It is remarkable how fresh and striking Christoffer Relander’s multiple exposure photographs are. Considering the volume of photographs and media
we are inundated with lately, it takes something truly original to stand out. Photographers have experimented with multiple exposures before, but without Relander’s masterful composition and expert control over a technique that is too easily misused. Bodies become ethereal vessels holding trees and forests. The effect is magical.
Born in 1986, Relander only came into photography in 2008 while serving with the Finnish Marines. “I had done a two-week course of photography basics in my graphic design school in 2007, so I happened to be the closest they could get to a photographer,” says Relander.
Relander was hooked from the outset. Back in civilian life, Relander bought himself a DSLR and began to experiment. Photography became such an obsession that Relander began carrying his camera everywhere he went because he couldn’t bear to leave it at home. That passion sustained him as he learned the craft through trial and error. “I learned to shoot manually in the military and perhaps fully controlled it when I got my own camera,” says Relander. “But photography is about so much more than just understanding camera settings. It’s about finding a suitable light, communicating with models, knowing your equipment, and post production.” For a self-taught photographer the learning curve is steep. The myriad technical details make it easy to lose the forest for the trees. It takes time and experience to gain comfort with the technical side.
Photography gave Relander a new perspective and a desire to capture the world around him. Capturing subjects was equally as powerful a motivator as was his technical experimentation. Nature and people became Relander’s favorite subjects early on. “My earlier interests in graphic design, drawing and painting are also in many ways similar to photography – it’s all about illustrating,” says Relander.
The multiple exposures experiment began in 2010, though the early iterations bore little resemblance to the current polished results. The technique slowly developed and Relander still tinkers with the process to keep learning. Practice has made it easier. While his first collection of multiple exposure portraits took two years to create, the sequel was shot in one week. The images in Multiple Exposure Portraits are tentative in comparison with the sequel collection We Are Nature. Relander limits the elements in the latter to people and trees. This simplification elevates the beauty of his technique and ties the pieces with a common thread.
Anything sufficiently advanced will appear to be magic. The non-photographer may assume there is some secret to his art, but Relander insists there isn’t. He uses a full-frame Nikon D700 with a multiple exposure feature. This tool allows up to nine separate exposures to be combined in-camera as he shoots. Similar to exposing film twice, Relander scrolls back and overlays the second exposure on the same section of film. The same process is repeated until the multiple exposures he wants are combined into one single image. Relander uses the overexposed areas in the multiple exposure process as a mask for subsequent images. This creates the graphical look and is the trickiest part of the process.
Relander’s distinctive style has resonated with people. People have asked him to recreate this style with particular images they supply. Relander has resisted these contracts because they would require digital manipulation to create the final image, rather than creating everything in-camera. If a large assignment requiring image manipulation came up, Relander claims he would take it on but that he wouldn’t use it in his portfolio because it’s not the work he enjoys. Part pragmatist, part idealist, he takes pride in the fact that he has never digitally manipulated anything in his multiple exposures. If people want a personalized Relander photograph, Relander would have to come over and shoot it himself. Or they could to travel Finland.
Relander grew up outside the town of Ekenäs in Southern Finland and spent much of his childhood in the woods. Relander and friends would fish, swim and trek over hills, walking around exploring. Trees consistently appear as the background in We Are Nature. With Finland’s low population density, I imagine nature plays an important role for the Finnish people. But Relander’s use of trees is more pragmatic than symbolic. “It’s as much about the aesthetic forms and textures I get by combining trees with people. I need a bright background for my textured images; therefore trees are easy to work with.” He continues, “In the South of Finland we aren’t as close with nature as they are in the North. It’s actually quite a big difference, but then again it all depends on what you compare it with.”
On this note, Relander concludes, “I think nature is very beautiful and interesting in many ways, as are we people. By combining them the way I do I want the viewer to feel a sense of timelessness and contemplation.”
At first glance, Paul Kaptein’s collection of hand-carved wooden sculptures might appear as though it was conceived in the deepest recesses of his unconscious mind. But in fact, his warped creations were born out of a very deliberate and conscious desire to depict an unstable realism – one that represents the dynamic relationship between form and emptiness. We spoke to Kaptein about his inspiration, the role of symbolism in his work and the relationship with his medium. G—Wood is a dominant medium in your work. What type of narrative do you think it creates? PK—I think it assumes a narrative that predates the work, and commences a commentary around time and timelessness. Wood has a universal presence that speaks to everything from wooden spoons and chopping boards, to alter prices, totems and architecture – it’s like the backbone of culture in a way. It acknowledges that change is an inherent part of the work – that it may one day become something else. For now it is sculpture. Hopefully. G—Much of your work is sculpture based. What are the advantages and limitations of sculpture? PK—I’m interested in being in the world and therefore tend to have a very visceral response
Kip Omolade is an American artist from Harlem, New York, with a background in graffiti art and a BFA from Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts. His latest series, Diovadiova Chrome, is a sequence of hyperrealistic oil paintings depicting massive chrome masks. Omolade casts these masks himself, which he then uses as a model for his paintings. The end result is a fascinating hybrid of African tradition and contemporary materials. We spoke to Omolade about Benin masks, Paris Hilton, and the meaning of chrome, “the poor man’s silver.” G—In your series, Diovadiova Chrome, you explore immortality and contemporary notions of beauty and luxury. What prompted your interest in these themes? Kip Omolade—Paris Hilton. During the early phenomenon of reality TV stars, I became fascinated with the idea of the instant celebrity in mainstream media. I wondered if art could participate in this star-making machine. So, I ironically spent ten years developing the Diovadiova using one model as a muse. I drew, painted, printed and sculpted over 100 images of a single person. By confining myself to one model, Diovadiova also allowed me to stretch my imagination as an artist. I developed different styles including the current technique used in Diovadiova
Since 2008 the Finnish photographer Juha Arvid Helminen has been exploring humanity’s literal and metaphorical dark side with a photo series entitled The Invisible Empire, which explores the ways in which power, authority, and violence express themselves through fashion and visual iconography. Helminen dresses his subjects in uniforms and accessories which suggest fascist and authoritarian political movements, conservative religion and contemporary policing. “I have always been fascinated by uniforms, and when I had studied arts and photography for a few years in 2008 I wanted to create photos with a meaning. To be honest, at first I was only intrigued by the aesthetics, but a bit later I started to think about human behaviour and how we convey different ideologies and professions by our clothes – how traditions and beliefs dictate our behaviour. How we hide our true persona and create walls around us.” This name, ‘Invisible Empire’, was on my mind for many years. Little by little just a few photographs grew into a whole narrative of humans’ incapability to learn from its mistakes throughout many centuries. The title, Invisible Empire, refers to an alternative name used by the Ku Klux Klan, an organization “known for violence, racism and