I met Troy Caldeira at The Daily Campus, UConn’s student newspaper. He has a wonderful ability to capture a moment and a person in his photographs. I spoke with him about his senior project him over email.
Describe your senior project. What is the inspiration behind it?
“My senior project is the coming together of two of my favorite things, photography (portraiture specifically) and UConn sports. My photographs are portraits of student athletes from a large variety of different sports here at UConn. I use a specialized medium format camera to create the photographs for my project allowing for intense images printed at a larger-than-life-scale with such an emphasis on detail that they become almost unrealistic. This medium serves as a metaphor for how I view UConn athletes: overwhelmingly powerful. And yet, the way the athletes are photographed up close removes the boundary between subject and viewer, allowing the athletes to be rendered as individuals rather than part of a team. My inspiration behind the idea for my project comes from my love for UConn sports and the way in which the photographs are stylized is inspired by a German photographer named Martin Schoeller”
Your portraits have such depth to them, what methods do you use to achieve that?
“I achieve my look by using both digital and manual means. It starts when the photograph is taken in the studio, I have a lighting set up of two tall and narrow soft boxes in front of the subject, which is what you see in the subjects eyes and then on bare bulb flash behind the subject which creates a sort of halo around their head and separates them from the background. The two lights in front of the subject also create a sort of spot light effect on their faces, which I hope draws the viewers in and allows them to see every detail in the face. I also shoot with a medium format digital camera, which has more than twice the resolution of a normal DSLR camera, which adds depth by bringing out incredible detail. I then bring the photos in to Photoshop and merely emphasize the effects of what my lighting and camera set ups have already achieved, which gives the nearly hyper-realistic feel.”
How much editing is done on the photos?
“The amount of editing is not very much, there are not crazy Photoshop tricks that I do. Like I said before, I just emphasize the photographs to bring out as much detail as I can. But editing each image does take some time because of how precise they have to be. Because these photographs are being printed so large (44”x32”) every detail becomes that much more noticeable. Making sure the color balance is right is the most difficult part and probably takes the longest, I never knew how hard it was to achieve realistic skin tones and how easy it is to mess them up. After color correcting I just play with the lights and darks, I brighten up the eyes and play with the lighting on the face.”
What do you hope people will get from your artwork?
“I hope to show people something that they may have not seen before. I may be wrong, but I feel as though portraits of this size are rarely done and when people look at my work I want it to be an experience for them. You can stand back and look at each image as a straight up portrait or get up close and look at each one of these peoples faces in detail that maybe they have never seen. I also am aiming to bring two camps together that I think do not come together very often, art and sports. I already have had some of the athletes tell me that they are going to try and get their teams to come to the opening of the show and support us, which is incredibly exciting.”
When did you first get into photography? When did you decide you wanted to do it for a living?
“I first got in to photography my junior year of high school and it was kind of by mistake. At my high school, to graduate, you had to take an art class. A buddy of mine told me about a digital photo class and that it was an easy A, which sold me on enrolling in the class. It wasn’t long until I fell in love with photography and knew it meant more to me than just getting an easy A. I think I knew I wanted to be a photographer for a living when I got in to the Fine Arts program here at UConn, because it confirmed that other people actually liked my work and thought I was worth admitting to their program.”
Troy plans to stay in the area after graduating working as a photographer for The Willimantic Chronicle. More of his work can be viewed on his website www.troycaldeiraphotography.com