We’re moving into the 21st century, people. If it wasn’t obvious already with the advent of cloud computing, social networks and the constant presence of smart phones in our day to day routines, the future is here now and surprisingly enough, photography seems to be evolving the most in these times. The power of the image has never been more relevant and there are more and more ways to share them than ever before. One man who understands the synergy of photography and the computer perhaps better than anyone else is Waldo Lee. His work artfully blends a combination of still photography and CGI to create striking, elusive and mind bending images. Resource Magazine caught up with him on this process and how photographers can learn some of these increasingly essential skills.
Resource: When did you start taking photographs and working with CGI?
Started photography in around 2000, but I’ve been doing CGI from the very start. During the [Commodore] Amiga days, [I was] messing around with deluxe paint and Imagine.
Resource: Where and how did you learn these skills?
I’m a self-taught artist. There wasn’t any art school available I could really attend so I took the computer science route, since it was the closest thing to CGI. I was pretty much into everything surrounding computers. But for the most part, I’ve learned everything by myself, certainly because of my hunger of learning and my passion in this field.
My mother is an artist, and I can say that she had an influence on me. I also used to do graffiti art and that was a big influence on my style. I always was attracted by 3D CGI since the very beginning.
Resource: In a few of your photo series such as FreeHairstyle and Black & White, you make strong use of lines that transform into an almost liquid like consistency. What does this reoccurring imagery represent for you in your work?
This kind of represents my graffiti background, I’ve always liked dripping paint, the motion you get from throwing paint, the motion of the line you get in a 3D graffiti sculpt.
It’s kind of like calligraphy: the balance of the forms and shapes on your canvas.
Resource: Your Gillette Power Fusion ad has an industrial, futuristic and sophisticated look. From an emotional standpoint, how do you develop these very specific artistic choices around the needs of your clients?
I try to apply my style and what I like to do when I’m working on an image. I can’t always do that as sometimes the client has something very specific in mind and you don’t have a lot of flexibility to do whatever you want. So you really have to toy around and be diplomatic when you have to explain the choices you make and why are they the best one.
Resource: You work with CGI alongside photography. What kind of challenges and opportunities does that provide from a visual perspective?
In term of opportunities I would say that it allows me to make something unique and surreal. Of course, there is the challenge of making it look realistic to the point where it doesn’t look like CGI. I want to make your brain believe it’s something that can exist in the real world.
Resource: Do you have any thoughts on the impact of CGI in shaping the photography of the future?
CGI will be more present in the future, you can already see that in movies where they shoot everything in green screen around the character and recreate the environment around it totally in CG. It gives you more flexibility in terms of post producing your final image.
Resource: What direction would you like to see that go in over the next couple of years?
I really don’t know, it’s true that my work is mostly a blend of CGI and photograph, but I do like raw photography that captures the moment, an emotion, getting a picture that says something.
Resource: What are some ways that photographers looking to get started in this field can build their client base?
Before building you client base, you should build a strong portfolio, reflecting what you can do, and what is your style. Be confident and know how to manage your business. If that’s not what you want, you can always hire an agent to represent you and do that job for you.
Resource: Where is a good place for aspiring photographers to start in learning the ropes of CGI editing?
There are many places for that and the easiest way would be the Internet. There’s so many websites out there where you can’t learn everything from the basics to some more complex stuff. Of course you can always the option to go to school. But that there are places on the Internet where you can take online course and sharpen your skills in the specific area you want. You can also try to start as an assistant it’s a good way to learn with someone.