David Byrd is the genius behind Reality Reimagined, a photography business that focusses on cosplay, fantasy, and storytelling.
DIYP: Tell us a little of how you got into photography, and who your influences are.
DB: In 2005 I traveled to Italy with a group of photographers and that was the first time that my eyes were opened to photography being a medium for story-telling and I became hooked. Shortly after that point, I was introduced to Photoshop and the puzzle was complete. My biggest influences starting out were mostly tied to Photoshop, being people like Scott Kelby and Corey Barker from Photoshop User magazine and the Kelbyone training programs. My first major influence in the realm of photography was Frank Doorhof and his choices in the lighting of his subjects. He touched on the dramatic tones that I was looking to create in my portrait work and it helped me shape the ideas that I was leaning toward. As I approached the business of photography, Sal Cincotta became a constant voice that I listened to and sought guidance from.
DIYP: Your body of work has amazing diversity, from superhero manipulations to moody portraits…which style do you prefer the most?
DB: I actually prefer them both equally as they touch on the foundation of story-telling and creating visual allure for the audience that I seek to “entertain” with. They both present different challenges of skill and technique that I try to bounce between, as I feel what knowledge I gain from one style can influence the other and so forth. My work and how I create it, continually evolves because it feeds into itself.
DIYP: With such varied work do you find it easier, or harder to get clients?
DB: Harder – much, much harder. Simply because I am “known” for the one style of my work that the person discovered first. When working with a cosplayer on a composite, through the process they will discover the portrait work that I do and I usually get the standard comment of, “I didn’t know you did that too!” Sometimes that is the open door that leads to further work with that client, but most of the time it is a disconnect of sorts. They have prepared, visualized and set expectations for composite art and haven’t set the scene of doing portrait work with my brand. That type of brand confusion is daunting to say the least and is something that I am working to address and solve.
DIYP: For anyone starting out with the desire to create images like yourself, what advice would you give them about finding inspiration?
DB: I strongly recommend getting in touch with the memories and motivators that spoke to artists when they were younger. What stories, music, movies and so forth, caused pure emotional reactions? What characters can be created to represent those feelings? How can they personify those emotions – can it be done with just one person against a blank surface, or is there a prop, clothing, texture that can be added to tell that story? I listen to music constantly and I find it becomes the “soundtrack” of my imagination and can often be the spark that starts a story in my mind.
DIYP: How important is Photoshop in your workflow, would you be able to create your images without it?
DB: It is absolutely the most essential part of my work as a photographer. There is quite a bit that can be done in camera to capture a beautiful image and it can stand alone. If you are fortunate enough to capture a perfect moment in time, by its very nature any flaws or changes only support the beauty of the image. However there is a whole other world of artistry that Photoshop allows for, that can never be achieved with more gear, better lights or that perfect moment. I do often treat my photography as a base or foundation, to then build upon in Photoshop. That simply is the only way to create the image that I have in my mind.
DIYP: Do you see yourself branching out ito any other genres?
DB: The beginning of our business started in providing portraits for a variety of genres that presented a lot of interesting challenges. Over time my interest in those types of photography fell behind and what has always lead the charge is the creative work that I do now. However I hope that by the time I reach the end of my journey, I will have experienced more work, more genres and have a body of art that reflects a life of discovery.
DIYP: Out of all your projects, which had the most impact on your life?
DB: The very first cosplay composites that I created under the brand of Reality Reimagined. At the time they represented a leap of faith in myself, my imagination and the unwavering support of my partner in life, my wife Bethany. I had been babbling for over a year to her about how to do the work and ways to monetize it – yet I had never actually created any art under the brand. I was afraid to commit resources and time to the idea, until I knew that it would generate some sort of profit. Because of that process, I became so fearful to take one step in any direction and my wife saved me from that struggle. She gave me an ultimatum to buy the costume, hire a model and create three pieces I was proud of. The constant advice I get from her, to this day is to simply create the work and the money will follow. She gave me the freedom to invest in myself and to believe in the worth of my creativity. Each important step that I have taken in this career, has been celebrated in her wisdom of that day and her support of the tomorrow to come.
DIYP: If you were only allowed to give one essential piece of advice to a beginner, what would it be?
DB: The only thing that separates the life you live and the life that you dream, is fear. You are going to succeed brilliantly and fail equally as brilliantly; that is how you know you are creating. Never stop learning and do not let fear limit your mind. There is wisdom all around you and inspiration, don’t hide from it because you don’t know at that moment how to learn from it.
DIYP: What cool projects do you have lined up for 2018.
DB: I am about to launch a very special and important next step for Reality Reimagined and the career in education that I have had the fortune to explore. So many artists have connected with me and I see the hunger in their eyes to be given that same push that I got years ago. I am looking forward to metaphorically handing them their cape and pointing to the skies.
DIYP: Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years time?
DB: I’ve recently had to deal with the loss of two very important loved ones in my life and it has taught me a very valuable lesson about time. Time is so very precious and has to be spent wisely. There are so many projects I want to complete and stories that I want to explore. There are places on this planet that I want to stand in and create art, with artists and people that I would love to have share that experience with. In ten years time, I want to see more of those dreams become reality.