Khalil Rabah

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Khalil Rabah

Work from his oeuvre.

“Khalil Rabah’s Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind (2003–ongoing) is an elusive national museum that was established, in the words of its newsletter, “to inspire wonder, encourage discovery, and promote knowledge.” With departments spanning fields such as botany, geology, and paleontology, the Museum through its newsletter assumes a cheerful naturalism as it describes botanical research encountering territorial obstacles in the field, or considers the legal rights of trees and other natural objects. As a playful reading of the political reality of Palestine that also implicates the blissfully remote framing mechanisms of the natural history museum, we encounter a complex geological and geopolitical wink when its Earth and Solar System Department announces its fascination with how our world is “constantly being remolded by powerful forces beyond our control.”

For his exhibition at e-flux, Rabah presents the Summer 2011 issue of the Museum’s newsletter, which takes on three new forms: a printed copy of the twenty-four-page document stacked on the exhibition floor for visitors to take; a glaring red neon sign of the cover’s headline, In this issue: Statement concerning the institutional history of the museum, installed nearby as a stand-in exhibition title; and a new series of paintings based on pages of the Museum’s most recent newsletter, suspended in sliding archival racks. Here Rabah explores ways of both spatializing and personifying the Museum and the ideas it represents at an important moment of institutional reflection. Staging the display of these highly abstracted physical forms in a schematic representation of an art institution’s gallery and storage space, Rabah enacts a warped, cyclical process of materialization and dematerialization, ultimately implying the impossibility of an idea becoming form in the first place.

In a gallery adjacent to this storage space pages 7, 8, and 9 of the twenty-four page Summer 2011 newsletter have been extracted from the Museum archives to become a series of paintings, giving them and their content prominence over the remaining twenty-one pages. The three pages on display report on the Botanical Section’s recent international conference in Palestine, Conservation in the 21st Century: A New Geo-Political Science, which feature a debate on the intertwined destinies of architecture, education, and politics; and the Education Section’s news of victory in the Swiss Federal Supreme Court for five olive trees that had been refused recognition and citizenship by both the United Nations and the Canton of Geneva. In discussing contemporary issues of exile, naturalization, and the rights of stateless beings, the paintings paradoxically articulate the Museum’s own resolutions on these topics. In order to ask what the form of a territory or subject of study must be, the Museum inverts the question: What is it not?

Khalil Rabah was born in 1961 in Jerusalem and studied architecture and fine arts at the University of Texas. Rabah is a co-founder of Al Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem in 1998 and of the Riwaq Biennial in 2005, and is also the founder of The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind. He is also a member since 2010 of the curriculum committee of Home Workspace Program, a pioneering educational initiative in Lebanon launched by Ashkal Alwan. Rabah has participated in several biennials including the Istanbul (2005), Liverpool (2008), Venice (2009) and Sharjah (2010) biennials; as well as group exhibitions, most recently at the Queens Museum of Art, Brooklyn (2009); Mathaf Museum of Modern Art, Doha (2011); Arnolfini, Bristol (2011–12); Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) Marseille (2012); and the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012). His solo exhibitions include Review, Beirut Art Center (2012), The Third Annual Wall Zone Sale, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, Ramallah (2004); 50,320 Names, Brunei Gallery, London (2007); United States of Palestine Airlines, Home Works, Beirut (2007); and Art Exhibition, Ready Made Representations, Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg (2012).” - e-flux

Martina Klein


Martina Klein

Work from her oeuvre (and in part from her current exhibition at Galerie Tschudi.

“Martina Klein, born in 1962 in Trier (DE), makes large monochrome canvases, which are most of the time not hanging on the wall in an usual way, but stand against the wall or stand free in space, like an object. According to Klein the composition is not made in the painting it self but occurs in the space, within the relation of other paintings. The various monochromes make a choreography of color planes which defines the space and gives it character.

Klein builts up her painting with several layers of self made recepies of paint. Adding more pigments to the oil, give the painting a radiant effect. Her specific use of colors and the way of painting gives her work an extra quality. Recently she cuts the canvases loose of the stretchers, so that they hang partly free from their support.” – Slewe Gallery

Justin Hodges


Justin Hodges

Work from Under Construction.

