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When dreams come to life with Cheraine Collette

Meet Cheraine Collette, a unique artist who transforms her dreams into art. In her studio, she mixes photography and digital magic to create images that fill us with wonder. Today, she tells us how she got started, what inspires her, and how she uses technology to make art. Get ready to enter the fascinating world of Cheraine Collette, where every work is an adventure.

When dreams come to life with Cheraine Collette 02
©Cheraine Collette

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Your background? What inspired your passion for photography?

My name is Cheraine Collette, I am a Fine Art Photographer and Artist. My work is represented through multiple Art Galleries, featured at art fairs like Art Basel Scope Miami, collected by art collectors worldwide, and featured in publications such as National Geographic Traveler China, and my work has been acclaimed with over 270 awards by renowned international photography competitions at this day, with my first international competition being the International Photography Awards (IPA) in 2029 I received 1st place with my ‘Marvels’ series. Recently my work ‘Spotless Elegance’ has been Awarded with a Gold Pangea prize by the Creative Siena Awards.

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©Cheraine Collette

I was introduced to drawing by my brother and mother when I was about 3 or 4 years old, and my first analog Nikon photo camera when I was about 8, I remember taking my first photo of fleeting dolphins in mid-air at Tenerife, it was a mesmerizing moment for me. When I was about 12 years old my father introduced me with a wacom tablet and pen, and one of the first Adobe Photoshop suites CS1 or CS2, which I was eager to try out to digitally cut out some of my images, in this case a photo of my free roaming bunny at that time and some roses to create a collage.

Around the time I started my bachelor’s in Photography in 2012, I became very excited about fashion photography, so I started a fashion blog, I photographed my outfits and my brother forged special Items.

Soon I introduced more imaginary landscapes into my work and this evolved into photographing other models for my blog, adding animals, and making more dreamscapes. Through the years, I have spent lots of my time enhancing my skills by reading books, watching tutorials, and putting them into practice in my projects.

Furthermore, I love traveling and exploring new places, museums and other cultures to be inspired and to photograph which I can potentially use in my future artworks. To relax love watching old Hollywood movies with Fred Astaire for example which are often filled with overwhelming beauty and glamour, and I love to play the erhu, which is a Chinese violin, which is for me a different canvas of art I admire most dearly.

When dreams come to life with Cheraine Collette 01
©Cheraine Collette

Your work is marked by the presence of wild animals, where does this attraction for wildlife come from?

When I was still very young I was always fascinated by animals, I think this fascination steadily grew to wildlife with documentaries about Africa, the Jungles in Brazil, and the depths of the seas. I think animals are part of the treasure our earth possesses and make life more magical, animals have always inspired mankind. Throughout history, humanity was often in awe and or liked to compare itself to the abilities/power an animal possessed, the classical time is a great example.

“Would we have dreamt of flying without the example of the birds?”

Especially in our modern times, when the natural world seems to become a more distant reality to our urban jungles and our modern way of living demands more space, finding a way to live in harmony becomes more important than ever because we are inextricably linked. I think Art is a beautiful canvas to make people more aware of the beauty our world holds. Through beauty, I like to draw attention to wildlife and beautiful cultural treasures.

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©Cheraine Collette

What drives you to explore this unique blend of the real and the surreal in your work?

I want to show the world the beauty and admiration I feel for the beauty our world possesses, and how things perhaps one day could be and what is worth fighting for to protect. I think that beauty invites us to look and marvel at, genuinely shows the value of the subjects, and gives a positive feeling. And I think positivity is an aspect humanity has more need of in this time of growing division. 

“This planet is our only home and for many coming after us so let’s try to make it more of a paradise.”

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©Cheraine Collette

Can you describe your process during photo shoots and how you seamlessly integrate different elements together?

I often first draw my concept as a sketch by hand on paper or digitally with photoshop or 3d software using a Wacom cintiq pro drawing tablet, I often already have a thought about the light that I need, and after this point, I often try to find the places and the best times where I can photograph the separate elements.

In case of photographing an animal, whether it be in the wild or in a conservational zoo, it can require a lot of patience to get the perfect shot and pose. Capturing people, palaces, or landscapes is less challenging in this regard.

In most cases I prefer to work with daylight or golden hour light.

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©Cheraine Collette

How does photography serve as an effective medium for conveying ecological messages?

