Project 4: FINAL pt 2 – Amen, lol

F I N A L   I M A G E S

High Res Photos

A R T I S T   S T A T E M E N T

Amen, lol is a photographic series birthed through me questioning my relationship with my religion. The creation of the pictures allowed me to explore what my Catholic faith is to me through the use of and/or reinterpretation of symbols and imagery from Catholicism/Christianity.




Painted on red line with blood acrylic and glitter
Glued on pearl beads on the fake drawn-on eyes
Glued on a sequin border around the square
Dripped candle wax all around
Crumpled, torn and on the floor


I D E A T I O N   A N D   E X E C U T I O N

Hi! Read this post for some background information on the ideation process for the concept of the series.

As a summary – religion has been a huge part of my life. It defined me. Being a Catholic informed my decisions, my values, the way that I lived. I genuinely believed in the religion, even though I didn’t understand much of it, and even though I questioned it. In the recent years, I started to lose that genuine faith. I realised that I had been believing in the religion blindly my whole life, and I didn’t bother to learn more about it anyways.

This project was a chance for me to revisit some of the significant symbols in my life and reinterpreting them as well as expressing the idea of some sort of rebellion or change, amongst others.

It started with a lot of looking at other artists. Other than the artists Bryan mentioned, the website he mentioned was also a great source of inspiration.

The main influence on my methodology is the French photographer-painter duo Pierre et Gilles (watch a video on them on my previous post).

I was inspired to look at props differently and explore physical manipulation of the printed photographs.

This video below was also enjoyable in understanding that photography can be interpreted in many ways, and it’s the message that is brought across, or hidden in the pictures, that matter in some cases.

T H E   V I R G I N   T O O


This photo is supposed to mirror “The Virgin” photo in this series. This is me dressed as the devil, indicated by the horns and red attire and body paint, wearing the same white headpiece and in the same pose. As is in religious art, the devil has had many depictions (omg look at the mosaics they’re so beautiful), but I chose to do a more popular, graphic representation so as to trigger a more instantaneous association. Instead of lilies, I hold a bunch of roses – romantic, lustful, controversial, rich. I also roll my eyes, showing that I’m in a mocking gesture. I didn’t specifically plan to mirror the white version, but amongst the many other pictures I took, I felt that it was the best to describe the duality that lives in me, and how silly it is, my pretend-holiness.  This character is blunt and funny, almost provocative and daring, with a more revealing outfit, adorned with artificial items but realer than the white Mary.

What I would do differently/improve: I’d get the highlights on the body to shine more, and get the whites of the eyes to stand out more. I’d also forgotten to try taking pictures with the lights on the horns on!!!

This photo was really fun to shoot as it was the last one shot and going all out with the body paint, I just had fun taking pictures with all the different props I had!!!


T H E   A N T I C H R I S T


The main feature in this picture is the red tear. To make it more visually striking, I cropped the image and printed it as such. I also used paint and glitter to extend the red line beyond the frame.

I was researching on the tears of Mary as a start, as it is a popular symbol that I often saw in pictures or depicted on statues (even on the 2018 Met Gala – Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination – see here)

From what I understand, the tears are a popular symbol because Mary and Jesus wept tears of sadness, and tears of blood that represents the blood of the world. There is something about the tear that makes religion so much more relatable to humans, that it does not expect humans to be so perfect, that sadness and sacrifice are involved.

By using this image of the tear, I tried to depict a nonchalant expression, expressing my feigned apathy, yet the tear of blood overflows and signifies my sadness, slowly spilling out as the “evil” inside me makes its way out.

What I would do differently/improve: Maybe I could’ve tried a version where the red tear isn’t neatened up so much, and from there I could compare whether I liked the more structured or the more organic one. Add a highlight on dat eyeeeee


T H E   V I R G I N


This is a photo of me as the Virgin Mary, in a white dress, plastic white lilies at hand and a halo made out of Chinese calendar paper and toilet tissue. There are many depictions of the virgin Mary, and religious art has transformed so much over the many centuries (which is so amazing omg). This article by The Economist was an interesting short read on the many symbolisms of Mary. Also, I have to say Wikipedia gives a great summary (I feel my past art history professors’ stares).

