Since 1994, Aviv Yaron has been working commercially within the VFX industry. During his years at Cinesite, London – then, a wholly subsidiary company of Kodak – he has worked closely with different technical teams within Kodak USA and Europe.
As a 2D Technical Director, Aviv operated at the interface between the digital artists and the R&D efforts – mainly, in the realms of 2D digital compositing, colour grading, Image Based technologies and Computational Photography. As Head of VFX Photography, Aviv has set up and managed an in-house VFX photographic studio – working closely with supervisors and on film sets around the world.
Al Jammama #1 © Aviv Yaron
In 2013, Aviv formed his own company – providing VFX photography services to a variety of industries. His commercial photography provides the ‘building blocks’ to multiple disciplines within the post production CGI pipeline.
In parallel, Aviv has been pursuing artistic endeavours through his personal work as a contemporary photographer.
With such a diverse mix in his body of work we were eager to sit down with Aviv to try and understand what motivates him and how he juggles fitting in his very different styles of output.
How did you get into photography?
My father got me my first camera when I was 6 or 7. I have been photographing ever since.
When I reached the stage of academic studies I chose to formally further my understanding of Photography.
Initially, I was attracted to its technical aspects, but soon I became totally immersed in Photography as an art medium.
6 years later, I found myself at the forefront of the digital image revolution. This was soon followed by the introduction of commercial applications of computer vision and computational photography. Commercially, I have moved from being an analogue-based Still Life photographer to become part of the visual effect industry (mainly for films). Since 1994, I have had the privilege of experiencing and assimilating in-depth knowledge of both the analogue and the digital realms of image making. Ever since 2005 I have been providing digital Visual Effects Photography services to support Computer Generated Imagery.
Al Jammama #1.2 © Aviv Yaron
You mainly shoot in black & white. Do you think monochrome helps convey the emotion behind the photograph in a way colour never could?
As a Visual Effects Photographer, my commercial work is predominately colour digital photography. A lot of my early contemporary photography work is based around Black & White shot on film, and the craft of hand printing. However, in the last 7-10 years I have been exploring different ways of engaging with the physical aspects of the medium – mainly through photo-chemical processes and digital darkroom operations. This approach have produced some results which I do not regard as a Black & White photography. Colour tints play a role in the make-up of these images (stills shot on negative film).
Monochrome, to my mind, more readily conveys the surreal aspect of photography, and the fact it is more about ways of seeing than it is about reproducing reality. However, to me, conveying emotions is not limited by the use of either monochrome or colour.
Al Jammama #4 © Aviv Yaron
Do you solely shoot on digital or does film still play a part in your work?
Creatively, it does not matter to me whether I shoot on digital or film. With both, my post-capture approach is about getting closer to that ethereal matter of the photographic image, and ‘sculpt’ its transformative space. During capture time – I am more focused on the actual experience. At that initial stage, I am not creatively concerned with the technology or the apparatus – at least, not beyond the understanding of the constraints and freedom available. Capture time is, for me, about a state of being, and a way of seeing. It does not matter whether the result is imprinted on film or pixels.
Currently, the camera I use for my art projects is loaded with film.
al-Sheikh Bureik #3 © Aviv Yaron
Your work seems to deconstruct the ‘normal’. Is this a conscious approach to your photography?
My contemporary art photography is about contemplative ways of seeing. It is about responding to a state of presence – resonating inner and outer landscapes… a ‘visual poetry’.
At that moment, the camera is no longer separating the world from the photographer. To me, this is a ‘decisive observation’. It is both a psychological peak – a response to unconscious motivations – and a spiritual one, whereby the captured image contains both the subject and the photographer. The chemical treatment I use sculpts physical traces, thus introducing layers of depth into the photographic image. This physical manipulation of the photographic matter offers a notion of past time – invoking mind wondering, and acts of remembering. The uncanny experience underlying the illusive time-frame of the photographic image – its eternally frozen present-time of the ‘then-there’ – is alongside a real sense of an organic passage of time through the layers of the image and the blemishes to its surface. My attempt is to create a metaphor for a ‘memory landscape’.
Circus #1 © Aviv Yaron
Do you plan your shoots beforehand or do you prefer to see where the mood takes you?
I usually have a camera with me. Most of the time I simply react. Again, not so much to the subject matter as to my own state of mind. I may plan an excursion, but I never know in advance what I might shoot. My planning is never beyond the point of physically getting to a particular place.
Obviously, with my commercial work – it is mostly about planning and preparation.
Desert #1 © Aviv Yaron
What equipment do you use?
For my commercial work I use a variety of Canon 35mm DSLRs and a range of other fit-for- purpose equipment. Here, a fit-for-purpose technical fineness and image quality are the guiding force (and budget, of course).
For my art work – I mainly use old film cameras. These vary in type and format. Essentially, it is not about the equipment – it is about what one does with it. For example, for my Triptychs body of work (colour, digital) I chose an old Canon DLSR set to its noisiest ISO with a Canon lens set to ƒ/1.4, Adding to it was an old 1950’s piece of Topcon glass – converting 50mm to 35mm. That concocted optical and digital artefacts producing the tactility I was after.
Hard Mask © Aviv Yaron
Some photographers who work in similar styles will often speak of a bond with their cameras, almost an extension of their thought processes. Do you think this is true, or do you separate them as purely tools?
Yes, I would definitely agree with this notion.
Nostaglia © Aviv Yaron
With your VFX work, how much spillover from your contemporary art photography is there in your commercial work?
In my commercial work, image capture is done in the context of both creative and technical briefs, whilst accommodating the on-set production constraints. My images provide the essential ingredients required to transform computer generated (CG) assets into a synthesized, yet photo-realistic, image.
In that respect, I am required to photograph for a very particular purpose – at times catering for the needs of multiple disciplines within the post production pipeline who require a completely opposing photographic approaches. However, in both art and commercial arenas there is the required technical knowledge and the photographer’s ways of seeing, which, I suppose, are the common ground for the two to co-exist.
Olivia © Aviv Yaron
You’ve worked on some huge projects over the years. Are there any that stand out as particularly rewarding?
This is a very difficult question to answer. I cannot think of a single project where I did not learn something new, or found myself challenged beyond my comfort zone. Almost all of these projects took me to amazing locations, or provided access to sites that even local people hardly know of, or are allowed to experience. I guess a major part of all these adventures is meeting and working closely with different people, and getting to know them, their culture and the place they come from. There are always moments of real meetings – even with star actors and actresses.
I’m going to guess that your contemporary art photography is an escape for you – or is it the other way around?
I would not think of either as being an escape from the other. Although, I suppose, the difference is – my contemporary art photography has to always be there, regardless of circumstances.
On The Way to Gath © Aviv Yaron
You’ve been a friend and customer of Fixation’s for many years. How much do you rely on us for your work?
With my commercial work I regard Fixation as a hub of technical support. All my equipment is serviced by Mick and his team. Some of my past bespoke solutions were made by them, too. Fixation is my first point of contact when it comes to either maintenance or when upgrading my equipment. I would also regularly seek their advise when considering the development of a new approach. Keir will not only provide an excellent rental service when I am in need of the odd additional lens, but will generously share his wealth of experience and knowledge, and provide a sound advice.
More importantly, I have the confidence in knowing that, whilst photographing on set, I am a phone call away from having any technical issue resolved, or an alternative equipment shipped to me.
Aviv was speaking with Tim Stavrinou
See below for more information and to see more of Aviv’s work.