Visual Storytelling – Project 2: Self Portrait

Project Title: Self Portrait

Please access this link to view the final work. (opens in new tab)

*Spoilers below* (Please read after trying the website)

I have made changes with regards to the layout and linking of the images following the in-class presentation.

This is a write-up regarding the thought process I had with the concept, image-making, layout and how I’ve linked the images together to tell this story.

When you first enter the site, you will be greeted with a home page welcoming you to begin the story.

Clicking on the begin button takes you to a rule page which explains how the website works and how to interact with it.

This is the first image where you begin the story. There are a total of 4 buttons on this image.

Image 1:

Button 1: The scraps of paper on the right
Button 2: The painting
Button 3: The artist’s back
Button 4: The mirror

Clicking on button 1 takes you to the 2nd image in my sequence which is an empty canvas.

Button 1: The scraps of paper on the right
Image 2 & 3:

Clicking on the button in image 2 takes you to image 3.

The button in image 3 takes you back to image 1.

These 2 images are to first reveal what the scraps of paper are, they are paintings of the many attempts the artist has spent trying to create this perfect painting.

Button 2: The painting
Clicking on button 2 in the 1st image, we know that the artist is still painting, trying to work on this painting.

Button 3: The artist’s back
Images 4 & 5:

Button 3 takes you to image 4 of the artist’s t-shirt, filled with paint, he has already been at it for a long time.

Image 3 takes you to image 4 which is the artist’s hand filled with paint, showing the source of paint in image 3.

These 2 images further show the state of his hands & t-shirt now, filled with paint, this is to push the idea of the state of the artist is in this very moment, already filled with paint.

Image 5 has 2 buttons, one on the paint on his hand which is a back & forth between image 4 & 5 to show the source of paint.

The other button is on the brush, which takes you to image 3, revealing the painting. Establishing the connection and setting up the artist previous failed attempts at painting and showing his state now.

Button 4: The mirror

This button takes you to a close-up image of the mirror.

Image 6:

Clicking on the mirror takes you to image 7:

Image 7 shows you the back view of the artist, which he is using the other to reflect and see for himself. Clicking on the button brings us to image 8.

Image 8:

Image 8 establishes the fact that he is using the 2 mirrors to paint a back view of himself.

There are 4 buttons on this image.

Button 1: The artist’s face
Button 2: The artist’s brush
Button 3: The front mirror
Button 4: The back mirror

Button 3 & 4 brings you to the 2 respective mirrors so that the viewer can understand the significance of how the mirrors work for the artist.

Button 2 brings us back to image 5 which will link to image 4 to show us what the artist was painting.

Button 1:
Clicking on the artist’s face brings you to image 9, which is a close up of the artist looking at something.

Image 9:

Clicking on his eyes, we have a shocking revelation. The artist is bleeding, he is dying.

Image 10:

Clicking on the button which is on the blood. We go to image 11.

Image 11:

Image 11 reveals that the artist is bleeding everywhere, on his head and his hands. When you click on the blood on his hands, we go to image 12.

Image 12:

Image 12 also shows him dying, bleeding all over his body.

We click on the blood, we get another reveal, his final painting. This painting shows us the artist has been using the mirrors to paint a back view of himself.

But with a twist, his soul is leaving his body.

Image 13:

This image shows us the artist painting himself dying, which when you look back at image 3, it was an abstract version of this intended final painting. This connection shows us why the scraps are there and how the artist has already tried multiple times to perfect this painting.

There are 3 buttons on this image.

Button 1: His hand painting the image.
Button 2: The soul part of the painting
Button 3: The artist’s back.

Button 3 brings us back to image 7, which shows us how the back view he sees in the mirror is correlated to this painting he is trying to paint.

Button 1 brings us to image 14, which shows us the artist finishing the final stroke of his painting. The paint falling off his brush to show his final stroke.

Image 14:

Clicking on the paint brings us back to the painting. Relating the fact that the artist has finished the painting he is trying to accomplish.

Finally, button 2, reveals to us that the artist is in fact dead.

Image 15:

Button 1: The artist’s head
Button 2: His hand

Button 2 brings us back to image 14, once again relating his brush in the painting to his action in reality.

Button 1 brings us to the final image.

Image 16:

Image 16 reveals to us he is dead, clicking on his back, brings us back to image 1.

The concept:
This connection shows us that this whole series is capturing the moment in time where the artist finishes a painting of himself dying, completing a self-fulfilling prophecy of his own death through his own painting of himself dying.

