The Raccoon speaks to Pittsburgh photographer Ben Bartling about how music helps shape his work, his preference for digital and ink-drop raccoons…
Hello Ben, please introduce yourself.
Hey everyone! My Name is Ben Bartling. I’m a graphic designer and photographer from Pittsburgh, PA. I’m currently a freshman at La Roche College, studying graphic and communication design.
How long have you been working as a photographer?
Well I have always been interested in Photography. During my my high school career I really started getting into photography, but it hasn’t been until this past year that I started doing paid jobs.
Who/what would you say your main inspiration is?
My main inspirations for my work are Leif Podhajsky (http://leifpodhajsky.com/), Kristina Gentvainyte (http://kristinagentvainyte.tumblr.com/), Justin Maller (http://justinmaller.com/). Justin Maller is part of the reason I got into design and art. I saw his work on deviantart one day, and it made me want to try to recreate some of his work. Music is my other main inspiration, I’m straight edge, so I need a need a way to inspire me. Bands and artists like Tobacco, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Tame Impala, and Young Magic are some of my favourite things to listen to when I work.
Your work is incredibly varied, ranging from street photography to surrealistic space-like collages. Does this variation come naturally or is it a conscious effort?
It is a little bit of both. I get bored of things really easily so it’s really nice to change up my style. Doing multiple projects in a similar style is really frustrating. That’s a reason I love doing design work for other people. It forces me to think out of the box and that way I get experiment, and learn about new styles of art and design. Music also has a lot to do with the style of work that I do at the time. Spacey art is usually made when I listen to Muse (which is my absolute favourite band!), dark art is created when I listen to My Chemical Romance. When you look at my art you can clearly tell that it was me that made it, but I really like to mix it up.
The ‘Double Exposed’ project is so beautifully trippy and dreamy, where did you get the idea from?
I’m not really sure exactly…. I started taking pictures of my friends, and I would have them stand above me and then I would shoot into the sun creating a white background. After days of shooting I would look at these photos and I started experimenting with different blending modes, and black and white work in Photoshop. They’re incredibly fun to make and they usually end up looking good.
What’s your favourite medium to work in?
Well I do a lot of photography, but I prefer working in Photoshop over anything else. I started doing design when I was in 5th grade because I loved art, but I couldn’t draw. Computers made sense to me, so I started messing around in Photoshop and I was hooked.
Have you got any exhibitions coming up?
No I don’t sadly. Although, I do have work hanging up all around my hometown.
What’s the creative community of Pittsburgh like?
Pittsburgh is probably the ideal place for design and artists. There is such a large and supportive community around here. Everyone in the greater Pittsburgh area is so nice and interested in seeing new and creative ideas. I was an apprentice with the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh last year, and this year I plan to join them which will hopefully be exciting. I’m a member of AIGA and the student chapter here at La Roche.
We love the live photos you took of Baths, is live music photography something you want to get more involved with?
Thank you so much! That was my first shoot, and I loved it! I can’t wait to do more. Baths was an excellent starting point, and it not only gave me a chance to take some great photos, but I was able to enjoy an amazing concert! I am staying in contact with the local venues around Pittsburgh. That way I can build my portfolio more and see some more amazing concerts!
…and finally, we think your ‘Reflections On Ink Drops’ project is a few digital alterations away from showing a trippy raccoon’s face. Reckon it can be done?
I think I’m up to the challenge! I’m actually planning on doing some more ink drop photo shoots. So if I see a raccoon next time I’m shooting, I’ll definitely send you guys something!
Want to find out more? Of course you do! Head to Ben’s Behance for more examples of his fantastic work.