Burning flowers, skulls, fog-blanketed forests, and shadowy light. What do these things have in common? They can all be found in the eye-catching, surreal cinemagraphs of gallereplay artists Nightflare Creative. The duo—Drew Johanna and Nick Night—are able to create such otherworldly images thanks in part to their expertise in set creation. We recently caught up with them to get some insight on building sets, sourcing props, and bringing artistic concepts to fruition.
gallereplay: On your gallereplay profile, you state that at the core of your work is the idea of aesthetic immersion, and that you want the viewer to lose themselves in the visual environments you create. Could you tell us more about that?
Nightflare Creative: Aesthetic immersion refers to the way various elements in a frame coalesce to create an experience that is transcendent. In many ways, this is synonymous with what is considered “cinematic.” It is a loss of ego, a transference of perspective to a fabricated reality. We feel that great art is felt before it is understood, and that creates a highly memorable experience for the viewer.
A telling example of Nightflare Creative’s dreamlike aesthetic.
gallereplay: What inspires your work?
Nightflare Creative: We’ve always been interested in the notion of the hypnagogic state, that is the liminal place between waking and sleep where reality falls into question. We gravitate towards more ethereal imagery because it takes the viewer out of the ordinary and into another world. Various moods, places and thick atmospheres we experience catalyze our aesthetic concepts. We are partial to motifs from the natural world, growth and decay, and vintage props.
Utilizing the natural world to create ethereal imagery.
gallereplay: Where do you typically shoot your cinemagraphs? How are you able to create such surreal subject matter?
Nightflare Creative: We produce work in Los Angeles and Portland. Location is extremely important to us and defines the image in a major way. We location scout based on the needs of the project, or fabricate the environment from scratch in studio. We often wind up in a natural setting that can be juxtaposed with an unnatural subject to create cognitive dissonance. Sometimes we style in another time period to further distance the viewer from their reality. It’s these “out of place” elements, along with deep colors and chiaroscuro lighting, that feel so surreal.
A behind the scenes peek at set construction with Nightflare Creative.
gallereplay: You have some truly unique props in your images. Are these things you’ve randomly collected over time or how do you come across them?
Nightflare Creative: One of the biggest things we love to do is build sets. Drew Johanna gets much of her cinemagraph inspiration from prop hunting and collecting. Trips to thrift stores and garage sales are frequent. Though she’s occasionally been accused of being a hoarder, she always discovers amazing set dressings that make the imagery come to life. We have been known to peruse through vast prop rental houses as well, in search of that perfect look.
“One of the biggest things we love to do is build sets. Drew Johanna gets much of her cinemagraph inspiration from prop hunting and collecting.”
– Nightflare Creative
gallereplay: Speaking of unique props, could you give us a bit of background info on the cinemagraph of the cat next to the armchair with flowers and dress shoes?
What started out as a styled shoe shoot quickly turned into something more surreal.
Nightflare Creative: Drew Johanna specializes in scenes of foliage overgrowth so when we were asked to put together a styled shoe shoot for a friend, we set to work in our Los Angeles studio. We started out with the chairs and stuffing moss into the creases, then it all came together with our taxidermy butterfly domes and other small details. One of our cats loves to be a part of the action, so after we were done with the photo shoot we put her on the table and took a video. We decided that since our last cat cinemagraph got over 3 million views on GIPHY, we should try another!
Foliage overgrowth is one of Drew Johanna’s fortes.
gallereplay: What kind of work can we expect from Nightflare Creative in the future? Do you have any dream projects that you’d like to work on?
Nightflare Creative: Commercially, we are looking forward to more work in the culinary sphere. We have a huge passion for food and drink and it marries very well with cinemagraphs. Nick is a serious home cook and we are working on our styling/plating skills. In terms of our art practices, Drew Johanna will be continuing her large format photo series The Feral, while Nick will continue to make promotional cinemagraphs for the film festival he founded and directs, RAW Film Festival. These cinemagraphs can be seen on the various pages of www.rawfilmfestival.com and are created directly from the selected films.
To view more of Nightflare Creative’s cinemagraphs, check out their gallereplay profile!