Interview by Valentina Romano
Jane Long is a digital-artist and photographer based in Australia who manipulated some photos taken in Romania during and after WWII by photographer Costică Acsinte.
Jane shares with The Golden Scope the process of manipulation that lies behind her collection of photos entitled “Dancing With Costică”
THE GOLDEN SCOPE TO JANE
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have over 20 years’ experience as a graphic designer, with 17 years running my own studio and have been working with Photoshop since 1994. I developed an interest in photography as an extension of my personal photo manipulation work, starting with creating my own stock images and progressing to a love of photography in general.
However digital art remains a passion and forms an integral part of my photography work.
What first sparked your interest in photography?
I wanted greater control over the stock images I was using. To be able to set up a scene as I wanted it and to have copyright control. Then I was fortunate enough to have generous friends who loaned me their cameras and asked me to take photos for them.
I shot landscapes and objects, then pregnancy and baby photos, portraits and animals. I loved it all but ultimately my passion lies in putting them all together to create a new piece.
Did you always want to be a photographer? If not, what did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
I wanted to be a singer lol! My brother and I used to put on concerts in the back yard for the local kids. Makes me cringe to think about it now!
I don’t really think of myself as a photographer. I know enough to achieve what I want for my images but I’m not a specialist photographer like many. I’ve come to accept the term “digital artist” probably best describes what I do.
How did you come up with the idea of digital-manipulating old Romanian photos giving them a modern touch?
I’d been chatting to a local framer and he asked me if I did restoration work. When I got home I decided I’d find an image to restore to take in and show him in the hope that I might get some work out of it. I found the Costica Acsinte Archive on Flickr and was fascinated with the images.
I downloaded the one of the couple in Fresh, restored and recoloured it but in my usual fashion it wasn’t enough. This couple were so serious and I wanted them to be carefree and happy and whimsical. They are in love, they should be happy!
What process did you go through when you manipulated Costică’s photos?
First I clean and restore the original image in black and white. Mainly using the healing brush at a very small size. Adjust contrast as required and work out how to fix really badly damaged areas.
Things like copying and pasting a foot and then flipping it to suit and in one case I brought in patches of skin from a completely different image where it was impossible to restore the original. Then a general dodge and burn to give the image more depth.
Then I start with the skin, masking out the areas that I need. Most of the colouring is done in two layers, one set to colour mode, one set to soft light. In tricky areas like hair, I’ll also have two additional sets of layers, one that only affects highlights, one that only affects shadows (using blend if).
Sometimes I’ll take a pattern or texture from another image to colour areas. The colouring for the tapestry top on the stool in Innocence was from a photo of a box with a tapestry lid I’d stumbled across in an antique store.
Once I’m happy with the main characters I start looking at suitable backgrounds and complimentary pieces, often shooting these to fit.
I try to match the lighting and perspective of the original image. It’s been very frustrating wanting green grass on a cloudy day when we haven’t had rain for months and I live in a sunny climate!
What is your favourite “Dancing with Costică” digital-manipulated shot and why?
Probably Innocence as the little girl just jumped out at me as soon as I saw her. It took me a while to develop the right idea for her. Initially I hadn’t planned on including the fish etc but (again!) it just didn’t seem enough. Part of that is that I wanted it to feel like “my” image. If I only restored and recoloured, I still felt it was Mr Acsinte’s work.
Singalong is also a favourite. I had shot the owl skeletons months ago and had been waiting for the right image to come along to use them in.
If you could describe your photography in four words, what would those words be?
Ambiguous, introspective, rich (as in colour), quiet!
Is there anything else you would like to add on the photos you manipulated or on your photography in general?
I like people to do a double-take when they see my images. To wonder what part is real and what is not. I try to be subtle and not hit people over the head with it lol!
What is your advice to The Golden Scope’s readers who are into digital manipulation?
There’s no such thing as a short cut. These images took many hours to create, not just in the technical aspect but in the concept creation and development and in trying lots of things that didn’t work before finding the ones that did.
Don’t force it, if it’s not working, put it away and start something else. The right idea will come along eventually, particularly if you keep an eye out on the things you see around you in terms of backgrounds and props (antique stores and museums are great for this!).
Masking and adjustment layers are your friends! Read and watch as many tutorials as you can. Even the most experienced Photoshop user picks up a new tip or trick here and there. It’s also the easiest way to stay up to date with software developments and third party products.
Build a stock library. Shoot EVERYTHING! I took almost 400 photos in Sydney Aquarium yesterday. No idea what I’ll use them for yet but at least I have all sorts of fish and underwater options now. More stock = more story options!
(Photos by to Jane Long)