Arguably the most important tool in picture taking. And no, we don’t mean image sharpness. Rather, the way great photographers are able to eliminate distractions around them, point their lens wherever it takes them… and capture the essence of their singular gaze in one fleeting instance of time.
It was this very approach that worked wonders for Firecracker photographer Olivier Pojzman when he first started out. Working in over 30 countries around the world, he quickly became a successful commercial and celebrity photographer, capitalizing on his inate ability to capture the real story behind a furtive smile, in the flow of a beautiful dress, or even in the seductive lines of a new car.
But then his focus changed.
Starting in 2005, the French-born Los Angelino (and naturalized American citizen) set out to capture the magnitude and grand scale of his adopted home. Inspired by the classic Hollywood road films of his Parisian youth, and by artistic heros David Hockney, Edward Hopper and Ansel Adams, Pojzman started thinking big. Real big. His goal? To create works of art that were a “fusion of a painting and a photograph.”
To achieve his vision, he started utilizing forced perspective to rob the eye of peripheral vision and stretch the capacity of our field of sight. With a tripod mounted digital still camera, he worked out a method in which he pans across the horizon shooting multiple images of a single landscape; in effect, a linear 360-degree angle. Put another way: a circle lay flat and rendered in 2-D. It sometimes takes 20-30 visits to a single location and hundreds of individual shots to get the sequence of photographs just right. In that way, his new style of shooting felt more like a movie sequence than still photography. Like a cinematographer, he has to carefully examine each and every shot to determine how wide to pan, how many frames are required, and how to translate those elements into a final still tableau.
“I am literally traveling with my still camera, going from one place to another in a physical sense,” he explains. “But I also go from one place to another in the technical sense, moving in a fixed course, as a piece of the mechanism.”
And then, after all the travel and all the shots… the real work begins.
Unable to see immediate results while shooting, post-production is where things slowly come together. Similar to the way a painter starts with one single brushstroke… then another, and another… Olivier painstakingly stitches together as many as 15-20 images to bring his immense vistas into view. While this phase of production can take as long as 50 hours in the studio in front of his computer, no matter. “I enjoy making things come to life”, he says with a smile. When he is finally satisfied with the result, the final image is then printed onto a cotton canvas (anywhere from 42 inches up to 15 feet in length) and stretched onto a wooden frame in a giclee style.
For Olivier, this approach to large format photography has allowed him to share his unique vision and passion for his adopted home. Deserts, mountains, wide open highways, national parks and forests, great cities like San Francisco and New York …the photographic possibilities are limitless. “I want to show my take on the real America, to make people stop for a few seconds and look around. Shooting for Firecracker allows me to to really delve beneath the surface and capture the heart, soul and restless spirit of towns and cities all over the country.”
A recently completed image of the California desert pops up on Olivier’s screen.
He smiles, then adds: “I want to make them dream.”