Known for his restless, driven, and hardworking attitude, Graphis Master Erik Almasis always pushing himself toward new means of technical and aesthetic expression in his work. He is most well-known for his series of nudes and landscapes, as well as his work with companies like Toyota, the Ritz-Carlton, Microsoft, and the USPS. Despite being well-known for his photography, Almas was not interested in it, nor art, in general, while growing up in Trondheim, Norway. He calls photography something that “sort of fell into his lap” and recalls first being dazzled by the number of lights shining over the Bay Area when he came to the United States to study photography. He studied at the Academy of Art University, graduating with Best Portfolio in the University’s Spring Show, and received an Honorary Degree of Outstanding Alumnus in 2004.
After assisting fellow photographer Jim Erickson for three years he started out on his own. He has lived in San Francisco for thirteen years, though he frequently returns to Norway. He calls himself lucky to have worked with such clients as the Intercontinental Hotel Group, Absolut Vodka, American Airlines, Pfizer, and Nike.
One of the best aspects of Almas’ photography is the timelessness and hyperrealism of it. Take “Nude Series 3,” (top), which won him a Platinum Award in both Graphis’ Nudes 5 competition and the Photography Annual 2010. The model stares at the camera and, by extension, the viewer with a sense of sensuality and honesty, and it is Almas’ way of capturing the smallest of details, like the flower in her hair and the intricacy of her bodice, that really brings the series to life. The same can be said about “JNSQ,” (above) which is part of an advertisement campaign for JNSQ Wines. The woman in the photo looks out at the world passing by, obviously traveling in style, and obviously with a glass of JNSQ. Almas again captures the smallest of details, such as the silverware and the soft, rosy lamplight within the car.
Here’s a sneak peek of our Q&A with Almas:
Who among your contemporaries today do you most admire?
There are so many artists and photographers who I admire but the two I refer back to most are Nadav Kander and Tyler Gourley. I am increasingly intrigued by my cinematographers. Emmanuel Lubezki, Roger Deakins and Paul Mayers are some of my cinematic heroes.
Many of your photos tell a visually rich story. Do you conceptualize the story before the shoot or does the story emerge after working with the subject?
The idea and story come first. Around the initial idea, we start making building the visual by considering location and talent. Where does this happen and who is the protagonist? What is the light and color palette best supporting the story? What are the props or other elements needed? With these parts and crew in place, we capture the image. The story often evolves and deepens when working with the subject on set, but the building blocks are all established prior to the shoot. For some of my personal work, however, it can at times be the other way around where the place can inspire the story. I can come upon a landscape and as I photograph, start pondering what might have happened in this place prior to me taking these images. Who has been here before me? What were they like and what did they do and what encounters did they have? Through this pondering, a narrative starts building and I will use this to later capture the talent and add it into the landscape.
What part of your work do you find most demanding?
At this point in my career, I consider myself a craftsman fluid in my craft. As the practical process of capturing images has become second nature, the real challenge is infusing the images with the intangible elements of feeling and emotion. The most demanding part of the process by far is to create the genuine within a frame that’s crafted; to give or find meaning within the connection between me and the subject.
For the rest of this Q&A and to learn more about Erik Almas and his absolutely gorgeous work, subscribe and preorder Journal #369 today!