Thursday, 13 February 2014

Cover Reveal & Interview with Cover Photographer: Elena Giorgi

Image & Cover Art by Elena Giorgio

This is such a rare pleasure for me. It’s not often that an author is given the opportunity to have a photographer provide an original image for one of her covers, and when I heard that this lady in particular might just be interested in working with me to revamp the Lost in the Echo cover, I couldn’t have been more ready to grab my work, sit down beside her, and just see where her imagination would go with a photo shoot.

The photographer in question is Ms. Elena Giorgi. A few weeks later -- with a delicious new cover for Lost in the Echo on the table in front of us -- I’m still reluctant to let the very artistic Ms. Giorgi walk away, not without finding out a little more about her and her work. So...

Elena, It’s really good to have you here.

Elena: My pleasure! Thanks so much for the opportunity to work with you!
Besides providing the image for Lost in the Echo, I have a few of your prints here that show the scope of your talents.

Girl in Green (c) Giorgi

Turquoise (c) Giorgi
The shape shifting, surreal effect to the print above is one of my favourites. I know you’re a photographer from these, but can you tell us a little bit about you? The person behind the camera?
The story of my life in a nutshell: I was born in the UK, I grew up in Tuscany (Italy), and lived in 4 different European countries and 4 different states in the U.S. before settling in beautiful New Mexico. As for “what” I am, I’m first and foremost a scientist -- that’s how my brain works. But I wouldn’t be who I am without my two creative outlets: writing and photography.
There’s a lot of scope for inspiration in all of the places you have lived, and it’s sparked a writing talent too. How long have you been a photographer? What influenced you to first pick up a camera?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I could hold a pencil and paintbrush. My first camera was a Sony point and shoot, which I used mainly to take pictures of things and people I wanted to paint. Painting is a demanding activity, though: you not only have to find the time to do it, you also need to have the right space. It’s a lot easier when you can afford a studio where you can keep up your work in progress for as long as you need. In my case, life took over: for about a decade we kept moving every other year, and the paintbrushes and paints ended up in a box, and, well, they stayed there. All those pictures I was still taking never turned into paintings. It finally dawned on me that I might as well perfect the one thing I was already doing: photography! I bought a used DSLR from a colleague, and once I discovered the freedom of being able to choose my own settings (aperture, ISO, exposure time, etc.) I felt like I had a whole new world to unravel. I started doing landscapes. I live in a place (New Mexico, USA) that offers staggering views and incredible skies, so it was the natural thing to do. I progressively moved on to macros, portraits, and now I’m doing the one thing I enjoy the most: photo composites, images that I create combining different pictures and backgrounds. It’s as if the cycle closed back, because compositing allows me to do what I used to do with my paintbrushes, except now my canvas is a JPEG file and I no longer need a studio. All I need is my laptop.
You recently won the December Self-Portrait Challenge over on G+, and you won it by submitting this self portrait here:

