In his ongoing collaborative project Point Blank, photographer Peter Andrew has been shooting extremely high-res frontal portraits of handguns and then printing the photos as big as 4×8 feet for display.
“I want people to be able to see every scratch and fiber,” says Andrew, who lives in Toronto. “I don’t want the image to look perfect, like it came out of 3-D rendering software. ”
The photos, inspired by similar drawings by artist Robert Longo, are quite jarring, giving the viewer the opportunity to feel what it might be like to have a gun pointed at his head. But the photos also highlight the guns’ beautiful geometry and clean engineering.
Here in the United States the project might be taken as a political statement, but Andrew says that’s not what he, or his art director partners, Simon Duffy and Derek Blais, are going for.
“I’m not saying guns are good or bad in this project. What I am saying is that guns can be interesting to look at from a technical and visual perspective,” Andrew says.
In Canada, where all project team members are based, gun ownership is high, but not nearly as high as the United States. According to GunPolicy.org, there are an estimated 23.8 licit and illicit firearms per 100 people in Canada. In the United States, that number jumps to 101.05 guns (licit and illicit) per 100 people. Canada ranks 12th out of 178 surveyed countries in terms of total number of privately owned guns. The United States is in first place.
“We’ve thought a lot about [the politics] and here’s how I put it,” Andrew says. “I think that guns are safe if they are used by safe people and dangerous if use by dangerous people.”
To get the high-res and high-depth-of-field images, Andrew actually has to shoot multiple frames, up to 20 or so, and then combine them in Photoshop. He’ll focus on the barrel tip and make a photo, focus on the barrel and make a photo, focus on the trigger and make a photo, etc. All the photos are made with one light, a 36.3 megapixel Nikon D800E and a 100mm macro lens. While he’s working with the images as layers, the file can be as big as a gigabyte.
So far Andrew has only photographed a couple guns but he and his collaborators have several more on their list including the Judge, a five shot revolver made by Taurus, the Walther PPK, made famous by James Bond, and the Liberator, the world’s first fully 3-D printed gun.
The prints from the existing shots are for sale but they don’t come cheap at that size. They’re only printing five of each gun at 4×8 feet and those will cost you $5,000 a piece. They’re also offering smaller versions at 60×40 inches which run $3,600 each. Eventually, once more guns are photographed, the team wants to create a book.