I based my pose and photo on this picture. The sacred heart was another symbol that was on my list, but decided not to pursue in the end. (I wanted to get an actual heart from the market lol then I thought omg I don’t even eat heart, it would be a waste and my vegan friends will shun me then I tried looking for a plastic heart but Halloween season is over :’)) The white lilies symbolise purity, and the halo has often been omnipresent in depictions of Mary as it separates her from women in general, she was the perfect mother and the perfect virgin, not an ordinary woman.

In me dressing up as Mary, I tried to show this play pretend where it’s kinda funny, the lilies have a tag on them and I’m wearing this gorgeous, ridiculous halo made out of calendar paper and tissue. In trying to embody Mary, I illustrate the ridiculousness of using religion to feign holiness and purity, through the materials used.

What I would do differently/improve: I can’t quite remember why I decided not to edit out the background to be completely black, but maybe I should’ve tried that and also cropped the picture a little bit more to further mirror “The Virgin Too”.


T H E   P A S S I O N


This is a picture of the stained glass in the Church of St. Alphonsus, or widely known as the Novena church. I overlaid it with pictures of a lit and burnt matchstick.

I wanted to feature a flame as it symbolises passion. The main story I wanted to tell through this image is that the match, which represents me, burns with a passion for my faith that is very bright, but it was short-lived and I am left burnt out and weak. The stained glass sets the stage of the Catholic church, which represents Catholicism.

What I would do differently/improve: I like the image, but maybe I could also explore other ways to depict them together more cohesively, in the image itself and together with the rest of the series.


T H E   E U C H A R I S T


One of the first images that came to mind. There’s something about close-ups of body parts that is equally creepy, disgusting, yet intimate and emotional at the same time. The image of the cross against the tongue/mouth (it tasted ew), to me, primarily symbolises the act of consuming the religion. It also parallels the act of receiving the body of Christ, as you would at the end of a Catholic mass where the congregation would line up to accept communion. A piece of unleavened bread similar to a wafer (not that I know cos I’m not allowed to take it yet), called the host (also called hostia, sacramental bread, communion wafers??? lol), symbolises the body of Christ. You take it as part of a sacrament called the Eucharist.


“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:53–58)

Immortal bread? Dang. Not immortal in the physical sense though – mind you. Honestly I am finding out so much about the host and the communion by trying to write this and realising I don’t know jack shit and researching and realising that I was only participating cos apparently that’s just what you do in church.

The image is altered such that it looks almost perfect, shining – exactly how spotless and easy I hope believing in a religion was to me.

What I would do differently/improve: Make the crucifix stand out even more. Remove the magenta tint from the highlights and get them shining.


T H E   D E V O T I O N


This Bible was gifted to me by my family for Christmas a few years back. I was very happy to have received it, and it became a great source of consolation for me for the next few years. I would go to it when I needed some strength.

In the previous iteration, I featured a scene with candles burning atop a Bible, covering it in dripping wax, with star sequins all around.

There was no indication to the viewer that the book in the picture is a Bible, and there were other interpretations involving candles, books and stars, so I decided to explore another take on this idea. I took a simple picture of my bible.  I remembered that it had “Holy Bible” on its cover, but apparently it didn’t, so I wrote it myself with a gold pen HAHAHA. After printing, I used a lit candle and dropped wax all over the photo, taking care to cover the “Holy Bible” words, but not completely.

The Bible represents my faith and the candles represent my devotion. Candles are widely used in my experience as a Catholic. In my family, we would light candles up in prayer. Often we would say our names when setting the candle up. It symbolises our presence.

At the same time, candles can also represent the passing of time, and them melting into a messy puddle shows negligence – in an almost poetic manner.

Together, through this image, I tried to illustrate my investment in devotion and prayer without paying attention to understanding the religion itself. The candle wax covers the bible, across the border of the photo, covering the words of “Holy Bible”, ironically because I was spending so much time praying, to a God I claimed to know.


T H E   W I N D O W

This glittery, made up eye represents a sort of evil for me. As the Catholic community that I was in was a more conservative one, I have often felt the need to dress in a reserved manner. I understand and respect the need to dress appropriately in a place of worship, but outside I felt like a hypocrite for wanting to dress up, and by dress up I mean loudly or vibrantly, and not necessarily in a revealing manner. I should feel free to dress the way I’m comfortable with. The sequins and glitter represent that guilty extravagance for me.

