It started as an ad campaign, but has taken on a life of its own. Los Angeles-based photographer Glen Wexler’s cleverly constructed images of cows as superheroes and secret agents has gained a big following among fans of both bovines and surreal imagery. Using a combination of sets, props and Photoshop, Glen’s popular-culture inspired world is both strange and familiar at the same time. He tells Philip Andrews how it all came about.
WDC: What drew you to photography as a career?
Glen: I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to begin shooting album covers while still in art school. My first album cover shoot was for the Brothers Johnson, a multi-platinum group produced by Quincy Jones. This opened a lot of doors. My intention at the time was to pursue fine art photography, but I dropped out of school to work in the music industry. I found a lot of creative freedom with album art and many of the projects were conducive to pushing photographic boundaries, which was what I intended to do with fine art photography.
WDC: You’ve been credited over the years with being a leading pioneer in the field of image manipulation. What prompted your interest in this aspect of image creation?
Glen: Photography has been manipulated as a means of artistic expression since its inception. I’ve admired and learned a lot from many great photographers. About 20 years ago I was a very early adopter of digital technology. It was serendipitous that the technology emerged and I gained early access to proprietary imaging equipment that would fast-track my work. In my opinion, the integration of these tools, which are now commonplace, is the most significant leap in the medium.
Everything is possible. In school I became enamoured with the notion that there is no such thing as an ‘impossible image’. My interest in photographic image-making is about the realisation of an idea, which would often involve the creation of an improbable or fantastical reality. Prior to digital post-production I would use conventional camera and darkroom methods to merge multiple photographic components into a single image. I instantly latched onto the new technology. The speed, efficiency and flexibility gained from it gave me a better way to make the kind of images that I was already creating.
WDC: You have been involved in the creation of many iconic images in the music industry. Is this an area that holds a special interest for you?
Glen: Sure, as a teenager in the 1970s my art collection was my album covers. Much of this artwork was influential. Many of my friends are musicians and there was a tremendous amount of creativity that surrounded the music of that time. Often, the album cover would be the visual extension of the music; I’ve always enjoyed that connection. Unfortunately, the influence of the album cover began to wane when LPs were replaced with CDs. Now that the distribution of music is shifting to internet downloads, the significance of the cover art continues to diminish. So my interest now lies in finding other mediums to reconnect creative and inspired images to the music.