Less is More: Victor Koroma on Achieving Maximum Impact with Minimalist Lighting
(Click the thumbnails above to enlarge the photographs.)
Photographer Victor Koroma describes himself as a grown up kid; someone who still enjoys the simple pleasures of childhood—toys, games, crayons—but now, instead of playing with them as he would in his youth, he’s photographing them in a vibrant style that he describes as “witty, whimsical and fun.”
Koroma’s personal series, “Sex, Drugs, and Office Supplies,” earned him a First Place award in PDN‘s 2017 Objects of Desire still life photography competition. Featuring everyday office supplies like a stapler, pair of scissors and thumbtack, the series was designed to “explore the common perception and function of everyday options,” Koroma explains. “My intention is to transform these objects beyond their banality into objects of desire that encourage you to think of them in new ways.”
PDNedu had a chance to interview Koroma to find out more about his inspiration, conceptualization and technical execution of the series.
PDN: What inspires you and your work?
Victor Koroma: The idea of looking at everything in the world with wide eyes, like it’s the first time I’m seeing it. Being curious. Channeling the enthusiasm of a kid in a toy store.
As for my work, [inspirations] would be painters and sculptors on the contemporary pop and minimalist artists spectrums. On the contemporary pop side, my current inspirations would be Takashi Murakami, Kaws and Jeff Koons. On the minimalist side, it would be Ellsworth Kelly, John McCracken and Barbara Kasten. Most importantly, what inspires me and my work is the thought of striving to become a master at what it is I do.
PDN: Can you describe your lighting formula for still objects like those we see in “Sex, Drugs, and Office Supplies?”
VK: I think of lighting formulas in terms of creating different value systems of light, as if I was in my drawing class. Instead of using a pencil to create tones and shades, I use light. Finding highlights or shadows that people may not notice when looking at the image, but I know are there, and are necessary. I use a minimalist lighting set up to light detailed things individually. There is a huge technical aspect of my work, even though I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself technical. I did not use a light meter for “Sex, Drugs, and Office Supplies,” instead I just intuitively paid attention to the quality of light. Light meters, for me, can be a bit distracting because, instead of paying attention to the actual light, you pay attention to numbers.
PDN: What are some tips you might have for photographers looking to eliminate or minimize shadow on a seamless backdrop?
VK: Pay attention to the direction of your light. Move it around and see how the shadow dances around. Also, examine how painters and graphic designers treat their shadows.
PDN: What’s the most challenging or complicated part about achieving this look?
VK: It’s a trying process to be consistent aesthetically with color and lighting relationships when the different types of object materials I’m photographing react uniquely to light. Spreading out this uniformity throughout a series is always my main headache. I spend a lot of time paying attention to the materials that objects are made out of and figuring out how they react individually to light.
PDN: How do you overcome this challenge?
VK: Picking similar object materials, lighting and color relationships that speak the language of whatever series I’m working on. Oddly enough, being a good shopper plays a big role too in over coming those challenges. I have to be extremely specific in my choices and not drift away—whether I’m at different Office Depots looking for very specific office product, or online shopping somewhere.
PDN: What do you most enjoy about this style and why?
VK: It’s a reflection of the kid in me that sat on the couch eating sugary cereal watching Saturday morning cartoons. When people ask me my age, I usually say I’m 13 because I see myself as a grown up kid, and if I were to self analyze my work, it is really just me playing with toys. It’s just that I photograph them now. This style captures a vibrant youthful experience that’s witty whimsical and fun. Its accessible and non-elitist.