Photographer Christoffer Relander grew up in the Finnish countryside, near the small town of Ekenäs, and his photos reflect the natural motifs of his youth: trees, flowering plants, birds, wolves. But his latest series, which uses multiple exposures to juxtapose Scandinavian forests with Hong Kong street scenes, brings in visuals far removed from his homeland. "I had never worked in a big city before," Relander says. "It was exciting to take something new and combine it with a familiar environment from my childhood."
Related StoriesThe resulting images are surreal collages of pristine woodlands overlaid by garishly lighted urban phantasmagoria, all created in-camera rather than in Photoshop. First, Relander shot Finnish and Swedish forests at night, using variously colored strobes to light up the trees. Then he spent a week in Hong Kong searching for the perfect locations to complement the background images. Relander chose the city for its famously trippy neon signs, which are fast disappearing thanks to new government regulations that call for more energy-efficient LED signs."The colors are very beautiful, and the shapes are aesthetically interesting," Relander says. "There's something mysterious about the Chinese characters, which I can't read. To me, it says something about the limitations of human knowledge. At the same time, the naked commercialism of the signs was a bit troubling." To document the project, Relander invited filmmaker Johan Ljungqvist to accompany him on the shoot. Ljungqvist's impressionistic four-minute video is a work of art in its own right, a fittingly non-linear complement to Relander's photography.Although Relander has tried creating multiple exposures digitally, in post-production, he prefers to make his images using just a camera. "When you do in-camera multiple exposures, you're creating the work while you're out photographing," he explains. "When the last exposure is taken, you're basically done—there's just some color adjustments and cropping to do in Photoshop." He also appreciates the unplanned visual serendipity that can emerge from the process.
"With multiple exposures, I don't think you can ever get total control," he says. "And that’s something I enjoy. Perfect is overrated."
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