The eye is not only a huge part of an identity, it is also the window to the soul. Right in the centre of the eye is a distorted picture of an angel, which represents the ‘evil’, defiant, distorted side of me.

Other than that, the eye is also part of the symbol called the Eye of Providence. It represents the all-knowing God, with a triangle around it to symbolise the holy trinity. The eye in this photo does not only symbolise looking into my true self, but also that God sees and knows who I truly am. What interests me about this symbol is that it has associations with the Catholic church but also the Illuminati and the eye of the dajja (devil), so it becomes ambiguous, and somehow becomes an example for how symbols are often given meaning by humans, through association. How valid do these symbols become, then?


T H E   B L I N D


I laughed so much making this photo. The eyes are hilarious! Look at how earnestly and blissfully this girl is praying, but also look at how f a k e this is!! lol. In the past, I prayed with all my heart, confessing my crimes, asking for forgiveness, for help, to protect my loved ones, etc. When I started to become conscious of my faltering faith, it felt weird to pray – who was I talking to? I felt that I was only doing because humans needed someone or something to rely on, to dump their troubles upon, to relinquish responsibility for their fate, to pin an explanation to the unexplainable.

This photo expresses how blind I was in my faith, praying to a God I didn’t know.

Me putting on fake eyelash lolll

What I would do differently/improve: Maybe I could have explored adding highlights or shiny parts to the background and eyes. 


T H E   R O S A R Y 

The rosary is a significant symbol of Catholicism for me. To me, it distinguishes Catholics from Christians (don’t get me started on the countless denominations pls). My mother would also often pray the rosary and when I finally learnt how to pray with it, I did so during important or trying times. It helped me keep track of my Hail Marys. It was interesting because prayer beads are something that is also widely used in other religions, such as Buddhism and Islam.

The rosary here symbolises the Catholic religion to me. I am shown with my hands behind my back, bound by a rosary. Here, what I am simply trying to show is how I felt restricted and bound by my religion. Yet, it was something I accepted, as shown by the lack of struggle.

Through this project, what I realised is that I only felt bound because I didn’t fully understand what I was involved with by participating in the religion.

What I would do differently/improve: I would explore a more close-up shot with the lilies framing the hand and rosary closer, and a wider shot too. I would also like to try to make it look more uncomfortable, and to make the rosary dig in to the flesh even more. 


T H E   R E D   H A N D

Main idea first came when I was watching this music video by Cuco.

Screenshot from Cuco’s “Keeping Tabs (ft. Suscat0)” music video directed by Cirqua

A pretty simple representation of the devil – but somehow I was really interested in the use of body paint after seeing this. I wanted to use body paint!!! I was thinking of using other colours – but there were too many other connotations / possible misinterpretation. Blue – Smurfs, Krishna; Yellow – yellowface; Black – blackface; Green – Hulk, etc. Hence, I stuck to red – it’s a strong, impactful colour, and can have many interpretations.

After reading up on flower language in Catholicism, I settled on using the most basic, significant flower – the white Lily. It symbolises “Mary’s Immaculate Purity”. I went to the flower market with the intention of getting fresh lilies and baby’s breath, or other pretty flowers. However, after seeing the plastic lilies vs the fresh lilies, it struck me how so much prettier and convenient the plastic ones are. I thought it was apt to represent my faith – how fake it is.

Actual devotion would be like handling actual flowers – you need to take care of them, trim the leaves, put them in water, add flower food, wait for them to bloom, and even then you wouldn’t know whether it would bloom nicely. Not two flowers are the same. Yet, with the plastic ones, they look great, are permanent, and need no upkeep.

At the same time, the red hand represents my vices, my other side, or my true self. I tried a few different hand positions, but I felt that the simplest one spoke the most and its ambiguity leaves room for interpretation. I thought the middle finger was funny, but this position where the hand seems to be just reaching in, relaxed, maybe about to touch the flower, I thought was so soft yet the colours make it striking. You can’t decide whether the hand is invading the space, about to taint the apparent purity of the flowers, or does the hand actually coexist with the lilies?

After the first presentation, I further edited the photo to remove the yellow from the lilies so they appear even whiter.

