Darkroom Magic: How a Master Surrealist Shapes Scenes from Real Photos

His photographic manipulations are uncanny, creating bizarre
effects and optical illusions, all while remaining highly
realistic and (perhaps most impressively) quite true to
the original real-life source material.

By working from actual photographs, Erik
 manages to capture but subvert everyday
built environments. Take Under the Corner, for
instance, a photo montage he worked on for months.”I shot
all the buildings in Prague,” he explains, and “combined the
photos using Photoshop. No CGI or illustrated elements.”

He also spent a long time with one of his latest
works, Self Supporting, which he says was
an “idea I’ve been carrying with me for a long time. I
find the structural properties of an arch interesting, where
each part is supporting the other. If you remove one it will
all collapse but as long as the structure is untouched it will
remain strong.”

The landscape for Self Supporting was shot in Bohemian
Switzerland in the Czech Republic and the houses were
photographed in Prague and Stockholm. One of the constituent
structures is shown above. “The sketches start very simple but
over time become more detailed.” He sometimes uses SketchUp to
model his ideas, but says they also get reshaped by the source
material he photographs.

Full Moon Service is about as surreal as the come, but
there is a surprising amount of reality baked in per the
behind-the-scenes video above. “I brought out 7 rice lamps, 7
light bulbs, an electric generator, a car and two models out in
a field” in Sweden, recalls Johansson. It still required some
magic, though. “The main part that has been retouched in this
photo is to replace the rice ball with a moon texture, the
light and the mood was very close to what you see in the

More from the artist’s website:
“Erik Johansson (born 1985) is a photographer and image creator
from Sweden based in Prague, Czech Republic. His work can be
described as surreal scenes created by combining different
photographs. Erik works on both personal and commissioned
projects with clients all around the world. In contrast to
traditional photography he doesn’t capture moments, he captures
ideas with the help of his camera and imagination. The goal is
to make it look as realistic as possible even if the scene
itself contains impossible elements. In the end it all comes
down to problem solving, finding a way to capture the

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