Clicking on the “reveal” button on the menu on the left will confirm this story to the viewer once he/she has figured out.

Project afterthoughts:

Starting this project was a bit of a challenge for me as I struggled to find a story that could show a single slice of time but through multiple images. Which was kind of a conflicting thing, but it was definitely interesting exploring this as a medium of storytelling.

My initial arrangement of the website was more sequential, with 1 button per image, hoping that as the viewer plays through, they figure out the story, otherwise they can try again.

But after feedback & seeing someone else try the story during critique. I figured hiding different buttons within 1 image to allow the player to connect the dots to how these images link together through repetition and connection. This way of telling the story I wanted to tell works better and it gives the images new meaning as they are being discovered and clicked along the way.

I’ve arranged it such that as you click, you will see only 1 side of the story, such as revealing the artist’s death before seeing the painting. Or seeing the painting following the reveal of his death. This method of hiding 1 side of the story confuses the viewer and allows them to guess what is going on before the other side of the story is revealed to them.

It was definitely different from the typical way of how a story is approached and looked it, and I feel it being applicable to the way I tell stories in other mediums such as filmmaking, and this was definitely an interesting project!

Visual Storytelling – Project 1

For project 1, the character I’ve chosen to represent is Su Li-Zhen (Mrs Chan) from Wong Kar Wai’s in the mood for love (2000).

Mrs Chan was interesting to me as a character to explore as she is an iconic character in Hong Kong cinema. This character also has a complex & rich story that goes past surface level characteristics.

Final composition

The story of Mrs Chan in the film is that she finds out her husband is cheating on her with Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) wife. Together, they re-enact the scenarios of what their spouses would do together but in the process end up falling in love with each other. Throughout the film she is often seen being lonely because her husband always goes on his long business trips.

For the framing of my composition, I use negative space to create the sense of isolation that the character feels. I asked the model to pose with a gaze, her line of sight looking towards something we cannot see. This is to make the viewer have this feeling of expectation, like we expect something from the opposing direction, but there is nothing there. This is to help empathise with the character’s feeling of loneliness & longing from her husband who goes on his work trips. This is further pushed by the model’s pose which is more closed up & reserved.

For the props in the image, I used 2 red chairs, this was to symbolise a couple & also feelings of romantic love. But also to create a sense of organised imbalance in a composition that if without the model, has become the potential to become something symmetrical.

This was to show Mrs Chan’s battle of loneliness as she dealt with the absence of her husband.

With the lighting I used & the perspective of the alleyway, there is a leftward dynamic of implied leading lines towards the character, bringing focus to the subject.

I wanted to let the viewer reinterpret the image on 2nd glance, bringing attention to the profile of the character with the word “li” on her face. Which is the Chinese word for strength.

In terms of Culture, it shows through in Chinese drama movies. The male protagonists are supposedly the weaker character yet the female protagonists are also weak because of their lack of power. In conclusion, everyone is weak.

Even though the inner strength of the female is supposed to show through, this is one major difference between Western and Eastern cinema. In western cinema, the culture is very masculine and strong; therefore, the movies depict a strong male with a secondary female character who may or may not be strong, but never as powerful as the man.

In Asian dramas, what is unseen is sometimes more powerful than what the audience is visually shown.

This is why, even though women in China in the 1960s were not able to make the choice to leave their husbands, the audience sees the internal struggle of Mrs. Chan throughout the whole movie and settles for her being the stronger character among the two protagonists.

Hence, I have chosen to show explicitly in my composition what was originally the subtle part of the character in the film with the word “Li” on her face.

These were some of the aesthetic choices made to create a narrative in the composition that tells the story of the character Mrs Chan as well.

The 2 main colours in the photo are red & green, they are complementary colours. Red evokes an emotional response, red is commonly associated with intense feelings like danger or wrath & is used in danger signs. But red also brings attention to the subject.

In Chinese context, red also stands for prosperity, but also sexuality and lust which complements the narrative of the image. In the film, Mrs Chan & Chow Mo-Wan’s feelings grow for each other, but their relationship never becomes a sexual one. They never have sex in the film nor do they kiss each other.

Using red as a colour on it’s own is flat, I brought in greens to complement the image as green evokes a completely opposite response to red.

Green is commonly used in symbols of safety & security, but green can also stand for envy & jealousy in an Asian context.

When used together, it creates & allows the viewer to experience the same kind of emotional conflict the character is feeling.

It was a challenge to show such subtle nuances of the character visually, but it was a challenge to learn how to push the semiotics of an image to create more powerful looking images that tells a story solely on visuals.