[Final] Project 3: The Impossibilities of Being

Final Product


Location: Sihui’s memories

For this video project, I decided to choose someone else’s (Sihui’s) memories as a location I’ve never been to. The narrative of this video revolves around what a regular day is like working as a filter in Sihui’s hippocampus; looking through her day’s worth of memories and picking out ones she should remember and ones she should forget. Given the fictional nature of this location and narrative, I tried to use literal images and sounds to better depict the location and avoid confusing viewers. The video comprises of two main environments – the hippocampus and the memories themselves. This is emphasised through the use of different mediums, namely, digitalised illustrations (representing the hippocampus) and moving images (representing the memories). The video also comprises of a soundscape as a factor to bring life to the fictional location. The two main soundscapes used are the sounds that exist within the hippocampus, and those derived from the memories themselves.

Techniques Applied
I. Hippocampus

To represent the hippocampus, I used illustrated GIFs (each with a few select moving elements). In addition to using a contrasting medium (i.e. illustrations) to represent the hippocampus as a fictional location, I kept to the same colour palette for all illustrated frames. Doing so helped in establishing a sense of continuity, showing that the scenes are all occurring within the location. The use of pink and purple tones are also to give more obvious representation of the location, showing the insides of a brain.

Sounds used:

Steam locomotive engine Freesound.org
Going over railway tracks Fries shaking in a bag (foley)
Low rumbling Freesound.org

With regards to the overarching sound, I used a toned-down soundscape with sounds from a steam locomotive engine, it travelling across a railway track, and low rumbling, to establish the sense of movement occurring outside the hippocampus; showing Sihui going about her day while I’m carrying out a filtering process on her memories.

In addition to using sounds from the Internet, to recreate the sound of a train going across railway tracks, I used foley where I held a recorder in between two bags of fries while Esther and Sihui shook them at varying times. 

Frame 1

Hippocampus: Frame 1

The first frame was meant to convey the start of the work day – switching on the radio, then switching through different channels and finally coming across the perfect the song.

Sounds used:

 Radio channel Freesound.org
 Radio static Freesound.org
 Music Stardust by Hoagy Carmichael

To establish a sense of rhythm, I chose to lay the frames out in the video according to the beat of a song in the background. The song in the video is Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust, chosen mainly for its slow rhythm and calm mood. Having this particular song as the main background music helps in establishing a sense of rhythm and an ambient mood, preventing clashes with the other environmental sounds. Additionally, I chose objective sounds to convey a clearer narrative; radio static and noises to show the switching of radio channels.


Frame 2

Hippocampus: Frame 2

The second frame is meant to depict the main workspace of the hippocampus, a typical desk area with papers and stationery. To reinforce the portrayal of the job as a memory filter, the desk has two glowing buttons (one green and one red) to represent the forget and remember functions when filtering through the memories. Laid over the background sounds of music, the steam locomotive engine, and rumbling, there is the addition of other objective sounds to reinforce the activities occurring around the main workspace.

Sounds used:

Steam Freesound.org
Drawers opening and closing Freesound.org
Things moving Freesound.org

In addition to using objective sounds to establish the environment, I varied the intensity of the two different sound groups (the environmental sounds of the current scene and the background sounds of the travelling locomotive) – the environmental sounds of the current scene being louder – to reinforce the close distance of the workspace as opposed to the travelling sounds, which are occurring outside the confines of the area.

The use of the two sound groups occurring simultaneously also reinforces the narrative, allowing the viewers to better experience the space they currently are in and the environment going on outside.

Frame 3
Hippocampus: Frame 3

The third frame portrays a close-up of the workspace, showing a top-down level shot of the items on the desk. To progress the narrative, slowly revealing whose memories are currently being filtered, there is a dossier with a portrait (of Sihui) attached, along with stationery, documents, and an iPad (with a blinking notification signalling the start of the filter process), as well as the addition of a cup of coffee and half-eaten biscuits.

