Susan Castillo's (@susancastillophoto) unmistakably contemporary approach to still life demonstrates her extraordinary dedication to the genre. She does this not only through her highly technical approach, but through consistent engagement with a plethora of both classical and modern influences. Her extensive knowledge of photographers and artistic movements allows her to emulate the greats with a fully realised intent. She masters works from the romantic and textural vanitas confection to the bold and crisp macro lens study. Castillo's portfolio is a triumphant catalogue of commercial photographic iconography that cheekily skirts around and cliché through de-contextualisation and an apparent aversion to symmetry. Her textbook approach to light and composition is offset by her ability to sneak something slightly unexpected into every shot.
Craft Scotland is a charitable organisation that creates and advertises business and personal development opportunities for emerging artisans. Castillo's recent work for Craft Scotland is no exception her to wider body of work, rather it is quintessential. Castillo typically uses a single grounding object off-of which to juxtapose a surreal cacophony of form and texture. Each object cries out for the audience to take a closer look; this, of course, is exactly her design. In her own words "Working with Craft Scotland is a little different." Photographing such a broad array of items in a cohesive manner presents a challenge especially when the brief calls for scenes that are less eclectic and more elegant and expensive. Castillo weaves a common thread between the mismatched collection through a minimal set and palette complete with hollow painted plinths evocative of modern craft shows and exhibits.
I have to keep things simple and draw on a colour palette to help unify the outcome. With this particular project, the palette was quite fresh and clean, almost a rococo feel, without the opulence.
Like most digital practitioners, post-production makes up a large part of Castillo's photographic process. However, she does not use methods of image compositing. To her, editing software is merely a tool used to remove unwanted elements, such as fishing wire, and to enhance colour and tone. Castillo uses one enormous, and incredibly bright, light to "emulate the sun" and exaggerate the texture and form of each piece. This allows the crafted items to maintain their identities as works of art even in when cast in the role of 'subject.' When asked for her main influences Castillo provided three names. Here we see the calculated and exact lighting of Gregory Crewdson, the motion and investigation of Alison Watt, and the whimsy of Tim Walker.
Bold - Dynamic - Creative - Creative seems like a cop out word choice, but I do think that at the base of all my work, is a very creative process. The research and development that's implemented at the start and then there is a very hands-on element. Where I make, build, and style the sets.
The dynamic and deliberate nature of Castillo's work can perhaps be credited to her fundamental understanding of the creative process. She began her studies as a student of Design and Craft, a more rigid definition of successful vs. unsuccessful art often translates to this calculated undertone within photography (just look at Rodchenko.) However, it is not Castillo's design-based approach that makes her work unique or appealing but rather her ability to subvert the art-ad genre. It is for this reason that Castillo has become so well recognised throughout Scotland.
Castillo, a Scotland native, started to work professionally in 2011, when she began working with a host of small, independent artists such as Mimi Hamill, Lynne MacLachlan, and Heather Sheilds. These collaborations, no doubt, are what has allowed her to inject her work with the element of surprise that we see in it today. Eventually she scored her first contract with the Glasgow based brewery 'WEST.' She then began presenting her work to a variety of creative agencies within Scotland and beyond; her commercial practice has been in full swing ever since. Her work is a breath of fresh air amongst the sea of commercial imagery that most struggle to stay afloat in. Too often this bombardment reduces otherwise technically apt and visually intriguing work to condemnable banality. Castillo's work cuts through the noise through means of intelligence, analysis, and sheer love of the medium. May she continue to sprinkle joy and humour into the marketing sphere.