Andrew Wilkinson

Distorted Self Portraits

Distorted self portraits is a project I have been thinking about for a while – perhaps it’s a reaction to the massive amount of selfies I see, and then perhaps my images become the anti-selfie. I have an Art Photography class coming up that I’ll be teaching and this is one of the assignments. Students are challenged to take their self portrait, (with the camera on timer), and they must distort their portrait photographically, not digitally. They can obstruct their face and get creative with lighting and angles.

At my studio I have lots of masks that I’ve collected – really for no reason other than an impulse buy when I’m at my favorite dollar store around the corner. For this assignment I felt I could finally employ some masks. The set up is an easy one – one light front right and high up, camera on a tripod and connected to a laptop so I can see the screen in preview mode, and shallow DOF, f/1.4 – the focus is though part.

One of my favorite examples of photographer as subject is the series Untitled Film Stills by Cindy Sherman – it still resonates with me – I have loved that series of images for so many years. Photographers Diane Arbus and Ralph Eugene Meatyard have several photographs where the subject wears a mask. Although their images are memorable to me – they are not so much of an influence on my work.

Some photographers as artists have to be the subject – and I don’t think that’s out of ego or narcissism, just a practicality. And, other photographers have no interest in being their own subject – I understand that too. Distorted self portraits is a useful exercise that enables the photographer as subject to take creative liberties.

Andrew Wilkinson


Random Acts of Splatness is series I’ve enjoyed collecting. Mediums include paint, oil, coffee, berry sodas – and things I have no idea what they might be. These accidental action paintings are typically discovered around convenience stores, and some city side walks as well. Once you start looking out for them, they are hidden in plain sight like so many things.

I think many artists and photographers become custodians of particular subject that interests them in their personal work. They collect, arrange and organize their collections to make sense of it – if they don’t already know why they are doing it, and what it may mean to them.

What comes to my mind when the evidence of a splat is left behind is – how did that happen? was someone clumsy, distracted, or bumped into and lost their balance, or did that brimming 48 ounce slush master just become to slippy to handle. Accidents happen or is it the spirit of the road commanding a libation.




Poppies by Andrew Wilkinson


Dangerous Blossoms was an art exhibition at the DR Greenway Land Trust in Princeton NJ. The concept of the show was to display invasive and poisonous plants – I really loved the idea and was thrilled to be asked to participate. I re-worked the poppy series I began a while ago. This time I think I did a better job with the process.

This series titled ‘Kaleidoscopic Poppies’ is a study in simple flower photography and digital manipulation to create patterns from the base image. The same image, mirrored and folded digitally multiple times produces designs as if seen through a kaleidoscope. I always loved the colors and twisted wiggly stems of poppies. I set out to create my own set, but with a twist – and came up with some fun titles as well.

One of things I really liked about this project, in particular the ‘Be A Wall Flower’ image was the idea to challenge traditional composition. The flower image is cropped intentionally to grow out of the right side of the frame. When I did that, it made me feel like I’d been a bit square and ordinary with previous compositions. Glad I learned that!


Something told me that I really needed a Beauty Dish for a certain type of portrait photography – which is simply a 22″ white pan reflector that fits most strobe heads. The dish generates a natural reflection in the eyes of your subject making it ideal for portraiture – you can see the round reflection in the model’s eyes. That said, it’s not as easy as it may seem, taking a portrait with only one light – I have seen tutorials where the model holds a reflector to bounce the light up and soften shadows under the chin. The light goes quite high up on a stand and right against the wall, a diffuser makes the light less harsh, an effect I prefer. Without the diffuser, the images have much more contrast. I decided to push the contrast afterwards, but with the diffused light.

I intentionally moved the camera with a slightly slow shutter, about 1/20 or 1/30 to achieve a softer look. There’s an example of an image or two that is sharper. Diana was very patient while I fussed about with the light and camera settings. We had a bunch of pussy willow branches in the studio, which turned out to be an interesting element for Diana to hold, to add to the story of the image and perhaps make it more atmospheric than a straight forward portrait. I’ve often felt that a beautiful photo doesn’t have to be sharp or in focus [and – this isn’t an excuse] it’s just that there seems to be more romance in the softer images. Try explaining that to the editors I work with.

Some of the images remind me of 4AD record cover designs (This Mortal Coil), a look I always loved by photographer Nigel Grierson and the designers at 23 Envelope.


Painting with light is one of those fun photography experiments to play with. I’ve been collecting all sorts of light devices to see which ones create what type of effect. Abstracts are so much easier than writing letters – at least at the moment. I do want to capture calligraphic characters though. What I do find interesting is that you do create a unique light painting with your motions and gestures, it cannot be re-created. The settings can range from a 20 to 30 second exposure, f/22 at iso 100.


