Magazine Article


Porto's Passion


Porto's Passion

"The DLP," Jim explains, "Is a digital projector that's used in movie theaters. Basically, it creates an unbelievable digital image on a chip which is optically enlarged and projected on the screen. It's amazing technology and we wanted to emphasize the color. So all we were trying to do was make color illustrations that would attract attention and brand this DLP projection system. We had a lot of freedom."

Colordome, James points out, was a two image assembly. For this particular image, all the color effects were done in the camera. Acknowledging that the digital aspect is a huge part of his workflow, but photography the most important part, Porto goes on to point out that an optical projecting spot was used. The model was a bald man and made-up all in white. "I projected all those colors on him," he recounts. "With make-up, you get one thing and it's either good or not. With projection, we had all different variations, all different colors we could project. We took a shot of the water when it was still, with the gels reflecting in it and that's the image that was projected on the face, which is why the colors are similar. It was the same group of gels. We projected different parts of it, vertically and horizontally. We were stuck on the horizontal thing because of the ripples of the water and then we flipped it vertically and said, 'This is it!'"

All the hair was retouched off the face to make it look more surreal. "The background is a tray of water; we reflected a bunch of color gels off it to create all the color patterns. There's assembly in there. There were different sections that weren't right, so we combined two different water shots together."

Porto, known for surreal-looking images, crafts a lot of Photoshop work and assembly. "The kind of Photoshop I do is very highly detailed; high-resolution scanning and high-resolution masking. That's why the images work. You can't get lazy with a multi-image image and just slap it together without really going in there.

The tip is to do really careful masking, to go around the entire mask with a fine tooth comb and do it at high-res. Go around the entire edge. I do a lot of the masks by hand; a lot of people just do the magic wand and drop it out. A lot of the time you can see that; you have to go over all the edges really carefully. And what it really all comes down to when you're doing multi-images, the most important thing, is the choice of images that go together. You have to ask yourself what you're trying to accomplish."

Text by Erin Harrington-Plonski
Images by James Porto

Photographer James Porto brings to his work a passion he's been nurturing since he was eleven years of age.

With a client list boasting such names as Motorola, Texas Instruments, Absolut, Sports Illustrated, Compaq, National Geographic Traveler and Wired, among many others, the creative professional has found photography a means of expressing himself. "I found that I could really express emotions and love through photography. I'd photograph my friends, print the images and give them as gifts; it was a way of me connecting and reaching out and communicating. I became obsessed and I've been doing it ever since. I used to go through phases and move onto something else, but I never tired of photography. It was the black and white process that really held me."

Photography still has a hold of James Porto. This dynamo continues to reach out and communicate through his unique advertising and editorial imagery. An early pioneer of manipulating images, and a lover of surrealism, Porto admits that, from way back, "I'd solarize, double print, triple print, you name it. The straight shot was never enough, even way back then!" Way back then, Porto was growing up, the son of an American father and Belgian mother, in Saudi Arabia.

"There was nothing going on in Arabia" he explains, "If you had an interest, you could do it all the time. I always felt, because we were in this little enclave of Americans, such a bond between us. It was such a precious thing, and Arabia was beautiful. I tried to capture everything. I felt so much intense emotion around the people there; I was trying to capture it with a camera, without realizing you can't. But I could capture a piece of it, and transmit it."

One of the reasons Porto does multi-image work is because he did a lot of this stuff in the darkroom for years before Photoshop even came into being. "When I learned Photoshop, it was very intuitive because I'd done everything in Photoshop in the darkroom." Even after graduating from RIT, the image maker did a lot of self-teaching in areas like photo composition with pin registered masking and in-camera masking, things they didn't even teach at RIT.

It's very important to note, though, that James Porto has a virgin love of photography itself. Many of his images are manipulated, but it's the image itself that is the nucleus for art.

"I never just take a photo and hand it to a client. I always manipulate it in Photoshop," he explains. But I try to do most all of the effects in the photography. I can't emphasize enough how important the photography is. Everything else is mostly assembly."

This holds true for both his advertising and his editorial projects, although the processes are a bit different. "With the advertising work, I'm usually called in more to execute or problem-solve an existing idea. They come to me with an idea and ask how it can be made into a photograph. They already have the idea, whereas with editorial, they come to me with a broad-based concept and ask me to come up with some ideas."

The photographer does a lot of location photography just for himself and his files. "Often, I don't have to go on location because I have the perfect background in my files. A final image can be a combination of a custom shot of a person in the studio, a still life that relates to that, a location shot that exists in my files and maybe another location element that I go out and shoot. The goal, always, for me, is to make a seamless image that doesn't look manipulated."

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