Nick Pedersen is a photographer and digital artist currently based in Salt Lake City, Utah. He holds a BFA degree in Photography from the University of Utah, as well as an MFA degree in Digital Arts from Pratt Institute in New York, where he graduated with distinction. He has shown artwork in galleries across the country and internationally, recently including the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, the Main Line Art Center, Paradigm Gallery, and Arch Enemy Arts. He has published two artist books featuring his long-term personal projects Sumeru and Ultima. Many of his images have been recognized with awards from the Adobe Design Achievement Awards, and the Photoshop Guru Awards. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as After Capture, Beautiful Decay, Juxtapoz, Hi-Fructose, and Empty Kingdom. In the past few years he has also completed Artist Residencies at the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada and the Gullkistan Residency in Iceland.
Growing up I was always interested in photography, documenting my adventures in the outdoors and all the places I travelled. I got my degree in photography and started learning how to use digital tools for photo editing, which was a revelation. I realized that instead of using photography just for documentation, I could also create whatever I could imagine. I did a lot of experimentation with digital photomontage and came up with my own style and conceptual motivations. A few years later I decided to pursue an MFA degree in Digital Arts at Pratt Institute in New York City. After taking everything that I’ve learned, now I’m working on various personal projects and commissions, showing my work in a few galleries, publishing my artist books, and teaching workshops on photography and digital imaging.
I am very excited to apply for the Artist-in-Residence program, as this opportunity will give me the ability to take my work to the next level. Having this time to really focus on a project in collaboration with UMOCA would be incredible. I have so many ideas I would like to pursue and this would give me the time and resources to accomplish my goals. I would also love to share my journey with the creative community, and present my work, motivations, and process. For the residency I want my work to provide a source of inspiration and creativity, to show how through project planning and a sense of purpose you can create something ambitious and meaningful.
All of my artwork is created using my own photography, so after researching and sketching out ideas to work with, the next step is to photograph everything I need for the project. For much of my past work I started with images from cities on the east coast like New York, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia which was perfect to collect photos of urban decay like buildings overgrown with vines and industrial ruins. The images of animals came from the wild, zoos, aquariums, taxidermy shops, and museums of natural history. All the characters were photographed in the studio with costumes and lighting to match the scenes. Finally, many of the landscape images actually came from traveling around the US and to a few different countries over the past few years to capture the best source material.
Then to create my images, I use a complex process of digital imaging in Adobe Photoshop and each image is actually made up of about 50 or more photographs meticulously pieced together. So I spend a lot of effort building up an image, figuring out the lighting, shadows, color, and other effects to make it look realistic and seamless. Each image is carefully planned out and created as an intricately layered construction, which gives it such a hyper-real, illustrative quality. The main digital tools that I use in creating my work are Bridge and Lightroom for file organization, Camera Raw for photo editing, and most of all Photoshop for compositing, retouching, and effects. I also use Illustrator for typography and design elements, as well as InDesign to create print and ebook publications of my work.
Below are some examples of my finished work, including book projects, gallery exhibitions, and commercial commissions.
Please view more examples of my work, technique, and creative process through the links below:
WEBSITE – https://nick-pedersen.com
BEHANCE – https://www.behance.net/nickpedersen
PORTFOLIO – https://nickpedersen.myportfolio.com
A psychedelic digital exploration inspired by mythology, dreams, technology, and science fiction.
For my UMOCA Artist Residency project, I am proposing “Astral Visions”, a collective title for a series of various experimental projects taking my work in new directions, technically and aesthetically. Most of my past work has explored the conceptual boundary between photography and illustration, taking advantage of digital imaging tools to create new worlds with my photographs. For this project I’m envisioning, I really want to push this idea even farther, and create more surreal work that challenges photographic perceptions of reality versus illusion.
With this work I’m very fascinated by the term “magic realism”, used in art and literature to “depict a realistic view of the world while also adding or revealing magical elements.” I want to incorporate this concept into my images, and portray otherworldly scenes inspired by science fiction and mythology. A good example is the aboriginal belief in “the dream-time, a mythological past that exists parallel in time to present day ordinary reality, and which is penetrated in dreams and visions.” During the residency I would love to experiment with this idea, working on projects that depict psychedelic concepts like a dream-world existing alongside our own, revealing facets of other dimensions, and creating images within images. The most exciting thing to me about this project is that by taking on the conceptual framework of illustrating dreams and visions, anything is possible.
