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The Leap of Faith

There comes a time in every artist’s life, when you realize that you have to step it up, take the plunge and put yourself – your true self – into your work; when you realize that the only way you and your work can truly connect to your audience, your clients, your tribe is to make it as uniquely you as it can be; when you realize that you must listen to your heart, reach out to trusted friends, be honest with yourself and take a chance on something completely different. My newest project, Her Journey, came out of such a moment. My new series of multimedia cinemagraphs collectively titled, ‘Her Journey’ represents some of my deepest self-reflection about the choices we make, the peaks and valleys we all experience and the journey we take every day as artists, never knowing where the road will end. These thoughts and feelings are channeled through a character whose growth reflects the changes we must all inevitably face throughout our journey. The road to creating this series was equally unpredictable and though I started with a clear direction, ‘Her Journey’ has surpassed my wildest expectations…

I had just gotten back from assignment in Central China and after delivering the final images for the project I was left with close to 10,000 unused images: gorgeous landscapes of the high country of Tibet that were begging to be a part of something special. While in Tibet, my native guide, Tserang, shed new light on what it really means to live happily, humbly and peacefully. All of the Tibetans I met changed my life, especially my outlook on material possessions and how they relate to true happiness. The situation in Tibet is a mixed one, much sadness mingles about in the day-to-day happiness and this bittersweet medley filled me, from the toes up, compelling me to look within and ask questions.

I was standing at the peak of Amne Machin, ‘Holy Snow Mountain’ in Tibet, feeling humbled to the core and greatly aware of the realities of my life, when the inspiration to create an epic story about a woman of great privilege and wealth who leaves all of her material possessions behind to seek the greater truth of her life, took hold of me.

As artists and business professionals, we so often feel the need to push ourselves harder and harder toward perfection. We are perfectionists by nature and rarely ever feel satisfied…. More money! More things! More accomplishments! It’s Just Never Enough.

‘Her Journey’ begins with a woman who has reached the top and is left feeling empty with a grave sense of loss, lack of spiritual connection and an overall lack of direction. She decides to leave her life behind and move into the future striving toward a higher path of enlightenment and knowledge.

As this story began to roughly unfold, I fell in love with the character development and the way each image became more surreal and magical as they progressed, making us question the actual reality of her journey. Was it all real or only the creation of her vast imagination? Is she living this journey or is it some kind of an out-of-body experience?

As I imagined the sixth image, I realized the series needed movement and a sense of magic that could only be created in post-production. I turned to my long-time colleague, Lew Fraga. CGI and After Effects wizard that he is, he whipped up our hot-air balloon, atmospheric movement and particle effects in no time, turning the stills into animated GIFs and HD video animation. Seeing these I couldn’t keep myself from wanting to hear from the woman inside the frame so I sat down one night and I drafted a very heartfelt script and then brought commercial copywriter Terri Jones on board to edit it into 6 one minute segments. Kera O’Bryon, the Emmy Nominated actress who played my main character, came back nearly three months later to read the scripts for voice-over and I collaborated with music composer Jody Boyd of Red Amp Audio to write a custom score to lead each story in a direction that could carry the words and images farther than I could have ever imagined.

It’s pretty uncanny how my character’s journey into the unknown paralleled our own journey to create these cinemagraphs. This project was self-funded and everyone involved gave their blood, sweat and tears whenever we could spare a second. It was a project of love for our art, professional unity and sincere inspiration that positively effected all of us! It was something that we could all step back from at the end and feel great about… Nearly a year in the making, ‘Her Journey’ has expanded into what amounts to a condensed short film told in 7 minutes

These past 8 months have been transformative and I’m excited to see where ‘Her Journey’ will take me and my team. We are all in this field because we love creating, and creating together, as a team, is a beautiful thing. From this experience the best advice I can give is to take the chance, forget the risk and push yourself to find your voice. Make some new friends along the way who share similar goals and vision. You never know what may transpire.

Christopher Winton-Stahle

Chris Winton-Stahle is an award-winning photographer and accomplished photo illustration artist who sees the camera as only half of his process in creating great imagery. Chris often pulls components from multiple images and CGI when creating his work for clients in advertising, magazines and entertainment.

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