Remixed media in photography
There are times when I love the computer and all that it aids me with creatively, but there are periods when I’ve spent so much time staring at a screen that I just want to scream. These are also times when I want to make tactile art—get my hands wet, use paint or drawing, burn, freeze and otherwise engage in a physical process while working on photos. I am sure this harkens back to my college years in the darkroom and working with other media. Mixed media has been part of the photographic art since the first false color was painted on a black and white print, and it’s everywhere today, from scrapbooking to the highest level of graphic design and fashion shooting. Bringing in other media to an image can take an ordinary shot and give it a layer of “meta” context.
The simplest means of adding media is to print an image and alter it physically. Andy Warhol famously added gaudy paint to images he didn’t take, in the simplest means of enhancing what was already in the frame. Paint can add details, too. For example, painting makeup on a model’s face after the fact, or adding an environment when there wasn’t one previously.
Drawing on a print is a bit trickier since lines tend to be less noticeable and many types of print paper don’t accommodate drawing media very well. In this sample image, the body painter didn’t have time to paint all the details she wanted. So after the fact, using a large print and tracing paper, she drew the lines on a different sheet. The line work was scanned, inverted and dropped on top of the model’s body to create the final piece.
Other objects can be collaged on top of the print in creative ways. One humorous sample I’ve seen involved food items like green beans and orange slices organized into parts of a model’s anatomy, all on top of the print. More abstract means of collage may involve chaotic assemblages of multiple photos or substituting textured paper for wardrobe.
Embroidery on a print can give the impression that a subject is interacting with the line work—energy forces tugging at them, a spider web holding them in place or something otherworldly radiating from them.
The forces of nature can be employed to alter your print in less planned, but no less interesting, ways. Freeze the image, burn it, leave it in water or bury it in dirt and see what happens. The weathered textures some people look for in their images look more convincing when they are real and not simple Photoshop blends.
These are really just the start of what one can do when other media gets mixed with photography. Far from invalidating the art form, images that make creative use of actual handwork and real life effects stand out amongst the deluge of straight digital work on the internet.