“The still life has an expansive history in artistic practice, generally conjuring images of tabletops filled with flowers and wine glasses. Less obvious, though, is its ubiquitous existence as advertising, spanning the gap from print to screen.

Simply, Under Construction is a body of work, which questions the way meaning is constructed, and the schemes that are employed to make a thing meaningful. Some, images are filled with tools, which provide a litmus test for a priori understanding. Fundamentally, a speed square makes any attempt to deconstruct the squareness of a right angel difficult. Others serve to question the effectiveness of the photograph as agent of validation.

In addition, Under Construction works to recontextualize the tropes of advertising, stock, and product photography through playful reorientations andpeculiar assemblages. As such, Under Construction investigates the ways in which images are used to construct meaning, and the manner in which changing contexts alter it.” – Justin Hodges

Ger van Elk

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Ger van Elk

Work from his oeuvre.


“”No one is more adept at calling attention to the way art calls attention to itself,” Susan Tallman wrote of van Elk in A.i.A. in 2009.

The advent of Fluxus and Happenings made Amsterdam a breeding ground of avant-garde activity during this time. Van Elk was associated with the influential Amsterdam gallery Art & Project, founded in 1968, alongside contemporaries like Gilbert & George, Jan Dibbets, Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner and Allen Ruppersberg. Even so, the artist spent many of his most prolific years in New York and Los Angeles, where he was good friends with fellow Dutch expatriate artist Bas Jan Ader.

Recently, van Elk’s oeuvre has gained renewed interest. Art & Project alums were featured in the exhibition “In & Out of Amsterdam: Travels in Conceptual Art 1960-1976″ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2009). “When Attitudes Become Form” was revived at the Fondazione Prada by Germano Celant during the 2013 Venice Biennale.

Van Elk’s practice defied singular classification. Throughout his career, the artist employed an interdisciplinary approach, working in mediums ranging from sculpture and installation to video and photography.

In an obituary posted on Kunstverein München’s website, director Bart van der Heide explained van Elk’s conviction that “truth and reality do not exist and that every depiction of this is inherently unreliable. As a rule of thumb—the more realistic an image appears, the greater the lie.”

The Kunstverein is currently hosting van Elk’s first solo exhibition in Germany since 1988 (through Aug. 31) and features recent as well as older works from the artist’s private collection.” – Julia Wolkoff, Art in America

Pierre Huyghe

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Pierre Huyghe

Work from his recent exhibition at Museum Ludwig.

“In The Host and the Cloud, a live ex­per­i­ment was car­ried out over the course of one year in an aban­doned ethno­graph­ic Mu­se­um in Paris. A group of peo­ple were ex­posed to live si­t­u­a­tions that ap­peared ac­ci­den­tal­ly in the en­tire build­ing. The Host and the Cloud is a ri­t­u­al of se­pa­ra­tion in which the in­flu­ences of a cul­ture were ex­or­cized, brought to contin­gen­cy, by a self-gen­er­at­ing op­er­a­tion. Some wit­ness­es in­vit­ed to en­ter the build­ing were left alone within the un­fold­ing ex­per­i­ment. In par­al­lel the event was filmed.

Dur­ing dOC­U­MEN­TA(13), Pierre Huyghe cre­at­ed Un­tilled, a com­post site within a baroque gar­den, a non hi­erarchi­cal as­so­ci­a­tion that in­clud­ed a sculp­ture of a re­clin­ing nude with a head ob­s­cured by a swarm­ing bee­hive, aphro­disi­ac and psy­chotrop­ic plants, a dog with a pink leg, an up­root­ed oak tree from Joseph Beuys’ 7,000 Oaks among other el­e­ments. This grow­ing sys­tem re­mained in­d­if­fer­ent to the pres­ence of the view­ers that en­coun­tered the site.

Both the dog, Hu­man, and the sculptue with the bee­hive-head are part of the ex­hi­bi­tion in Cologne.

