The Genius of RORSHAK

The original 'Deep Cuts' photograph/work from RORSHAK

Prepare to have your minds blown.

Like the album itself, the cover artwork of 'Deep Cuts' was an extensive labor of love. No point-and-shoot, fake-candid, lens-flare drivel here. This was an undertaking. 

A 5 year-old idea was met with meticulous logistical planning, months of discussion, a bit of material experimentation, and years of honing a particular set of skills.

RORSHAK is a visionary.

This is how he did it.

I invited my dear friend of many, many years to a beer. We share beers a lot. Guys nights are aplenty, and an excellent interruption to all of our weeks of creative bliss [sic]. But Ror knows that when I invite him to a one-on-one session with beer, that something's going down. I'm gonna need him liquored up. 

"I wanna stand in a pool of my own blood."

I said. 

"Not just that, but I want the whole room to be full of blood."

I stated.

"I want it running down the halls. I want there to be so much blood that it's completely unbelievable."

I dreamed.

Then Ror did what Ror does.

Without response, he closes his eyes as if wandering to another far-off place. He cares not for the social mores. He's thinking. This requires all attention.

He checks in with his brain, his years of photography expertise, his equipment list, his history with locations, his knowledge base. And then, as if he'd had a pitch prepared for this very meeting, he begins to list the options we have. Without pausing for breath, without "ummmms..." or wavering, he runs down the plethora that we can afford right next to the myriad that would take a large army and a bottomless pit of gold doubloon. There's a fire behind his soliloquy, a purpose behind his prose, he is not listing off the number of options he has pre-prepared on a card menu in his file folder, he has literally already built the set, gathered the materials, hired the personnel, and is merely describing all of their many iterations to me as if orating a blueprint.

This is why I call Ror.

Maybe we're too old school. Too idealistic. Too retro. But to us, ever since childhood, art has been a holy pursuit. One to be taken with gravitas, with the utmost seriousness. It is not enough to dream. It must be done, and we have to figure out how to do it so convincingly that you would assume we created it out of thin air.

In a sense, we have.

We toyed with full-scale, but locations would have been tough for the proper perspective, the expense massive, and we'd only really have one shot at it. Plus, we'd never be able to do it as cool as Garth already did it. 

We thought about building a room, using foam core and a forced perspective. Of course, we could always Photoshop the crap out of it, but that seemed a bit simple, and it'd be a dead giveaway. No, we needed to make it as "real" as we possibly could.

I had an ace up my sleeve.

For many years RORSHAK has been toying with, crafting, and perfecting a method that no one in their right mind would already be doing. The reason being: It's a lot of damn work. We're kindred spirits in that way. The work doesn't scare us off. The excitement of creation is, at some point, its own reward.

In order to dream big, you have to think small. How every little step will lead you to the next. If you put your head down and do the work, eventually you'll realize that you're a long way from where you started. Hiking is like this. Life is like this.

But when Ror thinks small, he's really thinking BIG. But we'll get to that...

First, we had to figure out the blood.

Wanna put my tender, heart in a...

Wanna put my tender, heart in a...

Thanks to some Googling, I found quite a few viable fake blood options that we could make in mass, if need be. I wanted it to be a) Non-Toxic (in case I ended up ingesting any of this stuff since there was no telling how far we'd go) and b) Non-staining (depending on the scale, we had to be wary of what we might leave behind)

So I cobbled together the best options I could find, after some experimentation at home I narrowed it down to 2 and when I went home to see my family for Thanksgiving, we went to work.

All said and done, I ended up in my parent's backyard in my boxers covered in Caro syrup.

Are you not entertained?!?

Are you not entertained?!?

We tried dripping, squeezing, patting, painting, smooshing, pouring, etc. At some point my Dad added xanthum gum to our mixture (physicists...), Mom was there with her nursing background to give us some consistency and coloring feedback, and we were off like a rocket. In the end, we wound up with something that was not only feasible, but also relatively inexpensive (read: scaleable). But most of all, it was REALLY REALISTIC.

With the shower had, and the blood managed, it was time to get into the nitty gritty.

Where are we gonna shoot this thing?!?

I have, since the third grade, sung in church choir. It's where I honed my chops, it's where I got in trouble for talking a lot, and it's where I found the most joy on Sunday mornings. It took me some time to get my footing in Nashville, but I found myself singing in a bang-up traditional choral choir at Downtown Presbyterian Church. My wife and I would eventually get married in this church. It has a special place in our hearts.

Sanctuary at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Egyptian Revival Style

Sanctuary at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Egyptian Revival Style

 

DPC has been standing where it has stood for a very long time. It's the reason Church Street in Nashville is called Church Street. It moonlighted as a hospital for soldiers in the civil war. President Andrew Jackson was inaugurated on its steps. It's seen some things. DPC also has a good number of artist studios in its old Sunday School rooms on the 3rd and 4th floor of the building. Artists can, for a very reasonable price, rent space to do their work. It's quite the patronage. I love the model. I love the history of the space. And it is precisely BECAUSE I love the space that I knew we couldn't use it to scale. I wasn't about to indulge in some act of vandalism (by way of barrels of fake blood) in a beloved historic building. They'd never go for it. I'd never even dream of doing something to compromise what it is. But we could re-create that space. This is where Ror does his magic.

The Method is the Thing

RORSHAK has, for a good amount of time now, been diligent in a long-form method of photography he calls his 'Paper Dolls' series. He creates dioramic scenes and then places paper dolls of his actual models into the dioramas. It's a trick. Some might call it a gag, but that's what makes it so good. You know what's happening, but its whimsy gives way to the artistry when you realize: "Oh, he had to build all of that." The absurd shoulders up against the seemingly real in a way that delights the senses.

Only for this shoot, we needed to get as realistic as possible, and as small as was feasible.

I could tell you more, but it's best to just show you

So he went to some rooms like this:

Oooooohhhh the patina!

Oooooohhhh the patina!

And then took some pictures of me in them.

Then he took the lighting cues from those photos, and we went into the studio. He recreated the natural lighting from the room, and we shot pictures of me in the studio like this:

Then it was blood time.

Now with more color!

Now with more color!

Clean up was kind of a mess...

Clean up was kind of a mess...

Now to build the room

I'll show you 'tiny-house'...

I'll show you 'tiny-house'...

And a quick recreation of the oft overlooked 12th sequel, "Honey I shrunk the artist"

Lookin' sharp...

Lookin' sharp...

Does this stance make me look fat?!?

Does this stance make me look fat?!?

Wait... we need more blood.

Much better...

Much better...

Now to smash it all together and light that thing, son!

It's a thing of beauty...

It's a thing of beauty...

And because we love you here at Kenny Foster Inc.

Some BTS video of the whole darn set:

And there you have it

A dream fulfilled. I finally got to see myself bloodied and unphased. An outward expression of my inner journey to bring Deep Cuts to life. Thanks for joining.