Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Photoshop is for Wimps

Recently, I did a series of radio interviews and one question was consistent (and an unintentional compliment): "Are these images digitally altered?" (One radio host- Kim Carson of WTRV-FM in Grand Rapids, MI- tweeted the next day, "@jordanmatter: I had people write me to say they couldn't believe it was NOT Photoshopped.") The "No Photoshopping" disclaimer on the copyright page of Dancers Among Us did little to assuage everyone's doubts.

So, in my final interview, I tried to be a little more direct: "Photoshop is for wimps," I said flatly. Perhaps not the best choice of words, but they got my point. And apparently some angry emails from outraged photographers as well.

The photo that most of the hosts mentioned with disbelief is this one of Marissa Labog in Santa Monica, CA:

People had no clue how she got up there, so everyone assumed it was manipulated. The downside to all the technological advances is that we know anything is possible, and we've lost our innocence. Many people regard contemporary photography with cynicism. 

Below is a series of photos to show the process of getting this shot. She didn't hang from the sign, and she didn't jump up fifteen feet. Marissa was tossed in the air and then caught by two dancers posing as passers-by: Nick Factoran (the thrower in the red shirt) and Jones Welsh (the catcher in the white shirt). This is a trick I wanted to shoot for years, and I finally found the dancers able to do it. 

It took us about an hour to practice, set-up, adjust positions, gather people, and avoid the police. The key was for Marissa to effortlessly fly above the crowd like a seagull without Nick and Jones looking culpable. Finally, on the last frame, we got it before they dropped her!

Over the years I've written blogs about other images that people have doubted. Here are a couple of my favorites:

There are oodles more photos that may test your doubts. Feel free to email me at info@jordanmatter.com and I'll tell you how I did it (or you can just read the back of the book!). 

Click on the cover to buy a copy of the New York Times bestseller Dancers Among Us: