Ever feel like you have one too many balls in the air? How about too many office supplies? That's the mood captured here in "Balancing," by photography student Sheila Menezes.
The image won first prize in the College & University — Computer-Assisted category of the Photo Imaging Education Association's (PIEA) 2004 International Student-Teacher Photo Exhibition and Competition in January.
Menezes, a graduate student at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, Calif., says that the title of the photo also describes the balance of her two favorite genres of photography, portraiture and still life. "It's one of my favorite images, but I find it so ironic that I won the prize with it," she admits. "My style has more of a commercial sense about it, so I'm not always that directed at something overtly humorous."
The idea for the photo came to her as part of a final project for a Brooks digital imaging class in which the students were to create a realistic image of an unreal situation. "With the many hours we spend in the studio, we try to keep our humor up any way we can," she says. "My friend Bret Gum has a pair of funny glasses and buck teeth he'd use to crack us up. I decided to do some-thing with that geeky look, so I used him as a model. Actually, most of the clothes are mine."
The first step was to make sure that all the objects would be lit the same way, Menezes says. She shot Gum in his outfit first, with the illumination off to one side, and then set up all the random office objects with the same lighting, each separated on a white background. After shooting, she used Photoshop to create shadows across the floor and across Gum's chest.
All the shooting was done on film in a single day with her Canon EOS-3 camera, but the computer editing stretched off and on for about two weeks, she says. "I'm definitely using digital more," she adds, "but I still feel you have to do as much work as you can with the camera before you get to the computer."
Menezes does have a much more serious side to her work. In fact, she currently is working on her thesis about breast cancer awareness among adolescent girls. In between her studies, she has done several shoots for local "indie" rock bands in the Bay Area, including photos for the annual Noise Pop festival, and has completed internships with photographers Michael Grecco in Los Angeles and Peter Ellenby in San Francisco.
Since winning the PIEA prize, Menezes has moved from Santa Barbara to the Bay Area, outside Oakland, Calif., and divides her time shuttling between the two cities.