Technically, my main goal with this project is to achieve a high-quality aesthetic of photographic believability in composite images that are based on fantasy. I want to create these illustrations as a seamless montage, to build a convincing illusion that will suspend the viewer’s disbelief. This work will build off my previous skills of compositing and retouching, and also experiment with incorporating new video techniques such as cinemagraph, parallax, and animation effects to really bring my images to life. By constructing a new reality through multiple photographs and other effects I want to give viewers an immersive experience into this imaginary world.
Here is a selection of some of my favorite artists creating work that is similar in concept and style to what I am envisioning for this project. Mainly, I’m very influenced by the psychedelic, conceptual imagery found in these desert landscapes. This grouping of artistic works sums up the overall aesthetic mood of what I would like to create over the course of the residency. For example, I’m really inspired by the fascinating subject matter in works by contemporary painter Jean Pierre Roy, by the high-quality details of photographic works by Kahn & Selesnick, and by the vibrant neon colors in digital pieces by James White, and others.
A few years ago I was exploring slot canyons in southern Utah with some friends and we came upon this book, “The Teachings of Don Juan” by Carlos Castaneda, that someone had left hidden in a small rock alcove. It was placed in a secret spot that was hard to get to, but looked as if it was meant to be found and had been put there for a reason. Finding this odd book in a desert canyon in the middle of nowhere was a very mysterious experience, and what I learned from reading it became a main inspiration in developing this project idea.
It tells the account of a young anthropologist’s apprenticeship with a Yaqui Indian shaman in the deserts of Sonora, Mexico between 1960-1965. In the book, normal perceptions of the world are repeatedly challenged through vision quests and dreaming, following a mystical “path of knowledge”. It uses vivid imagery like, “I saw an inextricable cluster of sparks and dark masses, beams of light, and cloudlike formations”, or “I could see the whole range of mountains as an intricate array of light fibers.” There are many strange and profound descriptions like this throughout the book, which has been a great inspiration in visualizing the images I want to create.
“The twilight is the crack between worlds, it is the door to the unknown. This is the plateau in front of that door. There is the door. Beyond, there is an abyss and beyond that abyss is the unknown.”
“The desert is the realm beyond the human.”
“A place where marvels were witnessed, where secrets have been revealed..”
Teachings of Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda
Below are a few examples of my previous projects that are moving in the right direction towards the type of work I’m planning to create over the course of the Artist Residency. These are starting points, helping me focus on the conceptual framework, the landscape environment, and overall aesthetic I want to achieve with this new project I’m developing.
Conceptually much of this work will revolve around surreal imagery, inspired by my literary references and personal experiences . This piece from my series “Sumeru”, shows this kind of visual exploration using digital compositing, retouching, and special effects to manipulate perceptions and create a new reality in my images.
For the background setting, the majority of the landscape will be based in a desert environment. This piece from my series “Ultima”, shows how I have used my photography to piece together this kind of surreal dreamworld using images of rock formations in southern Utah, the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, and other locations in the southwest.
The primary color palette in this series of work will use predominantly cyan, blue, and magenta tones with pops of vibrant neon colors. Basically, most of my images will be set in a saturated twilight or nighttime color space with many elements of supernatural light and color added into each scene. I want these images to look unreal, but also believable.
This collection of my digital photographs is meant to give a sense of the environment I want to create surrounding my ideas, and the characters that will inhabit this conceptual framework. As an accomplished photographer I already have a large database of southwestern images to work with, and during the UMOCA Artist Residency I am excited to capture more photos and video specifically for my project. With this I’m planning a few road trips to get the best source material in the deserts of southern Utah, and other locations like the Bonneville Salt Flats, as well as at nearby zoos, animal sanctuaries, and aviaries.
To create the surreal and dreamlike atmosphere I want in this project, another important element will be to incorporate a lot of new photographic and video techniques I have been experimenting with. This includes different types of night photography such as long-exposures with star trails and moving lights, as well as studio work using colored gels and other light effects. Mainly, I want to collect vibrant and creative images that can be combined with my desert landscapes to create this otherworldy appearance of “magic realism”.
