In certain instances, traditional photography doesn’t quite fit what a publication is looking for, usually because the imagery is too conceptual to just shoot. With cases like these, it pays to be versatile, which is how John Kuczala landed a gig with University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine through B&G Design.
I got a call from John Goryl, one of the partners at B&G Design. He said he loved my conceptual images and that he was always looking for photographers who did my kind of work. I’m sure he had seen a similar image that I had made for Discover Magazine, where I used ductwork to construct a brain.
The human brain was also at the center of John’s latest project. The Jersey-based artist was asked to illustrate a brain suffering from Alzheimer’s for a piece called “Brain Trust,” which talks about new tests and treatments for the terrible and terrifying disease. B&G’s pitch was pretty fleshed out — not the worst thing in the world for a concept that could’ve gone many different ways.
They had a pretty clear idea of what they wanted: a balloon twisted into the shape of a brain that had some holes with air leaking out. To illustrate treatment, they wanted a secondary image with the same balloon shape, with the leaks patched and attached to a helium tank.
John asked me to come up with some sketches [above] to show the client how I think it should look. When I made the sketches, I kept in mind that I’d be combining different images of twisted and folded balloons to make a stylized brain.
I rigged a couple of balloons to form the shapes that I’d need to combine in Photoshop. Leaking air came from puffs of smoke that I’d shot for another assignment. With the art director’s help, I tweaked them to get the right feel.
Once B&G came back with some suggestions — get rid of the horizon line, put the balloon at an angle, and make the string crazier to suggest the leaks were “making the balloon move” — John went to work applying those small changes. The toughest part was getting the string to be just the right amount of crazy.
I shot almost 250 frames of flying ribbon and string to get the right one!
After transferring the photos and rough sketches into Photoshop and whipping up some textured deliverables, John sent along his final work to a very happy client. This is the kind of assignment that isn’t available to all photographers out there, making John a uniquely attractive potential collaborator. In fact, B&G wants to work with John again before too long — a clear sign of the value he brings to the table.
Being skilled at photography, Photoshop, and graphics has been especially helpful for editorial assignments. Sometimes, art needed for a cover on a tight deadline will change from a straightforward photo to something more illustrative or graphic. I’m able to switch gears and get my clients what they need.
John [Goryl] has said that he’d like to work with me again. I’d love to do more projects like this that combine my skills of photography and Photoshop.
Art direction: John Goryl, B&G Design Studios
Check out more of John’s work at kuczala.com.
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