Thursday, January 15, 2015

transcending Fear

As a working artist I've had to develop a somewhat healthy relationship with the fear, doubt and anxiety that are inextricably woven into a career synonymous with uncertainty and laden with peaks and valleys of the emotional and financial kind.

I've been in the trenches of debt incurred by portfolio building and I've seen paydays from big jobs that have set me up for months. I've seen everything in between as well.

I've learned to accept the flux of this life I've chosen and although at times I do admire the financial security of my lawyer/banker friends, I have been told on a number of occasions that they in turn envy my jet setting to exotic locations to be paid handsomely for what I love to do anyway.

So everything is relative.

Speaking of relativity, a little physics to help illustrated how I work with fear and anxiety:

In classic Newtonian physics there is a subject (me) who is observing an object (a ball). I kick the ball and though the ball flies through the air there is an equal and opposite reaction against my foot. Subject and object and their interaction was the basis of physical understanding up until the introduction of the more complex science of quantum mechanics.

What quantum physicists discovered in the 20th century is that there is a third element involved in measuring an interaction between particles and that is the process of observation itself. On a subatomic level, the process of observation effects the outcome of quantum interactions. (See the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.)

The nature of consciousness is still a big huge massive mystery to almost everyone on the planet. What is consciousness? From where does it arise? Yogis and sages of the east believe that the physical body arises from consciousness whereas many thinkers from the west believe the opposite.

Regardless, I adhere to the truths discovered by the great thinkers of the last century (and the Yogis before them):

Observation changes everything.

Observation and mindful awareness is the root of all yoga, meditation and self healing processes. It is the single most effective tool in easing the patterns of fear and suffering we have accrued throughout our lifetime.

You can't 'get over' your fears. You can't push them away. They will come back, manifested as something else. Perhaps as disease.

What you can do is observe them.

When a wave of fear or anxiety washes over me,  I try and simply observe. I observe the fear as it manifests as a sensation in my body, a tightness in my chest or throat. I observe with detached mindfulness, avoiding the tendency to get sucked in to the emotional play of the ego-mind.

When we observe our emotions with a detached non reactive awareness we create space. Space gives us room to look at our fears and anxieties rationally. When we link this awareness to our breath we have a very powerful tool to ease the debilitating paralysis that the worries of life can impose on us.

In Yoga we hold uncomfortable postures not to get into better physical shape but rather to observe the mind as it struggles with unease. When we are able to say to ourselves 'holy shit, I hate this, I'm uncomfortable but I'm just going to observe this feeling for a bit," we are actually ripping apart a lifetimes worth of patterning.

As we get better at this we can start to observe the mind and its fluctuations on a regular basis, in our interactions with ourselves and others around us. In traffic, at work, in our relationships.

That's how you work with fear, with doubt, with anger, with anxiety. You observe it, you feel it, you watch it ebb and flow and eventually dissipate. You detach from it and observe it as a scientist observes. You become the process of observation.

Because...observation changes everything ;-)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The trouble with being creative

Often I am asked what its like to live and work in a creative field. The challenges, the payoffs etc... For people that hold steady jobs at stable companies, what I do for a living must evoke an equal amount of head scratching and envy. One of the big questions is 'how do you stay creative?' or 'how do you access that area of your mind more effectively?'

I recently completed my Yoga teacher training up in Rishikesh and I can only admit there was an inner shift of monumental proportions. An understanding about how the mind actually works and how we can move beyond the suffering that the mind creates is at the fundamental core of Yoga philosophy.

Learning to be creative has more to do with un-learning and de-habituating than anything else. To access our true creative potential we need to learn to still the mind. When we still the mind we start to unglue the narrative that plays through our consciousness like some mesmerising film, or train wreck, depending on where we're at. This ongoing narrative, constructed from layers upon layers of often unquestioned social, financial, religious beliefs keeps us trapped and stuck like a needle in the grooves of a record, playing the same song over and over again.

You can't just 'be' creative, not at a core level. Thats the problem with it, its not something you can click on and off, not if its to be regarded as an accessible part of your holistic being. Accessing creativity begins with observational awareness. We have to sit and watch the mind spin around in its habituated patterning, we need to understand it and observe it without judgement, without getting caught up in its game.

Creativity is not about being able to take a better picture or paint an amazing portrait though those are happy outcomes. Creativity, true creativity is the ability to take a novel approach to the most mundane habitual patterns that occur everyday in our lives. When we harness our reactivity and allow for gaps in our old narratives to form, we are on the path to becoming Great Artists within our own lives. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Beauty Images

This was a fairly standard commercial Beauty setup. Four lights:

1 head on a softbox above the model about 45 degrees and about 4 feet away, below the model is a sunbounce reflector which bounces the light back up into her face. The other benefit of this is two nice catchlights in the eyes, which enhances that 'fresh and clean' look.

2 rim lights on stripboxes, 45 degrees behind the model. I love the separation rim lights give, very clean and sharp.

1 backburst flash behind the model against the backdrop. This gives further separation and creates contrast between the BG and the model, giving a glow as well making masking easier.

This lighting is perfect for the more commercial aspect of beauty photography. It eliminates shadows on the skin and is perfect for beauty and cosmetic brands. its not as great for that editorial feel I find, which is more conducive to shadow play and mystery.

Photography: Martin Prihoda
H/M: Billy Bow
Models: Nadine and Cariad.
assisted by Vijit Gupta
retouching: Jatin Lulla

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Breakbounce Shoot

This was one of the more fun and creative shoots that had come along in awhile and I thought I'd share our creative process.

