Sometimes you find what you are not looking for
I always tell people to plan the photoshoots ahead, and urge them to try to see the complete image in your head already before taking the first shots… However, sometimes it takes a full U-turn and completely uncharted routes to end up with an amazing image. Now, I am doing a full breakdown on this image on my workshops, but I wanted to take a second and explain how this photo came to be, and why it failed to serve its purpose.
The story of this image started with the weird things the long holidays does to the brains. Generally a vacation tends to get your creativity in full speed; for me it means that I see ideas for images everywhere. For my wife it means seeing renovation projects everywhere… This could have ended badly for me, but luckily she had already renovated our living room walls during my trip to France and only asked me to make a new picture of our kids for the newly painted walls. Like I said, my head was already bursting with images so this was a perfect opportunity for me to explore one idea I have been wanting to try: to take well known M.C. Escher –style optical illusions such as the “impossible” penrose triangle or steps and make them look more “real”.
My initial sketches were about penrose triangle, but the idea of the endless steps won me over after doing some simple outlines in photoshop. Drafting the steps I thought it might be a good idea to add water flowing from one step to another, and while at it, maybe add some small paper boats too to show how the river actually never goes anywhere. I took pictures of my son with a paper boat in his hands and fitted him in the picture, sitting on the edge of the river. Now I only needed the background for all the elements and tie it all together with the right tones. As I was adding elements of clouds into the picture, the mood of the image striked me as eerie, somehow more sad than what I intended. Then I knew what was missing: little angel wings for the lonely boy playing with paper boats in an endless river. I just stared at the image…that’s how it is supposed to be, just like that.
Showing the image to my wife I already knew that this is not what she asked for, and I was right –she loved it, but we both agreed that this image will not be on our living room wall, to avoid the heart wrenching feeling of seeing our son as a little angel boy every time we walk into the room. That’s what a powerful image can do, make you think and feel what you see. It also means that the same image can lead you to see different stories in it, depending on your own mindset and frame of reference. Maybe this is the boy from my previous work, an orphan boy who didn’t make it and sits now at an endless river, waiting for his friends to join him.
Coincidence or not, this is not the first time a photoshoot with my own kids produces images even I was not expecting to create. Earlier this year it was my daughter in the picture, holding a small wooden box with a heart symbol on it –a picture that ended up being one of my favorites and a picture that has stopped also others to look again, as it has already won some competitions too.
I hope this image moves you like it moved me. I hope seeing this makes people hug their own kids a little tighter and be thankful for still having them with us. For those who have lost their children, I can only hope this shows one version of a beautiful place where they could be waiting for the rest of us.
About The Author
Antti Karppinen has won dozens international awards for visual artistry & commercial photographer and belongs to a new generation of image artisans to whom all things are possible. You can see more of his work on his website. Antti’s “How to become an Image artisan” workshop unveils the whole process of creating pictures from the idea to the finished image. The workshop extends beyond the techniques of creating images, covering also the crucial areas of creativity, marketing and networking that will help you on your path of revealing the true image artisan within you.”