It isn’t very often that you open up a new avenue of exploration.
Recently, I’ve been looking at Harry Callahan again. First started looking at his work in the mid-70s, I suppose, during my first bout with serious photography. But about a year ago, now, I first consciously learned about both his color work and his use of in-camera multiple exposures. Both of which, I find immensely fascinating. But especially some of the multiple exposures are simply amazing for the level of technique and seeing that they represent. Such consciousness and awareness; not only to remember what is on each roll of film and in what order, but also the basic structure of each image so that a complementary scene can be superimposed. Some of those photos are simply staggering.
Harry Callahan. Providence, 1978.
One of the defining characteristics of Callahan’s work in this direction is that the multiple layers nearly always have a relationship with each other; they are not just random shots superimposed. Doubtless, he made dozens or hundreds that did not work, but the ones that he released are clearly designed, composed, intentional. Given all the variables involved, it’s nearly inconceivable that any would really work, but especially the ones that layer complex cityscapes push the limits of the possible.
At any rate, a week or so ago, I had the thought to try a multiple exposure, although since I use digital, I had to do it in Photoshop. Even so, the process is similar, in that you need complementary images to begin with. So I picked on of my photos from Pittsburgh, an uneven wall with a small bush and fallen leaves, to begin. Then, it popped into my head that perhaps some photos I made of legs during the summer might complement well. And the first one that I tried resulted in the above photo. It blew me away how well they worked together, with only very minimal work in Photoshop.
In the time since, I’ve only had a chance to try a few more and, so far, I’ve pretty much deleted them after a few minutes of futzing, since they didn’t combine in any interesting ways. Only one really was successful, and I posted that on my Flickr. This one is actually six layers of people passing a spray-painted blob on a wall, with each image centered on that blob. While this photo seems to work fairly well, it’s a bit more complex that I expect would work well on a regular basis.
So, something new …