Cristian Girotto is not a photographer. He doesn’t think of himself social enough for that task. He prefers staying behind the glass, behind the computer screen. Working for long hours and then taking himself out for air. Instead of making photographs, Girotto retouches them. And he’s very good retoucher. His work has been featured on many of Europe’s top fashion and culture magazines, and his recent series “L’Enfant Exterieur” has garned a lot of attention for its sheer creativity.
In that series, Girotto wanted to see how imagining the inner-child inside us all would literally look like. So he took some portraits of everyday adults and put his skills to task–erasing their creases of age, smoothing their lines of stress, and rounding their edges–until finally their inner-child became visible.
In this interview, Girotto talks about how he got his start in retouching, the long hours involved, and why patience is important for any retoucher.
How did you get your start in retouching fashion and conceptual photography?
I studied graphics and design, and then I started my professional career in Italy as graphic designer and after that as an art director. But what I liked the most was creating very graphical and very clean images, so I decided to move to Paris, where there’s a lot of photographers and a fashion business, and decided to turn my passion for Photoshop into my main job.
Your work on “L’Enfant Exterieur” (The Outer Child) is getting a lot of attention, and the work seems terribly difficult. Could explain how the project came about and give a quick overview how you achieved that effect?
With “l’Enfant exterieur” I wanted to imagine how the inner child that lives inside of each of us could literally be manifested on our surface. A photographer and I took pictures of people and after huge research observing children and their features, I transformed those adults into something new. I only used Photoshop, and of course my imagination, but I can’t tell my secrets about it, it will kill the magic that goes with those images.
Still talking about “L’Enfant Exterieur”, I think the series highlights how powerfully imaginative digital manipulation can communicate. Many of the photographs are hilarious. Which is your favorite and why do you think this effect is so resonant?
I must be honest, I like them all, especially since I think they work better when they are in a series. It allows you to understand the whole concept better. If I have to chose I’d say the beardy ones: there, you can see that something weird has happened!
As computer processing power increases and the influences of digital post-processing expands, do you think there is a minimum threshold of reality that has to be guaranteed?
I think it’s not only fundamental, that is the key to do a good job.
How do you feel about those who wish to abandon retouching altogether?
If they use their time doing something they like better then they should be. To me, retouching is a passion before it’s a job, but I won’t have any problem to abandon it to do something I love in the same way, I have many other artistic interests.
Have you ever tried your hand with photography? Why do you decide on post-processing?
I have ideas, but I like to paint, to assembly things, to ‘dirty’ my hands directly behind the screen, I’m more of a geek and I like to do that alone. A photographer has to be a social animal to make contacts all the time to keep growing up, and that’s something I really don’t know how to do.
How did you secure your first commercial work?
That’s always the hardest part. Clients don’t know you especially if you’re a stranger. Sometimes it happens, luckily, that they decide to give you their trust even if you don’t have a huge portfolio to show. That’s how normally everything starts, if they are satisfied, they’ll probably suggest you to others and… that’s how you start to make business.
What would you consider the most crucial advice to give to any aspiring retoucher, or photographer, hoping to better their post-processing work?
Retouching is about patience, if you don’t have any then it’s not a job for you, but if you have patience, jackpot! An artistic and critic eye is always fundamental: retouching it’s not about techniques and tutorials. It is in a way but the real deal is in your eye.
I’ve edited some film projects and became restless after four hours of sitting down. I soon found out that cigarettes provided some relief in getting outside. Do you have any (hopefully, healthier) rituals that help you stay focused on particularly long retouching set? If not, how do you maintain efficiency at a task confined to staring at a screen?
The problem of working on a screen are things like facebook that keep asking our attention all the time, and, when you check it for a moment, it’s really easy to lose track of time and forget about work. So I prefer to be very disciplined and work with no distractions for some hours then go out and forget my job, having some fresh air or some fresh beers.
(Here’s a link to Cristian’s website.)