What constitutes a photograph has drastically changed with the advent of digital photography. Prior to being ushered into the digital world, a photograph meant the same thing to everybody — a physical print. Today, a photograph often means a snapshot we take and keep in our smartphones, or RAW files we keep in our computers and external drives for editing later. With this in mind, Swiss fine art photographer Fabian Oefner challenges our current perceptions of photographs with an intriguing project called Explosion Collages.
This series is comprised of portrait photos in printed form (it must be noted) seemingly being torn apart by a gunshot. At first glance, it appears as if Fabian was able to genuinely capture the fleeting moment with an impeccable timing. However, he reveals that this is just an illusion. The truth is, he photographed thousands of fragments of the original print and diligently arranged them into a new image. The result of his meticulous precision is a “hyperrealistic illusion that shows a real, yet non-existing moment in time.”
“Today, where most photographs only exist in a digital realm, Oefner returns to the photograph as a physical object. The projectile piercing through the print transforms a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional object in space,” explains his artist statement. “The original subject of the photograph, the portrait remains visible, while at the same time, the kinetic energy of the bullet transforms it into a new piece of art.”
Fabian also shared the meticulous process that goes into each intricate collage. Each piece begins with his sketch of what the final image will look like, using the right image he picked from his collection of books. Guided by this sketch, he proceeds to tear apart the print into thousands of pieces, which he captures piece by piece to rearrange later in post-process.
Fabian’s Explosion Collages is an impressive exploration of the physicality of photographs: a quality that remains a key component of traditional photography and its appeal. While he uses digital techniques to recompose an image into a new, thought-provoking artwork, it results in a powerful body of work that shows photography in all its forms.