Here at Mextures, we never cease to be amazed by the beautifully insane art created by our users with little more than a phone in many cases. Stratos Trogkanis (@strate.go) is one such user who has more recently captured our attention. His use of digital art to piece together a blend of sci-fi flavored realities is genuinely mesmerizing while his method of delicately constructing these realities is well worth studying. For this and many other reasons we hope you’ll soon discover for yourself, we spent some time chatting with Stratos about life and art and everything in between. Read along!
My name is Stratos Trogkanis and I live in Athens, Greece. Most of my friends call me StrateGo, so that’s the name I go by on Instagram (@strate.go).
For as long as I can remember I have thought in pictures - maybe because I’m not that good with words! In my every day life I work as an actor. It’s a challenging profession but at the end of the day I am a happy person. I’m addicted to stories. I love it when people have a story to tell or share. Even a fake one as long as it’s good!
I love to visualize my thoughts through digital art and photography. Some say that I’m a daydreamer, ”but i’m not the only one.” I am a big fan of the sci-fi genre, so my work is mostly influenced by imaginative concepts as I try to create an alternate reality. I always try to create via heart and gut.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY/DESIGN?
Well, it all started 12 years ago when I wanted to make a digital collage for my grandfather with some of his photos as a birthday present. I couldn’t use the original pictures for obvious reasons so I had to scan them but I didn’t know how to blend them together. At that time there was no one that I knew of with such information so I decided to go to a photography shop and ask for help. A nice and polite clerk introduced me to Photoshop. That was it. My collage was done. This made my grandfather happy and me even happier because I had found my new play thing.
Because I am self-taught I like to learn every day. From different program techniques to color combinations, angles and perspectives, art history, etc. As a result, digital art has become a passion for me.
WHAT SORT OF GEAR DO YOU PHOTOGRAPH?
The past few years I have mostly shot with my iPhone. The technology progression on phone cameras and third-party apps is amazing so it is my main source of photography. It is remarkable how easy it is! I even have a palm-sized tripod in my backpack for steady shots.
Before all of that I had an Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom - my first and only digital camera. Remember that photography shop that I mentioned? I went back a few days later and bought the camera there. I still have it and use it sometimes. I like to get emotionally attached to some items because they are living proof for some of my memories.
WHAT ARE THE APPS/SOFTWARE THAT YOU USE THE MOST?
When I am not using Photoshop on my desktop, there’s a small variety of apps that I use. To list a few: Union, Mextures, Lightroom Mobile, Circular, AlienSky, Glitché, Retouch and MagicEraser.
With the right tools and imagination it is amazing what you can create in the palm of your hand! I really love to create on the go. Every time I have to wait - for a doctor, at an airport or in a line - phone editing can be a real lifesaver!
WHAT ADVICE OR EXPERIENCE HAS LED YOU TO PROGRESS THE MOST IN YOUR WORK AND STYLE?
Well, as I said, being a huge fan of the sci-fi genre, some years ago I stumbled upon a quote of one of my favorite writers, Philip K. Dick.
“…Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn't we really be talking about plural realities?”
Philip K. Dick’s work has literally changed my way of thinking. His philosophical and political themes along with his effort to address the nature of reality made me want to figure out my own kind of reality. So my work is my subjective view of the world and existence. In addition, reality is just a matter of perception. That’s also what attracts me to other people’s work - their conception of reality.
WHAT MAKES A PIECE MEMORABLE TO YOU?
I don’t think that there are any easy answers to this question. Most people would say things like imagination, colors, and aesthetic, and they are probably right. But these are all subjective criteria. In order for a photo to stand out of context we must think objectively - if there is such a thing. For example, we all know E.T.’s flying bike scene or Marilyn Monroe in the white dress from The Seven Year Itch.
So, in my opinion, there are three objective criteria that make a piece memorable.
First is intimacy. How familiar is the piece to you? How well do you connect with it?
Second are contradictions. Does it make you think or talk about it? Does it create oppositions either within yourself or others?
And lastly, even though it may sound weird, the music that plays in your head when you see it. If a piece is entertaining to you then I believe that your brain will desire and recall a song to connect with it as a pleasure.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE PIECE TO CREATE SO FAR?
My favorite piece so far, and for many edits to come, I think, is an image by the name of Clairvoyance. This image portrays a lonely silhouette on the tip of a cliff below a mandarin moon. The landscape itself is very similar to my inner “special place”. A place where I go to think, to relax, to feel safe or to visualize. A place from which I come back stronger and more confident. So there was a lot of personal mood when creating this piece and that is what makes it one of my favorites.
