Photo Processing Doldrums: Begone!

When you first see this photo, what’s your first reaction? Do you know what it is? Does it make you curious? Does it irritate you? Entice you? Make you tilt your head like the RCA dog? Yawn? Judge it in some way? Er, what?

Mind you, I didn’t create it with any particular reaction in mind, I was just wondering. I really processed it as an exercise. The end result and process turned out to be so interesting, I though I’d share.


I’d been staring at this photo for months. It was beginning to irritate me, because I couldn’t decide how to process it. I knew I wanted to alter its reality somehow – but couldn’t decide how best to present the faces, figures and worlds-within-worlds that both my physical and mind’s eyes could see. I felt stuck in “habitual thinking”; that thing where you can only see through one pinhole of possibility – when what you REALLY want and desire is the whole frickin’ vista!  It can happen in art – and life. The challenge is to always find ways to “think different” Being so stuck around one stupid photo felt unsettling and limiting and I didn’t like it one bit. I also knew it was the tip of a bigger iceberg that needed to melt!

Now, I experience photography in two ways. One: a more literal representation and reflection of the world around me. The other: photos as a blank canvas upon which I build the vision of how I feel about what I see. This photo was definitely a canvas. I wanted  “realistically surreal”; recognizable elements sitting in unlikely surroundings. I love the perceptual shift that combo creates. My mind craves it.

Then one night, I was deep in a conversation with my husband about music, art, business, vision and life. It was really stirring things up inside. Suddenly, I felt my ‘photo mojo’ begin to kick in. I dug into this image with a subtle fierceness and deftness I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. No thought, no judgment, no questions, just answering what each impulse wanted to see. The fierceness surprised me, but for once I didn’t question it. Something really wanted to come out and be heard, BAD! So I let it.

Turns out, it was the breakthrough I’d been looking for! It wasn’t even about the photo; the image was merely the vehicle.  The striking thing it was the way the veils quite suddenly dropped between my old habitual way of thinking and feeling – and the fire of divine creativity. That’s the only way I can think of to describe it.  The moment it happened I realized it was applicable to art AND life. That’s when I know I’ve experienced something truly mystically marvelous. It’ll feel like a basic truth.  THAT’S why we have to have Art; and why living your life as if it WERE an art is a key to personal freedom.

The following image is the where it started. Just a basic, balanced image with some contrast and sharpening.
In my next post, I’ll share the layers that created the final photo, along with the thought/feeling process that drove each choice along the way.

Like I said in the beginning, this was all started as an experiment… but ended up being one that might just give you some new ideas about shaking yourself out of the photo processing doldrums, in the (granted, highly unlikely) event that you ever find yourself there. 😉