What is a composited image and what sets it apart from a traditional photograph?
Dorothy Amore Pilla, Contributor
Compostied Image "Sandstorm Coming" by Dorthy Amore Pilla, Digital Arist
For centuries artists and photographers have attempted to capture three-dimensional reality and record it on two-dimensional surfaces. And now in this digital age, where a digital sensor captures light that creates an image, not only can the image be captured but opportunities to record and distort reality are unlimited. Consumer products put very sophisticated tools in the hands of savvy individuals, the curious, the young and the old. Digital capabilities have shrunken the globe and brought international visual communication. And for photographers and artists alike new digital mediums have opened boundless creative opportunities.
How has digital composited imagery come to be my art medium of choice? At the Museum School in Boston, my formal education as an artist was in printmaking, but in the background I was curious and interested in photography. Years later, I discovered the digital process and the power it held for manipulating images. It became my new visual communication tool. I felt like all my experience in printmaking, drawing, painting, and traditional photography were in preparation for this era and for how I would construct images in the future. No doubt, my early concentration in printmaking has had a significant impact on my work. My roots as a printmaker are reflected in the layering and multiple-imagery in my current work and, as in printmaking, each image evolves through a series of stages. As I build my images, the process of working digitally is, for me, much like the manipulation of color and form in layers using virtual tools and pigments
The digital process allows revolutionary freedom to the photographer, but in a medium with so much potential for technical modification, subtly and restraint are essential. I must be selective with how much transformation is warranted to carry the meaning of the image; too much Photoshop technique can create a sensational image that encourages a quick response without lasting impact. I want my viewers to stay with my image. With that said, my work brings to life the imaginings and responses I have from encounters with commonplace things. In their complexity, I intend my composites to go beyond representation and ignite emotional and visceral reactions in the viewer. With concentration on natural and built objects, I deconstruct and transform reality into images that bring a new perspective to the viewer. I find relevant the words of Paul Klee: "Art does not imitate the visual, it makes visual."
There is a bit of the surreal in my composited images. Defying a natural order of things, the images go beyond what the camera actually captures. I take photographs of anything and everything that might communicate my original curiosity and fascination with a subject. These are the photographs that coalesce in my images along with ancillary photographs I have filed in my backup drives. At the computer in Photoshop, I play with the images until an altered reality emerges. If an expected object or setting is replaced by something unexpected, then the notion of reality is changed and the contradiction causes a shift in its meaning. It is then that the composited image takes on a new veracity.
In my recent series, Carnival, a metaphor for the distractions, tribulations, and dangers of coping in a modern society, my intention was to bring to the viewer the fear and the fun factor of the lights, sounds, and dizzying movement of the carnival scene. Each of the final composited Carnival images was constructed from multiple shots taken on site and then combined and transformed using multiple Photoshop tools to create the endemic bawdy excitement of that scene.
For example, the sandstorm in Sandstorm Coming is an intended complicating factor in the image. It was not in any photograph and would not be there without the use of some Photoshop tools. The fabricated sandstorm and the crowded arrangement and refinement of the photographic elements in the image are there to impart emotion, sentiment, mood and an ominous presence in the message of the piece. My underlying narrative in each composite image in this series is: where is the participant in all of this chaos? Might one be lost and isolated in the confusion of the moment? Does one escape the chaos by becoming merely an observer, or rather lose oneself and partake in the beckoning thrills offered?
You can see in the example a few of the original photographs I used to create Sandstorm Coming in the Carnival series. None of the singular photographs in and of themselves carry the sentiment that I was seeking; they are merely props for the final fabrication. Singular merged photographs and a lot of technical manipulation lead to the consummate image. Some other images in the Carnival Series have titles such as "Where Are You Going?", "Losing Self", "From Here to Where"?", “Attraction", and "Come With Me" and suggest the immersion of oneself in an unfamiliar and unsettling setting. All images in the Carnival series speak to individuals alienated by an overload of sensory information, and their existence in a world beyond their control.