In this editorial for COPYPASTE! photographer Kaio Cesar explores the fusion of artistry and technology and shows how creativity can be enhanced by digital tools while maintaining the human aspect of art. This story draws inspiration from imaginary places and scenes merging medieval themes, fantasy worlds and ancient stories.

Photography, creative direction and edit by Kaio Cesar. Hair and makeup by  Andi Ojeda. Styling by Vania.

Models are vampirechinese, brooksginnan, anaiaku.

Kaio Cesar recreated a fantasy dreamworld that the photographer escaped to as a child to find distance from toxic environment and society.

"Tales of Swords and Shadows" is an ongoing photo series that began in 2023. Influenced by the rise of AI, I embarked on seamlessly blending its capabilities into my artistic process, demonstrating how photography and AI can work together to enhance visual storytelling, giving digital tools to creative people who do not have access to certain things in real life; we can now use AI programs to create these things. This fusion of technology and artistry allows the realization of imaginative worlds and scenes that might otherwise be challenging or impossible to achieve. It opens up a realm of possibilities for artists to explore and push the boundaries of their creativity.

Utilizing AI tools, I creatively integrate imaginative clothing elements into these images, drawing inspiration from medieval themes, fantasy worlds, and ancient stories. As a queer individual with a very strict Christian upbringing, I also try to subtly incorporate biblical elements into these series, adding purposeful meaning to them. I remember being 14 and obsessed with everything fantasy. I used to run lots of “blogspots” with several different stories about different dimensions, worlds, creatures and magical beings; it was my way of dissociating from the toxic environment around me. I was obsessed with “The Chronicles of Narnia”, “Pan's Labyrinth”, and " The Hobbit" series, and they have deeply impacted my creative vision for this.

The photo series emphasizes the idea of merging digital tools without replacing the human aspect of art. The human creates the art and the digital tools enhance certain elements to intensify the storytelling behind art.

While I do utilize AI to create certain aspects of these images, I don't believe it can replace actual photography by humans, and I don't believe it ever will. At least as of right now, using it as a tool to create specific elements and piece them together seamlessly is still a very complex process using a variety of tools and applications; you don't just feed the image to a system and write a prompt; it requires a lot more knowledge than people think it does. I still think that the laws to control how systems are trained and used are very murky, which makes the future of it concerning, but I feel optimistic that the artistic community will ensure that the future of AI will be equitable for artists of all fields. An effective way to explain what this series is about, imagine if they had a fashion magazine in The Dark Ages and they featured their most notable people and deities in their cover stories, this is what it would look like! Moreover, I aim to expand this narrative by introducing more characters and weaving a cohesive storyline throughout my work in this series.

My goal with these series is to express myself creatively, and make justice to the younger Kaio Cesar that still lives in me, he would love to see these images. It is like I somehow always go back to the need of creating and giving life to new worlds and characters; this is my journey. Apart from the series, I also believe that I bring a little bit of these references to my regular editorial work as well.

Sketches that Kaio Cesar drew were the reference point for the different ideas expressed in this photo series.

For the future, I want to bring more people I admire into this world to model and/or work behind the camera. Lucky me, I've had the chance to team up with some seriously talented folks who've helped me turn my wild ideas into reality.

For this set of images for COPYPASTE! I wanted to go more practical with the styling using real metal armor pieces and use AI to create backgrounds based on sketches I drew. I created reference images to all three of these sets, one for each model, and I was helped by amazing artists Andi Ojeda and Vania.

I would love to bring actors from these movies who inspired me for a “this is what they look like now” type of moment. I would also love to transform these images into a book to tell their stories, which is something I have been working on: writing every character's story and their relation to the world of “Ventulum” which is what I call this land they live in!