Unbearable lightness (possibly still a working title, until I come up with something better… or not) is a series of photographs based on Milan Kundera’s classic 1984 novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. It’s a philosophical narrative, premised upon Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return, while also addressing love, sex, infidelity, choice, fate, time and the power of metaphors in a surprisingly lyrical and profound way.
Maybe it’s because I first encountered the book during a transformative period, but it always makes me feel some kind of way. It’s this evocative nature of the story that I really want to (attempt to) capture in this body of work.
VISUAL / ARTIST REFERENCE
I mostly looked at how photographers intentionally used foggy/blurry/misty techniques in their compositions. This pinterest board of visual references included works by Marilyn Minter (close up of lips) and Richard Misrach (foggy landscapes).
I also enjoyed the work of fashion photographer Stevana Bosnjakovic. In particular, I found these photos to be most relevant
THEME & COHERENCE
If the novel was produced as a (slightly self indulgent & low key pretentious) art hoe aesthetic film, these would be the film stills that made it to tumblr. Each image contains part of a quote from the book, providing context to otherwise random and disparate scenes.
Right now I envision the entire series to be a continuum starting from sunset to maybe perhaps midnight so that when viewed together, the images run on a warm orangey gradient that fades to back.
(If we’re gonna get real conceptual, the colour and timeline of this body of photographs can be seen as a parallel to the storyline of the protagonists, Tereza and Tomas. They meet by chance and age together, ultimately dying in a car crash.)
Have yet to decide on the final number of photographs, that comes later depending on how it goes. Right now, part 1 is based on this quote
“In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.”
[4th image to come soon hopefully]
I knew I wanted a really blurry, soft focus vibe to the photos so I first experimented shooting with firstly a transparent plastic bag over the lens but that didn’t work out because it completely obscured the lens and everything became ambiguous blobs of colour :'( Instead I applied vaseline directly to the lens so that it looks like it was shot through a pinhole.
This is the first application, but I felt like the boundary between blurry and sharp focus was too defined. I dabbed/blended out the vaseline a bit more to get this effect:
With regards to editing, I kept it really simple because the sunset glow did most of the work, so I just put on a highlight/shadow mask and one or two magenta filters just to bring out the hue a bit more. But I think for the continuity of the series I might have to do a bit more colour editing once there are more photos in the set.
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