T H E   P I C N I C

This picture depicts me, dressed as Mary, having an apple in a picnic with fruits and wine (actually Ribena lol I included the cartons). At the same time, I am Eve, and this depicts the first bite, the first sin, the first disobedience. In the photo, I am seemingly in a picnic, with a few items “hidden”. They include the jar from which the apple was presented (in “The Candy”), and a toy snake, amongst others.

I took a few different poses in this scene, and spent quite some time deciding on which expression and pose would be apt, as they would tell different stories. I liked all of them, but I settled on this one as you could see almost a change in the character –  you know that this isn’t the same Mary you saw in “The Virgin”. With the bite made clear through the bitten apple, and with the red finger tips and smeared lips as extra visual cues, it is hinted to the viewers that the bite changed the character, that it is almost contagious. I look into the camera knowingly, acknowledging that I took the bite, that there is a change in me.

What I would do differently/improve: After looking at it again and again, I’m not sure if the red boxes around the jar and the apple are working… I don’t think I need them. 🙁 


T H E   C A N D Y 


A recurring symbol I wanted to have was the red hand. Along with the other pictures in the series, it could be concluded that these hands belong to the red devil/Mary in “The Virgin Too”. The main symbol in this photo is the apple, shiny and delicious, inviting. It represents sin, and all the knowledge of the world. It alludes to the scene in the Garden of Eden where Eve, egged on by the serpent, consumed the fruit of knowledge that God had forbidden them to eat.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The Fall

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

– Genesis 2:8-9, 16-17, 3:1-7

The hidden message in my photo is that consuming the apple was Eve’s choice. The serpent coaxed her, but it was her decision to take the apple, eat it and give it to Adam too. This is shown in the photo through the pretty jar held by the red hands, idle but inviting. The hands present the apple in a shiny glass jar (actually plastic and from Daiso lmao), and the human hand (with normal skin colour) is the one lifting the lid off the jar, actively reaching out to the forbidden fruit. Through this picture, I wish to express that as humans, our sins are our own decisions and we should take responsibility for them.


What I would do differently/improve: I’m not sure what I don’t like about the picture, but maybe I wouldn’t have done the green gradient at the background, which gets weirder the more I look at it. It’s too bad because content-wise it is one of my favourites. Maybe I should have tried a black or dark background instead, so that the jar would pop out more. The reason why I wanted to have the green was because the jar was blending into the background a little too much. I also had fun making the glitter apple in real life, but forgot to use it for the shoot, and tried to photoshop it in, but I could have just added the glitter on the physical printed piece anyways.


T H E   P A S T

This is a simple picture of me praying, overlaid and slapped on a church background (more specifically the Church of St. Alphonsus a.k.a. the Novena church). Signifying the past, when I used to go to church, the photo illustrates how I was in church, yet not really. I loved to go to church to pray, but less often did I enjoy or was invested in mass or any of the readings. I often fell asleep (guilty lol). This was the past.

Funny thing is, I actually attended mass to take pictures of the church (The angel in “The Window” was also from this church haha), which I hadn’t done in a really long time. It was nice to pray again, but I still fell asleep lol.



The photos were arranged in a mindful manner, and viewed together, was meant to give certain hints or information that would help understand other photos in the series. For example, “The Antichrist” was placed above “The Eucharist” as the strong line fell perfectly continuous to the chain of the rosary. This was meant to sub-symbolise the blood of Christ materialising into the body of Christ. Another example is “The Virgin”. With this photo, hopefully viewers understand that the same character is in “The Rosary” (through the white dress). Similarly, hopefully viewers would get that the red hands belong to the “devil-like” character in “The Virgin Too”.



Being distant from my faith the past few years, my excuse was that I didn’t have the heart to get to know my religion a little better.

This project has allowed me to confront that ignorance and explore my faith a little bit more. In no way is my work 100% comprehensive of my experience, or meant to be informative for the audience, but it was a good and really fun experience getting to find out more about the meanings behind the different symbols and why we do things as a Catholic through researching, sourcing for props and materials, and doing the shoot itself.

This has been a really fun class, and I’m glad to have met Bryan and the classmates. Easily one of the best and most memorable classes I’ve had in my experience. Thank you to everyone!


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Clarita Saslim

I love curry and I dream of mala in my sleep.

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