Rhy Dyball is a photographer and artist working with themes uncanny and eerie images.
An Introduction to Tableau
Rhy is based in Naarm/Melbourne, Australia. His passion for the constructed image started when he was introduced to Gregory Crewdson’s work. When Rhy was still in high school, he stumbled upon his brother watching a documentary about Crewdson. Seeing the images on the television screen come to life was inspiring:
I was seeing these beautiful photos of narratives he’d built. And these scenes he’d built. That’s what I want to do!
Prior to this, he had taken electives in high school, including woodworking and video. He enjoyed the iterative process of working towards a portfolio or body of work, which encompassed drawings as well as the final physical objects he created. Holistically, this allowed for a space of working iteratively to create building blocks, allowing a more refined and resolved images.
The style that I’ve been shooting is the same. I’ve just been working on it trying to improve.
Horror has a theory and psychology to it. With reference to cinema, the idea isn’t to use "jump scares," but instead create situations or apply strategies where his images act as a catalyst to elicit a very universally human response. He intends for his work to challenge audiences, making them question individual existence, uncertainty, and try to understand their place within a precarious world.
Once you find out what the monster is, it takes away some of the fear element.
To expand, he’s not interested in images which are scary or gross for the sake of scaring audiences. Instead, he uses horror as a tool or a tactic to insight or draw out certain feelings within audiences.
What makes us fearful or uncertain in our everyday lives?
Rhy is interested in what he calls a "slow burn," which is much more cerebral than it is reflexive.
His latest series of images use light as a central motif. He’s still interested in the uncertainty and eeriness; but lighting is used to amplify these emotions within a scene. By projecting the final images in custom-made light boxes and showing them in a darkened space is a key factor to this process. He realizes he can’t control what audiences feel, but using several strategies together guides audiences and removes distractions from the work.
Although it’s not a linear relationship, he considers visuals, lighting, idea, and location. These four things need to be in harmony with one another for an image to work.
I wouldn’t call myself a horror photographer, but I want to understand the psychology behind horror as a way to transcend it and use it as a tool within the photographic form. My ideas come mainly from emotions. Dread. Uncertainty. Anxiety.
There is a broad anxiety and dread which looms over each of us in an increasingly tenuous world. The series of images aren’t specific to a single emotion or idea, in a manner allowing the audience to insert themselves into the images. Psychological elements of isolation, the unfamiliar, and the uncanny play into the work. The images don’t have a narrative and don’t ask audiences to feel or think anything, but use many of the strategies of narrative and horror to leave audiences with just enough of a morsel to fill in their own blank spaces.
Location scouting is a big part of creating this type of work. For Rhy, this is where it starts. He is prolific at scouting for locations either through social media or in person. He often has an idea of what he wants an image to feel like, and from here, it’s about finding the right place to shoot it.
Sometimes, things also just don’t work. A certain shoot at a location might not work, and so, he might revisit a location at a later time for a different idea or perhaps might try the original idea at a different location.
Rhy typically only works at night.
By shooting in the dark, it’s like a studio.
To clarify, by working within near total darkness, he is able to build up a scene one light at a time. Although he often plans what he wants an image to feel like, he will experiment prolifically. Rhy’s shoots often occur at night and can be quite cold. Despite these challenges, he will often shoot for hours, capturing many different angles and lighting setups all for a single image. The process of scouting, preparation, production, and post-production may take multiple days. All this labor and time are typically required to produce a single image.
Working outdoors has an added challenge, though, with consideration to the space. Lighting in a studio, even a large studio, often still has light bouncing around so that parts of the studio may be lit. Working outdoors, there is often no bounce. If you want to light a bridge, you have to light up a whole bridge. This sense of grandiosity with the space adds an added layer of isolation and loneliness within the image-making process itself.
I find the whole journey of making the photo more memorable than the photo itself.
There are often things that don’t work or might not go to plan, so having a plan but also being flexible is important. Each shoot presents with it its own challenges. The best part of photography is to consider photography as a verb; it’s something you do and work at rather than something that is. Pushing, experimenting, and learning is photography.
Some aspects of a location may add to an image and others may not, but considering both in tandem allows him to more deeply consider a location. In this way, Rhy considers each location as a puzzle, which through experimentation with lighting, models, and ambience works to yield a final image.
Photography, even when it’s just you as a photographer and the landscape, is a collaborative endeavor. It’s easy enough to consider the folks who give up their time to help and assist physically on the shoot, and they deserve thanks:
I always felt a huge appreciation to anyone that comes out and helps me on a shoot, and throughout the years, I’ve always felt like I had a great backing behind me, making me feel like there is substance to what I’m making. I owe a huge thank you to those people.
But alternatively to this, or perhaps in addition to this, is the team of folks who cheer you on from the sidelines. It’s important to create a support network of fellow artists and photographers and who you can turn to for advice or feedback or critique.
Photographers don’t work in isolation; even those who do or think they do don’t. So, acknowledging and nurturing the support networks you have and making them grow will only help you to grow.
Images provided by Rhy Dyball. Used with permission.