For nearly a year now a friend (and bicycle engineer) and I had this idea to mount a tripod post onto a tricycle. The plan was try all sorts of experimental photography from the bike. This first set is a series of 20-30 second exposures of some of the streets in Trenton at night. Some of the light patterns remind me of what you might see on an EKG monitor. The wiggly light patterns make me think we are seeing the streets’ energy – captured on camera.

It’s early days yet, we have a lot more experimental photography to try. Riding the bike in a circle or figure eight pattern seemed to yield my favorite results, the plaza where we recorded these was the smoothest to ride on as well. We have a lot of video ideas to try – can’t wait to really explore this.

The tricycle and a few prints were on display in the art exhibition titled ‘Unchained – the Art of the Bicycle‘ at Artworks in Trenton, NJ. Special thanks to Wills Kinsley, the bike engineer and guest curator for this exhibition. Wills also run Social Bike Rides around the city – tours of public art, history and gardens. Look up Trenton Social, the restaurant and bar where the rides start and finish – sign up, ride on.


Author James Scott asked me to take his portrait for his newest book and lecture tour. He had been resistant to have his photo taken because he didn’t want the image to reinforce any stereotypes as a Financial Consultant. He came to the table with an awesome character portrait concept – to be seated at a messy desk, decanter (from Scotland) and puffing on a cigar. He said so much of his job was about thinking, sorting out – a financial detective of sorts, before he gets down to writing. He brought several perfect props for the shoot and we had built the set prior to the photo day – just to make sure we both liked everything.

We chatted a lot – about all sort of subjects, and had just finished talking about spirit, and how some cultures have a heightened sense of intuition and knew when someone was coming home – since their spirit would arrive before them. The next shot we took there appeared to be wolf in the puff of cigar smoke next to James’ face – yikes.

He paid me one of the highest compliments about my photography work, that it was honest. He had looked at several photographers’ web site and settled on me – primarily because of the series of Artists’ portraits. Photo shoots like this make me love my job even more.

James Scott is the CEO of Princeton Corporate Solutions, “5 Time Best Selling Author” and lecturer on the topics of IPO facilitation, corporate structuring, Private Placement Memorandum authoring and Mergers and Acquisitions strategies. Here is a link to his books on Amazon.


Dr. Sketchy is group that provides models for art organizations and invites artists to draw and photograph. Artworks in Trenton hosted one of these events and the theme was Tarantino Movies – how great is that? There was even all the great music from the films playing while artists were drawing and photographers were taking pictures. I couldn’t help but think of Cindy Sherman’s series ‘Untitled Film Stills‘ (one of my favorite series’), where the artist put herself in front of the camera as a character from a film – a truly amazing series. In our scenario, we could work with models already in a character from Quentin Tarantino films. The extremely patient models allowed us to pose them and fuss with our lights and camera settings until we were getting the images we wanted.

I decided to try the bright back lighting technique by putting the flash behind the subject on full power and create a hazy glow. The flash is positioned close to the back wall and the subject so the light bounces off the wall and subject producing the glow effect to the image. Some of these effects can be achieved with filters – I just prefer to do it in the camera.


Here is a compilation of a few photo sessions from the last few months. I can’t help myself but to shoot in black and white. Why are we drawn to black and white portraits ? Is it the graphic quality that helps us concentrate on form, or an evenness of tone, without the distraction of color. From a technical stand point I’m learning to really see tone – I can set my digital camera to capture in black and white, but the color info is retained. Staying within the black and white tone range affords me the opportunity to work with subtle alterations of light – and really work with the effects of lighting.The right lighting is the key, and to be able to control the light as much as possible creates satisfying results.

All the images in the slide show were taken in studio with a variety of lighting types. Lately, I’ve been rather fond of this ring flash and bouncing the light into a big reflector – or positioning the subject with the available light and adding a soft light on one side. Thanks again to Dwayne and Molly for styling during several of these sessions.



I was invited to create an installation in the ArtLab at Artworks in Trenton. The room was rather large and I wasn’t so sure about building something on-site. So I decided to paint all the walls with chalk board paint and invite the community to write something on the walls with chalk. I called the installation BEFORE I DIE…I WANT TO… which would prompt the visitor to think about what they would like to leave for others to read.

Much to my surprise the room was filled by the time the installation had to be replaced. There were some very funny, sweet, poignant messages left behind for others to see.

Graphology is study and analysis of handwriting, especially in relation to human psychology – and you can’t help thinking about character analysis with some of these messages. Hand writing is a self portrait in type.

Thank you to all those who participated.

Here’s the project blurb:
Before I Die is a community art project where people can share what is important to them by writing a message on the gallery walls. This installation is based on the New Orleans artist Candy Chang. “The wall creates a public space for contemplation and reminds us why we want to be alive in the world today”. Hopefully, participants leave behind declarations, wishes and dreams all to share and remember what is important to them.