What do you get when you combine a wild imagination and a patient, yet determined creative drive? The work of artist Adam Ekberg.
Copyright Adam Ekberg, "Burning skull," 2014, Archival pigment print | Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
His ethereal photographs have that gloriously coincidental feel, like he just happened across these unlikely events — a skull burning on the Cape Code dunes, a camera going off alone in a forest — and captured them on film.
Copyright Adam Ekberg, "A camera in the forest," 2008, Archival pigment print | Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
But the reality is so much better. These moments are the calculated, often laborious result of an artist creating what his vibrant mind conceives.
"Every image begins with the longing to see something in the world that is unlikely or impossible," Ekberg says in an email, "and then doing what I can to make that event happen for at least the length of time it takes me to make an image out of it."
The photograph is a performance and every element, from the light to the landscape, is taken into consideration. Using common, often disposable items as his subject matter — a pineapple, a sparkler, a glass of milk — he works backward from his vision, fastidiously recreating it in real life.
Copyright Adam Ekberg, "A disco ball on the mountain," 2005, Archival pigment print | Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
The behind-the-scenes stories of how the images are created read like elaborate stage notes to a theatrical production.
"To create the image, 'A disco ball on the mountain,' I needed a disco ball, smoke machine, power inverter, car battery, and flashlight that makes two million candles of luminosity in addition to my camera equipment," Ekberg says. "Everything had to be set up for the photograph to be made at dusk in order for there to be enough light for the exposure, but not too much light so that the effect of the disco ball couldn't illuminate the forest at dusk."
Copyright Adam Ekberg, "Eclipse," 2012, Archival pigment print | Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
"For the image 'Eclipse' I wanted to make a celestial event happen with an everyday object," he says. And so, Ekberg stood in the front yard of his Tampa home and threw a pineapple into the air over and over and over again until he could achieve that perfect alignment.
"After seventy exposures I arrived at an image where not only was the pineapple in just the right spot, but the small amount of sunlight that managed to reach the camera lens generated a circular rainbow around the pineapple."
Copyright Adam Ekberg, "Occurrence #2," 2012, Archival pigment print | Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City
Ekberg's complicated creative process is all part of his exploratory art. Drawing inspiration from multimedia artists like Roman Singer, Félix González-Torres, and Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Ekberg says his interests are only tenuously tied to photography. Rather its those fleeting moments of transition and minor phenomena that drive him to create.
Copyright Adam Ekberg, "Sparkler on a frozen lake," 2006, Archival pigment print | Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City