Photographer creates surreal moody art with only stock photos
Recently I got involved in the old debate on using stock images in personal art. The outrage of not taking the images in a composite yourself. This is a debate that will probably still be going until the end of time. My stance is that art is art. It’s not how you create it that matters, but the end product. This is why today I am featuring an artist who creates his art purely with stock images.
Pulkit Kamal, also known as Polka, is a self-taught artist from Mumbai, India. He makes surreal and ambient atmospheric images only from stock pictures available online under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. His visual art depicts dormant human emotions such as depression and anxiety, and are often accompanied with poetic excerpts from his unpublished fiction novel ‘The cold you, the cold me.’ Pulkit holds a master’s degree in business administration from UPES, Dehradun, and is currently managing advertising and branding for a brand in Mumbai.
Here is how Polka instiruces himself:
I got hold of mainstream Photoshop almost a year ago when I joined an advertising agency as a copywriter, I used to play around with it before, but I’d never thought it would become a part of my life. After months of work and sitting with the studio guys at agency, I learned a few basics and started experimenting with it even more. Since I didn’t study art, I usually refrained from using colours or used very faded or muted ones. I still don’t use that many colours today.
I always had a fascination for the strange and the dark side of fine and conceptual art. It fascinated me so much that I started making composite images to form a surreal, dark and eccentric reality that have an essence of lifelessness, existentialism, absence of self and loss of close ones. In the future, I’d love to have a camera and shoot stuff that I like.
I make 95% of my artworks with the help of stock images I find online (thanks to CC0 license), the rest is something that I create in Photoshop, like flying fabric or extension of clothes, cubes and stuff. When I create something, there is an aim to deliver a certain kind of feeling to the viewer, it could be anything.
My art for some represents feeling of being drowned in joy and liberation, some feel sensation of weightlessness and feeling of being purposefully lost, and for some, they are a dark and haunting experience of romanticised suffering and pain.
The process of creating an artwork is very unexpected and experimental, also, finding the right image and props at the right time has its odds and bets, mostly the patched subjects don’t fit in the background or don’t create the atmosphere which was intended to be in there in the first place. This is where Photoshop lags behind, I think you can’t Photoshop emotions into a person, or maybe it’s personal. It feels plastic to me. Usually an artwork takes around 2 to 7 hours at a stretch, the time gets extended if the image doesn’t look good or satisfying. But, by the end, it actually feels great and motivating when people express their feelings towards an artwork and poetry, it’s always a delight to hear what they have to say.
DIYP: What stock photography sites do you use to create your images?
PK: I use a variety of stock image websites, including, pexels.com, pixabay.com, stocksnap.io, etc. The websites are neatly designed and are easy to use, not to mention, almost all kind of images are available for use under the CC0 license.
DIYP: How do you choose the images you use, do you have a system?
PK: I’ve to maintain a certain atmosphere and ambiance in my images, they have to convey something to someone. I usually scribble my artworks before making the final work, it’s something that I’ve learned from my ex-art director. Usually, the scribble includes usage of prominent colors, perspective, etc., and if by luck, they fit into my description and image, I go ahead with them.
In rare cases, if I don’t find the image that I am looking for, I create it on Photoshop with gradients, textures and other tools. It’s fun.
DIYP: What would you say to people who do not agree with using stock to create personal art?
PK: I’d say it’s a personal opinion. Considering how the internet is making almost everything available at your fingertips, few artists like me find stock image websites really helpful to discover our potential and art. I think it’s a beautiful exploration of who you’re by making something that you truly admire and love. In the end, if it weren’t for the websites I use and beautiful people who click and upload the images, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing.
DIYP: Your art depicts emotions like depression and anxiety. Are these emotions ones you have felt yourself?
PK: Absolutely, and I am not ashamed of what I have felt or have been through. We all are going through some kind of pain, it’s our decision either to fight it or tame it for our own good. You know, you can’t lie to yourself.
DIYP: Is there a large Photoshop community in India?
PK: YES and its growing fast. I learned the art of masking at a local photo booth, and the art of liquefying from an eighteen year old. It’s so random, ha-ha.
DIYP: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in Photoshop?
PK: Work hard, have fun and be patient. I believe that there’s no substitute for hard work. Learn, research, practice, observe and experiment as much as possible. But finally, understand who you are before understanding the software.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist” – Picasso.
DIYP: What are your future goals, where would you like to see yourself in 10 years with your art?
PK: I’d like to see myself traveling around the world, meeting beautiful people, collaborating and keep creating and experimenting with art as I grow old. It could be in any discipline; as much as I am interested in the digital realm of art, one day, I’d like to be a movie director, a carpenter, an author or a photographer.