I think one of the most beautiful aspects of photography is that it can capture the beauty and wonders of our world for one to share and that you work closer together with the greatest artist of all, Mother Nature. Photography can show the audience the real beauty she has created which gives a more real connection with the viewer and perhaps is more confronting of what treasures of her we can lose.
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©Cheraine Collette

How do historic interiors enhance the narrative and significance of your photographs?

While the animals are treasures made by Mother Nature, I think some historical buildings are true treasures made by mankind. These buildings are a testimony to the abilities and progress of humanity through time and are a connection to our heritage. Like the beautiful flora and fauna our earth possesses, they are fragile treasures.
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©Cheraine Collette

What kind of photographic equipment do you use?

For photography I use a Canon Mark III with a 100 – 400 mm F/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens to capture wildlife because It has a good shutter time to capture movement. For architecture, I often use a 24-70 mm F/2.8L II USM, because I like to get closeups as well, and sometimes I also use my Hasselblad H5D with an HC 150 mm lens or HC 300 mm for wildlife and portraits and HC 150 or 35 mm for architecture. In some cases, I use my beloved vintage Mamiya Tripod. During wintertime, I could use some lights for portraits, and a reflection screen.
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©Cheraine Collette

Can you walk us through your creative workflow, including the tools you use for photo editing and your approach to composing your images?

First my process begins with sketching roughly my idea with either a piece of paper and a pencil or digitally with my images as reference in photoshop or in some cases using 3D, favouring software like Blender, Daz3d, Keyshot, Unreal Engine, Zbrush.

This gives me a solid idea for the conditions of light I will be needing for all the “elements” in my concept.

By now I usually already have some photographed “elements” I want to use stored on my local hard drives, but some key elements, like a specific pose of the model or animal, I still have to photograph with the right light conditions. And sometimes the other way around. For some of my new “Treasures” artworks, I already have photographed the interior of the palace, and what remains to do now is photograph the animal I have in mind in the specific pose I need and the specific light I need.

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©Cheraine Collette

After having photographed all the elements, I make a selection in Bridge using the labels and star rating system, and make a few tweaks in Camera Raw on the final selection of the images.

My works consist of a great amount of different layers at the end but I usually begin with the primary pieces in my artwork, this allows me to compose the balance between colors, light, and shadow ahead I zoom in for the smallest of details.

I love working on a Wacom Cintiq Pro using Adobe CC Photoshop. This gives me more control of the stroke of my brush. I have a 27″ Eizo monitor to view all details.

For videos and animations I like to use After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Media Encoder.

Does this interview inspire you?

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©Cheraine Collette

How does being both the artist and subject in your photos influence your creativity and what do you find rewarding about this approach?

Becoming the model in some of my Artworks was not my original plan.

However, becoming my own subject in my works gives me some more artistic freedom because not every model is comfortable with Artistic nude. After the publication of the first works, I came to the conclusion that I did not feel more vulnerable in comparison to my previous Artworks, because with each artwork you share a bit of your feelings from your soul with the world, which at the same time also feels very liberating.

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©Cheraine Collette

On one of your latest Siena Awards publications you appear to be drowned in a crowd of men, do you think this image is representive of the field of photography today?

I think that there are more women photographers than ever active in the field of photography. I notice that many female photographers are overall drawn to creative niches of photography compared to men, which only form a small segment of most photography competitions.

However, it is great that one can measure their skills globally amongst great names in the industry.
I’m eager to see the increasing participation of women in photography, and the field’s dynamic nature, and the impact it will have on the artistic and cultural narratives captured through the lens.

As more women enter and excel in this field, we can expect a richer collection of stories and perspectives, reflecting a wider spectrum of experiences and visions.

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©Cheraine Collette

What advice would you give to a young photographer just starting out in this field?

I would advise you to do a lot of experimentation in different fields of photography to find where your passion lies, this also helped me in finding the directions I love most.  

“Your unique perspective is your greatest asset.”

Cultivate it, express it through your photography, and don’t be afraid to let your individuality shine through your work. Photography is not just about capturing what you see, it’s about sharing how you see the world. In essence, let your passion guide you, stay curious, and be committed to your craft. This journey is as much about personal growth as it is about professional development.

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©Cheraine Collette

Extend this moment with Cheraine Collette by following him on his website or on Instagram.

All images: ©Cheraine Collette

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