Sounds used:

Flipping through pages Freesound.org
Spoon hitting the edges of the cup Freesound.org
iPad unlocking Freesound.org

Similarly, the environmental sounds of the current scene are laid over the background sounds, occurring simultaneously, with it being higher in intensity as compared to the background sounds, attempting to achieve the same effect in providing a better viewer experience.

Frame 4

Frame 4: Title Sequence

The fourth frame is a title sequence, an attempt to clearly convey the location through introducing the stage of the job.

Frame 13

Hippocampus: Frame 13

The thirteenth – and final – frame is meant to depict the end of the day’s work and completion of filtering through the day’s memories, where a list of items is being checked, with the word ‘COMPLETED’ being stamped across Sihui’s dossier.

Sounds used:

Writing on paper Freesound.org
Stamping Freesound.org

This scene also uses objective sounds to accompany the visuals of a list being checked off and stamping the word ‘COMPLETED’ onto the dossier. In an attempt to match the visuals, I chose to delay the stamping sound until the end, after the writing sound finishes.

II. Memories

Heading into the second portion of the video which shifts the focus to portraying Sihui’s actual memories, the medium changes to cinemagraphs.

‘Cinemagraphs are still photographs in which a minor and repeated movement occurs, forming a video clip. They are published as an animated GIF or in other video formats, and can give the illusion that the viewer is watching an animation.’ Using cinemagraphs help in better conveying the subjects as memories. This is to, in my opinion, emulate the nature of memories, where usually an element is often  most significant (and remembered) as opposed to the entire environment and factors in the background.

The main soundscape, similar to the previous scenes discussed, uses objective sounds (to represent what is happening the current scene) laid over the background sounds (the travelling locomotive and writing sounds). The two varying soundscapes are also used to emphasise diegesis and the use of on-screen and off-screen spaces; having sounds to establish the environment currently on-screen, but also having the previous sounds (with a lower intensity) in the background to remind the viewer that this is still occurring within the confines of the hippocampus.

Frame 5

Memories: Frame 5

The fifth frame shows Sihui’s typical morning routine, brushing her teeth. The element chosen to animate is the running water from the tap. The objective sounds used are to establish the environment of a toilet, along with Sihui’s interaction with the sink and toothbrush.

Sounds used:

Clearing throat Freesound.org
Running water Freesound.org
Brushing teeth Freesound.org

Varying intensities are used (in terms of the on-screen and off-screen sound groups), as well as duration, where sounds (such as the brushing of teeth and clearing of throat) are structured in such a way that it conveys the linear narrative  of turning the tap on, rinsing the toothbrush, followed by the brushing of teeth.

Frame 6

Memories: Frame 6

The sixth frame depicts Sihui having some lunch, with the animated element being the Korean soap opera shown on the television. The objective sounds used in this scene are put together to establish a quiet home environment with nothing but Sihui rummaging through paper bags to get food and napkins, and chewing on chicken wings while watching her favourite soap operas.

Sounds used:

Korean soap opera Recording of Korean soap opera (foley)
Chewing Recording of Sihui chewing nuggets (foley)
Paper bag rustling Freesound.org

Varying intensities are used in on-screen and off-screen sounds, as well as to convey varying shot distances. This is especially so in the chewing noises being the loudest and the television noises being the softest – doing so helps with the viewer experience, allowing them to experience what Sihui herself is currently doing (i.e. eating).

Frame 7

Memories: Frame 7
Classmates talking Recording of classmates talking (foley)
Lecturer talking Recording of lecturer talking (foley)
Pencil case being thrown around Case being thrown from hand to hand (foley)

The seventh frame depicts what Sihui sees during a regular class in ADM (Foundation Drawing, in this case). The animated elements here are Esther tossing her pencil case from hand to hand, En Cui cracking her knuckles, and David talking to Clara. The objective sounds used here establishes the environment of a typical consultation lesson during our Foundation Drawing module; groups of classmates and David talking in the background, and fidgeting or things being moved.

