Enter my world cautiously, for all is not what it seems, and behind every image, there is always more than a single truth. We’re living in a world consumed by fear of the truth but is there really such a thing as “the truth” anymore especially in visual terms? It is fear of the unknown that causes people to judge and criticize fear of an illusion created by our own experiences and teachings. One individual’s perspective may not be the same as another perspective, because we process and interpret visual stimuli in a variety of ways. Thus, what is reality, if not a collection of diverse perspectives.
Now that I’ve got the exposition out of the way, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gisela Calitz, and I like to create worlds that viewers can explore, fantasy realms, where even if just for a fraction of a single second everything is perfect. These ethereal worlds are my personal attempts at escapism, snippets and daydreams, where anything and everything is possible and dreams can become realities (even if just in print or film). Sometimes, I find there are surprising amounts of people who share my love for these ethereal fantasies, which is why I do what I do. So, I guess the logical question from here would be, what exactly do I do?
I’m a high fashion advertising and editorial retoucher. I fell in love with the industry at an early stage in my life and have not looked back since. I thrive on working with people who are stimulated by fantasy and all things that are adventurous and exciting by nature, and I strive to highlight these elements in everything I do. Sometimes, I get lost in an ocean of color and light, sometimes my work feels like a lucid dream like in the film Waking Life – one of the best art films of all time.
Now, I’ve come to a point in my career where I’ve embraced the parallel between what I do to make a living and how I live life. Like life, the journey of an image through various editing suites (whichever they may be), involves a series of choices, each of which has it’s own set of consequences. And just like life, these choices need to be approached with a certain degree of forethought and caution. In the end, tools like Photoshop and Lightroom are just that: tools. But it’s the human on the other end of these tools that is instrumental in the progression and, eventually, the execution of a quality image. I’m that human on the other side.
In Photoshop, as in life, there are a myriad of approaches at your disposal. There are technical retouchers and artistic retouchers. Sure, they may use some of the same tools, but the end results are often vastly different. In my line of work, experimentation is crucial in discovering the ideal creative process. That’s why I’ve spent a large deal of my life experimenting. I’ve chosen to do things my own way, opting for a totally unique route the road less traveled, so to speak. The results well, I think they speak for themselves really.
It all began a few years ago when I was studying design and working as model. I approached a photographer I admired to do a design project on his work. No holding back. We began collaborating on more projects, and so my love for retouching blossomed. From there, it developed so rapidly it consumed me entirely. In Photoshop there’s is one thing we can all agree on: there is beauty in imperfection. A scar, a beauty spot, a crease, a crinkle; these represent a version of reality that is relatable. And when you’re already doing a lot of color work on an image, you need some imperfections to bring you back to this reality.
I’m incredibly adaptable, perhaps as a result of my extensive travels. Once you see the world from a variety of angles and within a multitude of scenarios, your vision becomes clearer. You start to center yourself on what it is you’re meant to be fighting for. At the risk of using an old cliche you “find your passion.”
From there, I built my business on personal relationships. I enjoy working with eccentric, new-age photographers and old school, any of the ones who push boundaries. I love the fact that I can take a picture so close to perfection, with such subtlety, that no one even notices I’ve touched it. A secret within a secret; the more it tells, the less you know. I see many retouchers beating themselves up because the client never seems to be satisfied with what they send back and tons of changes and adjustments are required. That’s a reality in this industry. Get used to it. Exceptional creativity is, more often than not, founded in clever collaboration.
There’s an inherent power in a photography portfolio that is beautifully refined, presented and aggregated. I feel as if many retouchers spend too little time on the way they present their work and more time on explaining elements that don’t require elaboration; before-and-after composition shots, Personally, I can’t stand before-and-after images. They’re shortcuts to a ruined fantasy, earthquakes inside a well-tended imagination. Each of my pictures is my pride and joy; my images are my children. This is my life, and I will strive to make it as perfect as possible at least, for me and my clients at least.
So, if each image is an illusion, then retouching is the magic trick behind the illusion. I find the ideal contrast by balancing out the light and the dark. The same can be said about life. It makes sense. Then, I throw in colorful elements, the excitement, the experimental, and the experiential. Sometimes (read: most times), I try to be daring and courageous in my approach. This often yields unexpected and enchanting results. Sometimes, I go too far and I need to dial it back a bit. Sometimes, I happen upon an unusual approach that works better than the original, prescribed method. I’m always readjusting and re-calibrating my creative process with new techniques, as I do in my life. It’s how I keep things fresh and prevent myself from becoming bored and despondent. Ultimately, there is no right approach. There is my approach, and there is theirs/yours, within collaboration the magic happens.
To summarize, life is a lot like retouching: it takes patience and evaluation and re-evaluation, adjusting blacks and whites to achieve a perfect (or as a close-to-perfect) balance. Nobody’s perfect. We all have flaws; they’re what make us unique. Maybe we’d like to edit them out, but we can’t. As a retoucher, I can get as close to my own, singular truth as humanly possible, and it fills me with energy. I can edit that truth again and again and again, until I’m happy with it. Until it’s as true as my truth gets. Life is an illusion; you may as well have fun with it. My name is Gisela. I am a retoucher. I create my own truth. And I create my own life, I create my own reality.
The views and opinions expressed in the Guest Blog series are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scott Kelby or Kelby Media Group.