When you read a great novel, you can really see the world it builds. Well, Margot Wood goes one step further. She’s the mastermind behind The Real Fauxtographer, the blog where she posts her amazing, young adult novel-inspired “fauxtos” — plus the stories behind their creation.
Margot was nice enough to take some time to chat with us about her own favorite YA novels, her most “OMG AWKWARD!” photography moments, and just how many different colors she’s dyed her hair using Photoshop. Plus she shared a bonus photo, not yet seen on The Real Fauxtographer! Scroll down to check it out … it features a familiar face!
How did you first become interested in photography?
I took a film photography class in college as senior. I had a bunch of credits left over, so I thought I’d take, you know, easy classes. Ended up being a life changer!
What gave you the idea to start creating photos inspired by young adult novels?
I had been trying to develop a photo series for a long time, but none of my other ideas really stuck with me, mostly because they weren’t really original. Then, one day, while reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I got a brilliant idea for a photo and just ran with it. It made sense for me to make this my “project” because it meant combining two of my favorite hobbies: reading and taking photos.
How do you choose which young adult novels to recreate in photographic form?
Not every book I read inspires me, and for each book that I end up photographing, it’s something totally different. Sometimes it’s the world building or the characters or a particular scene, but in general the thing I look for is a strong tone. I have to pick up on a certain feeling while reading the book; if that doesn’t happen. then it’s unlikely I’ll photograph it.
A lot of your “fauxtos” seem to be inspired by sci-fi, fantasy and dystopian novels, like Across the Universe by Beth Revis and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Are those genres you personally love reading?
I love sci-fi and fantasy novels! I tend to gravitate towards them because the world building is so lush, but I’m definitely looking to expand my horizons a little and try reading more realistic fiction.
Who are some of your favorite young adult authors? Photographers?
In terms of authors, I’d have to say I’m a big fan of Rae Carson, Libba Bray, David Levithan and Melina Marchetta. As for photographers, Annie Leibovitz is definitely a huge inspiration, but I honestly try to avoid looking at other photographers’ work because in the art world it’s very easy to be influenced by someone else’s work. I avoid it so my work can stay as “original” as possible.
In your blog post on Anna Dressed In Blood, by Kendare Blake, you mentioned that an Asian tour group stumbled upon your photo shoot and was (understandably) confused and maybe a little bit terrified. Do awkward moments like that happen often during your photo shoots?
The photo for Where Things Come Back was pretty cool, mostly because it was my first time photographing water … and a boy! I had to wade across a small river in Ohio in the summer, climb a tree that was overhanging the water, balance myself, and then somehow photograph the boy floating in the water. He had the hard job of not only floating but keeping from floating away! It was really hilarious, both of us struggling, and it surprisingly came out EXACTLY how I wanted. The coolest part of that whole experience was debuting the photo to John Corey Whaley, the author. I had never discussed my plans for the photo or what scene I wanted to shoot, so when I showed it to him and not only did he know exactly what scene I had shot but then said that that particular scene was his favorite moment in the whole book — that was the coolest.
What’s the most challenging part of creating a “fauxto?”
Coming up with the idea can be extremely difficult at times. For a lot of books, I have about 10 ideas swirling around and none of them are really jumping out at me, but I know I really want to do a photo for that book. Other times, an idea presents itself almost immediately and then the hardest part is figuring out how I’m going to achieve it. However, consistently, the most difficult aspect is finding a location. I do not shoot indoors. I do not use artificial lighting. I only shoot outdoors with the natural light, and living in NYC, there aren’t that many places I can easily get to in order do that. NYC is great for just about everything except it lacks easy transportation to the great outdoors. I end up shooting a lot of photos whenever I go on vacation, because I find it’s just easier to photograph anywhere else but NYC.
What’s your favorite young adult-inspired photograph that you’ve taken so far?
In your blog post about your Don’t Breathe a Word “fauxto,” you said that you take mostly self-portraits. Is it tough doing the modeling, editing, and location-scouting all on your own?
It is extremely time-consuming and the taking of the portrait can be very difficult. I would rather just photograph other people, but I don’t really have many friends who still happen to look like teenagers. For all the selfies, I use a tripod and a remote, so it’s not too bad. The hardest selfie I’ve done is the Under the Never Sky one. Trying to figure out my positioning for those photos and then getting it to focus right on the exact spot was wicked hard.
Does living in a big, bustling city like New York affect which novels you choose to turn into “fauxtos,” or pose any challenges for you in taking your photographs?
I would love to do more NYC-set photos! But I am a true nature girl at heart and I feel more comfortable shooting in the wilderness than I do in the big city. I should change that though. I know I would have a much easier time getting more shots done for this series if I just read more city-set novels.
You mentioned on your blog that you’ve been able to edit your hair to be a bunch of different colors — from blue to purple to white! Any Photoshop tips for those of us looking to try out photo editing?
There are about 10,000 ways to change hair color in Photoshop and I’ve done about 5,000 of them. I always start out with my go-to way first, which is selecting the section you want to color, giving it a feather (Photoshoppers know what I’m talking about, but feathering just means that your selection doesn’t have hard edges), then adjusting the hue. That worked for turning my hair purple, blue and red. When I had to go blonde for the Don’t Breathe A Word photo, that took a much larger effort in order to make it look realistic. That required using the paint brush and painting it in and making that layer at about 10% visibility, then just repeating over and over until I got the desired effect.
What advice would you give to young photographers and writers about finding a project they can be passionate about?
Fan art is always a good place to start because you get to be creative while honoring something you love. It doesn’t have to be books, it could be movies or mythology or music — anything where they can draw inspiration from.
Was it challenging to mix mediums and combine photography and literature?
Definitely not. There’s such a variety of books to read and choose from. I honestly think I’ll never run out of ideas…until they stop writing YA books all together.
Any advice for young artists looking to merge their seemingly disconnected interests?
Oh man, that is such a hard question. I think it all depends on your interests but in all honesty, I think you can connect art to just about anything else in the world. I think a lot of artists struggle to find inspiration and don’t even realize that they have something available to them already. Just consider what you like doing during your downtime. How do you relax or unwind? Think about that and you might come up with an answer that can influence your art.
Special Figment bonus!!
Psst — this hasn’t been shared on The Real Fauxtographer yet! This photo is inspired by Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.
Recognize the man in the sweater? It’s none other than former Figtern Adam!
All photographs by Margot Wood.