For the first venue of this ret­ro­spec­tive—the Cen­tre Ge­orges Pompi­dou—the ex­hi­bi­tion root­ed it­self within the re­mains of the pre­vi­ous show, ded­i­cat­ed to Mike Kel­ley. Pierre Huyghe used the ex­ist­ing walls, dis­placed and cut them in or­der to place his works. For the se­cond pre­sen­ta­tion or “oc­currence” at the Lud­wig Mu­se­um, the works at­tached to their walls have been cut out of their pre­vi­ous en­vi­ron­ment and dis­placed to the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, en­ter­ing in con­tra­dic­tion with a dif­fer­ent ex­hi­bi­tion con­text and con­di­tion. For the artist, the ex­hi­bi­tion unites a dy­nam­ic sys­tem of works vary­ing in in­ten­si­ty, from which should emerge the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an event…” – Museum Ludwig

via Contemporary Art Daily.

Future Retrieval


Future Retrieval

Work from Image of Order.

“”Image of Order” was made by Future Retrieval, in collaboration with Chris Vorhees. “Image of Order” is inspired in equal parts by 2001: A Space Odyssey, James Turrell, and the English Neo-classical rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The idea was to build a period room on wheels that referenced the monolith – a large black box that opens into another world, somewhere in an alternate future. The final object is a period room without a period, the interior suggesting a time and a place that is both alien and familiar. French landscape wallpaper is re-imaged through hand cut paper, adding time and labor to a room that seems untouched and almost stark. Two moons are added into the landscape, along with the visionary architecture of Boulle. Playing off of iconic interiors grounds the piece, while the lit base and niches seem to push out into space. The interior walls have a subtle curve, obscuring the familiar.

The interior niches contain porcelain statues of Michelangelo’s David, in a transformative state. Similar to typical Neo-classical interiors, the sculptures both set and distort the scale of the room. The exterior of the monolith is covered in black mirrored formica, allowing the viewer to see themselves in it’s reflection, a small substitute for not being able to go inside…” – Future Retrieval

Hito Steyerl

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Hito Steyerl

Work from “How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational Installation” at Andrew Kreps, New York.

“The Andrew Kreps Gallery is pleased to present How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational Installation, an exhibition by Berlin-based artist Hito Steyerl.  The exhibition features two videos as well as sculptural-photographic objects, and is her second with the gallery.


Hito Steyerl is among the most adroit observers of our thoroughly globalized, digitized condition. Her practice describes with uncommon precision the fluidity and mutability of images—how they are produced, interpreted, translated, packaged, transported, and consumed by a multitude of users.


Her video, How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File, begins with a sweeping shot of photo calibration targets in the California desert utilized by the military and acts as an instructional film on how to avoid being seen in an age of digital surveillance. The proposals for this include becoming smaller than the pixels of high-resolution satellite surveillance (1 foot) or vanishing in virtual shopping malls using green-screen effects, living in a gated community, or even being a female over 50.


In her own words:  “This condition opens up within and by means of an avalanche of digital images, which multiply and proliferate while real people disappear or are fixed, scanned and over-represented by an overbearing architecture of surveillance. How do people disappear in an age of total over-visibility? Which huge institutional and legal effort has to be made to keep things unspoken and unspeakable even if they are pretty obviously sitting right in front of everyone’s eyes? Are people hidden by too many images? Do they go hide amongst other images? Do they become images?”


In another video entitled Strike (2010) she tests the idea to literal breaking point, smashing a blank LCD screen to create a jagged abstract pattern. The screen is destroyed “on-screen”, and the “physical” viewing apparatus becomes palpably present. The film powerfully reminds us that images also have a physical existence; the limitations of its production, replication and dispersal can fundamentally alter its impact.


In addition, the artist explores a system of physical circulation between the viewer and her art works through a series of precise architectural inventions in the space, with a collaboration with the architects at Studio Markus Miessen,Hito Steyerl is a filmmaker, video artist and writer. Currently, the Van Abbe Museum in the Netherlands is hosting her first large-scale mid-career survey show, and in the last year she has had solo exhibitions at both the Art Institute Chicago and the ICA, London. Her work has been included in the 2013 Venice and Istanbul biennales, the 2010 Gwangju and Taipeh biennales, the 2008 Shanghai Biennale, Documenta12 in Kassel in 2007 and Manifesta 5 in 2004.  She is a professor of Art and Multimedia at the University of Arts in Berlin.” – Andrew Kreps, New York.