Final Car Island image

Final Raft Image

Breakbounce is a funky startup brand that's based out of Bangalore India and focusses primarily on the youth oriented street wear market. They're a mad consortium of artists and fashion designers that are pushing the boundaries not only in the street wear market but experimenting with art installations and guerrilla marketing.

I've worked with creative director Arun Kumar on a few jobs now and we've always had a great time with fantastic results. Probably one of my favourite shoots with him was our Signature Golf shoot that we did in Bangkok about 2 years ago.

Arun had sketched out the concepts and sent them to me. I immediately knew these would be fun as hell to pull off. Logistically it would tricky; balancing strobe with sunlight, heavy art direction and compositing layers of plate images for the background.

The brief was "Urban Explorers"

Car Island concept sketch
Raft concept sketch

On set in Capetown for the car image. The car was painted and we had all the grass brought in. We also set decked the garage to the right, adding signage and tires.

example of plate used for Car BG

Below are various plate shots I took for the background composite. Its important to match the height of camera, focal length and focal distance so that the plates can match with the main image seamless without a lot of warping. I also shot a wide assortment of trees, traffic signals, cars, dockyards etc... for the post team to have an abundance of plates to work with. Equipment used was Canon 5D 2/3, 24-70L, Profoto power pack, beauty dish on stand and an assortment of skimmers and flags. The sun gave a nice rim light.

Example of location plate used for Raft BG

Here is a sample of the main car image. This is RAW and un-retouched, the x mark the areas for compositing.

Styling of the shoot was key to the Urban Explorers theme. This is me messing around but in reality our stylist Lyal did an amazing job, sourcing all sorts of props and cool headgear.

Our 3 final selected models: Parker, Josh and Sean and their portfolio images

Its a wrap in Capetown with Nitisha, Arun and Javed's Mindblowing team

Flying back to Bombay, tired as hell.

Client: Breakbounce, Nitisha Kapur
Agency: AKC (Arun Shyamala Kumar Creative Consultancy)
Photographer: Martin Prihoda
Producer: Javed Aboobaker, Mindblowing Productions, Capetown
Production assistant: Liya Baderoen
Camera assistant: Zach
Stylist: Lyal Seba
Art direction: Lana Goodall
Hair and Makeup: Nathaline
Post Production: Featherwax UK

Friday, February 14, 2014

Adidas Campaign, New Work

If you can believe it, I shot this Adidas "All In" campaign with Virat Kohli the day after I finished a 3000 km cross India rickshaw rally. I was literally going over the shoot briefs and doing conference calls in the back of a rickshaw somewhere in the dusty desert of Rajasthan.

This was my first shoot with the TBWA team and thanks to my producer Mithika we were able to organize it and pull it off without a hitch.

I basically shot him in a studio in Delhi with a beauty dish, a fill and a rim light. He was jumping around a bit so off course its a tricky thing freezing the action.

The main campaign image was all over the place, huge billboards all over the city so the shoot had had major visibility and traction, which is a good thing.

Thanks to Cocktail art for the great post work.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

"We Forget Everything", a love letter to Bombay

When I first heard Ryan Stively's "We Forget Everything" I was struck by the parallel between my life and the lyrics; I knew right away I wanted to put the music to a visual form.

Why is photography such a powerful medium? Is it because it helps us to remember? Our memories and experiences are who we are, they are what make our personalities, we are a collection of our past aggregate experience.

...and eventually we forget everything, memories fade and the crystal ball of our past becomes fuzzy and incoherent. Its a horrifying thought, actually.

I wanted to create something that reminded me of why I began to photograph in the first place; the un-pressured joy of seeing the world, of paying attention to life, of doing something for the pure aliveness you feel doing it.

So here's a little film, a love letter to the crazy and madly connected city that has so graciously adopted me.

I won't say anymore...enjoy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Work, LP SS/2013 Capetown SA

Here's some new work for the Indian men's brand LP. Its for their 2013 Spring Summer campaign thats running now. We shot in Capetown which has to be one of my favorite cities in the world, kind of reminds me of my home town of Vancouver.

I ordered a bunch of strobe heads and battery packs but ended up using almost none of it. Producer wasn't thrilled about that one ;-)

This entire campaign was pretty much all natural light. All the haze/reflection type effects are in camera and I tried to shoot through as many different elements I could: shrubs, grass, branches etc... I even got my assistant to hold elements directly in front of the lens.

I wanted a very editorial, voyeuristic approach to this campaign so making sure there was always something in the foreground, reflecting or blurring was key.

Almost no photoshop here save for contrast control and a bit of cross processing.

Friday, May 10, 2013

New Work, Louis Philippe SS2013, Italy

These images are selections from the Spring Summer 2013 campaign I shot for men's brand Louis Philippe. We shot these images in Italy, in Naples and along the Amalfi coast.

These pictures were made in beautiful, natural sunlight on a set of warm, cheery days...

Just kidding.

It was mid February, freezing, dark with thunderstorms and temperatures hovering around 5 degrees Centigrade. I knew I had a massive challenge shooting a SS campaign in the dead of winter so I set about trying to re-create a sunny morning/afternoon look.

No better way to do that then to throw a few strobes in through a window just above the models head and let it flare out...just enough. The key words being 'just enough'. Too much flare and you kill the clothes, not enough and you're not getting that summer feel.

The entire look and feel of this campaign is artificially created. The location themselves were dark and we only had a few hours of sunlight, as well as dark thunderstorm skies.

I bounced another strobe head right off the ceiling to give an expansive sunlight feel and to add fill on the models face.

but, really, the best part of this shoot? Pizza and Italian wine on set.