4D Project 2: The subverted object

Task 1:  Capture the object’s physical attributes and capture its practical function.

For this project the item that I was assigned was the dollar bill/coin. For the first part of task 1, I focused mainly on coins and I tried to bring out the special physical qualities of the coins, things that might be overlooked in an everyday context.

50 cent coin
50 cent coin ridges

One thing about the new series of coins which was released in 2013 is that they have ridges for easy identification for the visually impaired. This I feel was something that not a lot of people know. This makes a coin a symbol of acceptance to integrate everyone into our society.

Here I also experimented with different depths of focus. Here I feel that a zoomed in shallow focus works more as it focuses on every small detail of the coin.

50 cent coin tails
50 Cent coin

Here zooming in on the coin, you realise that it is adorned with characters from all the different national languages of Singapore. This I feel in a way makes the coin a symbol of racial harmony

50 Cent coin heads zoomed in


Working from there, I tried to capture the different faces of the coin.






I also worked with the different coins and tried to bring out their qualities which are different from the 50 cent coins.

5 Cent coin pile

The 5 cent coin to me is a bit ironic. It is seen as the most useless coin, however its golden and shiny making it look semi precious and when in a pile it looks like a pile of gold. Here I tried to bring out that shiny golden quality of the coin.

5 cent coin zoomed in

Once again I played with different depths of focus. Here I really like how zooming in on the 5 cent coin while leaving a little of the background around makes the 5 cent coin much more larger than it usually is. This I feel makes it look much more important.

5 cent coin pile, top view
5 cent coins heads

Here I feel that the tails works much more better than the tails version as in the tails picture, the coin was much more reflective and made the highlights in the picture more visually appealing than in this heads photo.

Pile of 5 cent coin with black background
Pile of 5 cent coin with black background 2

Here I tried putting the 5 cent coins on a black background to really bring out that golden colour

Next I worked with the $1 coin. Honestly I felt that the $1 coin was the least fun to work with.

$1 coin, tails
$1 coin heads









The ridges of the $1 coin was also very thin and less obvious than the 50 cent coin.

$1 coin ridges

One special quality I really love about the $1 coin  is the silver in the middle surrounded by the gold. This way it is like a combination of the 5 cent coin and the 50 cent coin.

$1 coin mirror

Here in this photo I tried to focus on the two tone nature of the one dollar coin that makes it look like a mirror with a rim.

Out of all the coins I feel that the 50 cent coin works best due as I really like how the coins are made to accommodation with the visually impaired and with the 50 cent coin having the largest ridges brings across this idea the best.

Next would be the 5 cent coins which I love because they look like tiny pieces of gold and this I feel was ironic due to them being the coin of the least value

Chosen photos

50 cent coin
Pile of gold (5 cent coins)

Task 1 part 2

For part 2 I tried taking photos of the 5cent coin in use. I didn’t really want to take typical images of money for example at a bank or at a cashier in a store. I wanted something slightly more subtle. While thinking of this I saw the vending machine at my dorm and I was instantly struck with inspiration. I thought the vending machine was perfect as for myself when I see a vending machine, I am almost immediately compelled to take out a coin.

Miko and vending machine

Her I photographed my friend using the vending machine. Although you don’t really see the coin, you know it is there due to the vending machine and the mode’s raised hands. I like how the presence of the coin is implied rather than obviously there.

From here I also played with shooting from different angles

Miko and vending machine 2, low angled shot

and zoomed in focusing only on certain limbs to put more emphasis on the coin.

Miko and vending machine 3, arm

For this shot I really like how the camera angle puts the viewer into the model’s perspective. It is as if you are looking down at your own hand.

Miko and vending machine 4, hand
Miko and vending machine 5, hand 2

Here the presence of the coin is clearly seen and you can see it being in use.

However overall, I still prefer a more subtle approach in showing the presence of the coin and thus

Chosen photo

Miko and Vending Machine Chosen Photo

Task 2: Subvert the meaning of an object

For task 2, I first considered the meaning the $ coin/bill as a medium for which transactions are made. From there, I first tried to capture moments where money is not used in such a way. Thus, I myself did not give it a new meaning but I captured moments where the meaning of money has already been subverted in our culture.


Wishing well, MBS

Have you ever wondered why  we throw a coin into a well when making a wish? Well in the past, bodies of water were rare and drinkable water was even more sparse.  Hence people considered water as a gift from the gods and that these bodies of water themselves housed gods within them. As such people would throw coins into these bodies of water to gain the god’s favour. As time went by, people forget that fountains and wells housed god and the act of throwing a coin in itself became a form of wish making.

Wishing Well 2

Now when we look at a well or a fountain filled with coins, we don’t think about how transactions were made here but we think about all the wishes that were made. And thus I went to Marina Bay Sands ( MBS) which housed a fountain littered with coins of different currencies. Littered with the wishes from people all over the world.

One thing I immediately realised is that it was very difficult to take pictures of the coins that were below the water surface. The focus has to be precariously maintained. A tiny shift in the focus and the the coin would either be blurred out or the picture taken would be of the water surface instead.

Wishing Well, Water Surface

What I really like when trying to capture the coin under the water’s surface is that the water ripples causes the coin to look almost ethereal. Without he ripples, the coin would have looked like any other coin on a black surface but the ripples her makes the setting the coin is in strange and different.

Boy’s Coin

This picture of the coin was taken seconds after a boy threw this coin into the well.

I tried then to put my phone underwater and captured a few underwater shots before my phone started to malfunction.

Boy’s coin underwater

Here coin’s reflection above and below makes the setting the strange and thus creates new meaning to the coin.

underwater shot 2

One thing to note is that because the shot was taken underwater, the lighting and the exposure of the shot is much dimmer as there is no harsh reflections created from the water surface. This gives the overall picture a darker more somber tone.


Why do we flip a coin when we can’t make a decision ourselves? Why do we flip a coin to dictate the fate of something ? The coin here becomes a symbol of choice. A simple choice with either a yes or no answer, but it is a choice nevertheless.

Trying to capture this was much more harder than the   underwater shots before this.

Coin Flip
Coin Flip 2













Here, I tried to suggest the coin flip through the gesture of the hand. This I feel was pretty decent and you can still see movement within the composition.

Coin Flip 3

However, when trying to capture the coin flipping through the air itself it was really difficult. By boosting up the shutter speed to almost maximum and the iso, I managed to capture the coin in mid air, however the photo becomes pretty weird with bands filling up the composition.

Coin Flip, $1 coin
Coin Flip, $1 coin 2

I also experimented with different coins and different camera angles, however these photos still felt strange and the coin felt clunky in my hand.


To me, money in itself is not good or bad. It is what we spend the money on which gives it its good or bad connotation. Here I made the money seem like a form of sin by stuffing it into someone’s boxer shorts which is a setting we usually associate with strippers and prostitutes..

Before taking photos of the model in his boxer briefs, I first took some test shots of the area and the model just to figure out his position.














From there, I tested numerous different shots to try and make  it work.

First, I played with getting the model to raise different hands. This was to see which posture would suit the setting best and in this case , it is trying to achieve the gentle contraposto S.

The model’s body language also plays a huge part in the final composition. Here the model looks like he is trying to defend himself. He looks more guilt, more vulnerable.

From this tried to experiment with the different angles .Here,  low angle makes the torso look much more elongated and removes focus away from the money.



A slight shift in the position of the camera can change the photo immensely. Here, the torso no longer looks stretched and out of proportion.

Going in lower and taking the photo from a more extreme angle, more focus is placed on the money, however, the muscle definition is lost and the arms now form two awkward line that leads the eyes of the viewer upwards.

Even tilting it slightly, I find the composition still strange as here the boxer shorts are stretched and takes up as much visual presence as the torso. The inclusion of the background and the luggage from this  I feel makes the composition look very cluttered.

Here I tried to ommit most  of the background and even the body to focus on the money. Hinting at the body here I feel also works.

Here, I tried to take angled shots to disorient the viewer


After this, I tried to give my own meaning to money.