Alex M. Lee

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Alex M. Lee

Work from his oeuvre

“My work is an investigation on the possibilities of digital imagery in an increasingly technical and automated world. Originally born out of pictures theory, my practice focuses on the nature of artifice and immateriality within the digital & virtual image. I consider the virtual in relationship to the phrase “technical image” coined by philosopher Vilem Flusser in which photography and mechanical reproduction heralded new forms of perceptual experience and knowledge. We are living in an age of the ‘elite technical image’ where increasingly complex technical apparatuses are being utilized for the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge. The material products of these technical apparatuses often find their way into my work, whether they be from sources from Science or from Modernism.

There is an additional phenomenological layer to my time-based works. The work utilizes the loop, slow pacing, and the relatively still to great effect. The temporal disjunction from the natural and the endless repetition allude to an abstraction of time and perception. I view these works as ‘moving pictures’ rather than animations per se. The works connection to light is derived with algorithms within the computer. Thus, the images indexical connection to light is purely artificial. My work is thereby ‘generatively indexical’, utilizing the tools and devices found in physics simulation in order to arrive at a new formal possibility. Often times the work alludes to notions of the sublime or surreal within the context of the virtual – playing off hyperrealism, an aspect to the “simulacra” as coined by Jean Baudrillard.”

Richard Maxwell

Richard Maxwell

Work with the New York Players.

I saw an early version of “Isolde” last summer, and I wanted to ask what the genesis was for your show: Were you inspired by reading Goethe? Or Wagner’s opera? Or just by yourself?

Just myself. And then I had a dream where a word presented itself: “Isolde.” I had already written about a couple hiring an architect to realize a dream house, and so the love triangle component was there—maybe I knew the story before that? But not that I recall. Then I looked up the story on Wikipedia and made myself available to elements of the Tristan and Isolde tale.

Have you ever directed an opera on the scale of Wagner’s “Tristan”?

I have no experience in the opera industry. Are they hiring?

Tell me something about your Isolde, and working with your wife, Tory. Is it hard to watch someone you love fall in love, even if it’s fictive?

Isolde is a famous actress who is losing the ability to remember her lines and pieces of her past. I think about Gena Rowlands in “Opening Night.” I think about Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” I think about Ibsen’s “Nora.” I cast against type with Tory. Tory has an innocent, awkward allure that feels pretty raw onstage. Combine that with the diva-like Isolde and it’s a potent mix, and interesting from a power point of view. Top-knot and heels will change a girl. And I’m fine with any fictive lovemaking between her and Gary. I went to high school with Gary. [Gary Wilmes, the actor who plays the architect.] I know that shouldn’t necessarily be comforting.

You come from a theatrical family. Does it just make sense to you that you would be interested in someone who shared your interest in theatre?

I suppose, but when I think about my family in regards to “Isolde,” it isn’t show business associations that come to mind. Maybe because I feel like I’ve spent my whole life inside a theatre.

You can see where these questions are going: I want to get your opinion about love.

I didn’t see it coming! I started this play to talk about realizing perfection, or a curated perfection, actually. Maybe thinking about desire, but not thinking about love. Maybe I can blame the old Celtic tale for bringing me back to love. But I write and write and keep writing, I also do a lot of cutting, like everybody else. But it seems as you whittle and scratch at the thing you’re trying to shape right, it’s always love that remains, in some form.

Tell me something about the script. How long did you work on it?

It’s something I shelved back in 2009, after a couple months of hammering away. It was painfully normal, I remember feeling that. Then the opportunity came to do a show at Theater Basel [September, 2013] and I thought of this play sitting on a shelf and found that maybe normal isn’t such bad thing. Anyway, the basic parts seemed serviceable and the writing seemed to come. Having a deadline helped, but maybe I wasn’t ready five years ago either.

How did the actors respond to the script?

I think they thought is was funny. But responses from these guys are guarded. And I don’t really solicit comments.

You often make a text as plain and poetical as possible. How do you reduce so many big ideas in your work? In rehearsal or purely through rewriting?

I try to listen to the room as much as possible. In writer terms, I know that can mean what other people think about the writing, but I mean how words are just like sounds and how they bounce around in the air. I also really care that things make sense, from a character point of view. Which doesn’t mean I’m always justifying the words psychologically. I like the tonal differences in how people communicate.

How do you cast? Based on looks or general feeling?

Yeah… I try to work with people who are genuinely curious and have the ability to forego what they know.

