TEXT BY MISSY HARRIS • IMAGES BY STEVE PUETZER
Steve Puetzer is owner and head photographer of Creative Concept Photo, a digital/film photography studio based in Milwaukee that specializes in dazzling digital creations. He, along with Jeff Mueller, who heads up the digital illustration department, have discovered a way to balance whimsy and irony with simple purity in their images.
Since 1989, Creative Concept Photo has focused on stock production, with an emphasis on business and lifestyle. "Currently, we are concentrating on lifestyle images, along with creating surreal and futuristic digital illustrations that, hopefully, can persuade the viewer into thinking they're real," says Puetzer.
To achieve these ends, they use unique lighting and focus on the details, working on iconic imagery that communicates worldwide. Puetzer's wide range of image concepts are derived from "technological advancements, world issues, trends, culture, and the news media. Just about anything that surrounds our everyday livesthese are the things that really inspire our images."
While they still use traditional film and shooting methods, they have found the benefits of scanning and digital capture invaluable. In fact, it's helped the team meet the changing demands of the current photo market. "It's helped us be more cost- and time-efficient, which gives us more time to focus on the concept and the final image composite."
OLD MEETS NEW
Another reason they rely so heavily on digital is because the images that grace these pages and give them so much originality could not have been achieved in the old, traditional ways. "Money Tornado" (the full page image due left) was created as a stock shot to show the financial whirlwind that today's economy faces. It was achieved through a combination of old and new.
"This is the perfect example of how film scanning and digital capture can be merged to maintain efficiency and high quality," says Puetzer. The original image was shot on a 2 1/4 transparency and scanned on their Isomet 405 drum scanner. Then, the money was digitally captured and brought in to Quantel Paintbox, where the tornado was created. Additional details and elements (cars on their side, bent light posts, people running) were later added in Photoshop 7.0. Old meets new, film meets digital.
The process, or workflow, is different for every job and project they take on.
"CD Head" (p. 30) was produced off a list that Puetzer formulates for himself. The list states: create futuristic imagery.
"The basic concept for 'CD Head' was to showcase how our lives have become filled with technology, from DNA testing to cloning to embedded computer chips. People are relying on having technology in their bodies more than ever before. Some of our ideas derive from science fiction, where the future seems infinitely more predictable. That's what we're trying to do with our imagesshow our concept of what the future might look like."
They captured the CD and CD slot with a Canon D60. The model was shot with a 2 1/4 Mamiya 645 Pro, with Kodak E100VS film. They scanned the image and brought the three files into Paintbox, where blending and merging of the images was seamlessly achieved. Puetzer and Mueller prefer Paintbox over Photoshop 7.0 because, "it is what an illustrator would prefer to use."
According to Jeff Mueller, "the main difference between Paintbox and Photoshop 7.0 is the finesse. The pressure of the stylus vs. the mouse in Photoshop does not respond the same as the Paintbox, no matter how much I want it to. Drawing and painting from scratch is Paintbox's strong suit."
KEEP IT SIMPLE
"Businessman Riding Gear"
(p. 29) was photographed for the stock agency Photonica, which asked that the concept convey a futuristic means of transportation. Puetzer sees the gear as an iconic object with the whole image possessing symbolic meaning.
"The gear represents business, movement, and innovation. The man's spread arms illustrate choice of movement, going in the direction you want to go."
Puetzer wanted the image sepia-toned to lend an historic connotation to the image.
"I wanted to make it look like, feel like, the past, combined with high technology. The opposites work in this situation. To achieve the future, we have to take from the past and improve upon it. If the image was completely futuristic, made up, it might not relate to everyone as much. We try to appeal to a wide audience. In circulation for only a short while, the image is doing quite well. People are getting it."
FLOW AND GROW
The gear was tiny, only 1 1/2 inches, and captured digitally; the model shot with a Nikon F3 HP. It was scanned with the Isomet into Paintbox.