A Photo Editor interviews photo duo Guzman about interpreting “odd emotions” for a recent Psychology Today cover story

If odd emotions are “feelings you can’t name,” as the January issue of Psychology Today describes them, then how can you photograph them? This was the question that the magazine put to photo duo Guzman, who relished the challenge.

“This was our first time working with Psychology Today, and we’re delighted that they asked us to collaborate on this project,” Guzman tell with A Photo Editor’s Heidi Volpe in an interview published last week. “We enjoy taking a concept, in this case ‘odd emotions,’ and figuring out how to visually express it. Our editorial work often has underlying conceptual themes. They could be of a political or social nature; or they could be self-referential. With ‘odd emotions,’ it was not so much about illustrating what was happening inside one’s head but rather creating an unresolved/open-ended image that allows the viewer to interpret those feelings for themselves.”


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Photo by Guzman for Psychology Today.


A Photo Editor: Bringing fashion into potentially dry subject matter adds a layer of surprise to the images. Were these concepts difficult to sell to the editors?
Guzman: Actually, when there is an emotional component to work with, the ideas tend to flow. That said, “odd emotions “ was a good rock for us to to leap off of. At first glance, the subject matter may appear to be a little convoluted, but Ed Levine (the magazine’s creative director) and Claudia Stefezius (the photo editor) were very helpful by providing us with a mood board and a list of ideas to help establish a visual dialogue. After some discussion, we all zeroed in on the ideas. In addition, we all felt that the images should not be too alienating. These were not emotions that we need to fear but rather are a part of life.


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Photo by Guzman for Psychology Today.


How much direction did you get from the magazine?
There was a back and forth regarding model choices. As far as our creative team, we have a team that we work with. We believe that images, whether they’re created for advertising or editorial, are the result of the creative team a photographer chooses; each person on the team brings their creative background and ideas to the image. That includes the hair stylist, makeup artist, fashion stylist, set designer, and, of course, assistants and the digital tech. The photographer is much like a film director, guiding these gifted artists in the creating of the images. So there is a lot of back-and-forth emailing regarding props direction, lighting, clothing choices, and so on.


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Photo by Guzman for Psychology Today.


Fashion is a departure for this magazine. Are you part of the magazine ushering in a new look?
I don’t think it was a conscious decision on our part. As photographers, one has to figure out intuitively how to communicate an idea in an interesting way. Since we needed the images to be thought-provoking without being too dark and alienating, perhaps approaching this assignment in a surrealist/ fashion context helped.


Photo by Guzman for Psychology Today.

Photo by Guzman for Psychology Today.


Was it a challenge to have them run an image “upside down” on the cover?
That was the magazine’s idea, and we loved it. It’s what made us really try to get the assignment.

Did you personally experience any of these “odd emotions”?
Well, regarding the image of the girl climbing on the clock, we chose to work with her knowing that she had to leave for another previously booked assignment at 3 PM. Still shooting her at 2:55 PM, the concept—“an acute awareness of time”—suddenly became our reality! Art does indeed imitate life.


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Photo by Guzman for Psychology Today.


Tell us about the image with the girl and the world on her shoulders.
During the shoot, we thought it might be interesting, since it was a beach ball, to take some of the air out of the world. It added an extra layer of meaning to the image, that the world she felt so small within suddenly became fragile and quite literally a little deflated.


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Photo by Guzman for Psychology Today.


Republished with the permission of Heidi Volpe and A Photo Editor.

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