From Raw Material to Dream

Jun 24, 2019 / Photography / art process / mythology

Raw Material #1
Raw Material #1As shot in camera


I wrote two weeks ago that photography has a disadvantage of being based on reality. Something has to be in front of the camera for a photograph to result. If this is a negative, why is photography my chosen medium? For precisely the same reason—that photography is based on reality.

Compared to other visual arts, photography is the closest to reality. I want my artwork to have a semblance of reality, such that the viewer has to wonder whether the artwork is “real or not.” I want viewers to feel like they are in a dream. And the way I achieve this dream-like feeling is through my process.

I mentioned a while back that I use photographs as raw material. This is why I don’t post work-in-progress images. Camera images are essentially unfinished. The transformation from raw materials to the finished image of The Unremembered Gate is pretty stark:

Raw materials:

Raw material #1 of sky and the trees, as shown above, comes from an image that I took in a southeastern Maryland golf course!

Raw material #2 is a gate I found around my Baltimore neighborhood. I loved the medieval character of this gate.

Raw Material #2
Raw Material #2As shot in camera


Juxtaposed together, I get the final image:

man in front of locked gate and he peers through a peep hole to the landscape beyond
The Unremembered Gate, 2012Cyanotype Print With Digital Drawing. 17” x 11.4”. Limited edition of 12.


When I took the image of the sky, I didn’t know that it would end up in the final image. I love creating work where I don’t actually know what the final picture will look like–until the moment I create it. I like to create a final image that did not exist in front of the camera.

My work is printed not in color or black & white but using the cyanotype printing process. More than any other printing process, the cyanotype blue heightens the dream-like feeling that I’m going for in my artwork.

To what end?

To elicit a sense of awe, which is one of the purposes of myth.

About the Author

Jonah Calinawan

Hello! I’m Jonah Calinawan, an accountant turned artist.

I create art that makes you think and write about the creative mindset to help and inspire you.

My favorite free finance tool is Personal Capital. Subscribe and receive a PDF where I talk about how I use this tool to financially stay on track.

When not shooting photos, I teach myself piano and recommend Josh Wright’s Propractice video tutorials (affiliate link).

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