El Lissitzky is an influential and prominent Russian artist in the constructivism (the idea of solving problems with solutions; practicality) and suprematism (eliciting feeling of intensity) movement. Together with his mentor, Kazimir Malevich, known for his suprematist artwork – “Black Square”, they developed suprematism by designing propaganda posters and exhibitions for the Soviet Union.
His artworks are greatly influenced by his training as an architect in Germany. It incorporates the usage of simple shapes as symbolism for the rationale behind his works which are mostly about the socio-cultural context of the emergent Soviet Union after World War 1.
El Lissitzky is known for his photography, photomontage and coming up with the term ‘proun’. He produced a large number of artworks that he termed as “project for the affirmation of the new” in Russian which is heavily influenced by the political issues at that point in time. ‘Proun’ is a style that creates an illusion of depth from a 2D canvas.
El Lissitzky’s propaganda poster styles are abstract and interpretative as compared to Britain and America’s propaganda poster which are more visual with bold eye-catching letters with flat colors which is similar to the plakatstil style.
One of his iconic works is “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” – 1919. The composition of simple geometric shapes strategically placed to create a narrative and meaning about his visualization of the fundamental transformations in society within the space and material used. The play of contrasting striking colors – Red and White to show the opposing team during the civil war in Russia.
Despite being an abstract artwork using political symbolism, people involved or knew the context of what is going on will be able to interpret and understand the message behind this piece. The image of the red wedge shattering the white form communicated a powerful message that left no doubt in the viewer’s mind of its intention. The shapes he used are similar to the military maps to elicit suprematism.
There are so many design styles to send out an impactful message to the audience. To me, the idea of using symbolism and play of colors stands out among the rest despite the minimal visual graphics. It can be used in so many contexts such as a secret or hidden message to people who belong to a certain group or association, who know of the meaning of the symbol and logo. It gives designers and artists, their own freedom to create their own meaning and have a personal take on what the shape or symbols mean to them, similar to the idea of expressionism movement.
For this project, I wanted to challenge myself to tell my story, be comfortable and as candid as Nan Goldin to show certain sides of me and how I came to be the person I am today. During the process of this project, I pushed myself to come up with interesting concepts using various techniques such as the use of semiotics, denotation and connotation, play with contrasting elements such as the value of darkness, the meaning behind the concept and mood of the setting. My goal is to send out an impactful message while telling my life story to my peers.
The photos are taken on iPhone 8+ and Olympus DSLR camera.
Look at me now…
Process of Component 1: Me
Experimentation of Concept 1 – “Stoic Sculpture” :
I was inspired by Alex Maeda’s style of making humans and living spaces into 2D. The concept of painting myself is really interesting and I want to see how it can add value to convey the meaning behind my concept which is my achievements and struggles.
Selected Test Shots for Concept 1 – “Stoic Sculpture” :
These are the test shots selected for review and I experimented with various shots and angles to find out which framing will be able to convey the narrative behind the concept the best.
Selected photo is the fifth photo with medium close up taken at a high angle because it shows a sense of vulnerability.
Experimentation of Concept 2 – “I can’t be fucked anymore” :
For one of the concepts for component 1, I wanted to send out an impactful message about a pivotal moment in my life. I was figuring out on how to do it and I got inspired by Jayde Tan when I was browsing through our local photographer’s Instagram page. I explored with my body to show vulnerability yet convey a message on my bare back.
Selected Test Shots for Concept 2 – “I can’t be fucked anymore” :
For this concept, I experimented with long shot, medium shot and medium close up. The third test shot is selected because it focuses on the impactful message as well as the red silk robe which signifies pride. It’s taken from a low angle to show that I’m in control and suits the narrative.
Experimentation & Selected Test Shots for Concept 3 – “Carefree – I do what I want” :
I experimented with various part of my room and tried of different expressions and gestures to convey the feeling of being a carefree person without any care in the world. The selected test shot is the fourth photo because the background is white and my expression is suitable.
I was inspired by Uglyworldwide because she tends to convey her mood by doing quirky makeup on her face and I incorporated this style into my concept because it gives off a carefree vibe.
Searching for happiness
Process of Component 2: My Object
Selected Test Shots for Concept 1 – “Windmill of Happiness” :
I tried using lighting to achieve a reflection effect but in the end, I chose test shot 4 because I realised I should keep it simple because happiness to me is about enjoying the simple things in life.
