Picture Story – Curating Self (Task 1: Object and representation of self)



“Butterfly fly away”. The butterfly, it was recently an image I soon associated myself with. Feeling encaged and suffocated in the way I’ve been living – under certain conditions, abiding to rules I didn’t like – I have always yearned to be free. To live without being tied down to societal terms. And hence in a way a butterfly represented what I wanted to be because it was always beautiful especially when it’s growing and blooming into becoming a butterfly itself, and then flying off – doesn’t matter where it goes, it’s seeing the world (nature around it). It’s exploring, it’s growing. By keeping it close to heart, to me, it gives me strength to embrace the state I am in right now, it gives me hope that someday I will be free too, and I will find my way in life while growing to be ‘that’ beautiful being. Just like how we all grow from just being a child. The necklace itself matters to me because my parents bought it for me on an occasion where I felt they were genuinely proud of me – this was years ago, it was a time I was truly happy. I barely ever take them out, because it also reminds me of childhood – free, and happy. That’s what butterflies are usually associated to. And sometimes I long for that childhood.

The colours and lighting in the pictures plays an important part in contributing to the message behind the pictures. The natural lighting coming from outside helps to draw attention to the character inside that is looking out (in this case it’s me). There’s a usage of both tonal and color separation here. They are slightly warm (the orangey tones from the sunrays) and slightly cold (the light bluish tone present in the background) as each symbolises something. The warm tones symbolises the fact that something good is waiting despite the (cold tones lingering) uncertainty I’m feeling in my life. Hence the mood that is present.
Now referring to the mood that is present, we focus on the facial expressions I give when interacting with the object. Realise that in each photo there’s barely an expression but mainly a far-away gaze, perhaps only expressing longing. That longing, is the longing for the freedom mentioned earlier on. Also the idea of nostalgia because I am missing my childhood that the necklace represents hence clutching to it tightly. What inspired me to come up with such an emotion and made sure it was depicted well through pictures, was the artworks of Sally Mann’s “Candy Cigarette” and all her other works in “At 12: Portraits of young women” (as seen below).

Two of her pictures in “At 12: Portraits Of Young Women”

These young women distill something for the eye, something beautiful and sad and moving, something purely female and that is exactly something I want my pictures to incline towards. Another female artist that I was inspired by is Nan Goldin. Looking at the lighting in her photos through the film photography she took up makes me want to do something alike. There is that effect present – vintage, and melancholic.

The shadows play a huge part in this too, even with a slight tint of it showing. An example would be the half-spaced out shadows covering half of the picture that looks like a cage/prison cell. I waited for the sun to set to get the rays off the balcony grill in my house, as it will produce this lovely shadow. I knew it will give this effect off because I used to experiment waiting for the timing before for my other photos last year.
In my picture, I feel like the shadow meant a lot in symbolising the cage I feel like I’m in. And if you notice, the butterfly from my necklace shone abit when the rays reflected off it, it found itself in the middle of the space to be present in light and not those shadows. I look at the photo and to me that meant something. It just symbolises that despite the fact that I do sometimes feel caged, I still have that part of me that lingers in the light and still growing, soon to fly and explore freely. Thus having my hand slightly above my heart, touching the butterfly symbol on my necklace, is to remind the audience of the sense of closeness I have with it – how significant it is to me.

Artist Reference – Research for Task 1 and 2



“Untitled Variety #71, 1983

Nan Goldin is an American photographer known for her deeply personal and candid portraiture. Goldin’s images act as a visual autobiography documenting herself and those closest to her, and in most of her works, she focuses on the LGBT community.

I used her as a reference as I was inspired by the film photography she does and the way she could capture emotions well in her films. The colours in her photos and the lack of lighting. It sets the right mood and tone on all the topics she touches on – love, fluid sexuality, glamour, beauty, death, intoxication and pain. Goldin’s photographs feature her life and those in it. And this is what i love about it, the way she documents topics such as beauty, pain, love and such. She stated that “My work has been about making a record of my life that no one can revise. I photograph myself in times of trouble or change in order to find the ground to stand on in the change. I was coming out of a melancholic phase. ”

“Self Portrait writing in my diary”, Boston 1989

Looking into the picture above, I admire the way she could portray such a melancholic mood using her body posture which is very important here. The lighting is also a key point to the way her film photos turned out. She said she was “coming out of her melancholic phase”. It is well portrayed here in her body posture – she may be lying down but her upper body onwards rises, her head is tilted up, she’s looking out.  It’s darker on the other side of the picture but she’s inclining more towards the light by looking out towards it. Thus it could perhaps suggest the idea of “looking up” and “hope”. Hence coming out of her sad moments while  jotting it down in her diary.

That itself inspired me to take the pictures i take. I do not have a film camera to produce such shots but i do want to focus on the melancholic phase, the nostalgia that is present – I wanted to show that that itself is part of my story and I wanted people to see it visually. I figured that even the smallest object I have picked out, a butterfly necklace I have been wearing for the longest time now, that is significant to me, could also allow me to portray the way i feel about it and what it symbolises through the use of of  light in my pictures and also the importance of body posture and facial expression. All of that elevates the photo by giving it a meaning, a symbolism, it helps to give off the mood I intend on portraying.

Another artist (female too) that I would like to touch on is Sally Mann.


Sally Mann is an American photographer known for her intimate black-and-white portraits of her family and for her documentation of the landscape of the American South. Her images appear antique due to her interest in early photographic technology. She experiments on bromide printing process to achieve that ‘old’ effect in her photos.

I was pulled into her photography works because of her portraits of girls captured in ephereal moments between childhood innocence and womanly sophistication. I loved her works produced in one of her photography book called At Twelve: Portraits of Young Women (1988)”. (some of her works from it as seen below)


1. “Untitled, At Twelve Series (Lisa and her Tab)”

2. “Untitled, At Twelve Series (Juliet in the Chair)”

She has the ability to capture them beautifully, portraying something dark – sad but moving. Something purely female. I also like how her photos involve those young girls – it gives a sort of story behind young girls. An image of a child with a dark story. And I would want that image to stick as my inspiration for my photography works as the object I am relating it to has a story to tell behind my childhood. It would make a perfect reference.

“Candy Cigarrette, 1989”

I would also want to reference a huge inspiration of mine. Alessio Albi

Most of his works focuses on the looking-away gaze, expression & emotios and lighting too. I am just a huge fan of his works.



“Louisiana, 1996”

I referenced to Wolfgang Tillmans as I was intrigued by Tillman’s diaristic photography, large-scale abstraction, and commissioned magazine work. “I want the pictures to be working in both directions,” the artist has said. “I accept that they speak about me, and yet at the same time, I want and expect them to function in terms of the viewer and their experience.”
That is exactly what i would want to portray in my photos. I want the viewer to interpret what they want to from the picture of “my world”, give their own thoughts but at the same time see it as the way i do, to step in my shoes and see how the place fascinates me.

“In the back”, 2010

In the photo above, I like how Tillman experimented in dark room and played with the shadows and warm light to capture this image – it’s dark and gloomy but at the same time the bright yellow light from outside tries to overpower the darkness inside hence it makes you feel warm and cozy.

I used this especially as a reference to play with the lights and shadows at the place i took my pictures at, as i chose to take it when sun sets and during night time. Thus this specific work of his plays an important part to how my pictures turn out.

I was also inspired by this photographer i found on instagram.

His works inspired me in terms of getting the vibrancy, colours that just makes me feel like joy, and all the lights and bokeh in dark surroundings, which i was planning to use in my photos.