Hi Kurt, hi Edwige. You describe your project saying that you “photograph miniature figures in a real world environment”. It sounds simple, but It’s probably more complicated than we can imagine. How long is for example the preparatory phase? Kurt, I read on your website that you buy mini figures mainly in hobby shops and sometimes you modify them.
Every shoot will vary. There are some locations I have in mind that will require a prop. For example, the old wooden dock I used in the North Shore series took me several hours to create. Then, when we arrived at our destination along Lake Superior, I scouted for about 20 minutes before deciding upon the location to shoot. Once I placed the dock and miniature figure near the puddle of water, it took me about 20 minutes of shooting to get a photo I was happy with. If you include the time it took us to travel to this location, you could say we have over 7 hours invested in just that one photograph!
Not every photo shoot requires me to build a prop. Some scenes come together very quickly and when they do, they might take only about 20 minutes to get a nice photograph. As for manipulating the miniature figures, on occasion I’ll reconfigure (cut arms, legs, re-glue and re-paint) them to fit a scene I have envisioned.
To take your photos you use a fisheye lens and natural light. Tell us something more about the creative process and about your equipment.
As a photographer, I am always looking for the best light. But in the true spirit of photojournalism, I deal with whatever the conditions are when we arrive at the location. The camera body I use is a Nikon D7000. I use this camera because it has “Live View” capability and the body is somewhat small. I no longer look through the viewfinder of the camera, I use the Live View mode and manually focus on the miniatures. Generally, I’ll need to get as low to the ground as possible to get the proper perspective, which can be very difficult depending on the terrain.
Usually do you plan your photography tours or do you always go out, in your everyday life, with your camera and some mini figures in your pocket, to use in case of sudden inspiration? Maybe both things can happen?
Of course we love to plan road trips to photograph the miniatures! But yes, on occasion I will take a small handful of figures and the camera with me when we are out running errands around town. I try to take advantage of unique situations like dramatic skies and special events like bicycle races, fairs and other things that we might happen upon. I find myself composing shots even when I don’t have the camera or figures with me!
I think a good photographer can tell a story with a picture. Is this the aim of your works, to let your viewer imagine the story that you stopped in a single shoot?
I like that my work doesn’t tell the complete story. With my photography, I initiate a storyline and allow the viewer to dream up their own conclusions. Ultimately, I want my work to evoke a positive emotion in people.
Many photos show a wonderful landscape, because you shot them while travelling, for example in Southwastern U.S. or in Hawaii. What is your next destination?
Edwige and I really like the Southwestern U.S. and plan to go back there next spring. We are planning to be in Florida this winter and hope to visit Europe. There are some exciting changes happening in our lives right now. We may be doing more traveling next year than any previous year since we started this project.
The last question is one that no-one has asked you but that you would like to be asked. What is it? And thank you for your time.
Well, I never get asked if it is easy or not. The answer is that it is very challenging to get a great shot. The fisheye lens makes everything appear further away than it really is and distorts almost everything. So I need to find just the right angle and distance from an object without too much distortion occurring. There are so many things that can become obstacles in my pursuit of a great photograph: wind, heat, cold, too little light, too much light, cars (when I shoot in the street) and rain… the list goes on. But, I really love the challenge!
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