A picture tells a thousand words... and we are here to tell you a few more in our ongoing series A Thousand Words where we dig through the vault of talented photographers at Aperture Tours and get them to open up a little about some of their favourite images.
Never Read Alone
Picardy, France, by Alexander J.E. Bradley
It is the little things I enjoy about this image, the play between the characters, the paper aeroplane stuck in the hair, picking one's teeth with a kitchen knife, the fact they are fighting over a Helmut Newton book. I enjoyed playing the different personalities, and I must have pulled it off as my father asked me who the other person was before I told him to look a little closer.
Never Read Alone is a photograph in an ongoing series I have been making called Never ... Alone. It centres on a series of 360-degree spherical images populated with multiple versions of myself who get up to mischievous antics.
I had bought a 360-degree spherical tripod head to make mini-planet photos. Without getting too technical, it is similar to the google street view camera. It allows you to rotate the camera at the point of no parallax so that you can stitch together multiple images and create a panorama that stretches from itself to itself and back around. Most people use them for real estate or interactive galleries but I found the unique perspective was intriguing and provided a fresh perspective.
Like a lot of photography, you learn quickly that a new toy can provide cool tricks, but once you look past the illusion, you still need to make the subject interesting. No amount of tricks will turn a dull photo into a good one. So I was left thinking about how to add to the foundation and create something that took it a step further. I came up with the idea of mixing mini-planet photography with numerous versions of myself, giving them a little narrative and getting creative with my space. I shot this at the Performing Arts Forum, an artists residency in Picardy, France. It had some fantastic spaces, such as the library, so I took the narrative of jocks versus geeks and tried to have some fun with is.
People think I must be narcissistic to make such self-centred images, but in reality, it was not intentional. When I started the series I did not want to drag a bunch people into a crazy hectic shoot where I did not entirely know what I was doing and try to understand the complexities of the shot. I felt it was easier not bother anyone, so I just put myself in front of the camera. The effect worked, and then it felt like it was an element of the image, so I just kept it going like that. I enjoy the fact that it can get quite absurd at times.
Technically I try to keep things simple as possible as the stitching can be problematic. I shot at ISO 100, 1/250 f/8 and lit everything with an SB-900 speed-light with its dome set to 45 degrees; this gave the foreground a little more dominance. I used my Nodal Ninja 4 spherical Tripod head. The head offsets the camera so that it pivots on the point of no parallax, or nodal point, in my camera. Without this, I would have parallax problems that would make stitching even more difficult then it already is. I had a friend press the button rather than set up the self-timer. The book in the middle was not only a visual aid, but it was also there so I could easily cut out the tripod and replace it with something solid. The final image was a combination of 18 separate images. I used the software PT GUI to stitch the images, then exported them over to Photoshop where I continued to do touch ups to hide errors and add flair. The editing process would have taken a couple of days. It is a lot of work, but I really enjoy the results, I just wish I had more time to make more images.
You can view the whole series at alexanderjebradley.com
NAME: Alexander J.E. Bradley
BORN: Melbourne, Australia
CURRENT LOCATION: Paris, France
PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE: Conceptual, Travel
INFLUENCES: Helmut Newton (you can see it is his book in the middle of the image that they are fighting over), Sally Mann, David Lynch, Katsushika Hokusai.
FAVOURITE PLACE TO SHOOT: Anywhere with a bottle of whisky and friends.
HIGH POINT: Whenever I get to shoot conceptual images for myself
LOW POINT: Shooting entire sets for a magazine and then having them go bust before my set got printed.
TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Do not sleep with the crew