After my consultation with Professor Ley, I realised that the easiest way to subvert the object is by juxtaposing it with other objects or by juxtaposing it in a different environment.

Here I placed the 5 cent coins within a bottle to make it look like medicine or a bottle of pills that you would take. This is a play on the belief that money can be used to cure all the ills that ails this world.

The lighting also affects the mood of the composition.Here I opted for a dimmer light and lower exposure to give a somber and dark mood to the composition.

For these shots I played with chiaroscuro to dramatize the shot and thus make the bottle look important and special.


Heart of Gold

After looking at the 5 cent coins, I was reminded by the metaphor a “heart of gold” due to how the 5 cent coins look like gold. Thus I decided to place the 5 cent coins in a heart container to make money here represent that quote.

Once again here, I used chiaroscuro to dramatize the shot,making the heart and the coins look larger than life.


With this, I was ready to choose the photos to be used.

Chosen Photos for task 2



Final Photos


Here I opted for a warmer tone as I thought the special ridges on our coins was a testament to how our country was trying to integrate everyone from all walks of life. This I thought was a very heartwarming act and this decided to try and bring this across through the visuals.

Hopes and Wishes

In contrast, for the hopes and wishes panel I chose a more darker and sinister look. This was because I took the picture in MBS. A place where the upper elites and the richest of the richest to squander their life. It felt realally patronizing to feel the eyes of the richest shops bearing down on me as I took the photos . And I started to think about how many of these wishes would come true and how many would not. I am sure the rich wouldn’t count on these wishes coming true.

Pile of Gold

Here, I increased saturation to bring out the coin’s golden colour. Her i tried to play with irony, in the sense that money is usually seen as something valuable, However, the 5 cent coin is seen as unvaluable but here I am trying to make it look like gold.

Heart of Gold

Here, i thought about how you would usually see your significant other as someone who has a heart of gold. And you usually think so not because of all the big huge things they have done but all the small seemingly insignificant things like how they look and their smile reaches all the way to their eyes. Or how they hold your hand and hold tightly as if they would never want to let you go. Here the 5 cent coins represent all these seemingly insignificant things that I feel are golden.

Miko and Vending Machine

Here,I really liked how the blue of the shirt matched with the blue from the fluorescent lights. I also really like how the coin is barely visible, but you know there is a coin due to its implied presence.


Here I made this composition tell a story. The money int he boxer shorts show how he has done something sinful. The body posture however show that he feels guilty and even maybe slightly embarrassed about it. The inclusion of the door handle also show that this is being done behind closed doors. You would immediately want to condemn the model in the photo, however, you realise that the door is one of a school dorm. You see that the model is doing this to support himself. Do you still condemn him? Lastly, you realise that the angle of the shot puts the viewer in the position of a patron for his services.

Task 3: Text and Image

A dream is a wish the heart makes

When thinking of a quote for the picture, I was suddenly reminded of Cinderella due to the blue of the door. And the song “A dream is a wish the heart makes” kept repeating in my head over and over again, essentially preventing me from thinking up of any other quote.

However, I realised that the quote actually worked. While staring at the picture and listening to Cinderella’s theme song, I realised that by matching the picture with the song title there is a story.

The song talks about how you should never give up on your dreams and keep believing to make it true. I have juxtaposed this fairy tale quote with an image and an act you would traditionally see as wrong. Here the model is prostituting himself. But why is he doing so ? He is doing so to support and pay for his school fees and this is him trying to make his dreams come through regardless of the means. The model in a sense is a modern day Cinderella

Challenges and Reflections

  • One of the challenges I faced was definitely in subverting the meaning of the object itself. I was never sure if I was subverting the meaning enough and how much was enough subversion to be exact?
  • Another challenge was definitely thinking of a quote for the image. I wanted a quote that would add a new depth and layer to the composition. At first I was frustrated that the song ” A dream is a wish the heart makes” just kept replaying in my head. In the end though I was thankful as I  really like how an innocent fairy tale quote is juxtaposed with a a mature image.

With tat thank you for your time and have a nice day !

The End

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