selfie (c) Giorgi
Can you tell us about this print and what influenced the self-portrait?
Believe it or not, the one thing that truly brought my photography to a completely new level has been joining G+ (the social network created by Google). First, because through G+ I met a lot of photographers whose work I truly admire. I learned a lot by studying their work and engaging in conversations with them. But also because G+ offers a lot of events – one being the self-portrait challenges – where you can push yourself. This particular event is a monthly challenge organized by “The Art of Self Portraiture” community. For the longest time I have been repelled by the idea of taking self-portraits. I look horrid in pictures, so I hide behind the camera viewfinder instead. But then I started doing composites and that’s when I discovered that taking a self-portrait is not about taking a picture of myself so I look pretty. You can use a self-portrait to tell a story. And yes, you could do the same with just any model, but what makes it easier to use yourself as a model is that you know the story you want to tell and you know what to do to re-enact it. And the fact that I’m not too fond of the way I look has forced me to be especially creative in the way I disguise myself, which, I confess can be a lot of fun! G+ has also given me a lot of exposure. One of my composites was picked as “popular” and currently has over twenty million views. That’s when I started getting requests for book covers.
As for the December challenge, it was a “seasonal” theme so I took a photo of myself in a Santa hat holding candy canes. It was quite challenging because I wanted to focus on the candy canes, not my face, and I wanted the candy canes to form a heart around my mouth. I used textures in Photoshop to add the snow effect and the “over-exposed” effect on me while keeping the hands and candy canes in focus.
Twenty million views – that’s staggering, and a stunning seasonal print. G+ looks as though it’s been a good social and commercial outlet for you. Can I ask, who are your influences in general, and why?
Between Facebook and G+, I follow a lot of amazing photographers. My favorite landscape photographer is Jeff Sullivan. I also love surreal photography and fine art portraits, and the people who awe me and inspire me the most are Brooke Shaden, Kirsty Mitchell, Reylia Slaby and Thomas Dodd. But really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I keep discovering new talents online – the creativity is endless. The communities I mentioned above on G+ are an incredible source of inspiration. All the photographers I met on G+ have influenced me at some point during my journey, and the best part is that we support and encourage one another – that’s what makes us strive to keep doing better.
Now, the image for Lost in the Echo took you into a new and challenging area. I’ve seen the gorgeous result, but I’ve got to ask -- what was it like for you from behind the camera? Did it test your professional side at any point?
It’s always hard to work with a new model. You have to gain the model’s trust, make him/her feel comfortable knowing that you will make them look at their best. We started off chatting about the story premise—I wanted him to know what the story was about and why I had to blindfold him, [laughs]. Then off to the setting: I begin with my first idea, which, turned out to be the one I used for the cover. However, I never know ahead of time whether what I have in mind will look good on the screen, so we also tried some other poses. The hardest part was to keep serious—we both kept bursting out in laughter.
I think you have to keep that level of humour present when you have a model’s trust over being bound! With any work from your portfolio, if you had a choice of Galleries, where would you most like to see your prints on display?  
That’s a hard question! You know, I’m very lucky because I live one hour away from Santa Fe, which, I’m told, is the second largest art market here in the US, second only to New York. I feel very privileged that last year I could do my first solo exhibit right here in Santa Fe. I think my next goal is to try and be represented by one of the galleries in Santa Fe. Probably in spring I’ll haul a few of my works and drive down and just beg, er, I mean introduce myself around and see what happens.
[Chuckles] Along with your photography skills, you’re also an agented author. What kind of novels do you write?
Thrillers. I love action and I love to get my characters in a lot of trouble. I think it makes up for my long days spent in a cubicle at work.
Can you tell us about the novel you’re working on?
I just finished writing the first book in a new series set in the future. It features a murderous and sexy computer hacker, the biothreat federal agent who’s after her, an eccentric medical examiner, and a deadly pathogen. The world building was daunting at first. Even when I’m writing fiction, I research everything (location, people, history, etc.), but here I actually had to make up a whole society on my own. I solved the conundrum by doing both: I researched all the current state-of-the-art technology and then tried to imagine what it would look/be like one hundred years from now. I actually ended up having lots of fun with it. My agent just started shopping the book around, I’ve got fingers and toes tightly crossed!
I can hear the scientist and a love for facts in there. Do you think you’re more comfortable with writing from a male or female point of view, or doesn’t the gender of the MC hold any barriers for you?
The real “barrier” (though it doesn’t stop me from writing, so more than a barrier I would call it a challenge) is the voice more than the POV. No matter whether it’s male or female, young or old, I strive to give my POV characters their own voice. Success comes when you can tell the gender from the voice without knowing the character’s name. My first book series is written in first person, and the main character is a male LAPD detective. One of the agents who offered representation made me the best compliment ever: she said she had no idea I was a woman until she read my full name. At the time I wrote the book I’d read all the Philip Marlowe books and loved the voice. Like Marlowe, my detective is also from Los Angeles, so I wanted to continue in the noir tradition with the first person, witty and sarcastic narrative. I guess the ultimate judges will be the readers.
Knowing you’re both photographer and author raises a curious conundrum. Do you find there’s anything you can express more in photography than you can in writing, or vice versa?
That’s an interesting question. There are instances when I can picture the setting of a scene very vividly in my head but I struggle to find the right words to describe it. I find myself thinking, “If only I could take a picture…” But for the most part it’s the other way around. Photography has made me very aware of the light around me, and it does affect the way I write. I’m often describing light sources in my scenes and how the light falls on my characters and how it affects their vision.
The concept for Lost in the Echo came from a photo supplied by a reader through an annual "Dear Author, write-for-me" challenge on Goodreads. Have you ever used any of your own prints to inspire your writing?  
Not my own pictures, but I do browse images to inspire my writing all the time. For example, when I was researching the world building for my last book, I browsed a lot of futuristic buildings and architecture and I had a lot of fun doing that. Whenever my brain draws a blank on a particular setting for a scene I go to Google images, type a few keywords, and then inspiration suddenly comes to my screen in the form of beautiful images.
And lastly, where can people find you to look at your artwork or contact you if they are interested in using your works for cover art?
My photography website juts got a makeover and it’s got everything, from landscapes to composites: I also post new images regularly on my blog (together with a lot of other musings on science, writing, etc.):
All images on my website are available for licensing. Anyone interested can use the contact form on the website or contact me directly through eegiorgi (at) Please let me know which image you are interested in and how many prints you would need to produce. And of course I’m always open to new projects!
Elena, thank you so much for stopping by and having a chat with me today. It’s lovely getting to know you better. When your novel’s released, I’d love to have you back for a chat -- find out what it’s like for a photographer being on the author side and working with a cover artist!

I’m also going to take this opportunity to say a huge thanks for providing your visual concept to Lost in the Echo. It’s very special to me, not only because of its originality, and that it was taken with the novella specifically in mind, but also because it’s just been such a pleasure working with you. Thank you for the opportunity. 
It has been my pleasure, Jack. I love making images and I love the concept of Lost in the Echo; it inspired me as soon as I read the premise. So intriguing! And of course, I can’t wait to come back in vest of a published author <insert huge grin here>.
Just as a final reminder, Elena's website can be found: here, and her blog can be found, here.

No comments:

Post a Comment