Behind the Project: Day of the Dead

In this series, we’ll look deeper into some of the projects on that were especially admired in our community. This time, we spoke with John Rees, a photographer in Austin, Texas about his photo project “Dia De Los Muertos” – named for the Mexican holiday that remembers deceased friends/family, marked by unique costumes. With a great inspiration behind the work, learn more about his process and execution of these striking shots.

What was your inspiration for this project?
The inspiration for this was – quite simply put – my mother.  After her unexpected death, I was creatively paralyzed for quiet awhile – but I did this work for the sake of doing something creative again, and in that way it is a tribute to the strong will and sprit of my mother…

I worked with a fabulous hair and make-up artist by the name of Brittany Troche, whom I also consider a dear friend, and collaborate with on projects from time to time.  We both share an interest in “Dia de los Meurtos” imagery and what it celebrates.

Can you describe your process in creating this project?
It was all quite organic. I was in Salt Lake City doing client work, and both Brittany and the talent (the model Caitlyn) were available. It all came together quite naturally, which is what almost always happens when you surround yourself with such talented people. I’m fortunate to know so many generous, talented people.

Did you expect it to be as popular as it’s been on The Behance Network?
I didn’t have any expectations about this body of work.  It was pure catharsis and I didn’t have any real intent beyond that.  Creating just to create again.  So, yes I’m surprised that it has received any attention at all.  Since I posted it on Behance, It has been published in Mexico in a publication called, Origama, I have had request for other uses as well.  It’s really nice that there is movement around work that is so personal to me.

Did you go through many versions and iterations before coming up with these final pieces?
No – I shot them all in one day, We just kept mixing things up as we saw fit throughout the process, adding things and subtracting others as we saw fit.  It was purely an emotional response to how things worked or didn’t

Do you feel that this project is “done,” or is there anything you’d like to improve on or change in the future?
That is an excellent question, as I think of my personal work by way of series, so I don’t know if anything is really done in the sense of completion, especially since this work has become so personal.  I have abandoned projects in the past because I’ve felt that I’m in a different place or state of mind, or perhaps because I’ve said and explored all that can be said with a particular project. So getting back to your question, I think that I will and would like to take this further as I think that the dialogue isn’t over yet.