From ghostly pictures taken at night to eerie images of the Fort recreated by artificial intelligence, a local artist has shared how dream and nostalgia inspire his work.
Will Lakeman’s photographic journey started many years ago.
“I have taken photos my whole life, I even thought about it as a degree,” he says. “I was inspired by films, but I did not know there was such a thing as artistic photography until I went to university. I was obsessed with horror movies, David Lynch’s work and Giallo movies, Italian lurid movies.”
Pictured: Will says he didn't take a single good photograph until he was 24.
Feeling more confident with a pen in hand than a camera, Will went on to train as a writer but a thirst for the abstract and “something more spontaneous” kept him interested in photography, even though he was not always pleased with the results.
“I did not take a single good photograph until I was 24,” he said. “I spent 24 years taking pictures that were not very interesting. It was not until I took one where I had an emotional experience that they started getting better. The first photo I took that I was really happy with was one of the Esplanade car park.”
As he started working at night, Will began working with nocturnal images, a series of which went on display at Private & Public Gallery in 2019. Those were partly inspired by his synesthetic hallucinations during which he can “taste colours and feel sounds.”
“I would try and get the sort of sense you get when you see something in a dream, bigger and clearer and more colourful,” Will explained.
Pictured: Using artificial intelligence, Will has been manipulating images of Fort Regent based on his own dreams of the place.
Dreams and nostalgia are two big influences in Will’s work and both combine in his latest project. Using artificial intelligence, he has been manipulating images of Fort Regent based on his own dreams of the place.
Will had been wanting to focus on the Fort for a while but couldn’t find a way into it until he stumbled upon AI. His efforts have somewhat been stumped by the lack of pictures of the Fort, an appeal for images has not yielded much results so far, so Will has been creating his own collages and using pictures of the Fort as it is now, as well as the small number of archive images he has been able to find.
“I grew up here and I spent a lot of time there like many people,” Will said. “I am interested a lot about nostalgia, when people talk about what life was, they are not talking about reality but what their memory is.
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Pictured: Will wants his images to be "spooky, very colourful and weird".
“I am interested in making those images, but I also understand that it is not reality and that you cannot go back there. I try to make them spooky, very colourful and weird, because even in a nice dream, there’s always something that happens that is a little bit weird. I wanted to try and capture that in an image, to make people remember and think about their own dreams.”
The process to create one image is a lengthy and somewhat fortuitous one. Will has to ‘feed’ the AI source images as well as instructions drawn from his dream diary until he “stumbles” upon something that looks right.
“The AI understands words and sentences but not in the same way as humans do,” he explained. “It’s like a painting where someone is throwing paint at the canvas rather than using a brush.
“Sometimes it’s really frustrating, you just do it over and over again and it looks nothing like you hoped it would, and then suddenly it looks exactly like it did in your dream.”
Pictured: “It’s like a painting where someone is throwing paint at the canvas rather than using a brush," Will said about the process.
The image comes out the size of a postage stamp so once Will is happy with it, he then has to make it “bigger and bigger”, adding elements as he goes, which he says can be quite “time consuming”.
“It takes around a day of trial and error to get a decent resolution,” he said.
While it’s an unusual process that Will says does not resemble any other type of creative process, he believes more artists will turn to AI in the future.
“At the moment, it uses a lot of computer power but soon it will be very commonplace,” he said.
“Everyone has the potential to make art that is meaningful to them. Anyone can be a good photographer, you do not need expensive gear, you just need to care. AI is the next thing that will become democratic. I would love to see other people’s weird dreams.”
This article first appeared in the Dec/Jan edition of Connect magazine, which you can read here.
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