Selected Test Shots for Concept 2 – “Existential Crisis” :
To show the contrast between depression and happiness, I have chosen the second photo because it’s more interactive and it has more contrasting element of the childlike innocence and hope for happiness, and the smoke which is the will to survive.
Framing for Concept 2 – “Existential Crisis” :
For the chosen photo, during the review of test shots, Prof Serena asked to focus on one object so it’s not confusing. Hence, I cropped away the cigarette in the original photo and frame it to be a medium shot so it focus on the details of the emphasis which is the vibrant rainbow windmill and the smoke. In addition, I did colour correcting to make the colour more blueish to make it gloomy.
This made me realised how framing will immediately zoom into the main point of the narrative and less is more.
I was inspired by Brandon Woelfel’s way of using colour smoke grenade to add vibrancy into his photos. However, instead of using vibrancy, I want to incorporate smoke in a depressing way to have a conflicting effect with the vibrant rainbow windmill.
Selected Test Shots for Concept 3 – “A reminder…” :
The process of capturing this concept is really tedious because I had to use a tripod, timer and blow the windmill at the same time. It took quite a long time because I wanted to achieve a medium shot at an eye level with a white background.
I was in dilemma to pick between the second and the third photo but I’ve chosen the third photo because the facial expression is more intense even though it was a mistake to have my head cropped out. Also, after consulting with my classmates and friends, they said the second photo is a bit too boring and there’s no emphasis compared to the third photo.
Framing for Concept 3 – “A reminder…” :
For the framing for this photo concept, I’ve framed it to be medium close up to focus on the details of the rotating windmill and the intense look from my facial expression. My aim was focus on the main emphasis of the story which is eyeing on my future happiness despite my struggling situation. Hence, I decided to edit the colour tone of the photo to have a blue hue.
Other rejected test shots for Component 2 – My Object:
Experimented various angles and shots of me interacting with my rainbow windmill but it’s not really impactful compared to the selected test shots. However, being able to try out different shots, knowing how to pose even though it’s weird doing it by myself was a fun experience. Thank god, I’m shameless and I didn’t mind people watching me do my project alone:
Daddy is gone…
Process of Component 3: My World
Selected Test Shots for Concept 1 – “Gone…” :
For the concept, I took wide shots to show the environment of my world with my younger self with the windmill in it. My focus was to place contrasting visuals between my sad self and the vibrancy of the playground. I tried to play around with the infrastructure available to express the pang of sadness of receiving the news by using the railings of the playground to show that my life is ruined like how people will get a black mark in their records when they enter prison. (Leaving a scar in my life)
I’ve chosen the second photo because the environment of the location I wanted to showcase is really obvious and the feelings I wanted to express is really suitable and child-like for the narrative.
Framing for Concept 1 – “Gone…” :
For the framing of this photo concept, I decided to use Rule of Thirds to crop the photo to put emphasis on me crouching down, hugging my knees. I wanted to showcase how the playground it’s a happy place for the people around me in the photo but how I’m unhappy about the tragic news using a blue hue for the mood at that exact happy location.
Selected Test Shots for Concept 2 – “Taken away” :
To convey the cause of how my dad passed away, I tried placing the windmill and the beer bottle using the Rule of Thirds and decided to use the third photo. I prefer the long shot of the photo with the kid facing away from the camera in the background.
Selected Test Shots for Concept 3 – “The beginning of my downhill” :
To convey the message that my life is scarred for life and it went downhill, I tried experimenting using different poses and angles. The chosen photo is the fifth one because it places emphasis on how my life went downhill since I’m sitting on the slide. The medium close up shot focuses on the bloody hands and how broken I am from the body gesture.
Framing for Concept 3 – “The beginning of my downhill” :
For the chosen photo, to amplify the depressing mood, I colour corrected the photo to have more cool tones so the red bloody will stand out more
Other rejected test shots for Component 3 – My World:
These are the rejected test shots because it doesn’t fit the narrative or capture the location of the environment well.
It was really tough managing everything by myself from using the camera, tripod, timer as well as, trying to pose in time to capture the right moment.
Figuring out the concepts and planning out the shots and framing is tedious and enjoyable at the same time.
This project has equipped me with useful skills that I could use in future projects or any concepts that I’m planning to do.
For this project, I’ve decided to focus on my dark past and the gradual development of how I become the person I am today.
Layout of the photos
First row of photos (Component 1): I’ve decided to arrange the photos in a way which is going down to show that I’m starting afresh from square one. In addition, there’s a gradual decrease in the value of darkness (from left to right) to show how my life have improved.
