The overarching themes in these series of photos are States of Being, Social Conformism and Anti-social Freedom, and Illusion and Reality.
The narrative presented in the sequential images can be simply summarised into the main character experiencing three dreams, each dream representing a state of being.
I have always been rather interested in fashion editorial style photography, so the entire photo shoot followed the style loosely.
It starts with the neutral series of images. These mainly monochrome with red lip series of images act as transitioning photos to tie the entire narrative together.
The first state is presented in form of the main character being objectified as art, where her face is treated as a canvas. I used this concept as art is something hung up in pretty glass buildings and stared at by thesociety. Society tries to judge and interpret art but they can never truly understand it.
I feel like the sense of entrapment and judgement the main character feels by mirroring it to what art receives from the public eye. Therefore, I make the main character feel the societal judgement by making her the art they judge in her first dream.
Other than the metaphorical meaning of the narrative, this was a play on geometric make-up designs, as part of exploring the fashion editorial style.
The art on her face starts off with different colours and shapes but the last set turns rather ghastly and ugly from the judgement.
The state of being she is in in the first dream is that of a fully functioning member of society, a social animal – one of full consciousness of the control of societal forces and thus feels oppressed by her fate.
References and Inspiration:
I was largely inspired by the concept of judgement of art in society. I was also inspired by the lyrics of the song “All The Rowboats” by Regina Spektor. It highlights how art “masterpieces serving maximum sentences” in the galleries, and its their “own fault for being timeless”, fully conveying the sense of imprisonment. Their cry for escaping judgement in “All the rowboats, in the paintings/ they keep trying to row away”.
The monochrome series once again acts as transition. The sleeping position is arranged so that the character has her hands on her chest, body language of fear and worry. And the second position that of covering her eyes, symbolising her need to hide away from society and escape.
The second state is one of withdrawal from society. The main character is depicted in her dream to be a recluse. Lost, loneliness, and alienated from her society, she tries to find answers in nature.
I aimed to portray the isolation and confusion by interspersing images of crouched figures and sequential images of the main character walking through the woods.
My dressing for the shoot is an earthy colour scheme with sienna top and orche culottes. I chose clothes with a simple silhouette to contribute and maintain the overall organic mood. Above is a close up shot, specially to capture the makeup I did for the shoot. The dramatic reddish brown eyeshadow, and white lashes were supposed to make the main character look odd and dystopian.
In the second dream, the state of being the character is in is that of in transition between being a social being to an anti-social being. Therefore, the character carries a great confusion and loneliness within.
Reference and Inspiration:
This series of photos were largely inspired by Umberto Giacommeti’s “States of Mind III: Those Who Stay”. The painting uses the main composition of vertical lines to “convey the weight of sadness carried by those who are left behind”.
Thus, similarly I chose to do my photo shoot at Coney Island, where the trees were of a specific kind that gave an overall vertically to all the backgrounds of my shots.
This is the shot that is directly inspired by the painting.
These two transition shots show her change from a vulnerable curled up position, opening up into a position with her arms open leaving her entire body exposed.
Lastly the third state is one where the character has overcome and disregards all societal restrictions. I chose to represent the state by making the character turn animalistic. This is portrayed through the character’s gradual movement of putting on the mask.
The mask is a Venetian mask usually worn by the character of Scaramouche. I actually chose this mask for its shape. These two close up shots were especially included for the details on the mask. The animal I am trying to depict is a crow, so the pointed beak-like tip of the mask really brings it across. I spray painted the mask black and added feathers to the top of the mask for a more dramatic effect.
Other than the mask, I constructed a large part of the outfit. The sleeves were constructed fully using a wire mesh, masking tape and feathers taped layer and layer over each other, then safety pinned to the turtle neck sleeveless top I was wearing.
While the skirt was a tank top with its straps cut off and pieces of fur double-sided taped onto the tank top. This was all for the overall effect of a crow, yet maintaining a certain sense of fashion aesthetics, like a fur-inspired collection.
The quick sequential images of the character running up the stairs is supposed to portray a kind of intensity and ascend, both creating a sense of flight. Flight has a very strong relation to freedom and that was what I was trying to convey.
The motions of freely dancing and prancing about also creates a sense of intoxication and thus, a lack of inhibitions, representing freedom.
I especially like these four shots as I was actually a little embarrassed at having to prance around in a public space. However, after sorting through my photos, I realise I was actually subconsciously smiling in my images. Which might suggest that at that point of time I really entered my character.
I chose the rooftop as the large expanse of higher ground space further enhances the sense of flight. Moreover, I wanted to highlight how the character has returned to a civilised social environment, but with a very different mindset, and thus she no longer belongs there.
In the above photo, the crow character is seen to be screaming. The suggestion of the scream is meant to evoke the sound within the viewer. Screaming have been a recurring obsession of mine, and here it is meant to represent a complicated mixture of feelings.
In this particular shot, I framed it from a bottom up angle, also to enhance a sense of height, creating the illusion of the character sitting with her legs hanging of the building. One of the key shots I had in my head.
Lastly, this series ended of with a shot from the character’s perspective. The sudden change of perspective draws attention to this shot. I really like this shot as the expanse of sky could really evoke the feeling of calm peacefulness and true freedom.
This is the state where the character is truly no longer restricted by the dictates of society.
Reference and inspiration:
I was largely inspired by Florence and the Machine’s “Bird Song”. It was the song that led me to chose the crow character. The lyrics of the song had extremely strong imagery of the character transforming into a animalistic figure. Also an extremely dark version of the struggle of achieving freedom portrayed in the song inspired me a lot.
Progressing into the last part of the sequence, the character awakens.
While she looks into the mirror in front of her bed, this photo suggests she sees the death of her reflection. However, since the image she sees originates from her mind, she in a sense “killed” herself.
This concept was inspired by Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” where Freddie Mecury sings “Mama, I killed a Man”. The symbolism of one killing one’s self, represents the death of her old self and embracing her new self.
While, the shadow technique here was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock. He often uses suggestions of killing through cleverly placed and angled shadows, or reflections. I was trying to achieve such an effect in this shot.
The sequence ends in a full loop when the character is once again in deep slumber. This successfully depicts the theme of reality and illusion, as the viewers has an ambiguous understanding as to whether the previous scene is real or not.
To conclude, I had a lot of fun doing this project. I would like to clarify a point mentioned during the Q and A session. Even though I was trying to portray different mood in each series, I did not play with the tone and colour of the photos as I wanted all the photos to take on the fashion editorial style.
I really learnt a lot throughout this project, and now really experienced the difficulty of putting together a fashion editorial shoot. Now that Project 2 is done, I look forward to working on the next project!