Photography to Surprise & Delight









John Purlia is an artist and writer living in La Jolla, California. The images he creates are still-life narratives that playfully take on broad social themes with the close detail and naive inspection of a child. Vintage record covers provide the background context for each of his pieces, with vinyl 45's supporting the stage, and familiar objects such as toys, books and religious figures providing the players. Vibrant, candy-like colors bring to life these carefully staged scenes and enhance the child-like quality he employs to draw the viewer deeper into the world he has created. Influenced by the way children play with their toys—lending conflict and dialog to stuffed animals and plastic figures—Purlia uses symbolism and the subtle juxtaposition of objects to construct a narrative that invites discussion and thematic interpretation within the striking visual impact of his images.

As the nature of his work has become increasingly complex, so too has the process he follows to produce each finished piece, often entailing hundreds of hours of work. Staged scenes are photographed from a stationary position, with each shot focused on a different object, starting with the object closest to the lens and gradually moving farther and farther away until the background is in sharp focus. Typically, 8 to 48 photographs are captured, each focused at a different spot within the scene.

Each of these photographs is then imported into a computer where they are closely analyzed to determine which objects are "most sharp" in each photo, sometimes to the degree that the parts of a single object may be "sharpest" across multiple photos.


Every photo is then painstakingly adjusted — for exposure, sharpness, color saturation, contrast, vibrancy, shadows, etc — and masked into multiple layers so that every object within a single layer is exactly as desired. The final step is to take all of the layers and smoosh them together into a single, deeply focused image where every object will appear as sharp and vibrant as possible.