The salvation of photography comes from experiment."
~Laszlo Moholy Nagy
I'm both pleased and excited to announce, not only a new series of gallery images, titled South Beach POParazzi, but an upcoming One Person Show featuring the work at the nearby Leesburg Center for the Arts in February of 2018.
The work - and show - will be an interesting combination of what, in the art world, we call form and content: the form being an evolution of a digital editing style I've developed for my fine art portraits, and the content being some of the many celebrities I photographed during the handful of years I shot night life and events as a paparazzo in South Florida back in the 1990s.
I got pulled into photographing South Beach nightlife, events, and visiting celebrities in the early 1990s almost against my will.
At the time, I was the staff photographer at New Times Newspaper, and the editors decided they wanted me to start shooting photos to accompany a new social column by writer Tom Austin titled Swelter. I had no choice in the matter.
As it turned out, Swelter rose well above and beyond your typical nightlife or social gossip column, as Tom was (and still is) a very talented writer who wove a colorful and surreal tapestry of the Miami social and cultural landscape at the time with his words.
That was how it all started for me, and when I soon decided to go back to being a freelancer, in addition to my fashion, portrait, and gallery work, I continued to shoot for Tom and his column.
I also expanded my client base, and ended up shooting similar assignments for local publicists and promoters, eventually getting hired as the house photographer for the local Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood restaurant, both of whom had visiting celebrity guests make appearances on a regular basis.it ain't me babe
The work became very bittersweet for me. As someone who was trying extremely hard to establish himself as a creative commercial editorial and advertising photographer, being know as an event and club shooter was extremely counterproductive to my overall career.
I've never cared all that much about meeting celebrities at events, and had even less interest in taking snapshots them. It certainly didn't require any kind of artistic skill, so I got very little satisfaction from the pictures.
And yet, the money was good, and it's never smart business to just abandon paying clients, especially as a freelancer strugling to make ends meet.
When it was all said and done, I was left with a ton of fun celebrity pictures, and some good stories about many of the famous people I've met and photographed. Thing is, I've never really expected anyone to be too impressed with the work or the fact that I got to shoot it. It was a job.but wait there's more!
This story should have ended back then in the 1990s. After their original publication, I've never done all that much with my celebrity photos. Apart from social media, I've provided some on occasion to regional writers and authors for various projects, including friend Gerald Posner for his book Miami Babylon.
But other than that, I've tried very hard over the years to make people forget I shot events and celebrities, concentrating solely on my gallery and commercial work.
That all changed in 2017...
I experienced a significant artistic breakthrough with my work in 2005 when I was just messing around - that often seems to be the way it works - in Adobe Photoshop, creating weird digital variations of a photo of good friend and musician, the late Chip Schane.
I employed a typical deconstruction/reconstruction workflow that I had always used with printmaking techniques like photo silksreen and offset lithography years earlier. In this case, I created multiple copies of the original photo, then applied digital filters and photoshop tools to each of them, then recombined these new images using layers, masks, blending modes, and opacity.
And, as the Nik - now Google filters i used at the time were new to me, so were the results.
And boy, did I find them exciting.
It's very hard for an artist to explain sometimes exactly why a certain visual result gives us such satisfaction and excitement, especially when it's unconventional.
In this case, I loved that the images were both abstract pattern - bordering on psychedelic - yet had enough original elements to be recognizable.
Yes, the bottom three variations in the example above are a bit "out there", but the top three - if you knew Chip - while kinda wild, looked like him.
And that will be a crucial feature of this new series. It's the measure of a lot of abstract art styles.
When viewed up close, hopefully each piece will present a fun and interesting blend of abstract colors and patterns. From a distance, the viewer should be able to recognize who the subject is.
The images of television actress Tanya Memme above, created in 2008, are an evolution of the techniques used for Chip Schane. They have nothing to do with the new series or upcoming show, but are created in a style that will be very similar to the new work. Again, hopefully you can see the balance between abstract pattern and the subject still being recognizable.
It's a delicate visual juggling act that I hope will make this new work special.
Be sure to check back here for updates about the upcoming show and progress blog posts highlighting some of the pieces that will be included.
And of course, it goes without saying - but I'll say it anyway - that you are invited to the show and the opening next February. I hope to see you there. Details to follow.
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As always, your comments and suggestions are more than welcome!
All photos ©Steven Paul Hlavac. All rights reserved.