Can you talk about what’s coming up next?

My next show is called “Custodian of a Man,” and will premiere at the Walker Arts Center, in January of 2015, then The Kitchen/P.S. 122 will show it, in March. With “Custodian of a Man,“ I’ll enter into the darkness of the underworld in order to continue my exploration of myth and minimalism, drawing on the epics of Dante’s “Inferno” and Milton’s “Paradise Lost” to tell a contemporary American story chronicling the moral decline of a man.

The story, basically, is about a guy named Azzi. a convalescing martial artist, having been injured in a brutal match. He’s cared for by a thirteen year-old girl, trying to get his career back on track. Azzi instead gets himself involved in a series of terrible incidents with bad people. The girl remains his witness.” – Richard Maxwell & Hilton Als, The New Yorker

Claus Rasmussen

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Claus Rasmussen


I’ve found over the years that a good place to work is 240 to 245 will give us good white with detail. Anything above 245 is going to start to burn out. On the shadow side, 20 to 25 is a good point of black with detail. Below 20, we’re going to start to block up when we go to the printed page. When we’re working with digital capture, think of it as like transparency film. We cannot overexpose it. It’s very hard to bring back detail that has been overexposed. A good rule of thumb is expose for the highlights and process for the shadows, meaning we can always go into Photoshop and adjust the curves and so forth to create better shadow detail, but we cannot bring back highlight detail once it’s gone too far.
This is the digital interface for the DCB2. It is similar to other cameras. They all have a detail window to show you what you’re looking at close up, an overview window, some type of way to adjust the tonal curve, put in resolution and DPI.
When I’m looking at this, when I’m photographing, what I’m most concerned is where my highlight values are. I want to make sure that I do not overexpose these highlights. Placing these highlights at about 240 to 245 will assure me that I’ve got the proper exposure and I can actually open up the rest of the area in toning.
I’m using this example because it’s a very contrast-y shot. We have a white shoe on a white background, and we have a very black, dark sole. Now, you could go in lighting and put in mirrors and spotlights and open this area up, but I’m looking for a very natural falloff. I have a soft box overhead lighting up the background and one soft box over to the side lighting from the left side, and then I also have a fill card on the right side.
The thing that I’m most concerned about when looking at this interface is going to be my curves window, where actually I’m looking at the actual histogram of the image with the curves applied on top of it.
As I’m looking at this, I’m applying a curve that’s going to give me a very good general exposure, and then I’m saving that file. Then, without even changing my exposure, I’m just going to make some adjustments to this curve and I’m going to widen the curve and open the values up, so I have a very much overexposed image, where my black area of the shoe has now been properly exposed but my white areas are totally blown out. I’m not concerned with how blown out these are because I’m only looking to work with the dark areas. We’re going to use luminosity masking to bring these images together.
Moving ahead, I’ve opened up both images into Photoshop, where we can see them both on the screen at the same time. The normally exposed image, we have very good detail in the highlight area, but the shadow area is blocked up. In the second exposure, we have blown-out highlight detail, but we have very, very good exposure down here in the shadow area, where the bottom of the shoe is, is what I’m most concerned with this photograph.
Before I start, I want to make a quick check here to my Quick Mask mode. I’m going to actually double-click on the Quick Mask mode to bring up my Quick Mask options, to make sure that my color indicates the selected area. This is the opposite of the way the default is set up. In real life, in working in the darkroom, the masked area is the colored area, but in this particular case, I find it much easier to see the color as the selected area. Also, the color needs to be opacity 100 percent. That way, we can truly see how dense the selection really is when we’re visually looking at it.
I’m going to say OK to get out of the Quick Mask mode before I hit this technique. I first learned this from Katrin Eismann, and she calls this technique “the claw” for its very odd keyboard shortcut — command-option-tilde. We’re going to first start by going command-zero, control-zero on the PC, to bring me up to full size. I’m going to now apply my claw, which is command-option-tilde.
Now, obviously, the selection is there, but we can’t really see what it’s doing. I’m going to click into the Quick Mask icon to literally see that this area right here, all this white area, has now been grabbed by this selection, and basically, the clear area of this shoe is not being grabbed. That’s not exactly what we want. We want it to be the exact opposite of that.
I’m going to get out of the Quick Mask mode by hitting the Q key again, and I’m going to use the keyboard command to inverse the selection, command-shift-I. That’d be control-shift-I on the PC. Hit my Q key again. Now this is what I’m trying to look at. I’m trying to grab a mask that is grabbing all the dark area of the shot and leaving the white area alone. Think of it as the darker the pixel, the more it’s being grabbed, and the brighter the pixel, the less it’s being grabbed.
Now, we need to make another change here. This is fine to get started, but we need to actually look at this. We can adjust exactly how much of that area is being grabbed by going into levels, and you can see, as I adjust my levels, you can literally see it change. I can actually grab more or less of the black area. I’m going to move this out of the way. You can actually see it changing. The red area is indicating the area that the selection has grabbed. If I wanted to grab just the very, very lowest areas of the shot, I could do that, or I could grab more. In this case, if I wanted to grab the denser, I could move the shadow side up. I’m really looking to try to grab almost all the area but leaving all the white area behind.
I’m going to hit OK. Once I’ve hit that selection, I can hit my Q key again, take me out of the Quick Mask mode, and I’m going to go ahead and do a command-minus, control-minus on a PC, bring me down, so I can see both images at the same time. The key thing at this point is now, holding the shift key down, I’m also in the move tool. I’ve hit the V key to bring me into the move tool, right here. I’m going to go ahead and hold the shift key down, and I’m going to drag this area into the other shot and it’s going to perfectly register this new area on top of the shoe.
