Ausra Babiedaite

Red Sindrom: There’s Still Life on Mars

Sindroms is a print magazine released biannually. Founded in Copenhagen with the idea to create a world in which colors bring new perspectives to everyday life, Sindroms was designed by a team of five young women with distinct backgrounds, but a similar mindset. They describe themselves as “a journal of monochrome states of mind,” curating content based on specific colors, and investigating them across culture while immersing readers in the feelings and moods evoked by each color.

Shooting the Red Sindrom edition, ‘There’s Still Life on Mars’ is a visual essay by photographer, Ausra Babiedaite, working together with creative director Miruna Sorescu. It is a world illustrated using only red hue, channeling the states of mind that the hue provokes. They use Scandinavian design objects and create an out-of-this-world, almost alien-like still life environment, transforming the ordinary, everyday objects into something extraordinary through color.

The entire series was shot using the XF 100MP Camera System. Phase One spoke with photographer, Ausra Babiedaite to get an insider’s perspective on this unique project.

A unique take on still life photography

“When shooting still-life, finding a unique object that inspires is crucial. Inspiration is one of the most important elements behind a successful editorial shoot, and the success of a creative still-life shoot relies heavily on the concept, story, styling, and objects. It is challenging to capture an ordinary scene or object -such as a vase, no matter how beautiful the design- and look at it in a different or unexpected way. So transforming the environment to reflect a monochromatic aesthetic was our way of seeing the objects in an entirely different way.

Scandinavian design has become synonymous with timeless style, and Denmark continues to produce world-renowned design classics to this day. Scandinavian timelessness is not static; in fact, it is constantly evolving. Design pieces produced by well-known brands such as Muuto, Hay, Normann Copenhagen and Skagerak represent Scandinavian design philosophy that’s characterized by functionality, simplicity, and clean lines (the timelessness) but always with a fresh twist that gives it a uniqueness.”

Behind the concept and inspiration

“For this particular series, red had to dominate. The shoot is based on minimalistic Scandinavian design objects, and we wanted to build an environment – something surreal – using deep vibrant red, and show these everyday objects in a new light using color.”

“Since the idea was to build some kind of environment for these beautiful design objects, we thought, why not look for actual landscapes of natural red in the world, and try to relate those still-life images to the real places on earth? We found red rocks and cliffs in Caerfai Bay beach, Wales; Laguna Colorada which is a salt lake in Bolivia that gets its red color from the pigmentation of algae; Hawaii’s red sand beaches; and the Red Beach in Panjin, China – famous for its red grass.”

“We built our story using these great visual references. We were inspired by these locations that exist on this planet, yet looked alien-like with their deep red tones, vibrant colored sand, rocks, and unique minimalistic shapes of the objects. It made us feel like we were on a different planet after all.”

Photographer’s perspective: Shooting the red still-life landscape

“Once we had the concept worked out, my priority for this shoot was image quality. I wanted to have the highest possible quality since I knew I would be shooting for a print magazine, and that the series would be printed in large format posters. I used the Phase One XF 100MP as it offers incredible quality in terms of color, dynamic range, and tonality -crucial since this series is monochromatic.”

The red color complements the image in a monotone color scheme, but I could no longer rely on color as a composition tool. It meant I had to think carefully about my lighting choices and explore other ways to create contrast, add enough separation between important elements in the frame and add depth to these vibrant red images.

The 16-bit color depth and extensive dynamic range of the camera help in this regard as well; it allows smooth and natural tonal gradations. Fine details like the texture of the sand or rocks are shown very clearly and are perfectly differentiated which gives a crisp, sharp look to the images.”

Creative still life tools

“I shot tethered using Capture One which I find extremely helpful for shooting creative still-life. It meant I could check focus and composition instantly on my screen. I had complete control over the situation. I like to go into details a lot; and sometimes I end up moving objects by millimeters… And it’s totally fine if that’s what it takes to get that perfect shot!

The best thing about shooting this level of resolution is that I feel I can re-discover my images by cropping. I get so much freedom for composition, framing, and zooming into details. 101-megapixels gives the luxury to crop images and keep the quality at its highest.”

Challenges of the still life genre

“One of the most interesting and challenging aspects of this genre is the ability to transform ordinary into extraordinary. Suddenly we can look at the everyday objects in a completely unexpected way, in a way that we have never seen it before. The beauty of conceptual editorial shoots is that the photographer has creative freedom. It’s more about highlighting the story and concept than emphasizing product itself.”

“Some of the objects that we used on set are not red in real life; for example, the vases and the teapot are brown, and the background wall is grey.”

“Experimenting with different colored gel lights (in this case red gel) can create truly fascinating effects. And I believe that for this particular series experimenting with red gel light was the aspect that made this editorial a bit more special.”

The next edition of Sindrom, the ‘Yellow’ issue, will be published in May 2018. Visit the webpage here to learn more.