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  • by Setareh Sarmadi

Kerry Shaw: Animal City

Photographer Kerry Shaw is a story teller, who thinks of herself as an illustrator, failed painter, and pack rat — a fascinating combination that has resulted in the rich illusionary images she creates.

As a painter Kerry Shaw strived to create surrealist images with a photorealistic quality. She worked by piecing together photographs to form collages that would then serve as prototypes for paintings. Somehow the process never engaged her fully and its results continuously fell short.

Shaw's introduction to Photoshop and its endless possibilities instigated a shift in her medium and process. Shaw was captivated by the software that enabled her to cut out a step and go directly to the seamless stitching of images right from the source — the photographs. Now with a camera and new creative tools she creates the surrealist images she always envisioned by altering the source images themselves. This alteration (and its vast potential) has enthralled Shaw; the fact that she can take the real world and manipulate it into something wholly fantastic and still believable.

The work itself is a seamless collage made up of the many pieces picked up by Shaw in the spaces she encounters. She describes an internal visual library in which she stores the images, hoping to find the ideal spot to put them someday. The Animal City series is layer upon layer of such images. Most of the background elements and extra lighting, however, has been computer generated. The element of illustration is strikingly evident in this regard and lends the work a cohesive, graphic look.

Giving all due respect to purists, Shaw sees her work in a different category. While acknowledging all photography as a sort of alteration or take on reality, she works within the limitless boundaries of her memory and imagination to create something wholly new. What is remarkable is her use of images based in the real to masterfully create the surreal. Shaw herself sums it up best: “At the end of the day, I am a storyteller and alter images in the hopes of producing something that no one has seen rendered in this way before.”

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