WHAT DOES YOUR EDITING PROCESS GENERALLY LOOK LIKE?
I start with a concept in mind and then I search for images that will help me bring forth my concept to life. I only use free stock photos from various sources for my edits but for the most part I shuffle through Unsplash. From there I have two processing options: a desktop or a mobile version.
On desktop things are usually more simple because I work with Photoshop only. Mobile is more complicated because I have to go through various apps to get to the final result. But that makes it more fun! On the other hand, on desktop I can create more intricate effects. With either version, desktop or mobile, the editing process is something that you have to love - and I do!
Besides passion there is one more thing involved in both options: Mextures. When I’m done piecing together my concept, I always put my photo through Mextures for some final retouching.
HOW SPECIFICALLY DO YOU USE MEXTURES IN THAT PROCESS?
Mextures is always my final step. I really love how it helps me to bring to life the atmosphere or the dramatic lighting of my scene. Basically, Mextures is one of my essential tools for my creations. My compliments to the team who developed it. Seriously. I can’t get enough of it and I can’t go without it.
To be more specific, I usually desaturate the colors a bit or play with the fade tool. Once I get the tones that I like I start to add textures - especially those from the Radiance, Vintage, Emulsion and X-film packs. Then I mess around with the blending options. As soon as I’m close to a satisfying edit, I shuffle through the film presets and tweak a bit of the other adjustment tools accordingly. Finally, when I’m happy with the outcome, I save my photo and my formula. In general I try not to overload my edits with layers, but it is so fun to use Mextures that there have been times that I got carried away.
WOULD YOU MIND SHARING A FEW FORMULAS THAT YOU'VE CREATED?
Absolutely! I always save my edits as formulas. Even the edits that I’m not delighted with since I never know when I’ll come back to reedit them for a more pleasant result. Some of the formulas that I really like I share through the app and then on Instagram.
So here are a few to try out:
Heroes - RAGJGXE - This formula enhances the colors a bit with a minor blue tint.
Kindred - SPINNEV - This formula darkens the image adding a soil-colored lighting. Great for an atmospheric look!
Prophet - VGZESQV - This one is great for desaturating the image and adds some extra exposure.
Noxium - RGBLKGR - Creates a neon-like effect.
OnTop - ZFPASCM - Fades the darks adding some soft mandarine and dark greens. It’s great for a gloomy nighttime mood.
Hope you like them!
IF YOU WERE GIVING ADVICE ON HOW TO ACCOMPLISH WORK SIMILAR TO YOURS WHAT ARE THE THINGS YOU'D FIND MOST CRUCIAL TO SHARE?
Most of the time my process depends on the original photo. Meaning that I do not always edit my work in the same way. But If I were to give any advice I would probably urge not to overdo the layers and to always play with the opacity or the blending modes. Furthermore, I would recommend that you play with the saturation and fade tools along with the exposure and contrast. Finally, Mextures has the amazing ability to import a formula. So, if in doubt, you can always import one of the shared formulas and work backwards from there!
WHY IS CREATING IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Creating (and art in general) is more than important to me. It’s like oxygen. It helps me to breathe in and breathe out. Also, it helps me to express the feelings and emotions that I cannot put in to words.
On top of that, to create, to cause something to come into being, is calming. We live in a consuming society - consumed by ideas, beliefs, and things, causing both personal and general destruction and brokenness. So the act of creating can heal wounds, give hope or even boost inner self-awakening. The world needs more creators and artists reminding us that creativity is an answer and a powerful force.
WOULD YOU SHARE SOME OF THE MOST INSPIRING ACCOUNTS YOU FOLLOW?
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and there are a lot of people out there that can put even more words into just to one frame! I’ll mention just a few quickly and in no particular order:
@gosleep_ - Johnny’s dark and weird mind is a free ticket for an imagination trip.
@eleathar - Francesco is a master of blending stuff together. I’m always happy to see his creativity.
@rek0de - Ben’s visual creations are a fresh of inspiration. They can make your day. There’s always a smile on my face when I see his posts, and that’s really important.
@finnicle1 - His abstract artwork along with his witty captions are always a for discussion.
@carsonarias - I really love his imagination. His beautiful landscapes with his tiny people.
@stockandrender - Matt’s symmetrical geometric shapes are simply outstanding. He’s giving shape to the shapes!
@lvnatikk - Lily’s compositions using only iPhone apps are just brilliant.
@natehill - His ability to create a scene with simplicity is emotive.
@stuz0r - How Stuart is using the scale of things is extraordinary.
You can dive into more of Stratos’s work right here!