Jack Seikaly: Digital Infrared Photography Influenced by Kodak Aerochrome

All images by Jack Seikaly. Used with permission.

“I’m a confused pessimist at heart. I view a world that is in a constant state of chaos and anarchy, generally getting worse over time,” says Jack Seikaly about his infrared photography. “The message I try to portray in my infrared shots is this: ‘the world may be terrible, but look at all the beauty it also has to offer.'”

Born in London, raised in Beirut, and living in Montreal, Jack has been given the privilege to view the world from multiple perspectives and understand different cultures. Along the way, he’s been taking photos. Like many others out there, he was infatuated with the HDR photography process until he started to go towards the world of Infrared. “I’ve now opened my eyes to the wonders of infrared, continuously evolving my technique and style,” he tell us.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

Jack: The first time I got into photography, I was at a summer camp in Ontario as a teenager in 2007. There was a beautiful sunset reflected on a still lake near the camp. At the time, I had a point-and-shoot Sony DSC-W100, so I snapped a few photos of the landscape. The feeling I got of preserving the sight and the feeling that came along with it encouraged me to continue shooting. July 10, 2017 will be the 10-year anniversary of that date, and my feelings towards the art still have not changed. I’m as fascinated and compelled as I was a decade ago.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into infrared work?

Jack: Around two years ago, I stumbled upon a beautiful collection of photographs taken by Richard Mosse using Kodak Aerochrome film in Africa. The outcome was honestly incredible. They were the most surreal and fascinating pictures I had ever seen and I decided to learn to recreate his effects digitally. After some research, I realized that near-infrared photography would most closely match the style of Aerochrome film, but as I was to find out, the outcome would all depend on the type of filter used, and most importantly, the post-processing techniques.

Phoblographer: The type of work you’re producing is typically seen most amongst the analog film community (with Kodak Aerochrome) but you’ve found a way to do it digitally. How?

Jack: For me, the secret is in the white balance. The process is simple enough: one takes the shot, creates a custom DNG profile, which swaps the red and blue channels in Photoshop, and then chooses the preferred color choice and saturation of the foliage. When creating the ‘multicolor’ infrareds, it’s merely making multiple color edits and selectively merging them in Photoshop. Every step of this process builds upon the last, so it takes a lot of practice to understand, for example, the effect of altering the temperature at the early stages on the coloring of the final image. There are also many other techniques on editing the photos that would produce a completely different effect, but the process mentioned above is my most used one.

Phoblographer: What’s your thought process like when you go about creating Infrared images? How does it differ when trying to capture the work in plain old UV?

Jack: Naturally when shooting in infrared I flock towards the nature and greenery that’s around, as these are the subjects that will bring the most color and feeling to the image. There’s no doubt that one has to train his eye to understand what a scene would look like in infrared. The main difference I would note is the focus on nature. Nature becomes the subject. The rest act as a support to the foliage shot.

“The process is simple enough: one takes the shot, creates a custom DNG profile, which swaps the red and blue channels in Photoshop, and then chooses the preferred color choice and saturation of the foliage. When creating the ‘multicolor’ infrareds, it’s merely making multiple color edits and selectively merging them in Photoshop.”

Phoblographer: What attracts you to this kind of work? Do you feel it’s expressive or are you more just about the cool factor here?

Jack: It’s interesting. Throughout the past decade, I gave myself a golden rule: do not over-edit your pictures. A pinnacle behind this rule was my reasoning for taking pictures in general. Capture the scene, and the scene will tell the story. Do not manipulate. My job was to capture the moment in time, not create the moment in time. This logic disappeared the moment I began taking infrared shots. Given the fact that no human can see infrared wavelengths, it gave me the justification to color the picture in any way I please. I was now forced to create and manipulate the scene, for the first time giving me more control to express a message rather than capture a moment.

I’m a confused pessimist at heart. I view a world that is in a constant state of chaos and anarchy, generally getting worse over time. The message I try to portray in my infrared shots is this: “the world may be terrible, but look at all the beauty it also has to offer.” My job was simply to show this beauty; counteract the ugly – that we can all live in a better/fantasy world if we choose to.

Phoblographer: Tell us about the cameras you’re using. Any sort of filters involved?

Jack: I use a converted Canon Rebel t5 for the majority of my infrared photographs. I did the conversion with LifePixel choosing the “super-color” IR conversion. Initially I had used my Canon 7D mark ii with a Hoya 72nm filter, but the long shutter speeds necessitated by filters led me to invest in a converted camera.

Phoblographer: How are you looking to make your work evolve over time?

Jack: Initially when I first started out, I practiced all different scenes. Whether portraits, landscapes, urban, street, or macro, I tried it all. I then discovered HDR photography and went through the same cycle: HDR portraits, HDR landscapes, etc. Now that I have discovered infrared, it would seem as though I’m going through the same process. I predict that I’ll soon be working on HDR infrared shots and see where that takes me. There is no doubt that I’ll continue exploring ‘multicolor’ infrareds and try to make a solid collection in that style. It’s hard to foresee where I’ll end up, my plan is to enjoy the journey.

More of Jack’s work can be found on Flickr and Facebook.