Setting: 18th Century – 19th Century, set in the period of Industrial Revolution
Storyline: In the alternate universe of Earth, the world has just entered the period of industrialisation. The economy has started to flourish and people are benefiting from the introduction of machines.
This sequence of 90 images shows the exploration of out-of-context sleeping in various places shot around Singapore. It aims to reflect the pressures of the current society and how it affects us in our daily lives. Key transformations include the increasing consciousness of the subject, the varying level of interaction between subject and location / subject and the people, as well as the transition between day and night.
It is inspired by Yoko Ono’s instructional poem, various performance artists as well as Everly Brothers’ song titled “All I have to do is Dream”.
What if you could sleep anywhere you like? Where would you choose to be?
Title: The Envious (Long Shot)
Little girl looks at the big brother and sister with envy, they could study in such a huge place. Big brother and sister dream of their childhood. Who is more envious of the other?
The poem, Fire and Ice, talks about the extremity between two elements and the possibility of mass destruction. The extremity in the poem reminds me of the mental state of mankind. I personally believe that the destruction of earth will not be caused by nature, but rather in the hands of man. We take things for granted and we consume more than we produce, all for the sake of our survival. This alone is an issue that has not been addressed.
The extremity that is talked about in this poem also inspired me to make reference to a play 4.48 Psychosis written by British playwright, Sarah Kane. Sarah Kane writes about someone suffering from clinical depression, which was also a disorder Kane suffered from. Many believe that the play was Kane’s suicide note as she committed suicide not long after she wrote the play.
In the play, she wrote about destruction, as quoted below:
“the only thing that’s permanent is destruction
we’re all going to disappear
trying to leave a mark more permanent than myself.”
This could be linked to the idea of the destruction of humankind in Frost’s poem. The extremity in one’s mental state of mind can be destructive in our lives, evident in Sarah Kane’s work, many of our historical leaders and other examples. Fire and ice can also symbolise the “anger” and “pain” in the human emotion. When set ablaze, these emotions can change our mental state and let loose destructive behaviour. It can destroy not only ourselves, but the people and environment around us, as we let our personal selfishness and greed take over our minds.
In the image sequence, one sees the fire in the lady first, followed by the ice in the man. These photos show the calm before the storm – man in their “normal state of mind”. The colours in the photos are pictures of sunset and mountains. There is also a soft overlay of man-made materials, such as metal and cement in the pictures. This is to further represent the contrast in “fire” and “ice”. The last image show an animal skeleton and a woman curled up, bonded by two distinct colours – red and blue. This is to symbolise the destruction mentioned in the poem, where in the end, the worst enemy is ourselves.
4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane
Fire: Eutah Mizushima / Stefanus Martanto Setyo Husodo
Ice: Jake Melara / Luca Zanon
Death: Sebastian Boguszewicz / Volkan Olmez / Josefa Holland-Merten / Oscar Keys
TASK 1: ME Imperfections
These photos put emphasis on the imperfections in life. We are constantly seeking perfection in our lives. As a perfectionist who is constantly trying to fighting imperfections, these series of photographs aim to amplify the beauty in imperfection. We are always quick to spot imperfections and make unsupported judgements of the people around us. We often forget about the importance of looking at the big picture. Textures are made up of tiny imperfections combined together.
TASK 2: OBJECT AND REPRESENTATION OF SELF Boundaries
Frames support and give shape. In this instance, the frame represent the comfort zone that I always stay within, showing no signs of struggle. The frame was a result of a fight with my family. It shows the ugly side of my life, in contrast to the seemingly normal exterior. Having the frame placed above my eyes shows my goal to step out of my comfort zone. Without my sight, I believe I can take risks better without fear.
TASK 3: MY WORLD Departure
It is not news that the Dakota estate in Singapore will be undergoing en-bloc. Shops, families and history will be forced to move out of their decades-old homes. Physical memories of the area will no longer exist and it is very sad to know that this is the result of industrialisation.
I decided to use framing in composition because I wanted to create the user experience for the viewer. The first image shows the inside of a clinic, the second through a dustbin, the third through the holes of the architecture. I also found it ironic that National Day decorations were hung outside the buildings of a vacated flat.
The self-portrait and object was harder to capture as it is not easy to use things to represent oneself. I particularly enjoyed task 3 because I was able to interact with the environment and the people living in there. It was, however, challenging to find interesting photography angles. I found myself questioning why I chose to photograph a place faraway from the school but the experience was worth the effort.
During this project, I spoke with some of the residents and workers of Dakota Cresent. They shared about their views in politics (this was right before the election period) and their experience in Singapore. It was an eye-opener for a youth like myself and I feel sad knowing that this place will no longer be the same a year later. It was an experience no one can replicate. When the residents leave, there will be no one to retell their stories and no one will know of their struggles, just as how Dakota Crescent will cease to exist.
