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Art in the digital environment

CMU faculty member merges photographs to create illusion through time and space

Contact: ​Jeff Johnston

​Under the spectacular glass ceiling of Paris' Grand Palais, Central Michigan University art and design faculty member Al Wildey will share a small part of his photography collection with the world.

Wildey has been a photographer nearly all his life and specializes in merged photographs. To create one image, he layers hundreds of photographs in Photoshop. The process includes adjustments to opacity, color and lighting to create the final image.

He will be one of 2,000 emerging international artists participating in Art Capital, an annual exhibit featuring art of all forms and genres from Feb. 15 to 19.

As Wildey prepares to jet off to France, he sat down to answer some questions about his art and the upcoming exhibition.

The three photographs that you are exhibiting are unique and intriguing. What was your inspiration?

Wildey: "I make photographs of the places I go, the people I meet and the experiences I have. In one form or another, that's the thread that connects almost 40 years of photography for me. The three photos I have in Art Capital feature three cities: Mount Pleasant, Manhattan and Dublin. These images are complex and invite a sort of investigation. As you move back and forth you focus on different things. As the light plays off, different things come out."

What is the process of creating these photographs?

Wildey: "I take all of the photographs from a time or place and put them together in Photoshop. I layer them on top of each other in a stacking order then adjust the opacity of each photograph. I start out chronologically with the order and the first image is typically the base. I make adjustments if something stands out as more important and adjust the color and lighting in the images. Then, I print the final photographs on aluminum because the light plays off of it."

What do these images mean to you?

Wildey: "For me, it is this interesting metaphor between age and experience. It's the idea that gathering more information somehow makes things less clear."

How did you begin creating these sorts of photographs?

Wildey: "Back in 2006 I took a road trip from Michigan to Idaho. I mounted a camera to my rearview mirror and thought 'I'm going to take pictures as I drive.' Then, in the digital environment, I layered them all together to merge them into one single picture. In the end I shot 300 images and compressed them basically into a mini-movie. It was impressionistic, it was soft, and it was the entire journey. Now I've transitioned that to people and places."

What pulls people to your work?

Wildey: "If we're going to be effective visual communicators we have to stop people and get them to spend time with our work. People do that with my photography. They stop and say 'what is going on?' They see the foundation of the image, but it's muddled up and kind of weird. That is my hook. I'm taking time and movement and I'm merging all of that together so it's not a clear picture. People want to figure it out.

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Photography by Al Wildey