Memory Drift (Not the Wizard of OZ) - Melbourne, Australia – Richard Baxter
My first reaction to this image was that it was inspired by the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy’s farmhouse is picked up by the tornado and spun to Munchkinland. Next it reminded me of that country song where the house is blown away along with the singer’s abusive alcoholic father. If you know this one feel free to leave the singer’s name in the comments since I can’t think of it right now. Then I watched the video below and realized that the house is just kind of floating through the landscape seemingly enjoying the ride as much as a flying house can.
At first this seemed odd to me, but then I read all about Richard in his blog and realized he is a 21 century Renaissance man who creates paintings, stunning photographs, and is a master at Adobe Photoshop and this opposing view of how we feel and what is actually happening is just all part of the plan. So please read his story below and then visit his stunning website http://www.studiobaxter.com/ . Also if you plan on getting married in Southern Australia or just want to see some very creative wedding photography please visit his business Singing Bird Wedding Images here http://www.vicweddings.com.au/ .
Memory drift has captured a lot of people’s imagination. For me it represents something old that is finally on the move, floating gently away. Many people immediately think this is some kind of tornado image, but for me it floats very gently, slowly and quietly. It is the past, and is destined to collapse very soon. In this sense it is haunting, as we see something passing before us that may not be long for the world. The strange part is that although it is decrepit, dark and falling apart, it floats with the calm ease of a balloon. Is this thing heavy and old, or weightless and free? I think this is where its success lies, in the juxtaposition of these contrary feelings. I often imagine what will happen after this image, and to me I see it gently running into a hillside eventually, and splintering into a millions pieces.
I’ve made an animation of the house (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sxhCYbLKgaw) floating quietly across a foggy early morning road, with birds living in it, floorboards creaking and groaning. So far, it is still floating… perhaps it will never hit that hill, perhaps it will float forever.
The idea for the ‘Memory Drift’ came to me whilst on a long drive in early 2012. I made a quick text note on my phone about the idea so I wouldn’t forget and then when I finally got time days later, I did 2 minute pen doodle to get the idea down on paper. It wasn’t until months later that I finally had time to put the image together in Photoshop. The first step was finding a suitable house, so I went through my huge library of images and although I couldn’t find a house at exactly the angle and kind that I wanted, I did find the one I ended up using that I had photographed years beforehand. The original house image was taken from the side of the road using a telephoto lens, and I was not able to get close to the house because of a large amount of thorny bushes, which also partly obscured my view. Consequently part of the house had to be reconstructed first in Photoshop by using existing pieces of the house and making it up. The background was also taken from my library of images, a scene also photographed years ago on a day of flooding in Victoria, Australia. The sky is comprised of three different sky images to truly get the complexity and drama I was looking for. They have been overlaid using various filters, and tweaked by hand here and there to even the layering out. The mist effects on the horizon were added by hand using the airbrush tool. The birds had been photographed individually and were all added separately. They were not cut out, but layered in using the multiply filter, which did away with the need to cut them all out painstakingly. As they are pretty much silhouettes, this looked ok in the final result. The house itself was darkened and desaturated to add to the required feel of desolation and storminess. Probably the most complex part was making up the underside of the house. The house had been photographed at near ground level, but as it was falling down in places and twisted, it just allowed for the slight feel of looking upwards from a below-ground-level perspective. (the original idea had the house as seen from above) Placing the house in the air also added to this illusion of seeing it from below, which seems to work. The underside was made up from old fence posts I had in my photographic library, simple 2D cut out pieces constructed from scratch in Photoshop, and the roots are a dead tree I had drawn by hand previously in Photoshop and had given a faux 3D effect to. The other hanging debris are parts of a figure walking on stilts I had photographed and who was covered in strips of plastic that were blowing nicely in the breeze. The telephone pole was also added separately. The illusion was completed with a shadow on the grass and rocks from the house above, using the burn tool. Finally I added a very complex and faint texture to the whole, to just soften and enrich the image and give it a slight warmth.
I decide to use the digital image to make an oil painting which is currently unfinished, but you can see an extensive blog on its process here: http://openstudiosdaylesford.wordpress.com/richard-baxter-open-studio-daylesford/
My principle cameras are a Canon 5D mark III and a 5D mark II. My lenses are the Canon 2.8 16-35 L and the Canon 2.8 70-200 IS L.
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