My new photo series shows how technology has become our modern day religious icons

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A bunch of different cables, broken power supplies and lots of old disassembled computers and broken cell phones laying useless in my garage inspired me to come up with an idea where I could use them before their final recycling.

Social media platforms in so many different forms and devices play a very important role in everyday life, and I think, for example, people hunching over their smartphones reminds people worshipping false gods. There is no need to argue about the benefits of technology but moderate use of it can be challenging for many. So I decided to create a series of pictures using Biblical personalities or other religious themes and phrases surrounded by modern-day technology.

The topics I decided to deal in my pictures was religion-related phrases, paintings, rites and Bible stories. Locales, models, staging, costumes and props contributed significantly to the selections of topics I could do, I chose such pictures and topics that I knew I could find suitable models and staging. These were the ideas selected in the final series of 5pcs:

– Moses and the Ten Commandments
– The Holy Guardian Angel, German postcard 1900
– Birth of Jesus
– God´s playground, based on quotes and tells a story about people as pawns in a game.
– Baptism

When the topics were selected, I made a sketch from every picture so I knew what was needed for the photoshoots

Modern Religion – 10 COMMANDMENTS

First, we did the “10 commandments” image. Because the layout of the picture is simple and no special location was needed, I decided to photograph it in our home yard. The Styrofoam bale was set to raise “Moses” to the heights so that the people can be on the ground below him and the electronics waste was spread around the scene. For the costumes of models, I received great help from the company offering embroidery and markup services, they had couple rolls of leftover fabric which they happily gave to me, from these we created the costumes and headwear for the models. Wigs and beards were picked from the mask accessory.

Due to the timetable and the light setup, I photographed all models separately. I set the camera on a tripod so that the images would be easy to merge in post-processing. Lights and camera that I used in all the images in the series were 2 x Godox AD360, Godox V1 and 2pcs of Nikon SB24 and Nikon D850 and the Sigma Art series 35mm and 50mm lens. The light setup was almost the same for all models. Rear left 140cm Stripbox and right 60cm softbox as a hair light, in front 120 octabox as a fill and top 90cm parabolic softbox as main light. We also used smoke to smooth the light and cover the background.

After the models were photographed, I moved the cable piles around the scene so I had enough material to cover all the necessary areas in post. In post-processing, I merged the models into same, changed all models mobile phones to others, coloured the clothing and added texts and effects to the waste in the ground.

Modern Religion – GUARDIAN ANGEL

The second picture was also shot in our home yard. I needed a stream with a bridge above it and these by chance we had already. The bridge was made from an old small pier and the railings from old wood sticks found from the woods. The children’s clothing I rented from the Theatre costume rental company and the angel’s clothing was created from the same leftover fabric as in the previous picture.

The model in the angel’s role was on a ladder on the soft sand so, for the sake of certainty, I photographed the angel and the children separately. The angel light setup was following, 90cm parabolic softbox above the model as main light, 120cm Octabox in front of the model as fill, bare handheld flash creating the illusion of the star on the back of the model and the right side of the model 140cm Stripbox as a hair light.

With children, otherwise the same setup but with an addition. There was a snoot on the left side creating a cell phone glow in the face on the children’s. In this picture, we also used smoke to smooth the light and cover the background. In post, I removed the ladder, merged the models into the same picture, added trees to the background and wings to the angel, coloured angel’s clothing, and changed the angel’s cell phone.

Modern Religion – NAVIGATION

The third picture was taken in a beautiful old barn of a nearby farm. The mood of the location was spot on and, in addition to the models, I needed only the manger, a few boxes as gifts and a hay bale. The clothing was still the same leftover fabric and the jewellery was found at the local flea market. The manger was made from old sawbuck and the phone/console boxes found from my own storage the hay bale was from previous projects so the setup was build moderately fast.

This time I photographed all the models at the same time. 120cm Octabox as the main light directly above the models, 80cm softbox as fill on the right front, 2pcs 60cm softboxes as a hair light behind the models on both sides and one snoot front left to open up virgin Mary´s face.

In post, I colored the clothing, changed the cell phone to another and added sheep, “maps” arrow and logos into product bundles. I also made the three wise men and Joseph look much older, and added different logos to the jewellery and changed the dolls face to real babyface.

Modern Religion – GOD´S PLAYGROUND

The fourth photo was taken in a studio. For the picture, I needed earth globe, god figure and angels. Getting more models on a quick schedule proved to be a tricky one to organize and therefore I decided to use only three different models and in post change the characters a little bit. Clothing was done with the same leftover fabric as in previous ones. Wigs and beards came from our own storage and one of the models.

Due to the image layout and the “duplication” of the Angels the models were photographed each separately. The light setup was the same in each picture, 90cm parabolic softbox as main light above the model, 2pcs 60cm softboxes on the back of the model as hair light on both sides, 120cm octabox as fill in front and snoot in front to create an Earth or computer glow on the models face.

In the post, I merged all the models into the same picture and added a variety of details including VR glasses, wings, logos for laptops, a hologram of earth etc.

Modern Religion – REGISTRATION

5th and the last picture of the series so far were definitely one of the most interesting ones because of the location. I was allowed to photograph at the old church in Tampere (Finland) which is a wooden church from 1825´s. The beautiful altar was perfect for the theme of the picture and the priest’s garments were arranged from the same place. In addition to models and localisation, the image did not require any other props.

I started this picture by photographing the “altarpiece” which I would add to the final image. The photo was taken in our home yard. My good friend made a 3d model of a cellphone sea. These were merged in Photoshop where I also added the new background and painterly effect.

In the church, I photographed all the models at once. 90cm parabolic softbox above the models as main light, 2pcs 60cm softbox as a hair light on the back of the models on both sides, 120cm Octabox in front as a fill, and one handheld flash on the bottom of the altarpiece pointing straight up.

In post, I replaced the original altarpiece with my own, added flat-screen TV on top of the altarpiece, a tablet with a scanned image, ornament on the table, logos and sockets to the altar, and swapped real face to the doll.

About the Author

Juhamatti Vahdersalo is an amateur photographer based in Finland. He likes to tell stories through his photographs and work. You can find out more about Juhamatti on his website and follow his work on Instagram, Facebook, Behance, and 500px.

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