Munkowitz has always been drawn to textured silhouettes, color gradients, and sculpting light in volumetric ways –– so as his desire to get into Studio Photography developed, it was only natural he would explore those same principles in the medium. Throughout the photo series, each chapter of the narrative began to take on its own aesthetic, palette, and presence – as though dictating the mood required for the unique role it had to play in our story arc. Drawing inspiration from the portfolio of ultra-talented collaborator James Zwadlo, who is incredibly skilled at manipulating studio strobes and speedlights, Munkowitz and his team sought to create gradients of light that would contrast with the darkness of the King’s coat and the creamy flesh tones of his Queen. Rivers of smoke and haze were used to build volume and pair with the musky texture of fur and the drama of silhouettes to break up ambient planes. An impressionistic lens lets us into the inner life of this creature, layering meaning and mystery atop the physical form through rich atmospheric symbolism. We see the beast’s moment of discovery –– we meet the girl beneath the fog, latent and waiting – we move through his tender concern – the growing connection – the union – and finally the rebirth of both characters through one another. The way the fog obscures parts of an image while revealing other parts, the wash of light over faces or shadows left unseen, the shapes of bodies, skin, and fur against misty darkness...all elevate the narrative out of time and space itself. Studio strobes yielded clean, dynamic images that seem to freeze motion within the strobes, capturing emotion in the still frames and enabling a simple sequence of stills to tell a clear story.
The Munky King
The Munky King Ep 1 was a labor of love that represented a confluence of the right people, coming together at the right time (in a tiny photography studio on a very hot summer’s day), working against the clock on a single day to give life to a classic story with a modern twist. Playing off of Beast/Beauty tropes that evokes La Belle et La Bette, Munko wanted to tell a story of connection through touch, of discovery through interdependence, and of empowerment through symbiosis between the most unlikely of partners. Munkowitz and his team shot on a Canon 1DX in a blacked out studio with 3 Studio Strobes and 3 Speed Lights, all triggered from one controller on the camera. They used gels and bounce cards to create gradients of color, a high end smoke/ dry ice machine from Artem Effects that gave them low-hanging smoke from which to sculpt rivers of fog, and the iconic animatronic Monkey Suit from Animated Extras that started it all. Classic beauty Ava Roeg brought the Munky Queen to life with her signature combination of strength and fragility, as expertly styled by Jeffrey Michael Design. Using the silhouette of the Munky with multiple light sources as their true north, Munkowitz and his team allowed the light to bounce and reflect between the two characters to create a dreamy, lush aesthetic that mirrors the visceral sensations of the narrative -- power and tenderness, brawn and soft fantasy, vibrant light and dank fur, human and Beast.
The Munky King Ep 1 was a pure creative process that allowed GMUNK to explore a medium that fascinates him, through themes he loves, with people he admires and loves learning from. He reveled in working with Animated Extras and repurposing their stunning Animatronic Suit, which is best known in a graphic, brightly lit commercial context, to give it a new mythology and ethos. The project is a concept aesthetic that he is thrilled to have transferred from his head into the world. It’s an itch that has been happily scratched, whether it has reached its final stage here, or blossoms into something bigger in the future. Finally – triumphantly – The Munky King lives.