Second row of photos (Component 2): The layout for this series photos is straight to show how I feel like my life is stagnant and stuck whenever I have an episode of existential crisis and I used cool tones to put emphasis on my sad emotions and mood of the narrative.
Third row of photos (Component 3): To showcase how my life has been rocky after a certain incident in my life, I’ve decided to place the photos up and down.
Look at me now…
Component 1 – Me
For this component, I wanted to show a few pivotal moments that made a huge impact in my life hence, how I developed to become a happier individual and changed my perspective in life in a positive way.
In the past, people always think that I’m just lucky whenever they heard about my achievements but they didn’t see the struggles behind the process. I planned to experiment with the use of semiotics by using colours and decided to paint myself; gold and red. Gold represent my achievements and red represent my struggles in life.
My concept is being a stoic sculpture to show that I’m numb to everything by having a blank facial expression. It becomes a norm to be hurting yet keeping a stoic expression. This photo is taken from a high angle to show my vulnerability to people’s comments and judgement about me.
Shots/Framing: Medium close up, taken at a high angle
Evaluation: Very daring, playful and use semiotics to convey the narrative of the concept. – Classmates
It looks like a painting from far. – Chen Guo
Inspired by: Alexa Meade – An artist known for painting humans and 3D spaces to look like a 2D.
I’ve decided to play with colours and make myself a sculpture as it gives a stronger emphasis on the emotions of the narrative like Alexa Meade’s artworks and the audience can try to figure connotative meaning behind the photo.
There was a certain phase in my life when I was used and taken advantage of due to childhood trauma, during work and even in relationships. I was at the lowest point of my life so I had the choice to either rise from my traumas or die in a pathetic way.
I’ve decided to use my bad experiences in life as a motivation to build myself up again hence, using an impactful phrase, “I can’t be fucked anymore” to showcase that I won’t let anyone belittle me anymore.
I’m stripping away the red silk robe (pride) and showing my bare back as stepping stone into the next phase in my life which I won’t hide my weaknesses anymore and it’s okay to be vulnerable and not putting up a strong front. The photo is taken at a low angle to show that I’m in control even though I might be vulnerable at times.
Shots/Framing: Medium shot, taken at a low angle
Evaluation: Not shy to experiment with my body. – Gina
Contrasting meaning behind my body posture (looks like I’m hanging myself and giving up on life) but the message on the back says otherwise. – Prof Serena
Inspired by: Jaydenation – Jayde Tan is one of the upcoming photographers in Singapore who likes to come up with unique and aesthetically appealing concept to send out a strong message to the audience. ‘Make Yishun Pearl Again’ and ‘The Majulahs’ are my favourite projects of his and I want to be able to do more concepts with more impactful messages.
After all the bad experiences I went through in life, I decided to be carefree because I won’t let anyone dictate my life and I’ll do what makes me happy. I no longer want to be dragged by my past so I decided to use a white background to signify that I’m starting afresh.
To cover up my pain, I like to dress up in vibrant and colourful things to mask my dark past and it become a form of therapy for me because it’s relaxing and I get to be creative with myself. To showcase this side of me, I decided to paint two smiley face on my cheeks, wear bright coloured clothing and unique accessories.
From the previous photos, you can see how my life have improved from the change in facial expressions in the photos. In addition, after I changed my perspective in life, I’m enjoying life and became a stronger individual because nobody can stop me.
Shots/Framing: Medium close up
Evaluation: This photo brings out the child-like innocence in me and links to the next few components of the narrative of my story. – Prof Serena
Inspired by: Uglyworldwide – A unique experimental model/artist who likes to convey her mood by painting her face or dressing up in a certain way.
Searching for happiness
Component 2 – Object
For this component, I wanted to show how my life comes to a standstill whenever I start questioning the purpose of my life and if I’m capable enough to carry on in life.
For my object, I’ve decided to chose a rainbow windmill which signifies happiness and hope to me. I received it from my friends when I became an adult because they wanted me to always be cheerful and happy in life.
The background is cool toned and plain. In order to showcase the conflicting emotions of happiness and sadness, I try to put emphasis on the contrasting tones of warm and vibrant colours of the windmill and cool colour of the background to convey the gloomy mood.
