit of Communication.” He’s wrapped in telegraph cables and holds lightning bolts in his raised hand and there’s a receiver of some sort at the the end of the cable with stylized energy or sound or something emanating from it. 

My first puzzle was what to use for the cable. A garden hose! And once I came up with that solution calling my version “The Spirit of Irrigation” seemed obvious. Instead of lightning bolts I’d hold a sheaf of wheat and some flowers, and a spray of water would stand in for the stylized energy coming out of the receiver.

I set up the tripod and the point-and-shoot camera in the living room and tacked up a sheet behind me. One thing a vinyl hose ain’t is supple, but even if I had been able to position the hose like the cable on the original, there’s no way I could have then walked to the camera, set the timer, pressed the shutter button and walked back into position without the hose completely readjusting itself. So what you see of me in the finished image is actually a collage of five different photos: one with the hose draped around one arm, another with the hose around my waist, a third shot focusing on the other, upraised arm, one shot just to get an acceptable expression on my face and--I will confess--another setup solely to allow me to concentrate on crunching my abs. (Vanity, thy name is Tommy.)

The hose and nozzle are the only things I actually photographed--every other element in the image was PhotoShopped in--and even the hose was cut-and-pasted to achieve the positioning I wanted. I shot myself wielding a carpenter’s level and standing on an upturned salad bowl. And wearing a jockstrap. The wings and the spherical base are taken from photos of the actual statue while the wheat and gladiola, the picture frame, the nameplate and water spray are from various stock images, and every one of those is altered in some way from its original appearance. 

Once I lost the jockstrap and donned the fig leaf (which, incidentally, makes me more modest than the original) I had to decide what setting to place my Golden Boy into. I couldn’t find an image of the top of the AT&T building that would work, so I tried fields of flowers, rows of crops, various other things, but nothing clicked. Just to get my bearings I stuck some clouds in the background and when I did it suggested, well, my dear it simply screamed Maxfield Parrish. So I took some mountains from one painting, a tree from another and decided my Golden Boy resides in The Land of Parrish. If they ever decide to remove Old King Cole from the St. Regis they can replace him with this. The rainbow came into the picture from remembering how, when we were kids running through the sprinkler, a spectrum would sometimes form from the spray of water.

To give you an idea of the complexity of the completed image, the simple cloud-filled sky is actually three copies of the of the same photo layered on top of each other but with different levels of saturated color. “Holes” of graduating size are cut into the top two layers to allow the underlying versions to show through. If it were in 3-D it would resemble a stage set with old-fashioned drops. Or the Hollywood Bowl. 

The nerdy geek in me thought some of you geeky nerds might be interested in how this was constructed. And that’s how! The only thing left up in the air is... what should I be next???

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