Photographer Ben Tanzer may have left a theater degree behind, but he certainly kept his flair for the dramatic. In his “Identity Series,” he transforms himself into iconic characters, for self-portraits like “The Boxer,” a grungy interpretation with 1920’s style that recently won the Sunset Print Award at the Plymouth Center for the Arts Fine Art of Photography.
The conceptualized image is a clear shout out to Cindy Sherman-esque photo and editing work. “I’ve always been drawn to Cindy Sherman — she was one of my first crushes ever, as a photographer,” Tanzer says. “The Boxer was my first piece for the Identity Series … I just became really interested in what it means to be human … and how we define ourselves by what it is that we do.”
For the competition print, Tanzer did some Photoshop work with overlays and brushes to create the gritty look, but says, “I don’t do a lot of what I call ‘liposuction editing.’ Just dodging and burning to emphasize certain areas.”
It’s a technique that he perfected in the second of the Identity Series in which he portrays a female karaoke singer in a low-cut, cleavage-bearing red dress.
The final competition print of “The Boxer” was a 9-by-9-inch square “Instagram cut,” as he calls it, that fit the mood of his self-portraits, thanks to the self-involved, “selfie” flavor the crop provided. The image was printed on Epson Cold Press Bright White 100% cotton rag paper.
While Tanzer, currently a production assistant for a Texas animation studio, has participated in photography shows for eight years, he’s been entering print competitions for just two years, and is looking to do more.
“There are a whole bunch of competitions out there,” he says. “And there are a lot of people around the country who care about this as much as I do.”