I have been asked to produce a series showing how I make my pictures. I do this in Photoshop. My guiding precepts are firstly to use widely diverse images, and in Photoshop to treat every layer in a different way.
I first search through a museum of de-identified X-rays. Some of these are on line, others are stored either in the hospital or university. Some are in private collections. I choose something that interests me on that day. There is currently a lot of publicity in Australia about domestic abuse and I chose the Chest X-ray of a woman that had been stabbed in the abdomen by her partner. It shows gas in the abdominal cavity. Because she is erect the gas has floated upwards and accumulated under her diaphragm. I decided to make Floating the subject – the “story” of this image.
Although there is often a clinical history with the X-rays they are usually not labelled as to their source I have recently seen victims of domestic violence locally and thought to use local photographs as my linkage for colour offsets. I parked my car at a local beauty spot overlooking the town yesterday morning and took a shot of the valley and hills near our home.
As I was getting back into my car I noticed a discarded piece of rusty metal by the side of the road with old wire loops, and gravel which made an interesting pattern.
In the evening as the sun was going down a shot of the sunset behind our home.
Layered the two scenes in Photoshop and used a blending filter (my favourite is DIFFERENCE)
Layered the rusty metal on top and used DIFFERENCE again.
Inserted the X-ray between the layers under the rusty metal using DIFFERENCE. Didn’t like the result, the colours were disagreeable, so discarded the morning scene. The resulting clarity and the way the loops of rusty wire and straight edges of the metal contrasted with the branches of the tree silhouette was quite attractive.
The picture still had no focus and no story, so using the SELECTION tool set at about 25% I lifted a section of the X-ray to get interesting shapes and fragments, and the BRUSH tool to colour it with greens and yellows. This is shown below with a red background for contrast. I later reversed the shading to make light coming from the left. I then used the EFFECTS tool to give the contours BEVEL, applied a DROP SHADOW, and co-ordinated the shadow direction with shadows of the background stones and loops.
The shapes looked a bit like seaweed or algae to me. Layered on top of the picture the shadows make it look as though the seaweed is floating above the stones and rust. I let light shine through the seaweed by increasing transparency with the OPACITY tool at 88% then the CURVES tool placed below the seaweed to brighten underlying layers.
By now it was looking quite good but still lacked something. I turned back to the blue morning shot of the mountain, and after playing around for a while inserted it below the X-ray and above the sunset shot, using the LIGHTEN blending mode. All of a sudden the seaweed was floating in water at the edge of a shallow pool. It only required for me to bend the seaweed a little using the WARP tool and I was satisfied with what I had.
In the final picture the X-ray is still visible in the background, part of it was copied, shifted, enlarged, coloured and warped, and is no longer recognisable as an X-ray but looks a little like some strange font – 1OO! The index word was Floating and the story is now in the image. There appears to be a painting or a photograph partly in the water – the original X-ray. Why is it there?
There’s enough mystery in the picture to keep me guessing for a while.