How I Photographed "Poison of Humankind"

It has been a few months since I've been able to create completely personal work with no pressure, obligations, or audience, and it felt incredible to partner with a few of my close friends to make something beautiful.  I have been wanting to continue a small series I began last year with a single image "Explosions in the Mind".  

Before I get into the smaller details of how I photographed this, I want to say thank you to the team that literally made the "How" possible! I am super thankful to always have so much support in my creation process, and here's the team that made this photo possible:

Models: Meryl Waldo, Drake Vandam
Styling: Ben Strange
BTS assist: Elle Ribera

View on  Flickr

View on Flickr

Last year I created the first image of this series out of a need to clear my head and express the overwhelming experiences that were racing through my life at the time.  I was in a place of transition and everything seemed to be swirling around in my mind, blending and morphing and becoming one big mess.  I suppose art fulfills a variety of roles on my life, but the most important role is that of expression.  

In an attempt to release those feelings of frustration, I took some time to ponder life and images of swirling ink suddenly filled my imagination.  I saw visions of myself and others swirling through a space of ink and was instantly inspired to create something, although unsure of how it might turn out.  As always when creating personal work, I thought of everything I had readily available to create as soon as possible, and settled on my bathtub, some food coloring, and the closest friend that could be available to shoot that day!  Within a few hours the creation of "Explosions in the Mind" began.

View on  Flickr

View on Flickr

1st image BTS.jpg

After fully editing and publishing the first image of the series, I was extremely happy and knew I'd want to continue the idea of people floating through their experiences as I often feel I am floating through my own.  

Now a year later I had the opportunity to create the second image of the series; I like working with ongoing series that can be created under no pressure, with absolute freedom to create exactly how and when I want; it requires patience when my ideas build up, but its worth waiting for the right time to create the best images.  When I started this series, I knew I'd want to branch out to different subjects, including singles and pairs within the images.  This series is very dear to me and so the ideas tend to come to me when I find space to breath and reflect.  This concept confronts my experiences with relationships; there is a level of beauty that I believe can be found in any relationship, however some relationships lead to nothing but poison.  Its subtle at first, but slowly you begin to be submerged amongst it all and drown.

Now to get down to the details, I created this image very simply for about $20, here are the resources I used:

1. 5d mk II
2. Bathtub
3. $5 Food coloring (2 parts red, 2 parts blue, 1 part green)
4. $15 Flowers
5. 2 continuous lights
6. Beautiful Models 
7. Photoshop

Initially when we started shooting, we used warm water to keep  the models comfortable.  With our model, her red hair turned out to be a bit of a problem and bled in the water, so for the clear look we were going for we had to use a second round of cold water (sorry again Meryl haha!).


Once the models were in the water, I'd start by taking a few ink-free shots to make sure I got great expressions in the model's faces and would then continue on to add ink swirls to the water.  It was important to get some sample shots where the ink was interacting with my models, in their hair and in some cases with the edges of their skin.  Since my plan was to expand the scene and add more ink later, I needed to ensure that I could seamlessly blend the base images of the models with sample images of ink.


Its good to always keep in mind that you can create on little to no money!  Since I am traveling and temporarily living in New York, where gear is harder to transport and outrageously priced to rent, I was able to use some small continuous lights that I borrowed from a friend.  I had one positioned to the left of the model's heads, angled from the top left corner of the frame, with a second light fixed to the rail of the bathtub on the bottom right edge of the frame, filling in some of the shadows from the other light.  As a team, we worked together to position the models and flowers.

In post, this image required a variety of tools, including canvas expansion, clone stamp, compositing and masks, curves, and other color correcting layers.  The edit took about 4-5 hours in total (an improvement from around 8 hours on the last image, I'm growing faster!).

So in summary, you can create on a whim, on a budget, and from within yourself if you truly believe you can!  I've grown into a habit of conceptualizing and constantly thinking about symbolism, and when opportunities like this present themselves I am ready to face them and create successful photographs!  

If you have any further questions about my creation process or would like to hire me for commissioned work, please send me a shout on my Contact Page!


Ink Swirls 2.gif