Although Richard Tuschman enjoys going to the theater, he is slightly more attracted to the sets and lighting than to the drama unfolding onstage.
He was also attracted to the quiet sense of drama found in the paintings of Edward Hopper, and he used them as a launching pad for a personal project he began almost two years ago titled “Hopper Meditations.”
Tuschman has worked predominately as a commercial photographer, but he has a fine-arts background with a focus on painting, graphic design, and assemblage. He had been making dioramas for a while and wanted to use them to create interior scenes where he would digitally include a figure or two.
To do that, Tuschman began by building the dioramas. Apart from an occasional prop taken from a dollhouse or toy train set, Tuschman builds everything to a scale about big enough for his cat, Smithers, to fit inside. He then photographed his models (he used two women and cast himself for the male character) on gray, using Photoshop to create the final image.
“If it doesn’t take me a long time, it’s really not worthwhile,” Tuschman said, laughing about his process. “These pictures are almost mundane in a way. They’re really quiet and have a sort of psychological overtone to them and that was really appealing to me.”
Although the first image he created (Hotel by Railroad, 2012) set out to replicate a Hopper painting, the more he worked on the series, the less he wanted to create duplicates. “The more I did them, Hopper became more of an inspiration rather than something to copy,” he said.
“I have always loved the way Hopper’s paintings, with an economy of means, are able to address the mysteries and complexities of the human condition,” Tuschman wrote in his statement about the work. “The general mood in my work is more somber, and the lighting is less harsh than in Hopper’s.”
As he nears two years on the project, Tuschman said he’s beginning to crave a new direction for his work, though he’s fairly certain he’ll continue to work with dioramas, saying they give him a lot of freedom and a sense of control. “If I start losing interest, it’s a bad sign,” he said. “I don’t want to simply be known as the ‘Hopper guy.’ ”
He has received a lot of positive attention for the series, including a second-place award in the Digitally Enhanced Professional category at the 2013 International Photography Awards and third place in the Editor’s Choice category at the 2013 Center Awards.