Have you ever been curious about the mind of a surreal photographer? Caryn Drexl answers a few questions about the inspiration and process behind her dark and moody portraits.
What are five words that describe your photography style?
I actually struggle with how to describe my work constantly. Surreal, conceptual, creepy, artsy-fartsy, and...weird?
How do you choose your subjects (between either a model or a self-portrait)?
It depends. Some ideas are self-portraits from the very beginning, often because it's something personal, others end up self-portraits because I'm the only one available at the time. Sometimes I alter ideas to fit a model, sometimes a model inspires an idea. But it always has to fit, if it doesn't I won't shoot it until it does.
What are your creative influences?
Everything! It can be the light in my backyard, an old painting, a trip to a craft store. I often get inspired at the strangest times, like in the shower. When I purposely look for inspiration I'll watch old movies, look at images [online] and figure out what speaks to me and how I can take the aspects I love and make it into something that's mine.
How do you prepare for a portrait shoot, or do you prefer spontaneity?
Again, it all depends. I try as often as possible to know what I'm doing and how I'm going to do it beforehand. Sometimes when I'm missing pieces of the puzzle I'll stand in my studio room and just look around at all my stuff until something clicks, or I'll break down the pieces I've already decided on to see if I can continue on with the theme or concept. If I've created a back story and a character it's important, to me at least, that all my choices go with that. Other people might not see it, but I'll know! Sometimes I create my own props and clothing, sometimes I spend hours shopping for these things. When I'm shooting with other people I always try to have multiple ideas to shoot, and I'll have everything as ready as possible, and a plan for the order in which I'll shoot things, just to make it worth their time and have everything go as smoothly as possible.
What moods or emotions are you trying to convey in your portraits?
I don't have an overall plan or idea in mind for all my work. Each piece, for the most part, stands on its own. And generally speaking, I shoot for myself, and with some images I'm telling my own story, so while it's nice if people get what I've done, it's not a must for me. I started taking self-portraits as a teenager in the 90's as a way of dealing with things in my life, and in a way that still continues. Sometimes though I just shoot stuff I think will look pretty!
What are your portrait photography goals- upcoming projects or career paths you would like to try?
I do have some series I want to work on. I'm also trying to do more mixed-media work, because I really enjoy when I get to be hands on. I want to be more patient with some of my bigger ideas, because sometimes when I can't shoot them for whatever reason (usually money!) I scale them down and then end up disappointed. And I'm trying to branch out into mentoring and small workshops because I've found I enjoy helping out younger or beginning photographers who want to branch out into the more surreal portrait area.