“Do weird and unexpected things,” firmly says art director, designer, and photographer Toros Köse. He’s based out of Brooklyn and works closely with TV and Hollywood studios for art design and animation when he’s not training his camera on abstract subjects. Toros doesn’t like complicating his photography process. He tells our readers to shoot to their hearts’ desire without overthinking or procrastinating.
Apart from the messes they may inevitably create, liquids can be fun to photograph. Even more so if it’s liquid splash photography, but that’s a topic for another day. The colors that materialize, vivid yet surreal patterns, no two of them tend to be the same. Then there’s the interpretation of these images. I’ve often seen that people can rarely agree on these, but I guess that’s part of the fun: to create something that gets viewers engaged and visually enraptured. Toros Köse isn’t a stranger to this in his professional craft. As an animator, you’ve probably noticed his work in Blade Runner 2049 (a visually stunning film even if you’re not a hardcore fan of the movie series). And when he trains his cameras on liquids, he’s still getting people to stop and analyze what they see.
The Essential Photo Gear Used By Toros Köse
Toros told us:
My setup is usually very simple/minimal. If I really have to, I use a tripod but usually I’m just handheld when I shoot outside street photography for example. I like to be flexible and try to capture nice light and moments.
The Phoblographer: Hi Toros. Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
Toros Köse: I’m a director and visual designer for commercials, films, and video games. I’m based in New York City but was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. I moved to New York in my early 20s and have been here for about a decade now and still love it.
Visual design and direction is my main job, and I’ve done work for films like TopGun: Maverick and Blade Runner 2049 and video game franchises like Halo and Destiny. However, photography has been a long side hobby of mine, going back to my early college days starting around 2008, and it’s been almost a constant creative outlet since then.
The Phoblographer: You’ve rubbed shoulders with some of the greats of Hollywood. What genres of photography do you find worth pursuing?
Toros Köse: I try to take cues from cinematography to a certain degree, but my influences are many I would say and range from Hollywood DoPs to street or nature photographers I follow. I do have a soft spot however for dramatic, and most importantly, natural light.
The Phoblographer: Lines, layers, and colors seem to form the core of your work. Do these concepts also seep into your photography?
Toros Köse: Definitely. I would say it’s all part of finding interesting compositions, whether that’s in a classical sense or in more unexpected ways.
The Phoblographer: What were some of your inspirations for the Liq Exp 01 project?
Toros Köse: I had experimented with macro photography of liquids before a few times, so part of my inspiration was simply my previous attempts, but also the work of other photographers and artists. One of the most inspiring things about liquids is that you never get the same result twice.
The Phoblographer: Liquid blobs they are, but tell us how you created them. Is it some kind of UV photography? Or maybe an inversion of a positive image into a negative?
Toros Köse: This time, I played a lot more with distinct containers for the liquids, like small circular containers, for instance. I also decided to really try to push the color grading this time, inspired by a past client project, and see what happened if I inverted certain colors or really increased the contrast of others. I use Lightroom, and the tools and settings are pretty straightforward but taking things to their extremes can create really surprising results.
“…don’t be afraid to try new things.”
The Phoblographer: Was there a lot of experimentation for this project? You’ve done something similar before too.
Toros Köse: There was some experimentation with various viscosities, yes. But I also found that many of the most beautiful results came from some of the simplest setups. Adding too many ingredients many times just creates a mess, so I found myself simplifying a lot.
The Phoblographer: What does this series represent? Is it an extension of something you’ve felt?
Toros Köse: I would say it’s pure experimentation and fun; I don’t think I was trying to express anything specific. That’s kind of a boring answer, but the beauty of liquid macro photography is reason enough for me to do it from time to time.
The Phoblographer: I can see seahorses, jellyfish, and more. have you titled the images based on what you see in them?
Toros Köse: Completely up for interpretation!
“Just do it, like the famous tagline.”
The Phoblographer: When switching from animation, where you’re likely in control of all elements that produce the final result, to something like photographing liquids where many factors are not in control, how does the lack of creative dominance feel?
Toros Köse: That’s part of what I love about photographing liquids; the results are always unexpected, for and bad. The lack of control can of course, be frustrating sometimes but is also refreshing. Overall it’s a very satisfying process when things go well; you give the liquids a certain direction using specific fluids, colors, and limitations and let it do its thing before taking back control in Lightroom to finish the work.
The Phoblographer: Creating ideas like this is necessary, but many photographers might struggle to find appreciation for similar abstract projects. What words of recommendation or encouragement can you share with readers who might feel the same?
Toros Köse: I know this is a cliché, but don’t be afraid to try new things. Do weird and unexpected things. Place objects in front of the lens, shoot through objects and see what happens.
More specifically regarding liquid photography, it’s simply a matter of doing it. You don’t need an idea or a specific reason to do it. Just do it, like the famous tagline. You just need a camera and a tripod that lets you turn the camera facing down so you can shoot the liquids on your table.
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