Varying shot distances is used again in the sense that the sound of David talking is the softest (reinforcing the source as being the farthest), followed by class

Frame 8

Memories: Frame 8
Elevator door closing Freesound.org

The eight frame shows Sihui travelling to school, with the animated element being the elevator doors closing. The main sound used here is the elevator moving followed by its doors opening.

Frame 9

Memories: Frame 9
Friends talking Recording of friends talking (foley)
Chewing Recording of Sihui chewing nuggets (foley)
Buzzer Freesound.org
Crowd Recording of crowd noises at a food court (foley)

The ninth frame represents what Sihui experiences during a regular lunchtime with friends. In this frame, the animated elements are Jiayi chewing her food and the water (inside the two water bottles) moving. The soundscape in this scene comprises of the main sounds most prominent when having lunch at The Hive with friends; random conversations, chewing noises, and the buzzer from the pasta stall that goes off when your number is called.

Varying intensities are again, used to establish varying shot distances – the closest being chewing noises and occurring conversations, followed by crowd noises, and the distant buzzer at the very end.

Frame 10

Memories: Frame 10
Keyboard typing Freesound.org

The tenth frame shows a typical moment in Sihui’s day-to-day routine, catching up on some work for school. The animated element in this scene is her fingers typing on a keyboard.

The main sound used in this soundscape is the sound of typing on a keyboard. It is especially loud in comparison to other sounds in this scene to reiterate the idea of the typing being the closest source.

Frame 11 

Memories: Frame 11
Fridge buzzing Freesound.org
Drink shaking Freesound.org

The eleventh frame is also another depiction of a typical scene in Sihui’s day-to-day routine, finding some food to snack on. In this scene, she is seen shaking a bottle of Yakult, the only animated element in the frame. The soundscape here is made up of a low buzzing sound (to mimic the sound of a fridge buzzing) and a bottle of water being shaken.

Varying intensities are demonstrated in the buzz being the softest and the bottle of water shaking being the loudest.

Frame 12

Memories: Frame 12
Bed sheets shifting Freesound.org
iPhone keyboard clicking Freesound.org

In the twelfth scene, it shows Sihui about to take a nap, before that, setting numerous alarms on her phone. The animated element in this scene is her phone screen and the widget moving as she sets her alarms. The soundscape here comprises of two main sounds; the sheets of the bed being shifted and the default iPhone clicking noise, establishing the environment Sihui experiences when taking a nap in her home.


Research & Reference

Aiming to have a literal representation of the fictional location of someone else’s memories and with a narrative in mind, I wanted to see what techniques and approaches I could adopt in creating a more ‘cinematic experience’, allowing viewers to be able to experience the space.

I. Anything by Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer is a German film composer and record producer who has been dominating Hollywood with his sharp musical talent since the late 80s. To this date, Zimmer has provided music to more than 50 films, many of which are acclaimed; ‘The Gladiator’, ‘The Lion King’, ‘Inception’, and many more. Having worked with big Hollywood filmmakers, Zimmer possesses the ability to add an ‘epic’ feel with his score full of orchestral operatic sounds, with an integration of electronic touch.

The video above discusses how he manages to add a layer of intensity to the soundscape in 2017’s Dunkirk, through the simple recording of a ticking of a watch.

Learning Points:

  • The emphasis of simple sounds to create tension
  • The effect of varying intensities on establishing tension
  • Auditory hallucinations and ‘shepherd tones’
  • Varieties of ambient sounds
II. Car Chase Terror ! by M83

M83 is made up of Frenchmen Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau, and is known for their luscious blend of shoegaze aesthetics, ambient pop, and progressive textures. In this particular song from the album Before the Dawn Heals Us, it uses a narrative accompanied with music, rhythm and ambient noises.

Learning Points:

  • Varying shot distances to emphasise movement
  • The use of music and the increase and decrease of volume to emphasise tension
III. Romantic Works by Keaton Henson

Keaton Henson is an English folk singer, visual artist, and poet, having released six studio albums as well as a wordless graphic novel, Gloaming. In his 2014 album, Romantic Works, it comprises of instrumental music featuring collaborations with cellist Ren Ford. Similar to the above track, I was particularly intrigued by Elevator Song because of its combination of music and ambient environmental sounds to establish a mood; in this case, the track gives off an aura of melancholia through the use of music (cello), footsteps, water, and voices in an elevator.

