Cannabis enthusiasts have long understood the visual allure of the plant. Images of vibrant green hues and stalks brimming with magnificent colas sprouting furry red, yellow and orange hairs, speckled throughout with otherworldly trichomes, can be just as exhilarating as an image of athletes in motion or as thought-provoking and visceral as a war film montage.
Shayna Goldstein and Aaron Rogosin, the creative team behind the Oregon-based production company Outer Elements, have tapped into this niche. The pair mostly work on mainstream projects, including event photography for Red Bull sporting events and the annual South by Southwest music and art festival in Austin, Texas. But now, they also proudly boast a portfolio of cannabis photography.
“The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to cannabis cultivation,” says Rogosin, the lead photographer on the team. “We are lucky to call Portland, Oregon home, so it was through friends and local contacts that we first started documenting cultivations in Southern Oregon around 2014.”
But their affinity for shooting flowers was not always obvious. The duo initially kept cannabis work away from their professional portfolio out of fear that they might alienate themselves from potential opportunities.
“Initially we didn’t include it in our portfolio in fear it may compromise our standing with current or potential commercial clients,” says Rogosin. “But one of our main objectives in work and life is to invest our time and skill sets into brands and people we believe in and care about. The people we’ve met in the cannabis market are great clients and friends. Now we’re proud to put the pictures that come out of those relationships in our portfolio.”
After breaking through the negative stigma of cannabis photography, the two began to appreciate the difference between photographing exotic plants and the human subjects they were accustomed to shooting.
“Plants don’t need lunch or bathroom breaks,” says producer and art director Goldstein. “The shooting location is more often than not at the farm or processor, so no need to pull shooting permits. The plants aren’t self conscious and they’re always easy to work with. For me, it’s really relaxing. Greenhouses are warm and you’re surrounded by plants and people who care for plants.”
Despite the fact that cannabis interacts with the camera differently compared to other subjects, the team strives to maintain a certain consistency throughout all of their work.
“[A good cannabis image] shares the same things we look for in all of our images, even clarity and exposure, tack sharp focus and narrative. We aspire that every one of our images tells a story. That goes for our work in cannabis as well,” says Rogosin.
With the subject now firmly embedded in Outer Elements’ repertoire, Goldstein and Rogosin have absorbed an impressive amount of insight into the plant, which they also happen to enjoy consuming.
“One of the many benefits to working with such knowledgeable people in this field is the education we’ve received,” explains Rogosin. “Knowing which terpene profiles and CBD to THC ratios work the best with our preferences has been significant for pain management, creativity, relaxation and wellness.”
“Make no mistake, anyone who works in production knows, you schlep stuff,” adds Goldstein. “It makes for sore backs and early mornings. We all need a little help sometimes and plant versus pill? You decide what’s best for you.”
Outer Elements’ portfolio seems to have come full circle, as their annual trip to South by Southwest now features conference panels dedicated to the future of cannabis culture and industries.
“For 10 days every March, we run all over Austin capturing the newest in music, tech, film, and as of last year’s inaugural track, cannabis,” Goldstein says. “Being at South by Southwest is like jumping into the future. It gives us so much inspiration and sight into what’s happening next.”
As for what’s next for Outer Elements, the team hopes to expand on their impressive works by incorporating a plethora of bold methods to bring cannabis imagery to life.
“How many ways can you tell the story of this plant? It’s given us opportunities to explore macro photography, extreme macro photography, image stacking, time lapse, animations, portable studio lighting and work to combine all the above in novel ways,” Rogosin explains. “Challenges are just opportunities to get creative.”
Originally published in issue 41 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE.