Jasper Johns offered this recipe for creative work:
Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.
Do something else to it.
For a recent story on the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I started with a map. I changed the color and digitally re-painted the water, but the image lacked poignancy. I tried to add text, but the quote belonged in the body copy, not in the image.
Not sure where to go next, I thought about Johns and his famous quote on process. I turned the image into an object; I printed it out, folded the paper to create the wave and then painted the crest with actual paint on top of my printed digital image. The impasto gouache animated the power of the wave, but didn’t hide the fact that this was an image: nobody was fooled into thinking this was a photograph of a real wave. Emotional immediacy mattered more to me than the hocus-pocus of illusion.
The final step was to photograph the paper at an angle to emphasize the sculptural, wall-like quality of the wave and to offer (by means of the camera angle) empathy for the people hit hardest by the disaster.
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