Monday, November 17, 2008

Funeral Images...

Photography and Photoshop are wonderful ways to reach out to other people and touch lives you never know about. Sometimes the projects they inspire bring completely unexpected news.

Take the image to the left. I took it two summers ago. The man was a conductor on a streetcar we were riding with our grandchildren. He oozed life. He teased the kids and laughed out loud and made the brief trip so very memorable that I wanted to say thank you in a very direct way.

I used the image and worked on it using several layerings: Snap Art from Alien Skin, Virtual Artist and some brush techniques. I used a filter from Auto FX to design the lettering and still another filter to create the stamp effect.

I sent the image off to the people who host the historical streetcar...and never heard a word. Inwardly I shrugged, because this happens a lot. But you don't give a gift in the expectation of a thank you, right?

About a year later I got an email from a name I didn't recognize. Since most of these turn out to be spam from people who think I am unhappy with my body, performance or weight, my finger hovered over the "delete" button. But it was from the son in law of the man in the photo.

Briefly here's the story: the man in the image had died. His daughter found this image all over his computer. It made her very emotional because she said it depicted him at in a place near the end of his life where he was genuinely happy. They took the image and used it as the cover of the funeral service brochure. They had no idea where it came from until they found my email to him. They wrote with apologies and thanks and in the sincere hope that it was okay that they used the image.

Of course it was.

I was thinking that I fired some artwork off into the abyss that is the Internet, heard nothing, and yet it had a real impact on lives I never knew about. I am just naive enough to think that's cool.

Some of you have emailed to ask about the Biker Image in the previous blog. The client had taken some pictures of this guy a few days before his death...but she didn't have anything that was really working for her.

This was tough because I didn't know the guy at all. But she really wanted an image that made who he had been into a powerful statement. I took the shot of the biker riding away, selected the bike and turned the rest of the image (except for the highway markings) black and white. Obviously, I wanted the color of the leading lines to go to the biker.

The sky in the intial image was very bland, so I combined several filters (Glitterato from Flaming Pear and Fuzzy Clouds from Alien Skin), changed the opacity and made that soft kind of etherial sky backdrop. I added a slight glow to the horizon to give it a more dreamlike feel.

Finally, I took another image of his face smiling, and blended it into the clouds using the "Overlay" blend. (If you haven't played around with blending options -- found at the top of the Layers menu -- you're ignoring a wonderful option from the Photoshop world).

And presto! Another image graces a funeral program. It was really a strange feeling, both times, to have done a visual representation of someone I've never known. It's also strange to think that these images are tucked away and forgotten in drawers and on the hard drives of people I will never meet. There's a pithy metaphor tucked away inside this somewhere.

I think about it sometimes: an idea sparks into life inside imagination, the idea transforms into an image on a computer screen -- and the image speaks to a group of people several worlds away from mine. At what point does the image take on a life of its own...and start its own hundreds of tiny journeys. Who sees it? How does it make them feel? Do they live in distant countries?

We live in a world where art and ideas, concepts and dreams, enjoy a global trajectory with just a nanosecond between the publishing of the art and the eyes of the audience.

I think that's PDC. (Pretty Damn Cool.)