In the series “Paper Thin,” Atlanta-based photographer Patrick Heagney uses paper as a medium to explore facades in daily life. Offering commentary on facades in relationships, trepidations and belief systems, each image begins as a sketch and is fleshed out through Heagney’s hand-made dioramas, which he then photographs and marries with studio shots of a model.
“Many things in our lives that we assume to be rock solid can be revealed to be flimsy and insubstantial in light of new information,” Heagney says. Citing a flawed hero or a deceitful friend, “Paper Thin” depicts the realization that a seemingly insurmountable obstacle has a simple solution or, he says, “something that has terrified you has revealed itself to be just a paper tiger.”
ASMP: You shoot a wide range of work, from editorial portraits to commercial interiors to fine-art projects. How do you strike a balance between all of your work? What is your favorite type of work to create?
Patrick Heagney: I think it would be harder for me to do just one type of work all the time rather than doing the different things I do now. The diversity doesn’t give me the opportunity to get bored doing the same thing over and over, and it lets me improve my lighting and problem-solving skills in a variety of situations, helping me grow as a photographer.
ASMP: Are there any particular photographers or other artists whose work inspires you?
PH: Absolutely. I’m always flipping through magazines, watching movies and visiting galleries to find inspiration. Some favorites are photographers Art Streiber and Dan Winters, filmmakers Michel Gondry and Hayao Miyazaki and painter Francis Bacon.
ASMP: What was the inspiration for the “Paper Thin” series?
PH: It’s my attempt at a visual metaphor for the idea that many things in our lives that we assume to be rock solid — relationships, fears, world views — can be revealed to be flimsy and insubstantial in light of new information. Like the realization that an obstacle you thought was completely insurmountable has a simple solution, or something that has terrified you has revealed itself to be just a paper tiger. On the flip side it could be finding out that a person you trusted has been deceiving you, or a hero has been exposed as flawed and corrupt.
ASMP: What is your process for making the images in “Paper Thin?” How long does it take you to construct each image?
PH: Each one starts as a sketch, then I cut out all the shapes and objects I think I might need to construct the “set”. I build the dioramas on a tabletop. They’re constructed to look good from the camera’s angle, from any other point of view they look like something a clumsy four-year-old made for a school project.
After I photograph the diorama I make notes on the lighting and camera angle so I can match them when I shoot the model separately in studio. Then, I composite the images together to get the final piece. From start to finish, each one takes about four or five days of work to complete.
ASMP: Do you have any plans for the series?
PH: I’ll continue to work on it in fits and bursts whenever I have time; it’s a project I don’t ever get tired of. I’m working on more images for the series and I’ll have a show at Kai Lin Art (www.kailinart.com), who represents my fine art in Atlanta, toward the end of this year. I’d love to expand to galleries in other cities. I’d also like to explore doing some similar work in an editorial capacity.
ASMP: How do you market your various types of work? What type of clients do you seek?
PH: I focus the vast majority of my marketing on my portrait and lifestyle work. Of all my assignment work I find it the most fun and I also think it’s the most competitive market. I do regular email blasts, direct mail pieces, some cold calls — all the normal stuff. I look for clients whose previous work I admire and with whom I think I could collaborate effectively. Word of mouth is crucial, and may be the most effective way to get new clients.
ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member? What initially prompted you to join?
PH: I’ve been a member for six years. A lot of other photographers I knew and respected were members and they really sold me on the benefits of joining.
ASMP: What is the most important relationship you’ve formed through your ASMP membership?
PH: For me the most important relationship is feeling like a part of the larger photo community across the country. ASMP brings us together in ways that traditional networking just couldn’t and provides a much-needed voice to advocate for our collective interests.