Now that I’ve dragged that brighter selection over here, let’s go ahead and go to my layers palette so that we can see that we have a new layer in our layers palette. Let me go ahead and make this full screen, command-zero, and let’s take a look at what we really have.
If I turn off my background layer, what we really have here is just the black part of the shoe. If we go in closer, we can see that we’ve really left all the white part behind. We did not have to go in and cut all the path out, or even when painting the images together, we did not have to be very careful about where we paint from because we’ve left all the white area behind.
Let’s take a look at that. Now, we can still use our layer masking and opacity to really control it even farther.
While we’re on this layer here, I can control the layer opacity by bringing it down, starting at zero. You can see how we’re basically — I’m going to go ahead and use my keyboard commands for this. I’ll just type in 20 percent. You can see it actually getting — I’m going to zoom in a little on that again. 20 percent. 30 percent. 50 percent. 80 percent. 100 percent. We’re actually brightening up that area, much, much, much more detailed area than what we had before.
Taking it back to full size, I need to add a layer mask by clicking on the new-mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. By clicking on that mask, I will apply it to that layer. Now I can go ahead and pick black to hide, and I’ll go ahead and grab a good-size brush, and I’ll adjust that just a little bit with my bracket key.
As I paint with black, I want to put 50 percent. I can literally erase it where I don’t want it. If I have a little bit too much in this area, I can start bringing it back. I didn’t want to fill in too much of the shadow area in here. If I have a hard time seeing where that is, I can actually click the background layer off and say, “You know what? I really didn’t want to bring any of that area in, and I didn’t want to bring any of this area over here, and I didn’t really want to brighten up the shoe, but I did want to brighten up the bottom.” I’m going to hit my X key to revert that back with the other colors, bring back my white.
The nice thing about it is it’s totally editable. I’m now just nice, giving it a couple of strokes. I’m bringing it back in a few areas where I might’ve taken it off a little bit too much, bringing back my background exposure.
Now I want to turn that on and off once or twice. It looks like it’s a little bit of a problem down here at the bottom, so I’m going to go in close here by zooming in. I think it looks like I need to go ahead and take out a little bit of this down here, so I’m going to go to a much smaller brush and grab about a 100-pixel brush. I’m painting with black, so I’m going to go back to my black color and I want to just take out a little bit of this down in here, because obviously, what I did is I brought in a little too much of the shadow area, which is really not part of that shoe. This is going to make it look a little more natural.
You still need to use your layer masking. By applying the mask first, it isolates the black area away from the mid-tones and the highlights, and it makes it much easier to cut together.
Let’s go ahead and take this down to full size, command-zero. What happens if we didn’t have the ability to take a second shot but we still have this same kind of problem?
Let me go ahead and throw that layer away. Let’s say for a second we only have the one shot and we still have to correct that. I find that it’s easier to correct it with properly exposed pixels than to fix the pixels, but sometimes we don’t have that second shot. If we only had the one shot, this is the one-shot workaround.
Let’s go ahead and apply that same mask again. This time, I’m going to use a different way to apply it. Let me go to the channels palette. Where you see the RGB, I’m going to hold down my command key and click in this channel, and that’s going to apply that same mask again. If I look at that mask, I hit my Q to bring me into Quick Mask mode. I can see the mask. Obviously, it’s grabbing all the white area. I’m going to hit the Q again to get me out of that. Command-shift-I inverses the selection so I can look at that.
OK, well that’s very nice. We need to go ahead and apply some levels to this. Command-L for levels. I’m going to go ahead. I want it to grab a lot less of that area so I’m going to go ahead and move the levels until it looks like I’m grabbing just more of the bottom of the shoe there.
That’s getting closer to what I want to do right there. And say, “OK.”
Now I’m going to need to go ahead and edit that a little bit. While I’m in the quick mask mode, I’m going to go ahead and just paint the areas I really don’t want to be affected as I paint with white.
I’m going to go ahead and move it right up to 100 percent by hitting zero. I’m just going ahead and I’m just painting in all the areas that I don’t really want. I’m going to go ahead and make my brush bigger by using the bracket keys and I just basically don’t really want to affect this area down here. I just really want to affect the sole of the shoe.
As I get closer to the sole of the shoe I want there to be a little more feathers. I want to put it down to 30 percent so that as I stroke it, it’s not going to leave a harsh edge of the brush. It will be a little more gradual in this area.
I’m going to get out of the quick mask mode by hitting the Q key. I can see my selection again.
What I’m going to do now, I’m going to go back to my layers palette. I’m going to make sure I’m in my…Obviously, I have one layer. I’m going to use the keyboard command Command-J. That’s going to take whatever’s a selection and make that into its own layer.
If we take a look at this, I’ll turn off the background layer. As we look at this layer, we can see that all the other part of the layer has been dropped away. But obviously, just having it on isn’t going to do anything. We need to change the layer mode.
What we’re going to do is we’re going to change that to screen mode. I’m going to blow this up a little bigger and I’m going to change this from normal to screen. This is really going to brighten up that shoe. Now I can actually go in here and play with my levels.
Command-L. I’m going to go ahead and brighten up that area by bringing it in. I’m also going to add more contrast by bringing the blacks in. Now, all of a sudden, I’ve got a lot more information here.
Let me go ahead and hit “OK,” and we’ll turn that layer on and off once. We can see what exactly that’s doing. You can see how that’s brightening it up by being in screen mode.

