you need to peel the layers on art

 

How much effort do you put into your Instagram profile? Check the caption. Check the final edit. Go back and look at the 35 iterations of the image. Fret over obsessive minor details. Make sure you tag the right people, use the right tags. Everything to get some level of perfection...but was perfection the goal?

In this series I talk to photographers and artists and go behind the scenes of what the final version of a picture looks like.

First up, we have Madhav Goyal, photographer, founder/producer of Portbox (Portfolio Showcase)


My name is Madhav Goyal. I rest deep with a few worlds within art, although, my primary medium of artistic expression remains photography. I have been photographing for 10 years now, and through these years, although I may not have created abundant photographs, I have remained one with photography - I feel like photography is a master-medium for about anyone but it's also a medium for artists who have almost forgotten to paint.I mean, I love using my photographs to paint my subjectivity. Where I was, who I was with, what I was feeling, where do I wish to lead my viewers, what mood? I always wish to lead my viewers towards silence and a moment of self-reflection; that's true for my photography, my filmmaking, my podcast - anything that I choose to make.

Initial exploration - girl sitting in a cafe; candle to set the mood and atmosphere, soft lighting, windows in the background to frame this photograph.

Initial exploration - girl sitting in a cafe; candle to set the mood and atmosphere, soft lighting, windows in the background to frame this photograph.

There's a photograph I took of a friend of mine while we were grabbing a cup of coffee. Although I didn't direct her much, I do remember telling her to look towards the candle as if she was waiting for someone. Not even waiting, as if she was tired of waiting. I do not associate that emotion of waiting with this photograph anymore, for me, there's more to it.

Another iteration, notice how the story completely shifts by having someone look into the camera. It becomes more about the individual. The viewer also tends to spend less time now looking at the image, as compared to the previous frame.

Another iteration, notice how the story completely shifts by having someone look into the camera. It becomes more about the individual. The viewer also tends to spend less time now looking at the image, as compared to the previous frame.

If you study it, the frame has the following: a girl sitting inside a cafe, there are windows but we are never able to determine exactly where she is positioned, there's a candle in front of her, the cutlery remains untouched and the chair across from her remains empty.

The final frame. A tighter composition from the initial one. The girl is still the main focus of the image, but it's not as prominent as the previous frame. This allows the viewer to explore, more breathing room for the eyes to wander off, noticing the background, the folded napkins on either side, noticing her body language, the empty seat across the table, asking questions. Is it a date? The folded napkins mean nothing has started yet. Being placed on both sides mean there's an expectation of someone else to be there, who isn't yet.

The final frame. A tighter composition from the initial one. The girl is still the main focus of the image, but it's not as prominent as the previous frame. This allows the viewer to explore, more breathing room for the eyes to wander off, noticing the background, the folded napkins on either side, noticing her body language, the empty seat across the table, asking questions. Is it a date? The folded napkins mean nothing has started yet. Being placed on both sides mean there's an expectation of someone else to be there, who isn't yet.

The entire series is about making the photograph atmospheric, so I didn't move too many things around. I only played with the photograph in Lightroom: fixing only light and colour. I feel the final photograph is more relaxing to look at. It's like a story.

 
About this photo: notice that the colours are toned down, the brightness as well as the overall contrast has been reduced

About this photo: notice that the colours are toned down, the brightness as well as the overall contrast has been reduced

 

The final image. To set the mood, the slight harshness in colours are brought down, the overall contrast is decreased to give it a more pleasing aesthetic. Since the tones are softer, it's also easy on the eyes, allowing the viewer to keep looking longer at the image, concocting a story, asking questions, finding their own interpretations.

 
All four of the images. Top row shows the rejected ones. Bottom row has the before and after version of the final image.

All four of the images. Top row shows the rejected ones. Bottom row has the before and after version of the final image.

 

You can find more of Madhav’s work on his Instagram, and his website.