Making of - Fine Art Photography in Action

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The world of espionage is a world on principle hidden. Invisibility and inscrutability are essential elixirs of life. Transparency could be deadly. The spy film with its surprising twists and turns also lives from this exciting sphere. How can such a captivating milieu be transformed into the genre of artistic photography? By visually staging the ambiguous and inscrutable and by using precisely chosen ciphers to leave certain traces.

Ralf Schellen says about his Spy Art Edition's making-of: "Each picture lives from three basic elements, which interpenetrate each other artistically in the sense of a collage and each element tells its own story.“

The first element is the striking Spy Girl, an (erotic) Pop Art-beauty, as we encounter it in many screen thrillers. The second element provides the inspiration that Schellen draws for his work from spy movies. The third element consists of the artistic adaptation of central themes that play a driving role in spy thrillers. "For each of these three basic elements, I have chosen a separate image, an individual pictorial language for each single motif belonging to the Spy Art Edition. Finally, I have visually incorporated each element into the overall composition of the motif." Therefore one could speak of a tertiary structure of this gripping photography.

Images united in o n e image

The composition process using the example of the motif 023.

Ralf Schellen explains his artistic approach using the edition's motif 023 as an example. Title: Attack from Above. The Spy Girl forms the basic element One - here with a barely visible pistol. "A cool appearance, as if uninvolved, but nevertheless highly dangerous and lethal - a mysterious figure, whose secret is further deepened by the almost concealed firearm." Basic element Two appears, more shadowy than crystal clear, in the background of the subject. It is the main building of the legendary British foreign intelligence service MI6. Ralf Schellen: "The compound stands here as a symbol for the espionage genre par excellence. The photograph of the headquarter was taken especially for this edition." Basic element Three represents, in a way, an (administrative) icon of the spy world: The top secret-stamp, which signals that apparently sensitive documents are only accessible to a small circle of insiders. "The stamp is reminiscent of films in which the lettering appears as an imprint on secret files, for example also documents from deserted agents. The stamp suggests secrecy, but also danger and betrayal."

All three design elements are brought together in a collage and interpenetrate each other. This creates an individual total work of art with an unique presence.

The dramaturgy of the Spy Art compositions also includes the principle of variously integrating singular smaller picture elements into the total work of art - mysterious details that encourage the viewer to write his or her own spy screenplay based on the visual clues for the imagination. The emphatic cinematic colouring of the motifs and their significant 16 x 9 TV widescreen format are also characteristic of the visual language.

Thus, each of the 25 individual works of the Spy Art Edition stages its own game full of narrative hints and interpretative options. Lovers of the espionage genre and its classics may decipher components of some of the motifs and suspect concrete agent movies behind them. True or not true? This skilfully vague blurring, this creative ambiguity is an elementary part of the Spy Art Edition's (secret) pleasure.