Gareth Pon shares his experience photographing artist, Zak Fellman of HVRNT, with broncolor.
I rolled in my Siros 800L Kit and entered a dimly lit back room where Zak was standing. He was preparing all his tools for the amazing prints he does at HVRNT. As Zak started pulling out clear sheets of black paper I began setting up a light stand and a soft box. I placed a single Siros 800 L light close to Zak. I placed the light, knowing that I wanted to get closer rather than farther to Zak as he worked. With a single light setup, I did some test shots, gave a nod to Zak and he began his process.
As he was laying out all his tools, Zak told me that his process started with a chainsaw. He cuts out a section of a tree stump, then smooths out the cut with a power planner and orbital sander. He does this because the stump needs to be smooth and flat. Zak raised a blowtorch, lit a match and started burning into the stump. He began charring the print area. I had to turn my shutter speed down and adjust my monolight accordingly so I could capture the flames of the torch in my photos. The stump got smokey as the pulp and materials between the stump’s rings burns away. This helps gives better definition to the print.
For a few minutes, as the stump cooled off and smoke was rising, I quickly shifted the light behind the stump so I could backlight the smoke. I kept adjusting the light until I got the perfect balance between the detail I wanted and the contrast of this dramatic lighting setup.
Once the stump had cooled off, it was time to get really close. I punched my light in, switched up a lens and made sure my trigger was ready. Zak returned with a tub of white ink and began scooping blobs onto some plexi. The beautiful white ink shone bright as the light hit it. As Zak began inking the stump, the light aligned perfectly, the stark contrast of black and white punched out all the details I was hoping for in my images.
Zak pulled a sheet of paper out of the stack and very graciously lay it down on the stump. Sandwiching the ink between the stump and the sheet, Zak held down on the page and began moving his head around on the sheet making sure that the ink grabs the paper in all the right places. While Zak was getting his elbows into it, I kept capturing images of the process. He would sneak a peek but raising sides of the paper to see the result, he kept at it until he felt confident that the print was done. After one last press, Zak raised the paper and the print was slowly, beautifully revealed as it peeled off of the stump.
The print perfectly reflected the rings of the stump as Zak held it up – I asked him to take a small step back, so he was at the perfect angle for my light, as he lowered the print slightly, I took one last photo.
It was amazing capturing Zak’s process, seeing something tangible and capturing the details that bring art to life always brings a tender moment to my soul.
Chicago-based photographer Gareth Pon is a cross-cultural world traveler. He has worked with numerous brands, agencies and pioneers the use of Digital Content as a medium for creative expression in branding, marketing and documentation. He dreams of one day fulfilling his ultimate dream of going to space to capture a photo of the Earth’s curvature in zero gravity. Follow him at @garethpon