Again, I would have to add a layer masked to that by clicking the “New Mask” icon and then paint with black, obviously, down here where the shadow is. It’s a little bit of a line showing there so I’m going to put it on 50 percent. I’m actually painting in the mask where that shadow is so that we don’t get rid of that line.
If it’s not enough, let’s drag it into the new layer icon and we can duplicate that, make it twice as bright. The difference here is we were shooting here originally. I want to hold my Option key down and click the eyeball. You can turn the layers off. You can see how we were having very good detail in the highlights but our shadow areas are very dark.

As I click on these two screen layers, they’re bringing them back in. I can really now see a lot more detail in this shot. Command-0 to bring it down to full size. That really allows us to take a product that has way too much contrast and be able to get the best parts of both in one shot.
If we look at the values now, we’ll still notice that we are getting great white with detail in the 240s over here on the highlight area of the shoe. And now we’re getting anywhere from in the 30s, 20s, 30s, 40s depending on which area I move to my tool. I’m going to get a smaller pick here. Anywhere between 40s and 50s in here, which is giving a lot of black with detail.
Now that I’ve got that the way I like, I can go ahead and flatten this image, bring those two areas down. Now we have one layer. But this is not giving my client what they really want. What they really want is a shoe on a pure white background. When we have an area…

Let’s go down to the front end of the shoe. You can see how, if we get great detail. 230, 240 here, there’s really no way to get that 255 white. That’s what they’re really going to want is pure, pure white so that it drops into their page layout program.
What I need to do now is create a way to white out that background but hold the realistic shadows. What I like to do is put a path around the shoe. I know it’s hard to see the edge so I’m going to use an adjustment layer to help me define this edge a little better so I can path.