This short prose expresses the thoughts about My World:
- Framing in compositional / Rule of Thirds
- Photography of Steve Winters, talk
**Images of Task 3 were placed on the pillar to recreate the “emotions” of Dakota Crescent.
“At first, my presence in my photos was fascinating and disturbing. But as time passed and I was more a part of other ideas in my photos, I was able to add a giggle to those feelings.”
– Lee Friedlander
1. Research background of individual artists behind these images.
- Lee Friedlander was well-known for his social landscape and nostalgic photography 3
- Born on 14th July 1934 in Aberdeen, Washington3
- Attended Art Centre College of Design, Pasadena, California to study photography under Edward Kaminski from 1953 to 1955 3
- In 1956, he moved to New York, in order support himself he started doing photographs of jazz musician for record jackets like Count Bessie (1957). Eugène Atget, Robert Frank and Walker Evans inspired his early work; mainly black and white stills. 3
- Lee Friedlander does not present himself as the main subject of his self-portrait. He shows the environment he lives in and visits, allowing viewers to create their own interpretation.
- In portraits when he shows himself, he does not dress up intentionally but presents himself as he is. This is a contrast with other artists, who are often “dressed to impress”, as they want to “create an image of the person they would like to be seen” 3.
2. What do they want to convey?
In Madison, Wisconsin, Lee Friedlander’s shadow is cast on the woman in fur coat. It gives the viewer the freedom to interpret the photograph however he/she likes. In this case, the shadow draws attention to the subject and gives an impression that the lady is being stalked. The darkness of the shadow also gives a mysterious feeling to the photograph.
The image depicts a framed photograph of a woman staring from a window display. It makes use of the following rules of photography:
- Hard & Soft Light
- Rule of Thirds
- Photographer’s face is cut off, open to viewer’s interpretation of the photograph
Lee Friedlander’s shadow is cast across the framed photograph in a seemingly ordinary setting. It is one of Friedlander’s photography style as seen in his other works. This is an unusual style as many would avoid including shadows in our photos.
Friedlander dares to test the boundaries of angles, perspective and form in his photography.
He produces visual documentations of society through new perspectives, where social landscape takes on a literal meaning. It is a study of the urban interaction between people and our non-living surroundings. Juxtaposed against natural landscape photography, we study various aspects of the world in a way that is never before seen.
He finds beauty in subtlety and simplicity. What we see as a normal, mundane part of our life becomes his subject. In a sense, the world literally becomes his oyster because he so actively tries to capture the parts of it that always escape our eye. The photographs he take seem simple and plain on the first look, but produce lasting impressions on the viewer because of the mood it produces. They are all familiar scenes with a twist. With the way he photographs his works effortlessly, he takes ‘point and shoot’ to another level. He doesn’t just document, he interacts with his subjects in a way that is not overt but still present. In fact he takes the concept of ‘subject’ and toys around with it like it means nothing.
In conclusion, Friedlander’s photographs introduced perspective and photographic observation in a way that is unseen and unexpected then. It is unsurprising that he was one of the most influential photographers of his time.
Friedlander becomes part of the photo through his lingering shadow in the window, upon the portrait of the lady. The photo itself without the reflection would have seem detached, a plain snap of mundane objects in the window. However, he subtly inserts himself into the picture, becoming one of the subjects together with the road behind him. The play with chiaroscuro seems to accentuate the presence of the photographer, but it does not feel overbearing. Light and dark all seem to come together to match Friedlander’s idea of the normal shop window. The reflection, instead of making the photo chaotic and confusing, gives it a sense of balance, taking what’s both inside and outside and forming a whole new setting for the photo. There is now much more than just a couple of photo frames and a dark receding background. Even though he inserts himself into the photo, which supposedly will make it personal, there is still a sense of emotional detachment. He takes simplicity and introduces complexity, but it is not messy. It has an organised form, and Friedlander manages of the overall effect of it extremely well.”
- Kim, Eric. “Street Photography Composition Lesson #9: Self-Portraits.” Eric Kim Street Photography Blog. November 11, 2013. Accessed September 15, 2015. http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2013/11/11/street-photography-composition-lesson-9-self-portraits/.
- Kolf, Emily. “Reading Light.” Lee Friedlander: Self Portrait. April 24, 2009. Accessed September 15, 2015. http://reading-light.blogspot.sg/2009/04/lee-friedlander-self-portrait.html.
- “Lee Friedlander.” Lee Friedlander. Accessed August 19, 2015. http://www.famousphotographers.net/lee-friedlander.
- “MoMA.” Lee Friedlander. New York City. 1966. Accessed August 19, 2015. http://www.moma.org/collection/works/55941?locale=en.
- “MoMA.” Lee Friedlander. New York City. 1966. Accessed August 19, 2015. http://www.moma.org/collection/works/55948?locale=en.
Angier, Roswell. Train Your Gaze: (a Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography). Lausanne: AVA, 2007.
Matthew Ong / Viency Lee / Soh Zhi Min / Sim Xin Feng