All images by Raffael Dickreuter. Used with permission.
Photographer Raffael Dickreuter is based in Los Angeles, CA. Originally born in Switzerland he has a diverse professional background in film visual effects, design, advertising and photography. While attending the Golden Globe awards a couple of months back, Raffael was fortunate enough to basically be in Robert Downey Jr’s presence–we specifically say that because of how the events that inspired “Iron Man Grounded” went down. Robert and Marvel’s Tony Stark are very similar characters, so when Raffael felt that Robert was essentially untouchable to mere mortals, he decided to create a photo project that puts the playboy millionaire in situations that are much more grounded.
And with that, Iron Man Grounded was born–right around the time that Avengers: Age of Ultron has been released. We talked to Raffael about the project and how he developed the scenes.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.
Raffael: Since I was kid I loved visual storytelling and knew I wanted to work on movies in Hollywood. Growing up in Switzerland far away from that world I had no idea how to get there. When I finally got to work as an action designer in the industry I tried to learn everything I could.
The more I got to work on big productions such as Man of Steel, Terminator Salvation or Captain America 2 I also realized that I wanted to do more smaller projects that came from my own. That’s when my interest in Photography started to grow and I picked up a camera. I wanted to be more creative on my own and be outside.
The starting point was when photographer Rodelio Astudillo let me play around in his studio and be part of some of his shoots, I was incredibly excited. I wanted to learn more and I attended a workshop by Nick Saglimbeni where you got to photograph in the desert on old cars and airplane parts. It was amazing and it was not only great to learn about what photography is about, but the best part was simply meeting many wonderful and passionate people as well.
Phoblographer: What got you into doing fine art series photos like this?
Raffael: Having a diverse background in filmmaking, visual effects and photography I always wanted to do a project where I could use all my skills. Going from concept to completion yet do something not everybody can do easily on their iphone. At the same time I wanted it to tell a story, have a subtle message and also make people laugh a bit.
Phoblographer: So how did the idea and inspiration for Iron Man Grounded come about?
Raffael: A few months ago I was lucky and able to attend the Golden Globes. At that award show I ran into Robert Downey Jr and he talked and acted just like you would expect Tony Stark in the movie, making jokes and acting super confident. After I got to talk to him for a little bit I asked if I could take a picture with him. He declined and walked away.
Fair enough, I had no issue with it, but I had to also laugh a little bit at that moment as he acted just like a scene that could be from one of the Iron Man movies. I realized that the character and himself were so big at this time, they were out of reach somehow for the common man.
That’s when the idea was born, what would Iron Man do if things didn’t go so well and he had to wait for the bus, or fly economy class? It seemed hilarious and that’s how it all got started. When Robert Downey Jr walked out of an interview a few days before the Avengers 2 release it just felt it was proof that the timing to do this was right.
Phoblographer: Where did the ideas for the specific scenes come from? The project is about making viewers realize that Iron Man is really just a man, but then how did the specific situations come about? Are they based on personal experiences?
Raffael: As I started looking for ideas I started simply nearby where I lived. There was a bus stop and a phone booth. The more I started experimenting the more ideas came to me. At the same time I was traveling to Hawaii and later Chicago and as traveling went on so many ideas came to me that It turned quite into an obsession.
On a layover in Houston I tried to take a picture of the United customer service booth as it felt that one would be hilarious. Funny enough a lady behind the booth hated seeing me with a camera there and threatened to call security. All for trying to photograph and nearly empty customer service booth. More tricky provided to be the idea that I wanted Iron Man to fly economy class. You have almost no time to shoot this when you enter a plane and people come and try to sit down, needless to say all the people staring like “what is this guy doing?”. Even though I got the shots and had a workable version I decided to reshoot it.
I got lucky that the guys from the AirHollywood Studio let me shoot at their amazing airplane hangar to get the shots I was looking for. I have only released a few images so far, I have a lot more material for it. It has been a great adventure shooting it and what’s great is when you just travel and new ideas jump at you wherever you go. Another one that simply jumped at me when I walked down Sunset blvd in Los Angeles and right there was a wrecked Lamborghini. How often do you see that lay there in the street ready to be photographed?
It seemed a perfect fit for the project as well. A fun one was getting supermodel Donna Feldman to play chess against Iron Man while wearing an Apple watch.
Phoblographer: What gear did you use to shoot these photos?
Raffael: It’s all shot on a Canon 5D Mark III and a 7D with mostly a 17-40mm or a 50mm. For lighting I used Chimera softboxes as well as some Profoto B1 lights.
Phoblographer: Why the really beat up soon instead of the spic-and-span one that we often see in the movies?
Raffael: I felt if I try to replicate the exact look of the one in the movies the most important part of the story is not being told: Iron Man is no longer the invincible guy on top, he is a guy who is struggling, thing’s didn’t go well. Another important part was to make the RT of broken glass. It had to be clear this is a different Iron Man with a different life, it doesn’t just all come easy for him. At the same time I also tried make it a bit subtle. I could have gone too far, make him appear drunk etc. It seemed more interesting to just put him in real world situations that most people are familiar with.
Phoblographer: What do you want to do with the series? Make it into a coffee table book?
Raffael: For now I am open and just wanted to release it and see people’s reaction. I was not sure how people would see it and when you work hard on something you have to put it out there to see where you stand. Depending on how it all unfolds I will see what more ideas come to me.