RESEARCH + DEVELOPMENT
During the Artist Residency I’m planning to keep learning new skills with Adobe software and apply this to the photo-based composite work I will be creating for my project. I’m very interested in progressing to even more complex uses of video, time-lapse, animation, cinemagraph, and parallax effects in my work. Here are some examples of past work I have been experimenting with, adding motion and other time-based effects to really bring my images to life.
Utilizing different video options for zooming / panning over time, bringing the viewer into the scene and revealing more details in my work.
Adding moving video elements to a still frame to make it more dynamic and engaging with the viewer.
Experimenting with simple, realistic keyframe animations to add the movement of light through my images.
Creating the illusion of depth by separating the background, mid-ground, and foreground layers while moving the camera.
Over the course of the residency I’m planning to experiment with new techniques in photography, digital imaging, and video, and see where this path takes me creatively. For the final product I have a few different ideas that I’m very interested in pursuing to find the best presentation of this new project. Since my concept is to create motion-based imagery, an important aspect is to figure out how this will be viewed as a finished body of work. Below are three ideas I think would be the most exciting and ambitious applications for this project.
- Cinemagraphs – Most of all I’m really excited to create a series of cinemagraphs, taking the detailed still images I make and adding moving elements into each scene. Aside from sharing these images online and in social media, at the end of the residency I would also like to create some kind of art installation to showcase this work. I’m thinking it could be an exhibition performance with multiple screens or projections, and live music accompanying my motion-based work to create an immersive experience.
- Video Project – Another option that I really like would be to create a video project, such as a short film or music video using the work I want to create. This would incorporate a lot of the panning, zooming, and animation techniques I mentioned to bring my images to life. For this, I would work on more of a sequential narrative based on my conceptual motivations for this project.
- Web Experience – One more idea that might be very interesting would be to create a web experience with this work. This would use a lot more of the parallax effects I talked about where the background is separated from the foreground. I was thinking it would be great to create some kind of user interface where viewers can click into my images, move around in them, and explore all the details.
I have a lot of ideas for the final product with this body of work, and in the end it could incorporate any of these different applications. During the residency I’m planning to learn more and experiment to figure out the best medium for my project. The great thing about being based in Utah is that, apart from having access to all the incredible desert landscapes I want to use in my work, UMOCA will be a great resource for me, and it would also be the perfect place to host an exhibition, installation, or performance at the end of the residency.
Simple image ideas and initial experiments, that will lead to more elaborate in-depth work.
Examples of image titles for the new digital imaging and video projects I’m planning to create:
“Spirit Animals” – “Luminous Beings” – “Dream World” – “Guardian Spirits” – “Power Objects” – “Vision Quest” – “Gateways” – “Magic Circles” – “Astral Realm” – “Dimensional Rift” – “Neo-Frontier” – “Void” – “Metaverse” – “Time Warp” – “Hyper-Scapes” – “Otherworlds” – “Beyond” – etc.
To summarize, for my UMOCA Artist Residency project I am primarily interested in building on my photography and digital imaging skills, incorporating new techniques to make my work even more dynamic and engaging. This includes experimenting with different subject matter, compositions, lighting effects, and motion graphics to take my work in an entirely new direction. With my project, “Astral Visions”, I will be using the desert landscape as a canvas to experiment with various ideas that challenge photographic perceptions of reality versus illusion. Conceptually, I want to create a digital exploration of new material inspired by mythology, dreams, technology, and science fiction.
I’m very excited for the opportunity to collaborate on this project because it would also be a fun and enjoyable experience that would have a lot of personal meaning for me. I think my work highlights many interesting digital techniques and innovative ideas, and I would love to share my artistic journey with the creative community. Having this time to focus on my project would be amazing, and in partnership with UMOCA, I’m sure we could create something truly great.
Below I have included a few more useful links about my work including my professional experience and contact information.
Thanks very much for your consideration for the Artist-in-Residence program. I hope you will consider my project, I think it would be something new and interesting that the creative community has not seen before. Please let me know if I can answer any questions, and I’ll look forward to hearing from you.
CONTACT – firstname.lastname@example.org