Philadelphia-based photographer Steve Boyle has worked for high-profile editorial and advertising clients like ESPN The Magazine, Runner’s World, Gatorade and TBWA/Chiat/Day. Most of the images in his portfolio are portraits featuring athletes, and sports and fitness models. But recently Boyle has pushed himself to try something new. In December, PDN received Boyle’s striking new promo, featuring his series “Powder,” which depicts sports action in a unique way. We asked him to tell us a bit about the work:
PDN: What’s the idea behind the the “Powder” series, and where did it come from?
Steve Boyle: With this series, the goal was to create imagery with commercial appeal. I was inspired by a video produced by the New York Times a few years ago where female tennis players were hitting tennis balls covered in powder or water. I wanted to explore this theme, so first I shot a black-and-white silhouette of a tennis player hitting a ball covered in colored powder on a white background, with an explosion of colored powder simulating the moment of impact.
As my retoucher and I started going through the images, we realized that we liked the look when everything—both the athlete and the ball—were only powder silhouettes. Immediately I started working to build a close-up image of a hand tossing a tennis ball, just like a serve in tennis. That image did not make the final series but it refined our process so that when we took on different sports moments, we knew how to approach it.
PDN: So this is personal work. Are you hoping it gets attention from any particular clients/contacts?
SB: Yes, this is all personal work. The goal is to appeal to more commercial and advertising clients. My hope is that an agency or brand sees this style of imagery and is able to apply it to their needs.
PDN: This is quite a departure from your straight-forward portraits of athletes and fitness models. What’s next?
SB: I still love athlete and fitness portraits but this way of working is a welcomed departure. Typically I’m traveling, schlepping gear in and out of locations, and under tight time constraints. Working in the studio, on my own schedule and according to my own vision, has been great. I can control everything and be more thorough with my process.
I plan to continue to explore conceptual work, as well as product and studio work. I’m currently working on some footwear imagery that should be out soon once the series is complete.
PDN: How long did each shot take—lots of outtakes? Tons of post-processing?
SB: Our process evolved…originally the goal was to get as much in camera as possible and supplement with additional plates of puffs of powder. Then we realized we had more control and, therefore, produced better images when we created a composite shot of multiple images to create the scene. This was also a better approach because our process required a little tweaking when moving from one colored powder to another, since each color reacts differently to movement and to the surface that it covers.
To see more of Boyle’s work, please visit his website.