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Tricking Time with Photo Composites

By Alyssa Coppelman

The sports scenes captured by Colombian photographer Mario Arroyave teem with athletes. If there were really that many people crammed in at once, it would be mayhem, but Arroyave uses Adobe apps to digitally multiply the players and their actions.

The seed of Arroyave’s Timeline series sprang from Eadweard Muybridge’s famous motion studies of horses. After trying several action-shot experiments that didn’t communicate what he intended—a span of time captured in a single image—he chanced upon the perfect opportunity when he was shooting a television commercial in an aquatic complex.

As he looked down on a water polo game, he noticed the water’s “visually rich texture,” Arroyave explains. “The effect of this over the skin of the players was so majestic that I decided to continue photographing water sports. Because there’s a lot of movement, the players are the focus of the game. Even taking a picture every 10 seconds, what you see in each image is completely different.” After a few years, he expanded the timeline concept to dry land. “That is when I started photographing runners, cyclists, polo players, golfers, and even normal life,” he says.

Underwater Rugby I © Mario Arroyave. Courtesy Beatriz Esguerra Art, Bogotá

Underwater Rugby I © Mario Arroyave. Courtesy Beatriz Esguerra Art, Bogotá.

Arroyave reuses the figures he shoots as many times as an image’s composition demands. Once he’s captured all the source photos, it takes him anywhere from 15 days to three months to finalize an image. The process is painstaking: Each final work incorporates at least 20 source photos and can include as many as 400.

To craft his seamless images, Arroyave uses Adobe Bridge CC, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC, and Adobe Photoshop CC. For his video installations, he employs Adobe After Effects CC and Adobe Premiere CC. “Photoshop is the application I use the most,” he says. “My most frequently used tools, in order of importance, are the Lasso, Clone Stamp, Spot Healing Brush, Dodge and Burn, Pen, and Blur.”

“Half Marathon Bogotá” © Mario Arroyave. Courtesy SGR Art, Bogotá

Half Marathon Bogotá © Mario Arroyave. Courtesy SGR Art, Bogotá.

Arroyave’s approach to image-making comes from his background in systems engineering and cinematography. “My first experience with the design programs came up when I was studying systems engineering,” he says. “At the time, I’d been bored with the grey interfaces of the software we’d developed and I decided to learn Photoshop more empirically to improve these interfaces.” The link to cinematography is clear; his still work “represents an extension of time, like a short film in a single frame.”

Soon Arroyave will complete the “Timeline” series and concentrate on a new project that he says “addresses the issue of realization and creation” and plays with the “threshold between an idea and the materialization of this idea.”

Tour de France © Mario Arroyave. Courtesy Beatriz Esguerra Art, Bogotá

Tour de France © Mario Arroyave. Courtesy Beatriz Esguerra Art, Bogotá

“Kitesurf” © Mario Arroyave. Courtesy Beatriz Esguerra Art, Bogotá

Kitesurf © Mario Arroyave. Courtesy Beatriz Esguerra Art, Bogotá

“For this new project,” he says, “I created images that look like computer graphics but are, in fact, photographs.” To see more of Arroyave’s work, check out his website and Instagram feed.