Learning Points:

  • Combination of music and ambient noises to establish mood
Little Videos
I. Collaboration, Wes Anderson and H&M

Watching this video inspired me to use the idea of a train to show movement and the sense of travelling.

II. Blue Train Lines by Mount Kimbie

Learning points:

  • Methods of filming
  • Use of rhythm to structure the appearance of images
  • The title sequence

Storyboards & Drafts

Brainstorming for a location

The conceptualising process included brainstorming for places that I have never been to, both literal and abstract, followed by expanding more on those ideas by imagining a soundscape along with them. After thinking and developing more on narrowed down choices, I found using abstract places more appealing as in addition to more room for experimentation in ideas and techniques, it was also subjective, opening them to interpretation.

Drafts for hifi storyboard
Drafts for hifi storyboard

The process of capturing the videos to create the cinemagraphs included taking still videos with the help of a tripod. The videos taken for the final product were captured at different locations, namely, classrooms in ADM, Sihui’s home, and canteens around ADM.

Draft: Friends talking during class
Draft: Hippocampus
Draft: Workspace 1
Draft: Workspace 2

One of my initial ideas was to split the screen when showing the memories, having the above illustrations shown below it. I thought it would be better in conveying the narrative, showing the viewers that the person in the video is in charge of filtering Sihui’s memories. However, due to the aspect ratio of the video, it did not seem to work out very well.

In terms of sound, I used a mixture of sounds from www.freesound.org as well as experimenting with foley (the sounds which used this method are indicated), some of the sounds are also derived from the original video of the cinemagraphs. Since most of the sounds are literal, it was easy acquiring them.

Feedback & Improvement

In future, I would like to improve on my creation of cinemagraphs. Because of the nature of having a first-person perspective, there were moments where I was not able to use a tripod, resulting in shaky videos. As a result, the cinemagraphs were difficult to make, resulting in some ineffective ones.

[Research] Project 4: Poetics of Time

Time in Film

Time Travel 

  • Back to the Future
  • Midnight in Paris
  • Interstellar

Alternate Time Lines

  • Donnie Darko
  • Mr. Nobody

Repeated Timelines

  • Groundhog Day
  • Happy Death Day

Artist Reference

  • TeamLab
  • Rube Goldberg machines
  • Forever Bicycles by Ai Weiwei
  • Alexandra Dementieva, Anna Frants & Aernoudt Jacobs
  • Brian House – Animus


  • Subject, form, context and content on the use of time and space in film, video, sound and, performance art, or interactive art installations
  • Compare and contrast the artworks

Use of Time & Space

Performance Art

I. 3rdi
3rdi by Wafaa Bilal
Subject Day-to-day activities
Form Photographs
Content Experiences of artist’s daily life
Context The need to ‘objectively capture [his] past as it slips behind [him] from a non-confrontational point-of-view’

Waafa Bilal is an Iraqi-American visual artist and university professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, who is widely recognised for his interactive and performance pieces.

3rdi, a contemporary art project, was commissioned by a new museum in Doha, Qatar. The project required Bilal, in the name of art, to undergo a procedure to have a small digital camera implanted in the back of his head, ‘as an allegorical statement about the things we don’t see and leave behind’, aiming to raise ‘important social, aesthetic, political, technological and artistic questions’.

The camera was intended to capture his everyday activities at one-minute intervals 24-hours a day, then transmitted to monitors at a museum, creating a ‘three-dimensional, real space-and-time experience’.