Adjustment layers are not just for correcting the files. They’re also so we can see the files better. I’m going to go into my new adjustment layers. I’m going to hit “Levels,” and hit “OK,” but I’m going to change the blend mode from normal to multiply. This is going to darken the show down, way down, so I can see the white on white edge much better.
In fact, I’m going to do it twice. I’m going to grab this adjustment layer and drag it down here to the new layer icon and make a second one. Now, all of a sudden, as I move my shot down here, I can go ahead and hit the eyeball with my option key. You see the difference between here and here. Much, much easier for me to make a path.
I’m going to go ahead and click my pen tool and when making a path I keep my four fingers, my first four fingers on my hand minus my thumb here on the space bar, command, option and control keys so that I can actually use them to modify the path.
I’m going to just hit…Just do a little bit of the path and we’ll move ahead.
Let me go ahead and just start with the point. I can see this point much better now that I have made this mask. I’m going to pull and drag as I’m going along. I’m using my first finger on the space bar so I can keep moving myself down. I like to work fairly close.
Notice I didn’t get this last point correctly. I can use my command key, control on the PC, to adjust this point to a better spot and then keep on going with the path. What I’m going to do is try to create a nice path around the entire shoe before I take it to the next step.
As I go along here, I’m just using my space bar to move it to another spot and I’m pulling using my Bezier curves as I slowly go around the path. I’ll just go ahead and move ahead to the end of the path here.
Moving ahead, now I’ve finished the path and I can get rid of these two adjustment layers by throwing them in the trash. I only needed them just so I could see better.

I have a pen tool path around the entire shoe. Let’s go to the path palette and you see that I have a shoe outlined. If I hold down my command key and click in the shoe outline pen path, I’ll turn that into a selection any time I need to do that.
Before I do anything drastic here, I want to go to my history palette. I’m going to go to the very top of the history palette and I’m going to throw out that original history snapshot. I’m going to create a new one. This way it includes any of the retouching that I might have done along the way. This is a step I do right before I drop the shadows out. I’m going to make sure that that’s clicked.
Now that I have a selection already activated, I’m going to do a Command-Shift-I to inverse that selection. I want to look at that selection for a second by hitting the Q key bringing me to quick mask mode, and I’d like to feather or alias that selection about three tenths of a pixel.

This gives it a little bit more natural and less cut out feeling. I’m going to go filter, blur, Gaussian blur, and I’m going to type in .3. This will give me just a very slight alias. If I go in very, very close we probably can see that, the difference between…It’s a very, very slight aliasing. That’s on and that’s off. It just gives it a little bit of a feathered edge, just enough to make it look like a natural transition.
Command-0 will take you back down to full size. I’m going to hit OK. I’m going to hit my Q key. It takes me out of the quick mask mode. What I want to do now is I want to knock out that entire background. I’m going to use Command-Delete. It will be Control-Delete on the PC. Fill with the background color white.
Now, I’ve knocked out all my shadows, everything, all the detail is gone. It doesn’t look too good, but the nice thing is I can now click to my history brush and I’m going to use a much, much larger brush by hitting my bracket key a few times. I’m going to go double check and make sure that I am clicked in the snapshot.
What I’m going to do is I’m actually going to bring about 30 percent…I’m going to type three. That will bring me into 30 percent. And now I’m going to bring back the shadow under this shoe, just very slowly, right where I want it, very naturally.
Instead of doing a Photoshop shadow that looks more like a glow, this brings back the real natural shadows. I can just put it right where I want it and I’m not applying any information where I don’t want it.
Now we have something that the client is really going to like. We have pure 255 white. Let me go to my eye picker. We’ve got pure 255 white which will drop out and have no detail. And then, as you go into the shoe, you’ll notice we have nice 240 to 241 highlight detail. As I move myself over to the shadow side of the show, I can see that I have very, very nice shadow detail in here, sometimes as much as 40 or 50.
This allows us to have what I call the perfect dropout. Now, when this goes into a page layout program they don’t have to really do any kind of path or outline around it. They can drop it if it’s going to be on a white background. The white will disappear because it is pure 255 white.”