I first came across Richard Johnson's work in a group I belong to on Facebook called CREATIVOS. I have watched his Imagination series grow and grow over the last month or two, and his post processing really is quite unique. Richard is a 30 year old graphic and motion graphics designer, residing in Orlando FL. I have said it before, and I will say it again, but I believe that shooting personal work is a great way to grow as a photographer. I asked Richard some questions about himself and his series for the readers of Fstoppers.
What was the inspiration for the series?
It's hard to narrow this series down to one point of inspiration. It started with an idea of putting a strobe light in a book and having my son read the book. My goal for 2013 is to knock out ideas I have had for years but have put off for one reason or another. So I took an old book, cut a hole in it and glued the pages with acrylic to make them look like they were moving. The book images were shot with one SB-600 in the back of the book, and one soft box above him to fill the room with a little light. After the shoot (that lasted 10 min) I took them into photoshop and started to think about what exactly I wanted coming out of the book. I tried a ton of stuff before trying the shuttle and solar system. When I completed that one I was hooked! I wanted to also do one that featured one of my sons favorite characters and that's where the peter pan image came from.
Did you shoot all the elements you composited in?
All of the elements in the composite were stock images that I tracked down to build the over all story. There are a ton of resources available out there. For instance the pirate ship was a 3D model that an artist put on deviant art as a stock resource (http://browse.deviantart.com/resources/?order=9&q=Pirate+ship#/d20bhit). There is one problem with using stock images, and that is they tend to guide the design process. The pirate ship came in different angles, but that's it! If I wanted another angle to fit in better I would have to make one.
Is the boy in the series your little boy, and how does he feel about the photos?
The boy in the book images is my son! My son has been the subject of my ideas since he was born! I try and turn the process into a game. Before I even pick up my camera I have him make a bunch of different faces, and I make them with him. I think these images work cause they show emotion as well as imagination. A little warm up like that makes shooting children very easy. Kids tend to direct them selves and do what ever they want, so to reel them in a bit I might play a game of "Simon says", or let them take pictures of me, it all depends on the situation. Also having a big bag of marshmallows on hand to reward them after always helps with their motivation!
Roughly how long did the images take to shoot and post process?
The book images took about 30 min to prep ( make the book, set up the room and lights) and about 10 min to shoot. My son was not happy with his current one marshmallow and demanded a raise or he was going on strike!
The Rock star and "The Monster Above the Bed" I spent a little more time with the subject cause he wasn't my son and I was somewhat of a stranger. Cage (the actor) is 6 years old, and was so excited to help me out! He was so interested in how he was preforming he demanded to see the images to make sure he was getting his facial expression right, or had enough extension on his guitar jumps! I would say this shoot was about an hour maybe two with set up and break down.
Post production on each image ranged depending on the image. The rock star and "The Monster Above the Bed" took maybe an hour each. "One Small step" and "Straight on till morning" took about 2 hours each as I had little idea on where I wanted to take them, so it involved a lot of trial and error.
Do you have formal photography and photoshop training?
NONE! I have a film degree, and have been inspired by movies and stop motion since I was a child. I was never interested in photography until there was a need. I was in between production gigs and needed a job. I saw a help wanted sign for a local photo studio and thought "What the hell, I'll give it a try", and that's where it started! Everything I know I learned from trial and error and hands on experience. I think people put up to many walls and set false limits on what they can and can't do in life. Photography has allowed me to fail and succeed on my own terms.
What are you working on next?
I have tons of ideas that I will be producing this year! I teamed up with a great team of Make-up & SFX artist at Blue Whale Studios and we have some ideas that are top notch! Epic ideas that will no doubt teach me more life lessons and open the door for more ideas and opportunity! I just want to tell stories!
Is photography/retouching your full time job?
It is my second full time job. I work full time as a graphic and motion graphics designer for an amazing software company! I am very fortunate to be able to do what I love!