I can’t say I’m crazy about snow, but creative photographers like Oliver Turpin are starting to change my mind. He uses snow as a kind of canvas, creating incredible portraits by sticking his head in it. It’s like nothing I’ve seen before, so I was eager to hear more about it. Oliver kindly shared his photos with DIYP, as well as some details about his process, so read on and discover more about these amazing portraits.
Oliver has been a photographer for about 12 years now. For the last few years, his main focus has been street, travel, and landscape photography as he was traveling all over the world before the pandemic. But he’s also an experimental photography enthusiast, using every chance to play with the medium in a variety of ways. He’s shot lots of film photography, made his own pinhole cameras, playing about in the darkroom, and so on.
As for these snow portraits, Oliver came up with the technique eight years ago. He based it on the Hollow Mask optical Illusion, which is something you can achieve in the snow, but Oliver took it to a new level. He used snow to create a sort of lithophane effect, and end up with portraits that are unique in several ways. Other than looking unusual, another unique feature of Oliver’s portraits is that they’re not actually portraits. You are, in fact, looking at imprints of his face in the snow. So even when you see multiple faces in a photo, that’s not Photoshop. As a matter of fact, all of the photos were done in-camera, with minor color/contrast/saturation tweaks in post.
As for the technique, Oliver uses a glass table covered in snow. He creates imprints of his face, hands, sometimes even body; lights them from underneath and photographs from above. He tells me that his photos have often been described as “creepy, dark, and macabre.” Thinking about it, I would probably describe them similarly – and I mean it in the most positive way. Apparently, other people do too since many media outlets picked up Oliver’s photos after he started publishing them. He reveals that his most popular shot was Metal Ice/Tur[p]in Shroud because it resembles the Turin Shroud.Oliver’s earlier snow portraits were taken in darkness and they were all black and white. “I have been thinking for a number of years how to add a bit of another dimension to them,” he tells DIYP. He wanted to leave the dark and macabre feel in the images, but also open them up to another aspect – color. So this year, he started experimenting with color as his expressive tool. “Notably the earthy colours in ‘Imprinted’ it’s my nod to climate change,” the photographer explains, “and the imprint humans have had on the world and how it’s not being seen.”
We’ve had quite warm weather for winter here in Serbia… But I must admit that now I’m rooting for a heavy snowfall just so I can try this out. I have been really inspired by Oliver’s portraits, and I’m sure you’ll be too. So check out more of his photos below, and don’t forget to follow Oliver on Instagram, 500px, and his Facebook page.