Tadao Cern is a photographer who has a particularly interesting approach to developing his projects. His latest body of work, “Comfort Zone” is a whimsical look at how we can all – for whatever reason – seemingly leave our physical and psychological inhibitions at home when it comes to sunbathing on the beach, and be happy to "let it all hang out". We’ll take a look at Comfort Zone, and how Tadao approaches ideas for his work, which we can probably all learn a little something from.
On a recent trip to the beach near the Baltic Sea in Lithuania, Tadao notes that he "was surprised how a certain place or surrounding can affect peoples behavior. During our everyday life we attempt to hide our deficiencies, both physical and psychological. However, once we find ourselves on a beach – we forget about everything and start acting in an absolutely different manner. Is that because everyone else around you is doing the same?". It's an interesting question, and while he doesn't aim to provide answers, he does use "Comfort Zone" as a way to showcase an interesting perspective on how this is the case.
Comfort Zone simply aims to show how at east various beach-goers can be as they laze about and snooze at the beach. It certainly is an interesting idea – as many people have become so obsessed with how they look or at least appear to look in modern Western society, it does seem that we are quite happy to let it “all hang out” at the beach, so to speak.
Tadao has previously featured on Fstoppers for some of his previous project work, notably “Blow Job” (a series of portraits shot with wind blasting into the face of his subjects, some of which can be seen below) and “Revealing the Truth”, a brilliant reconstruction and reveal of Van Gogh’s “Self Portrait” (image below).
As I reviewed his different bodies of work, it became apparent that he comes up with some interesting and - at first glance - unrelated personal projects.
Although he is obviously interested in how we see ourselves and how we are perceived (and can influence how we are perceived through the surreal manner in which he makes his photographs), I was more intrigued with how he came up with his ideas for his projects. This was particularly interesting right now, because I’m trying to get some of my own personal projects back up and running again after client work put many of them to the back burner. It also got me thinking about how others out there decide on their own personal projects and then bring them to fruition.
I was fortunate to speak to Tadao about his process for creating Comfort Zone, and also decided to find out a little about his approach to personal projects in general to see if we could learn anything from his process.
Fstoppers: Can you briefly explain the process and technique you used to capture the subjects in Comfort Zone? Why was the top-down view so important?
Tadao: I was using a long pole with a camera on top of it. I was putting it on to my shoulders and the process was more one of scanning the ground than taking single shots. The exact point of view was one of my main goals to achieve because it gives a typological, clean and a surrealistic feeling to those images. That is why I find them so appealing and in some cases, even hard to believe that they are real. I think that a point of view separates good photographs from bad, because in pictures you're always looking for something else than what you are used to seeing with your own eyes. In this case, this particular point of view makes you feel like you're floating above these people without them even noticing you.
Fstoppers: Was anyone aware they were being photographed? Did anyone (either the subjects or members of the public) ask what you were doing and if so, what did you say to them to explain the project? What was the reaction by members of the public?
Tadao: No one noticed, and that was one of my goals too. I was trying to avoid any confrontation with people. This is usually the same when I am taking pictures in any other public places, with street photography for instance; unless the idea is different, and you want to get a connection with a subject you are photographing, of course. I also wanted to keep those images natural as much as possible, and asking for permission or coming to peoples notice would change the whole concept and the final result.
You have a right to take pictures in public places, but not all people know that and that is why I try to focus more on doing my own thing than being an personal educator. I had to make some explanations sometimes about what was going on, but usually I was trying to walk away quietly. My usual response to a friendly stranger was that I am taking pictures of nature, and I wasn't lying, because people are part of nature.
Fstoppers: You manage to come up with some pretty innovative and interesting projects for your work. If anyone wants to undertake their own project, do you have any advice or thoughts you could share with us to help them succeed?
Tadao: It sounds simple, but try to make your work worth sharing. Try to look at your images as if it wasn't you who made them: would you like them and would you share them with your friends? If both answers are 'yes', then you're good to go.
Fstoppers: Can you hint at what your next project is going to be?
Tadao: I don't know. Honestly. I never plan any of these projects and usually in the middle of the process, I simply catch myself thinking that I am only a tool to make these ideas happen. There's no particular process of coming up with new ideas - you just wait for them and when they do come - it's your task to evaluate them and make a decision, namely "wait for a new one or to go on with this one?".
Tadao’s approach to his project work seems very organic – he seems to be open to an idea at anytime, and when he sees the opportunity, becomes completely focused on capturing what he has envisioned in his head.
What personal projects are you guys working on? What ideas have you got for personal work in 2014? How do you get inspired to begin new personal projects? Would love to hear some of your thoughts in the comments section, feel free to share.
Image Credit & Thanks: [Tadao Cern]