One of the social conditions we live in is surveillance and what I wanted to do as an artist, I wanted just to reflect it simply to the public in order to initiate that platform so we enter the dialogue. - Waafa Bilal
  • Concerned with the communication of public and private information to an audience so that it may be retold, distributed
  • Political dramas which unfold through my past experience and into the present where they interact with the currency of media as the dialectic of aesthetic pleasure and pain
  • The 3rdi is just such a platform for the telling and retelling of another story
  • During my journey from Iraq to Saudi Arabia, on to Kuwait and then the U.S., I left many people and places behind. The images I have of this journey are inevitably ephemeral, held as they are in my own memory. Many times while I was in transit and chaos the images failed to fully register, I did not have the time to absorb them. Now, in hindsight, I wish I could have recorded these images so that I could look back on them, to have them serve as a reminder and record of all the places I was forced to leave behind and may never see again.
  • Need to objectively capture my past as it slips behind me from a non-confrontational point of view
  • Anti-photography, decoded, and will capture images that are denoted rather than connoted, a technological-biological image
  • In this way I become locked to the story as its teller, passing the interpretive mode to an audience with little context so it may be transformed for their subjective interactions and subsequent expressions. Using this narrative triangle, the work will comment on ways in which imagery is used for the telling and retelling of stories, whether they belong to us or we make them ours.


II. Death Bear
Death Bear by Nate Hill
  • The Death Bear is a dude in a bear suit who comes to your house and takes away stuff to bring you closure; sort of like the Salvation Army, but in a bear suit.
  • They assemble letters, a candle, a blazer and present them to the sinister costumed bear who appears at her door.
  • The seven-foot-tall character created by performance artist Nate Hill visits homes across the borough, a furry spectre acting as part psychologist — part sanitation man.
Death Bear will take things from you that trigger painful memories and stow them away in his cave where they will remain forever allowing you to move on with your life. - Nate Hill
  • Give him an ex’s clothes, old photos, mementos, letters, etc. Death Bear is here to assist you in your time of tragedy, heartbreak, and loss. Let Death Bear help you, and absorb your pain into his cave.
II. We See/We Hear/We Are
We See / We Hear / We Are by Man Bartlett

Read more about the project here: https://personofthecrowd.org

Collectively, this is a culmination of both physical and virtual wanderings into the nature of what it means to be a flaneur in the 21st century, and, fundamentally, what it means to live in contemporary society.

We See 

  • The text you see flashing is an A.I. Bot’s real-time interpretation of the Instagram photos being tagged #personofthecrowd
  • These translations of images will be projected alongside ‘WE HEAR’ 
  • To participate, post a photo to Instagram using the hashtag; your photo can respond to the exhibition, both inside of the museum and the events in the surrounding area, reflect where you happen to be at the moment or, more abstractly, something you stand for

We Hear 

  • ‘We went to 30th Street Station to act as flaneurs of sound, spending 11 minutes listening to the space around us, then writing down what we heard and reciting it to each other’
  • Results edited into a 7-minute video, to be shown alongside ‘WE SEE’

We Are

  • Commissioned performances will be documented on this site
  • Various ancillary materials drawn from and related to these performances will be incorporated and dispersed throughout this site, with the aim of creating a new, digital-based work as performative documentation
III. The Akasha Model
The Akasha Model by Man Bartlett
Subject ‘Archetypical record of all sentient thought’
Form Interactive installation
Content Sounds of artist’s brain waves; interactivity, sculptural objects
Context ‘Emphasise the philosophical difference between perceptual knowledge and reality and how this manifests in the interaction of technology and culture’
  • Emphasize the philosophical difference between perceptual knowledge and reality and how this manifests in the interaction of technology and culture
  • Bartlett is concerned with action and repetition and “the manipulation of the relationship of a medium to itself
  • A project that includes a sound installation, interactivity, and sculptural objects
  • Artist recorded his own brain waves during a series of different thought exercises in an attempt to create an ‘archetypical record of all sentient thought’
  • This exhibition is an immersive installation in our Project Room. The recording is a 24 minute loop, broadcast wirelessly to headphones via an FM transmitter in the gallery. The entire installation includes sculptural ears, headphones, and transmitting and receiving equipment.
Similarities Differences
3rdi Explores the concept of time

Taps into artists’ private lives

Based on linear time


Documented according to real time; not edited


The Akasha Model Based on biological time

Mixed media

Art Installations



II. Magic Carpets by Miguel Chavelier

Magic Carpet

III. The End by Andrea Galvani


Mr. Nobody (2009)

‘A boy stands on a station platform as a train is about to leave. Should he go with his mother or stay with his father? Infinite possibilities arise from this decision. As long as he doesn’t choose, anything is possible.’















