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Love Illusion

by Fang Tong
Published by Head Editor Yvette Depaepe 

The concept behind the "Love Illusion" series had been hovering in my mind for a long time. A year ago I also took some photos of a girl in a swimming pool. I added a teenage boy in the background who was looking at the girl swimming. At that time, the composition and the whole feeling was strongly influenced by David Hockney, an artist whose work I have always loved. After I completed that picture, I recognized a deep tension between a young boy and a woman, so I decided to take a series of photos called "Love Illusion" to further explore this relationship.


Nikon D700  .  16-35mm  .  f/7.1

In my plan for this series, the girl always has the main role and the young boy remains in the background. He is not far from her and he has silent attention. I chose an outdoor swimming pool built in the 1960s. I thought that this style would give a timeless feeling to my photos. The biggest influences of this series are from several artists: David Hockney, Edward Hopper and Gregory Crewdson.

After I located a swimming pool with the right look, I rented it for two hours so the pool would be empty while we were shooting. That way my models would be the only two people in the photo, which would strengthen the recognition between them. I wanted to keep the tension uninterrupted, pervading the whole picture so my audience would feel the intensity of the moment. Strong sunlight was also the weather that I wished for; the contrasting and bright, beautiful colors added to the concise message that I wanted to convey. Hopper's paintings have impressed me in that way. For the makeup and dress, I decided to keep in harmony with the '60s swimming pool design.

"I also didn't want the scene to be too real; a slightly surreal environment has always been my favorite style."

On the day of the photo shoot it was very sunny, just as I had hoped for. I didn't use a flash; I only used a reflector to brighten the dark side of her face a little bit. I let the models keep natural postures so it seems that they are immersed in their own worlds. The boy is looking at the girl, but there is a distance between them, where the boy is somewhat shy, timid and confused. The original pool wall is a barbed wire fence. I changed this to a solid concrete wall later in Photoshop, and I removed a high-rise building in the background to increase the sense of simplicity. I also didn't want the scene to be too real; a slightly surreal environment has always been my favorite style.

For this particular photo, "Love Illusion #1," I let the girl stand against the wall. Her face was lit by sunlight and also by light bouncing off the wall while remaining in open shade beneath the eaves of the building. The contrast between the turquoise wall and her orange floral dress was perfect. Appearing barefoot looked more natural, and with her arms crossed in front, head tilted down slightly, she seems to be thinking. She also realized that a boy was looking at her in the distance, but she doesn't seem to care much about this. I used a reflector to brighten her face to make her facial expression clearer for viewers.

"Behind him there was a black metal lifeguard stand that happened to just frame the boy's whole body, symbolizing his restraint."

I wanted the boy to stand not far away, looking at her with some hesitation and uncertainty. He only wants to see from a distance and he doesn't want to stand too close to her. He is restrained. Behind him there was a black metal lifeguard stand that happened to just frame the boy's whole body, symbolizing his restraint.

The image was processed in Photoshop.

1) I used the Brush tool to add the solid wall, replacing the barbed wire fence surrounding the pool. Then I used the Clone Stamp tool to remove some garbage and the swimming goggles on the ground. Using the Brush tool, I also painted the sky to cover the high-rise building in the background.
2) I applied the Curves tool to adjust the color tone, adding more red to give the image a vintage look.
I was really satisfied with the performance of the two models, and the finished photo was very close to the effect that I wanted to achieve. When I look at the final images in this series, the tension between them really attracts me. I wanted the effect to be very concise, and the results are what I hoped for.
1) You must know ahead of time what you want to say in your photos. To achieve that, all of the elements in the images should support the overall theme of the series.

2) In this kind of cinematic style, don't overdo the makeup or go overboard with fashionable clothing; otherwise, you will move away from the topic you want to address.

3) Inspire the models so they will naturally and convincingly express the concept you want to portray. Don't give them too many detailed instructions about how to pose. You only need to inspire and guide them, just like a movie director.
I am a Chinese-born Canadian currently living in Vancouver, BC. For a long time, I have been exploring many aspects of traditional visual media — specifically oil painting, sculpture, installation art and digital media, such as 2-D and 3-D design  and this has brought me great satisfaction. Gradually I became intrigued by photography.

I would like my work to appear as a cross between realism and surrealism. I want everything that happens in my photos to be based on real life, but I still want to incorporate a small amount of odd or strange elements into my work. For me, making photos is a way to capture the mood of a moment through the lens and show this mood to the world. I use my lens to first catch the mood, and then I like to enhance the mood in the final work through post-processing.

My hope is that when people see my images, they can read the emotion that I try to describe in my work. I won't say that I must have a story behind each scene, but having an atmosphere permeating through my photos is what I always try to achieve.