Discover the stimulating calculated chaos of this midwestern collage artist who repurposes magazines and books headed for the trash into visually complex compositions.
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The following is a blog post written in collaboration with Santiago Garcia of Sueños Marketing and Communications.
A Foggy Morning
I caught up with Eric Formato -- owner of Formatografia, experienced photographer, and incredible visual artist -- about one of his most recent shoots. I wanted to dig a little deeper into the brain and heart of one of my favorite artists and try to understand why photographers shoot what they shoot.
Eric, brotha man, so tell me about one of your latest and favorite shoots?
Ooooh, well a couple weeks ago I somewhat stumbled into this amazing shoot that’s quickly become one of my favorites.
I woke up early one morning and encountered an extremely foggy but unusual ambiance. I snagged my camera and went outside to shoot the surrounding neighborhood to see what this odd, foggy, but warm morning had in store for me and it came out really sweet.
So you woke up, saw fog, and it motivated you to go out and shoot?
Well, somewhat. I woke up and when I peaked out my bathroom window I could barely see the building that’s always next door. I was shocked, because usually I can always see it due to its proximity. I thought it was interesting, and started envisioning what pictures in this fog would potentially look like. It peaked my interest so I went ahead
I take my sisters dog, Diego, out for a walk out almost every morning and as soon as we made our way outside I was stoked. It wasn’t just the fog that was interesting. It was everything. It was the light. It was the bizarre warm front weather. It was the weird dance between the misty fog, the warm wind, and the rays of sunlight that got me. It was unlike anything I’d really seen here in Chicago and my inner photographer went into overdrive. I stopped several times to take shots even before arriving at the lakefront, Diego was not pleased... But, anyway, with 4 lenses ready to go I was prepared to capture whatever lay ahead of me. We walked a few blocks over to Belmont Harbor, where I take him every morning, and that’s when it all got even better. The light was amazing over by the water, despite there being so much fog. The water was extremely blue, a sharp blue that stood out in contrast so well with the white fog and concrete pier. The contrast in color was beautiful on with all the other conflicting themes going on, nature vs. civilization, warm vs. cold, vibrant vs. moody.
The entire atmosphere was irresistible to my eye. Every step I took was as if I had walked into a totally different scene because the fog would move around and cover lines of trees or skyscrapers. It was extremely quiet out there, too. As it usually is during winter in Chicagoh, there was essentially no one else out there, just a group of fishermen, myself, and Diego. The isolation or tranquil energy just added to the power of the atmosphere; it was genuinely so unique. And even though there was fog everywhere, it transitioned between creepy and colorful, as you can see in the contrasting styles from this shoot.
The shots do their job of encapsulating and externalizing that exact atmosphere and ambiance I was feeling. It was exciting but tranquil. Pausing to take it all in, and then capture it, Diego was dying to continue on his walk, but that's just life my dear Diego! We continued around the mouth of the harbor where you can see the city skyline. One of my favorite spots, certainly never captured in exactly this way before.
Once I got back to edit the shots, I was ecstatic to see how much I could manipulate the pictures and the lighting. It was the perfect storm. The light that morning, in combination with the odd, heavy fog was the ideal mix to create these color schemes I hadn’t even seen before. There were these yellows and pinks and greens coming from the trees that I was not expecting at all. The versatility and flexibility of this light allowed me to express different perspectives on the energy that day. I could make the scene look wintery or creepy, or fresh and misty. It was like this random shoot turned into a trillion different shoots!!
Are a lot of your successful shoots somewhat random like this one?
You know, I’ve had some really strictly planned out, detailed shoots that go really well and some sporadic ones like this one that kill it too. In essence, I don’t think it’s about planning or not but instead genuinely recognizing your surroundings. Recognizing the opportunity. Recognizing the signs. Feeling the rhythm and going with it. In that context, nothing is really random. It’s all there, we just have to see it (and with me, evoke it and pull it out digitally.)
That morning, the environment and the ambiance completely got my attention. It made me pay attention, and look closer. Maybe it was just another morning in Chicago, but what I saw was an incredible dance and interaction between the city’s infrastructure, the buildings, the pier, the roads with the fog, mist, and natural lighting. Maybe that happends every morning, but in this specific situation I felt, saw, and acted on it.
With photography...spontaneity, luck, synchronicity, timing, spidey sense- a combination of those or whatever you want to call it is pretty essential. As photographers, we need to be energized and be present in order to notice opportunities to act on and shoot. I think this foggy morning and this specific photo shoot is a nice reflection of that. As a photographer, you can’t force a shot but you do have to make it. You have to feel the right moment and capture its essence. In this case, I felt the moment and took hundreds of pictures. But that’s really what art, creativity, and life is all about. If you toss yourself out there in situations without major expectations, you might surprise yourself, you might learn something new or, in my case, create a new set of art that I didn’t even know was possible. That’s probably why I really do love this shoot so much. I listened to my intuition, went off a hunch, challenged myself, trusted my energy, and created something new.
