Mehran Djojan: Self-Revelatory Conceptual Portraiture (NSFW)

All images by Mehran Djo. Used with permission.

Mehran Djojan is 21 years old and was born in Afghanistan but grew up in Germany. He’s studying Communication Design at FH-Potsdam and lives in Berlin. Mehran fell in love with photography when he was younger and finds inspiration in everything. The creme de la creme of his work is his portraiture, which Mehran says he does because of his fascination with people.

But beyond this, he finds that he loves to shoot in the evening and that much of his work is experimentation and expression–therefore releasing a part of himself into each image.

2 - Waiting for my Happy Ending

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

Mehran: When I was 13, I got my first camera from my parents. It was a simple digital camera and I took it with me, no matter where I was going. At the beginning I took pictures of everything and everyone who surrounded me. I never thought that this was just the beginning of something that would change my life.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into portraiture?

Mehran: I’m fascinated by people and always wondering what’s going through their minds, what are their dreams and what stories they have. I love to walk through the streets, watch different people and imagine their stories. For me, taking portraits is more than showing someone’s face. Rather, I’m showing their souls and attempting to build up a personal connection to the viewer.

3 - Cold Bond

Phoblographer: So how did you go about learning conceptual portraiture and figuring out ways to connect the technical and artistic sides of the format together? It’s a big challenge for most photographers but conceptual photographers seem to have it down to a T.

Mehran: There was a time when I was unsatisfied about my work. Normal portraits seemed boring to me at times. It didn’t meet with my own expectations. So I decided to take a break after school and just do what I wanted to and work on my photography. I did spend one year to find myself as a photographer, and during this year I experimented a lot. I wanted to create something different, more special, something to escape reality. I learned to utilize my surroundings more purposefully and also grappled with my camera. Then one day, I was finally able to implement the ideas I had in my mind. 

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Phoblographer: Where do you typically draw your inspiration from? A lot of your work looks a bit like fantastical movie stills while some of your more standard portraits have a very lifestyle appeal to them.

Mehran: Actually there is nothing that wouldn’t inspire me. I love to read books and I`ve been fascinated by fantasy movies ever since I was a child. I dreamt that one day it would be me who has adventures, findings undiscovered places and magic in a world where everything seems to be unexplainable by physics.  That’s noticeable in a lot of my photographs. Also, nature has an important role in my photographs.

Earlier this year, I was selected as one of Adobe Photoshop’s 25 Under 25 artists, and for the piece I created for Photoshop’s 25th anniversary; I tried to create a symbiosis between human and nature. Music and feelings like melancholy or craving do have an influence on my work too. Sometimes there are places and people who give me the idea of taking certain photos. It`s not always about the big, fantastic stories. To me, every story is worth telling.

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Phoblographer: Much of your work only seems to feature soft, very diffused lighting that you’d typically find during cloudy days. How do you feel lighting affects the images that you produce?

Mehran: I prefer to take my photographs in the evening or in the early morning. Personally, I like diffusing light better since I can create more atmospheric photos by using it which you can see in “waiting for my happy ending.” It’s the only way to bring the viewer into the mood I had while taking the picture and show them the world through my eyes. But of course that doesn’t mean I don’t take pictures when it’s sunny in general. It always depends on the feelings I want to put into the photograph.

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Phoblographer: Artists and photographers often try to express themselves creatively through their work; so what do you feel are you trying to get across in your scenes? Have you ever looked back at your work and noticed trends like Picasso’s Blue Period or his Rose Period?

Mehran: With every picture I take, I reveal a part of myself. I’m really a dreamy person. I could spend hours over hours just sitting in an empty room and cogitate about things, which is not always that good. Along with sharing these thoughts with others, I’m also able to express my dreams and let my desires come true through my art.

It’s kind of a self-therapy which lets me visualize my emotional world. Every time I look at my portfolio, I notice the transformation my photographs have been going through during the past couple years. There were times when I made very obscure photos, as can be seen in “Cold Bond,” but then again there were times my work was marked more by the thirst for adventures and fantasies. Some are just playful or sensual. They reflect all facets of my personality.

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Phoblographer: Your work tends to have very minimal colors, but effective use of them in just the right positions. What are your thoughts on colors as they pertain to emotions that the viewers may feel when looking at a scene and how they play out overall into a scene? How does that relate back to your creative vision as a whole?

Mehran: I love to play with colors. They are so powerful. One and the same photograph can be experienced in so many different ways if you just change the colors. Personally I don`t like it too colorful. Colors shouldn`t distract the viewer from the actual motive. I really think that they are the most important stylistic device to let the viewer feel the same things I feel while looking at the photo. That`s the reason why I rarely take black-and-white photos.

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Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you use. Your work involves Photoshop, yes?

Mehran: I`m photographing with the Canon 5D but I also take my first reflex camera, the Canon 500d, with me because that one can make videos too. Mostly, especially at impressive places, I go with the 40mm objective from Canon in my camera. When taking portraits, I use the 50mm 1.8 or the 85mm 1.8 which I just got recently. I use a remote-control release with a simple tripod stand for self-portraits. And yes, Photoshop is an important tool for me to get the best out of my photos. With that, I`m able to improve a lot of things afterwards like the exposure or the colors. For example, my Photoshop 25 Under 25 piece I coined for Photoshop this year, I loved to play with the colors in it, particularly with the green shades. I experimented a bit with the curves in order to enhance the contrasts. I like to try out different things and settings and I can really relax during the editing process.

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Phoblographer: How do you see your work progressing over the next year?

Mehran: I have planned a lot of things for the next year, things that will drive and challenge me to grow as an artist. As I shared, colors do have a big influence on the atmosphere of a photograph. That`s why I`m planning on a color range and light series. Also, I’ve gotten to know a lot of great artists over the last year since being selected as one of Photoshop’s 25 under 25 artists. We’re still in contact and I hope there’ll be an opportunity to meet up with some of them in the summer and be creative together.

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