These Photography Tricks Will Help You Shoot CGI-Free Fantasy


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These Photography Tricks Will Help You Shoot CGI-Free Fantasy

Erik Johansson premieres new photographic optical illusions in an exhibition in the south of Sweden.

Shards of mirror-smooth water shatter against a lake bed. A mountaintop post office is visited by a mail delivery hot air balloon docked on a cloudy platform. Workers wearing white uniforms and hardhats install a floating, luminescent moon in an otherwise dark sky. Swedish photographer Erik Johansson has a knack for seeing fantasy wonderlands where others see mundane objects and a commitment to realizing them without computer graphics. Now, he has his largest show ever, featuring three new photos and his first indoor installation, an Escher-esque staircase proclaiming the name of the show, Bending Reality.


The 800-square meter space of Dunkers Kulturhaus in Helsingborg, Sweden, is filled with 40 of Johansson's photos, printed at a wall-sized scale to reveal all the tiny details his Instagram followers might miss. "I hope to inspire people and make them think a bit differently about the world. That's what my work is about. It's more interesting to give people a window into the worlds," he tells Creators. "It's nice that they get enough space."

Erik Johansson, Bending Reality, 2017

Loyal Mail, the hot air balloon piece described above, is one of his new photographs and gets its digital debut right here on Creators. "I thought it would be interesting to take a bureaucratic institution concerned with reality using balloons, which fly with the wind," Johansson says. He created the picture with his trademark CGI-free technique thanks to a model of a hot air balloon from Germany. "I prefer to shoot real things, but if I can't, I like to shoot models, especially detailed models," he continues. Rather than rendering objects directly from his imagination, he heavily composites an image until it matches his vision. The results look like film stills, but are more like incredibly harmonious collages.

The other new photos include a stack of houses wedged between two cliffs, so that if one were removed they would all topple, and a portrait of an architect drawing, in which he looks like part of an architectural rendering. Check out more work from Bending Reality below.