West Fest 2016, Chicago
The three-day festival was filled with people from all walks of life, as West Town sits in the middle of the West Side, drawing people from Logan Square, to Humbolt Park, Wicker Park, Bucktown, River West, University City / Little Italy and beyond! Despite the occasional heat wave on Friday, the weather was perfect for the weekend to be filled with an eclectic mix music, vendors, and people... (and dogs... and pigs!). One of my favorite aspects of West Fest was the diversity, not only of the people and DJ's, but also the mini-areas within the fest itself. The kid zone was complete with blow up castles, mini trains and donkey rides, but even better yet, A PET ZONE that featured a charity dog wash for all the hot pooches (see pictures below!) and a great food truck circle area! My favorite was Jerk Grill (their jerk rubbed chicken in particular). No, not "you're a jerk" type of jerk, mouthwatering Jamaican spices kind of Jerk! Also a special thank you to Andrea from Little Shoe Films for the recap video!
Enough talk, See West fest in action!
It's all about perspective...
Thanks to my friend who has an in at a bunch of residential buildings, I got to explore and shoot all the way from the 20th floor in South Loop to the 40th floor in Uptown, Chicago.
One of the key things I took away from the experience was how dramatically different everyone and everything's perspective can be. During our 6-hour long escapade up and down Lakeshore Drive, we stopped at 6 buildings and the differences in lifestyle and populous were vast. Some of the buildings were historic buildings with units owned solely by the super rich. Others were section 8 housing buildings that were solely owned by the government. Seeing the city on all these different levels was a strong reminder to me the kind of division that exists in Chicago, and in the world as a whole...
Another way I noticed perspective was by the various engineers that took us to the tops of these buildings. Getting to see the buildings from the inside out, and the people that work behind the scenes in them was a truly unique experience. Many of the engineers were quite fascinated with my story and why I wanted to take pictures, to the photo gear itself. I showed those that took interest in me the different lenses I was equipped with, which included dramatically different lenses such as a wide angle lens vs. a zoom lens. It was like watching a kid experiencing something for the first time. Each time these 40 years old+ men would look through the zoom lens and see how insanely far the camera is able to see, their demeanor changed to a happy, curious, and fascinated one. I would then swap to my wide lens (which helps you see almost as much as you would with the naked eye) and they would be even more bedazzled, admittedly by how vastly different the perspective was from the zoom lens. Some of them also even took the time to thank me for enabling them to take back in the beauty of the surroundings; they were so used to the same view by being up on the roof decks everyday working, that they forgot how truly magnificent the views are.
And so it led me to realize. Life is like a camera. You are given your first lens through which you see life, which I say is like your original frame of reference comprised of personality traits, languages you know, family, past experiences, etc. And with your lens, you choose how to interact with the world around you. You let a certain amount of light in (aperture) whether that light is something good or bad in your life. You (should) control your sensitivity to your reactions of the world and situations around you, ISO is representative of this sensitivity to light / life (ISO is how sensitive the camera is to the light when taking a picture). Being open minded, someone with big ideas and big picture people who remain open to the vastness of potential can be related to taking a long exposure. Vs an extremely fast exposure, which can representative of short term, taking action, awareness, capturing / doing something in its best moment, fast reactions, etc. We all are given what we are given, our bodies (camera bodies), a persona / soul (the photographer), and everything from our past experience and neurological development that allows us to see and perceive the world around us (the lens). What we are NOT necessarily given, are all of the settings. All of the fine details of our future lives. All of the answers on what's the best way to do (or capture) something. All of the ways that we should react to situations. How we cope with adversity , how we choose to allow or deny people or things into our lives. It is up to us to figure out our own interworkings and evolve past our self-imagined limits.
Can we change lenses, can we change our perspective even after all we've been through? Sure. That's called metamorphosis. Breakthroughs. "A-hah" moments. Life Transitions. Midlife crisis. Enlightenment. The more lenses we have, the broader our ability to perceive the world. But even more importantly, the more we understand our own "settings", what makes us truly happy, how we should react to situations, who and what we let in, how sensitive or empathetic we should be, how open minded or judgmental we should be, then the more successful and conscious we will be. Learning to work what we have, in the state that us and the world are in, will help unlock the the routes to our destinies.
If you're ever having a day where you look down on yourself, nothing is going right, you failed, you got broken up with, you fucked up, whatever the case may be, IN THOSE MOMENTS TRY TO SHIFT YOUR PERSPECTIVE. Go outside yourself and consider the grand variety of existence on this Earth, and how we are only aware of what's in front of us, however far our lens can see. Shifting your perspective by considering other's lives and other's situations which on some level, somewhere in the world, are much more difficult. Building perspective takes time though, so we should be patient in overcoming life's obsticals and in our own personal growth.
I'm not trying to tell anyone how to live their life, I'm simply stating how life can be related to a camera and how we can use the metaphor to think about our own perspective and potential. But on a last light note, I'd like to give you the behind the scenes of the day that gave me this insight.
Here's the snap story to give you a quick preview of what I experienced that day!
Add me on Snapchat to get a behind the scenes view of my shoots in progress as well as to follow my never-ending adventures!
For this Throwback Thursday...
I present a form of media that I plan to share on this blog as a cool & quick way to get a video recap of my activity, as well as give you a behind the scenes understanding of how I got the pictures I did! The allmighty Snap Story. This is one of my favorite Snapstories that I found from summertime. Enjoy!
P.S. This post also represents my recently plunge into video production. Stay tuned, for in the future, video will play an important role in me sharing my adventures with you.