Shots/Framing: Close up (To focus on the details and vibrant colours of the windmill)
At times, when I’m having an episode of existential crisis, I pondered to myself, “Is it possible for someone like me who has depression and multiple traumas to achieve the happy future I have in mind?”
To showcase wanting happiness and hope for the future despite my condition, I’ve decided to blow smoke against the rainbow windmill to show my desperation to make it turn and come true. I want to put emphasis in my dilemma of succumbing to my depression (the will to survive) or staying strong to witness my future (the happy future I want to experience).
Shots/Framing: Medium shot, taken at an eye level view
Evaluation: Like the concept of using of windmill and smoke to signify a certain emotion – Classmates
Prof Serena commented how I like to play with contrast using semiotics and connotations in my concepts and that could be one of my artwork styles.
Someone suggested that I could’ve cropped out the railings and focus more on the concept of the photo but Prof Serena commented that the bright light around the railings add emphasis on the contrast of meaning since the value of darkness right side of the photo is high. (Preference of the audience)
Inspired by: Brandon Woelfel – A famous photographer in California who likes to use LED lights and smoke to set the mood in his photos. His photos made me think of ways I can incorporate smoke into this concept to express my sadness.
Whenever I look at the rainbow windmill, it’s a reminder that life will keep moving on even if I’ve experienced good and bad things in life and it gives me hope to carry on in life.
To showcase this concept, the rotating windmill signifies that the world will keep on revolving no matter what. I shouldn’t give up and I have to be patient to experience my moment of bliss and happiness even if it’s too painful at the moment as seen by my stern facial expression in the photo.
I’ve decided to placed the rotating windmill in front of my face and I’m staring right into the camera to put emphasis that I’m eyeing for my happiness in the future and I’ll drag myself forward even though it’s painful.
Shots/Framing: Medium close up, taken at an eye level view
Evaluation: Personally, this is one of my favourite piece because it really means a lot to me and it’s still a reminder to me till today.
Daddy is gone…
Component 3 – My World
A playground is usually a place of happiness and fun to majority of the children in the world. However, it’s the opposite for me and how my life went downhill when I was a kid…
This is the exact place where I got the news that my dad passed away and I was in confusion because I didn’t understand the concept of death till one of the adults said he will be gone forever. That was when I felt a pang of sadness over this tragic loss.
To express this emotion, the windmill which signifies happiness is facing down on the ground and I’ve decided to make the mood gloomy by using cool tones.
Shots/Framing: Wide shot
Evaluation: There’s a daughter and dad in the background to show my absence of my dad after the incident. – Prof Serena (I didn’t notice this till Prof Serena pointed it out to me and it adds value to the narrative.)
After this incident, my life changed forever. I placed the windmill (happiness) in a beer bottle to showcase how my happiness and role model in life is taken away from me because of someone’s inconsiderate act of drink driving.
I decided to think of a way to convey the cause of my father’s death in an interesting and impactful way to show how it can affect kid’s life for being irresponsible. The kid sitting at the background of the photo really adds value to the concept because it evokes a feeling of being lost and alone.
Shots/Framing: Long shot
Evaluation: Like the play of objects to convey the cause of my father’s death. – Classmate
For this concept, I wanted to focus on the beginning of the downhill of my life and how I scarred for life with pain and stereotypes of my life being ruined because of my tragic loss.
I took this photo when the sun sets to incorporate darkness and the gloomy mood into the narrative. In a state of confusion and lost, I sat at the end of the slide to put emphasis behind the concept of how my life went downhill. In addition, my hands are bloody to convey the message that I’m scarred for life and I have to live with this pain and loss for the rest of my life.
Shots/Framing: Long shot
Evaluation: Marc liked the emphasis behind the reason why I’m sitting at the end of the slide to convey the meaning of how my life went downhill.
I really enjoyed the process and the final outcome of the photos because I feel that I managed to deliver the narrative and concepts I’ve in mind.
I realised I prefer coming up with creative concepts using semiotics and experimenting with my body because I like making the audience see the denotation and connotation behind my concepts as it makes it more interactive. In addition, a few people pointed out that I enjoyed using contrasting elements to make my concepts come alive and convey an impactful message.
Framing techniques, Rule of Thirds and the different types of shots and angles really makes a different in conveying your narrative and I realised the importance of it during the process of doing this project. Experiencing this makes me realised how I can tweak the narrative just by doing minor changes and I have to plan out really well to convey the mood and message I have in mind. Lastly, colour correction and taking the photos at the right place and setting is important to set the mood of the photo.