Surreal street photos capture human patterns: Photographer Pelle Cass shuffles time in Selected People
posted Friday, June 28, 2013 at 3:26 PM EDT
At first glance, the world in Pelle Cass' mesmerizing photo series called "Selected People" seems so familiar. Linger on his street photography-style images for a few seconds more though, and you'll see something a bit more surreal. The apparently random movements of people in the photographer's images reveal what appear to be carefully orchestrated patterns of human (and animal) behavior. It's at this point you may either laugh or gasp.
Yes, the images, which Cass captured in and around the Boston area, are manipulated with Photoshop. But that doesn't mean they look artificial. In fact, they're instantly recognizable as the cities and towns we might see every day -- if we could only stop time and pick and choose who to include.
Wired describes the technique as crushing "time-lapse photography into a single-frame," and that's an apt way to put it. We caught up with Cass recently to ask a few questions about the project and the process behind creating a Selected People image.
To see more of the photographer's work, visit his website. Cass also has six photos currently on display at The Fence at Photoville in Brooklyn this summer.
Imaging Resource: How did you get the idea for Selected People?
Pelle Cass: It took a long time. In art school, in the 1970s, everybody was taking pictures like Robert Frank. I tried to join in, but it just wasn't my thing. But I came to admire street photography even though I was bad at it. Then in 2008, I was looking out at the sidewalk in front of my house on a quiet spring day. Just passing the time, I wondered what had happened there over the years and centuries. Then I realized I could capture some of that time. Very quickly I figured out that I didn't have to leave everything in, that I could select what to show. That's how I got the title for the series, and suddenly I was doing street photography but exploring a whole series of decisive moments.
IR: Explain the process for creating a Selected People photograph.
PC: I put my camera on a tripod and take hundreds of pictures, usually over an hour or so. Then I layer them in Photoshop, and simply leave in the figures that have caught my attention, for whatever reason. I never change the position or anything else -- I just leave things in and leave things out. Sometimes I have a plan, like arranging people in a rainbow order. Other times I notice something weird when I'm flipping through the images on my computer -- like that there were fifteen or twenty people walking down some steps, one foot hovering just an inch or two above the next step.
IR: What gear do you use during these shoots?
PC: I use a Canon EOS 5D digital SLR, a Canon 50mm, f/1.8 lens, a remote and a tripod.
IR: What are people's reactions when they see your images? The photos seem so familiar yet so strange.
PC: I've stood around a lot in galleries as people looked at my work. I can see that they are indifferent at first, then it starts to dawn on them that something is up. Then one person will nudge the other and she will laugh. This pleases me.
IR: What's next for you? Do you plan to continue this project or start something new?
PC: I started this project in April 2008, and worked on it exclusively for about two years. Since then, I've done many other projects, but I keep coming back to Selected People in the spring and summer, and usually do a few new photographs. Meanwhile, I continue doing other very different projects. One thing they seem to have in common is that I revisit some of the major genres of photography that I was introduced to (and intimidated by!) as a student -- street photography, of course, but also portraits, still life and abstraction, for example. The project that moves toward the front of my brain right now is called Artist's Statements and it's about abstraction, but in a funny way.
IR: We can't wait to see it! Thanks for talking with us and thanks for sharing these images.
(All images used with permission of the photographer.)