© Dark Cyber Angel – Dean Samed

How do you even think of making robots

Cyborgs. Why am I even doing that? My photos are fine without all those bells and whistles. The point is, I think ‘registration’ photography is a bit boring. I’m registering things all day long, I don’t need a camera for that. In my head completely different things are going on than register the status quo. Reality is gray at best, predictable and more importantly, by starting from reality you miss a touch of imagination. A little creativity. I’ve been thinking about surreal landscapes for a while (eg Mattijn Franssen, see links and references). But I’m not a landscape photographer. Or I should have taken a closer look at Erik Johansson (see link) when I first started. So brilliant. Unfortunately, I actually prefer working with models. Bad for me and my models… oh well. I like the interaction (meeting creative people) and I like the idea that I can try to get a very direct link with the viewer. It’s fun to show your model as the best version of themselves anyway, and how much better can you get than a real robot? You could also put such a model in a large princess dress and put her or him in a forest or a ruin. Is fun. You should do it, hardly anyone else does. But why is the why important? That hasn’t always been the case, I used to be happy when I could remember what ISO was for. Those days are long gone by the way. The quote that made it matter to me? If you don’t understand the ‘why’, there’s no reason to know the ‘how’. That goes deep right? And many, many people are the first to ask ‘how?’. That’s really irrelevant if you can’t think of a reason why. Then the ‘why’ is just as important as the ‘why not’…

© Mattijn Franssen – Down the Drain

And that’s how it started. There are so many beautiful images to be found and the best ones also capture the imagination. Best of all, you can make them all yourself! Robots for example. Contrary to what you might expect, they can be very expressive. Not because they seem human, but precisely because there is something ‘non-human’ about them. The first robot I made had a strange nostalgic click with an image of nature. That was my story behind it. We continue to build electronics until we no longer recognize nature itself. Or think we need it. META (Metaverse) is a good example, where we all live in an artificial part of the world and we never have to see nature again. And it’s crazy, but it seems that many people would find that an attractive alternative too. Horrible right?

© Erik Johansson – Fishing with grandpa

So I decided to make more. Not because it had to be a trick, but because there are even more weird traits behind the human character. From a stock photo (it was a bit faster than looking for a model, and I didn’t have a mood board of my own work at the time) I made a fantasy-sexy librarian. During this bot I wondered; what would happen if our programming failed? What if we expect that we are making a robot soldier but it turns out to be a mega attractive female bot, which doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do at all. In short, the theme changed. A robot came along with an identity crisis. One with a sense of music. One that takes matters into its own hands. One who wonders if God is there for her kind too. And one who has an obsession with making robots. Autobio would Freud and Kees van Kooten say I guess. This creates a line in the series, a story, a narrative. Robots are weird or even slightly scary if they are given too many human traits. Even more so if they are visually pleasing to look at.

© Omar Brunt – Joy and Sorrow, Hope and Fear

In addition to a series of individual stories, there is another reason why, Why version 2.0: exhibitions and competitions. Many exhibits come in 3, 5 or 7. Then it’s really inconvenient if you only have 2. So with about 10 edits in the same style you can fill a few more spaces on the exhibits stands. Advantage for the maker! And speaking of benefits… To create these you must force yourself to get better at photography and Photoshop. It won’t be beautiful or believable (selling the fake) without the right skills. So you can only move forward, and you are almost obliged to grow in your capabilities. In short, it is a challenge and a considerable one I may say in retrospect. So it has advantages to take a completely different approach. You have to learn some things. Add some creativity. It also has a small drawback, but really very small: It takes time, time, time and time…. Looking up accessories, starting over because limbs look weird, it all takes a lot of time. Personally I think it’s worth it, but I also have a bit of an autistic streak apparently. It doesn’t help that I’m a perfectionist.

© Deadstock – Dean Samed

So, did I in earlier days think I’d make a whole bunch of robots? No, but the why kicked in and turned out to be important. They say intend matters. Was it fun to do? Yes. And another thing… The photographers I know and who I know have some understanding of what they’re doing can still take a nice picture even with a flashlight. In that spirit I say; Use gels, strobes, backdrops, anything you can think of. Nice that it’s possible, fine. Put down a flash, press the button and there you go! I’d suggest checking the motivation every now and then. Why do you only use 1 light? Why is that better than 2? Why do you use gels? Is that better than without? The way I see it, you can develop your creativity (and your style!) much better by asking yourself from time to time: What am I doing? Why? Does it do anything for me? Does it do anything for my subject? Or: Does it do anything for the viewer? I think in the long run it is easier to maintain your motivation and to persevere if you feel that you’re using your time in a meaningful way. With something that’s really your thing. That’s why.

© Omar Brunt – Pray that God would give them a heart of flesh

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Please take the time to visit the stocks at PHOTO Manipulation, it is used in the featured image of Dean Samed, Cyber Angel (image no. 1). All kinds of goodies to get there if you’re serious about making the most of your edits.

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