Photography has changed in the last years dramatically – and today most of the photos you can see in magazines or blogs are finished on the computer-screen. Contrast, light, color, the skin, the eyes, the legs and so on – you can change and form everything new. But the hard and difficult part is to create a final result, where everybody says “Wow, that’s real art… looks great!” Ingrid Baars has this talent and also close the big gap between photography and illustration. Let’s talk with her!
Ingrid Baars – who are you, where do you come from and what’s your profession?
I’m a photographer and computer-artist. I’m from The Netherlands, but I live in Antwerp, Belgium for the last 6 years.
What kind of education do you have & and how do you step into this kind of work? Was it a dream or something, that just happened?
I studied illustration as well as photography at the academy of arts in Rotterdam. I started out as an illustrator, cutting, pasting, gluing and drawing and painting my hand crafted collages and turned to photography as my most important medium more and more. I bought myself a Mac, a digital camera and a Wacom tablet and felt in heaven right away.
We’ve discovered your work somewhere in the WorldWideWeb and thought in the first moment, ok – there was a photographer and then an other artist, who remixed it… but you do everything on your own! What’s the reason to overwork the photos?
Yes, I do everything on my own. I think, that’s because I started as an illustrator. Photography was always a part of my work, but back then I used photo’s that already existed. I just started experimenting with my own photography more and more. But it’s not the most important part of my work, it’s just the starting point. Working behind my Mac in photoshop is where things happen for me. I like photography, but I also find the results pretty boring and unfinished to me. I feel the need to shake up reality and create my own. If I would have to choose between the two, photography would be the one to go…..but I don’t have to choose and love to do both.
What kind of technics do you use and what equipment?
I work with a digital camera, a very simple Nikon D90, a Mac Pro, photoshop and a Wacom tablet A3. Sometimes use some real paint that I take pictures of.
Your work is very creative and artistic… do you have a plan, when you create the images? Do you see every part of it in front of you, before you start… or is it an on-going process?
I always start with a theme, a subject to build a series. I can’t just make one single image when I have a theme, I immediately start to think of 6 or 8 images. I make moodboards. Big moodboards I have hanging on my walls in my studio. I pin all kinds of pictures on it, photographs and postcards that involve the subject. I look at it a lot to keep me focussed and it helps me to get things together in my mind. It looks like a collage.
I visualize the positions for the models and I have ideas about the backgrounds or the environment that plays a role in the images. I start talking to my producer and we begin to search for a stylist for the project and cast models. After my team and I pinned a date I shoot my pictures in a studio. I shoot them against a black or a white background, I never use locations because I “make” the locations on my Mac.
After this I finally start. The rough shots I did in the studio are just the starting point. Now I can finally begin to select, cut, combine, manipulate, distort and melt things together in many, many, many layers. It’s a lot of searching and I always begin to work on 3 of 4 images at the same time. Most of the time I make dramatic changes during the process and I end up being totally surprised about the results and the unexpected direction my image went in. My best images I received through lot’s of struggling and moments of panic. There’s always a point of feeling totally lost and I think: “this isn’t going to be anything good, why not quit?”. Then there comes a moment when I feel: “got it!” this is a moment of pure bliss and excitement and I work until the image is finished.
Do you select the models and locations – or the clients? I think in your kind of work, it can be difficult to make a fact-sheet, what’s the exact result – or how does the work & process for a client look like – e.g. the posters of Nikon – Coolpix? Yes, I always select the models myself. But in case of commercial assignments the client has a vote as well of course. I just have to discuss it with them. The clients that come to me to do a job usually like my work and understand that they cannot control the whole process. Most of the time they trust me enough to come up with good results. But of course they usually are sort of nervous about what will happen. I mean; even I don’t know on forehand what my images will look like.
What I do is communicate with the client a lot. We have meetings together with the client, my agent, the stylist just before the shoot-days. The client is at the shoot most of the times to see what happens. But then I go home and I actually start to work on my computer and things drastically change of course….. Sometimes I send the client some rough set-ups and let them choose and sometimes I come up with a more or less “final” image and show it to my client. It’s a risk. Sometimes it’s “bulls-eye” right away, sometimes it’s a long process of correction-rounds that never seem to end….*laugh*
Where do you find your inspirations? During the work, drinking a tea or go out with friends?
Everywhere. Can be in fashion, music, books, scrolling on blogs like “Ffffound” or “Youmightlikethis” for example. Fashion magazines. Conversations. Watching women. There are days I feel very inspired and I feel a strong desire of just making something. It’s the desire of expressing myself and let out all the things I picked up from life. I adore Egon Schiele. I always have. I almost can’t believe his brilliance. Everything is just so right. I also look at Picasso a lot and of course Francis Bacon. He definitely influenced me. But I’m a big fan of Jeff Koons as well. And I absolutely love Viktor & Rolf. They are so very brilliant. The funny thing is that I don’t have a photographers “hot list” on my mind. I’m not that big a fan of photography.
How long do you work on an image? I think it could be difficult, to stop at a point… ok, here a little bit, and here and there, and here again….?!
It depends…a few days, one week tops. The moment when it’s finished is always very clear, no doubt about that. But I need some days to know for sure. I need to wake up in the morning and look at my work with a fresh outlook and then there’s always a very clear point when everything is just right.
There are a lot of graphics inside the images, e.g. like birds, stars – do you create them on your own or use different, extern sources for the combination?
Some I created myself, but I use a lot of extern sources. I love to combine things. Especially my own photography with antique pictures. So, for example; it happens a lot that a final portrait exists out of 3 or more different women.
You make photos of models and manipulate them later… how do the models react? Are they nervous, curious,… because i guess, you never know as model, what happens with you in the final result. What kind of feedback do you get?
Usually very positive reactions. The models know that anything could happen. I never had a negative response, luckily… No, I mean they know my work and I explain the process to them and I always make sure that they receive some good portraits that are not manipulated for their portfolios.
Today a lot of people use image-software to overwork their holiday-photos and more and more start also to experiment with it. Where do you see digital-photography in let’s say five years? Have young artists still a chance? What’s your personal tip and advice for them?
Well….how can I put this… a hobby is one thing, but to make truly outstanding work is another. No matter what medium you use. Luckily the difference is quit clear.
Last question – if you make a break from your work for a few weeks, what would you do? Hanging around, make music, walking in the mountains,… ?
It depends. I love nature, but I like the city a great deal as well. I don’t think I could ever choose between the two. I love to walk my dog on the beach for example. Trips to Paris I always enjoy very, very much… a few weeks in the sun, doing nothing. I don’t work during trips. I even don’t think about it.
Interview by Emanuel Sprosec