Tony Gale Finds Creative Outlet With Social Distancing Self Portraits

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The novel coronavirus pandemic has been a huge blow to the photography industry. With most photographers being homebound and in socially distanced self-isolation, the normally simple act of creating has evolved into a new and unique challenge. This presented a unique opportunity for self-discovery for portrait photographer Tony Gale. Based in New York City, Tony Gale shoots regularly for a variety of editorial, corporate, and advertising clients. He is also a Sony Artisan of Imagery, a Manfrotto Ambassador, an X-Rite Coloratti, and the National President for American Photographic Artists. Turning the lens towards himself allowed Tony to continue creating despite the restrictions brought on by the pandemic. His daily creative exercise would eventually turn into an entire series of Social Distancing Self Portraits. The lead image accompanying this article is Tony’s 56th self-portrait in the series. We spoke with Tony recently about his project and what went into creating this particular self-portrait.

The Concept

As a portrait photographer with NYC locked down, I wanted to keep making portraits so I didn’t get stale. So the day after my birthday in March, I decided to start doing a self-portrait every day. The challenge has been to make them all different. It looks like NYC will be in Phase two soon, so I will be moving on to photographing other people again soon! Some of the challenges of social distancing portrait photography will
be the space needed and while wearing a mask it can be harder to connect
with my subject. Starting out I will be mostly shooting outdoors to ease
into it. That way space won’t be an issue and there is plenty of

Gear Used

The Shoot

Every day has been challenging for this project. For this shoot, I kept the setup pretty simple and did a lot in post. I used the built-in Control With Smartphone feature along with Sony Imaging Edge Mobile on my Xperia 1 phone to control the camera. This allows me to change settings and to see what I am getting so I can make changes as I go. The one light was to camera left and quite close to me to keep it soft.

The challenge in making a self-portrait every day is making them
different. Because I was limited to using my apartment, I didn’t have
the option of using dramatically different locations to mix it up.
Obviously, I can use different rooms, but still, it is limiting. To me
that left lighting and post-production as the two easiest things to
vary. Because I wanted to try image corruption for this photo, I wanted
to keep the setup simple with a plain black background and a single
light. There was plenty of variability in the post-production
corruption. The small octa when close is a nice flattering light and
using a constant source makes it easy when composing to see what the
light will do.

Here are some samples of Tony’s other socially distanced self portraits:

Post Production

I almost always begin with Capture One 20. I looked at what I had, made my selection, and did basic processing there. For this image I did more post-production then normal, the idea I had in the beginning was to try and intentionally corrupt the image. I did some research but everything I tried corrupted it beyond being able to open the file at all. Eventually, I found a website called Photo Mosh that will apply random weirdness to photos so I experimented with that until I found a result I liked.

Before I found the Photo Mosh site, I first tried to alter the photo
code itself by opening the file in the notepad text editor. I had read
several things suggesting that as a good way to play around with image
corruption. You just randomly copy and paste code from one spot to
another. Based on what I had researched you want to limit how much code
you change to make sure it isn’t corrupted beyond being able to open.
When I tried it, however, no matter how much or how little I did, it was
always too corrupted to open in Photoshop.

Before and After


You can learn more about Tony Gale’s work at his website or over on his Instagram @tonygalephoto.