Flora Depicts Surreal Double Exposures in the World

All images by TJ Perrin. Used with permission.

“Seeing the screen technology shift in adolescence engrained in me a sense that things have the potential to change extremely fast.” says photographer TJ Perrin about his work for his project called Flora–which is one of the more trippy and surreal photo projects I’ve seen in a long time. “I think these images lend to that kind of expansion ideology, and that the world is capable of so much in a short period of time.”

TJ is originally from California but now calls Stockholm home. He started shooting in 2013 to document his travels, and since then he’s been working on his photographic techniques–which more or less focus on double exposures.

But TJ’s work isn’t the standard use of silhouettes; instead it artistically blends scenes together.

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

TJ: I’m a visual learner, so I find that telling a story with pictures resonates a lot more with me than words. I got into photography because it was a way to document my travels. When I had the chance to leave the U.S. on my first solo trip in 2013, I picked up a camera for the first time. I left the country to go to Shanghai for nine days, and then it was backpacking through Europe, and six months living in Copenhagen. Having grown up in a small town in California, being on the road in new environments sometimes feels like sensory overload; taking a photo is often a way to make sure I didn’t miss anything. In the beginning I was really interested in representing different cities’ distinct qualities that stood out to me. The architecture, trees, textures, and people I was exposed to while traveling were so diverse and different compared to where I grew up – it was exciting to try and capture them from my perspective.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into Double Exposures?

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TJ: When I found out how to do double exposure processing in the camera it opened up a whole new dimension for me to explore. When I first started out I never felt that my photos were entirely finished. I knew that I wanted to make something more complex but I didn’t know what that really meant at the time, so I just kept documenting and building a database. I have been interested in double exposure as an analog film technique, but I never really anticipated going this route digitally. Digital double exposure gave me a way to use technology without altering the integrity of the photograph. I try to pay respect to the true representation of a place, and use caution to keep post production minimal in my work.

Phoblographer: You do your work digitally with a Canon 5D Mk III with in-camera processing. So when you go about shooting, how do you go about getting the ideas to blend specific scenes together? Where does the inspiration come from?

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TJ: Logistically my double exposures are usually two images of a similar depth of field. They are an accumulation of layers – layers that react to each other, complement each other, and often share compositional qualities with each other. This way when they fit together the proportions match up. For example, I’ll pick a far away cloud that resembles the shape of the grass in a park, or pull in light areas in one scene to fill the dark areas of another.

Canon has four settings for different types of multiple exposures (additive, average, bright, and dark) that have different priorities in terms of how the images react to each other. Additive is most similar to analog film and the others are products of the digital camera.

The first place I visited after getting my 5D was Japan. I got this feeling that I was in the ‘future past,’ a geography that can’t really decide if it wants to be ancient or centuries ahead. A lot of my work in these photos seeks to represent this concept, that Japan is so far ahead of time that it reached the future and started to age again. A city in the clouds, a landscape where nature and industrialization have found a way to coexist.

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Phoblographer: A lot of your work is kind of surreal and looks a bit like a fantasy; so what do you say often influences the work that you create?

TJ: I think what inspires this series is my childhood and my generation. I spent my youth watching my flip phone, PalmPilot, Game Boy Color, N64, and iPod Mini expand from low res platforms into commodity goods. Seeing the screen technology shift in adolescence engrained in me a sense that things have the potential to change extremely fast. I think these images lend to that kind of expansion ideology, and that the world is capable of so much in a short period of time.

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Phoblographer: So talk to us about the FLORA project. What were you trying to fulfill creatively speaking and how do you feel this project and the final images that your presenting really embody who you are as a photographer?

TJ: I just released my most recent photo series「FLORA」in Stockholm this March. Each piece presents a cross section of imagery from Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima mixed with rural settings – two environments that exist in extremes in Japan. They depict the world in two, focusing on multiple sides of modern day individuals and environments. For me this project was about experiencing new places and reflecting on how the world has changed.

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Plants are grouped into ‘floras’ based on region, time period, or climate, forming categories entirely fashioned by their environment. Every image from this series is fully dependent on the environment as well – specifically influenced by my experiences in Japan.

Phoblographer: So how do you plan on taking this type of work even further?

TJ: I have thought a lot about putting these double exposure concepts to film, and learning more about how the in-camera processing reacts to light.

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