Monday, May 21, 2012

Seeing the Tropics (or what to do with all those photos)

This project involves yet another step in the Seeing series, inspired by several symposiums at the Exploratorium on that topic. A still photo just doesn't accurately represent the way we see things as we stitch together an array of visual bits and pieces to form a gestalt. This collage format represents to me the way I actually see, and captures a more genuine sense of the "truth" of a setting. Below are three examples from a recent trip to Costa Rica.

Monteverde Cloud Forest (click on image to see larger version)

Reading Clues in Nature (click to enlarge)

Wilson Botanical Gardens/Las Cumbres (click to enlarge)

How to Make Your Own "Seeing" Collages

You can make these using a computer graphics program or you can work with photo prints, scissors, and glue, which is how I created the original series.

• First decide on desired end size. The ones above were six inches by eight inches. The original series was done in postcard format in 4 inches by six inches. Once you've got your end size, decide on your unit-square size, which has to divide evenly both vertically and horizontally into your end size. For example, the squares above are two inches, making a horizontal span of 3 squares = 6, and a vertical span of four squares = 8. Create your grid in your computer graphics program or draw a grid on a sheet of stiff paper. Your unit squares will be pasted (either virtually or in reality) onto this grid.

Create a grid.

• Next, sort through your photos looking at them with a new eye. What you're looking for are details and close-ups—a fragment from the original photo. Cut out the fragment in the size of your unit square (e.g., 2" x 2").

Pick a visual focus for each square

• Start playing with your squares on the grid, arranging and rearranging until they make visual sense to you.

Arranging squares on the grid

For those using a computer, remember that all images (including the original blank grid) need to be the same dpi. In some ways it is a lot more fun to cut up old photos and play with the squares at your leisure. Dig out old photos that are moldering in the closet and play with those.

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