The German photographer has been inundated with emails and picture requests after a series of his surreal still life images were recently featured on the Flickr blog. Lohoff’s series, dubbed “Das gebaute Bild” (The Constructed Picture), was part of a photography class project at the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences where Linus studies graphics design.
Featuring bright, plain backgrounds, Lohoff’s still life photography series, The Constructed Picture, takes common, everyday objects and portrays them in a different context. Rather than rely on Photoshop effects to create his off-kilter images, Lohoff constructed each set using carefully strung threads, and then photographed them using his Nikon D80.
We caught up with Linus who shared some of the methods and inspiration behind his amazing still life photography, and his reasons why he still loves his Nikon D80.
Digital Camera World: Your images from The Constructed Picture series remind me in a way of Philippe Halsman’s portrait of Salvador Dali, Dali Atomicus. Was he an inspiration at all?
Linus Lohoff: Funny you should think of that picture. I know that image well, but it wasn’t my inspiration in that series. I got my ideas more from the Austrian artist Erwin Wurm. His one-minute-sculptures really inspired me.
DCW: How did you choose your subjects?
LL: I chose common, daily life objects for this series. I felt that these would have the most impact when you show them outside of their normal context.
DCW: What did you use for your backgrounds, and how did you choose the colours?
LL: I just bought simple construction paper in sheets that were 50×70 cm. The colours were chosen related to the objects. The green pear has the strongest contrast in front of the complementary color red, for example.
DCW: How long did each still life take to set up?
LL: The technical set ups have been really simple. Mostly I just put the background on the table and fixed it with gaffer tape.
To build up the still life itself took much more time cause I wanted to follow the theme of “construction”. Each picture is really photographed like you can see it. This was one of the main challenges of that series. Some of the still lifes took really long to set up.
DCW: I’ve read you used nylon thread to keep objects in place. This might be a mundane question, but how many different threads did you need to use? The shoe, for instance, must have required at least 10?
LL: The funny thing is that the shoe image required only one nylon thread! How? I fixed the thread in the middle of the shoe sole with gaffer tape.
I had to figure out the length of the lace to put the shoe at the right height so that the lace looks stretched (holding it with a needle) to give the feeling of an absence of levitation.
That stretching created a suspense and so just one nylon threat was needed. The main challenge getting this shot was that the gaffer tape didn’t hold the shoe for very long and kept falling down. I had to rebuild this still life again and again until I had a satisfying photo.
DCW: How did you light your still lifes?
LL: With a flash. I used a Nikon SB-800 flashgun. I also used a cheap remote-control remote and set the flash more or less one meter and 45 degrees to the right, in front of the object. I fired the flash over the top of the still life to have the light on the object.
For example you can see the little shadow on the picture with the cup. I wanted just neutral lighting.
DCW: Did the set-up take longer than the shooting and post-processing?
LL: Definitely yes. I built up every still life and did little Photoshopping afterwards. The only edits I made were to regulate the contrast a little. Certainly, I could have Photoshopped everything but I constructed the still lifes by hand to let me interact more with the objects.
I am asking myself, would my pictures look different if I had Photoshopped everything? I don’t know. Maybe they would feel completely different, or maybe there wouldn’t have been any difference?
For me the process is always the most important part of doing something. I learn the most by participating in the process. And I think you have also to cherish the process of creation a little bit. Even if your pictures don’t turn out like you wanted, you still learned something for sure.
DCW: You’ve mentioned you shot this series with a Nikon D80. Some people will read this and think, ‘My that’s an old camera.’ In what ways is the Nikon D80 still a relevant camera despite its age?
LL: I love my Nikon D80! I could have borrowed a much newer and expensive camera for this series, but why? I like the simplicity of the Nikon D80. I can photograph whatever I want with it. It has been my friend for more than 5 years and I have never had any problems with it.
Lenses are more important anyway. I used 50mm lenses to shoot this project.
DCW: Have any new Nikon cameras since made you think about upgrading?
Definitely. I like a the Nikon D7000 a lot. It would be in my case the most appropriate upgrade since I’m just a student and can´t afford the really expensive cameras. But the D7000 seems to have a really convincing price/performance ratio. I would also give up my Nikon D80 because of the video capability on the Nikon D7000. I could film the process of construction, which I can´t with the Nikon D80.
DCW: Can you tell me a little about your post-processing? Apart from removing nylon threads, what else did you have to do?
LL: I just boosted the contrast and used a process to make the pictures that show hands look more painted or wax-like. Apart from that, I did nothing else.
DCW: Where do you see your photography going from here?
LL: I experiment a lot. I don´t limit myself to one theme. In my Portfolio you can find portraits, landscapes, night secenes and photograms.
I am still also using analog Nikon cameras.
Shooting this series helped me develop an interest in graphic design. Photography is still my passion, but I would love to combine both in my own way and find my own graphic-picture language.
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