Oli Rodriguez: The Last Seduction and Man Bartlett: The Akasha Model



[Final] Project 2: The Subverted Object


Final presentation

For our next project, we had to adopt the mindsets of surrealist artists and philosophers and give new meaning to an average, everyday object through the medium of photographs. Experimenting with the idea of semiotics, we were tasked to capture an object in its literal form followed by completely subverting its literal form and purpose.

The object (or model) I will be working with is a safety pin.

Research & Reference

To kickstart this project, I looked to surrealist artists and photographers for inspiration.

Rene Magritte
Works of Rene Magritte

An iconic figure in the surrealist art movement, Rene Magritte is an artist most notable for his “witty and thought provoking images”, which feature “simple graphics and everyday imagery”. Magritte was once a practitioner of Impressionism, but chancing upon the imagery featured in Giorgio de Chiro’s The Song of Love impacted him so greatly that it became a significant factor in changing his style, for which he became famous for.

Giorgio de Chiro’s The Song of Love

Magritte’s works conveyed “themes of mystery and madness to challenge assumptions of human perception, often “forcing viewers to look outside of the norm and focus on the distinctive features which were not originally present”. He believed that “what is concealed is more important than what is open to view”, which translated to his works that often have an aura of mystery.

"Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see." - Rene Magritte

It is relatively simple for one to distinguish Magritte’s works; this is mainly due to  his distinctive style which encompasses the portrayal of objects – usually familiar and mundane objects – as symbols and placing them in “unusual contexts and juxtapositions”. These objects are placed in “dreamlike surroundings”, which are usually similar to one another and juxtaposes against the objects. With his playful and provocative sense of humour, Magritte conveys his fascination with a “paradoxical world” by presenting objects in bizarre flights of fancy blended with horror, peril, comedy and mystery.

I hope to adopt Magritte’s approach of using juxtaposition as a tool to create a sense of mystery. This can be done through pairing contrasting objects or placing mundane objects in unusual settings.

Tommy Ingberg
Works of Tommy Ingberg

Tommy Ingberg is a modern surrealist photographer who “creates minimalistic and self-reflecting surreal photo montages”. He plays with the idea of “human nature”, using his own “inner life, thoughts and feelings” as the main basis in his pictures. His works comprise of “simple, scaled back compositions with few elements, where every part adds to the story”, but with “gaps for the viewer to fill”. 

"For me, surrealism is about trying to explain something 
abstract like a feeling or a thought, expressing the 
subconscious with a picture." - Tommy Ingberg

Inspired by the subject matter portrayed in his photographs, namely the idea of combining the physical attributes of humans and objects together, I intend to experiment more with the idea of pairing the physical aspects and functions of the object with human personalities, emotions, or physicality.

Kyle Thompson
Works of Kyle Thompson

Kyle Thompson is a modern surrealist photographer whose images mainly comprise of self portraits taken against landscapes that feature empty forests and abandoned homes.

Thompson describes his works as an outlet of “encapsulat[ing] the ephemeral narrative, a non-existent storyline that exists only for a split moment”, which “lives on in a constant unchanging state”.  He aims to show the “collapse of narrative” as there is “no defined storyline with a beginning and end”, creating a “loop”. The human figures in his images often have covered limbs or are hidden behind calm and melancholic demeanours (evident in their facial expressions or gestures); “by diverting the view of the face, the images become more ambiguous”, making the viewer “no longer able to tie a defined storyline to the image”. Thompson’s works therefore “evade narrative and easy answers”.

"I do a lot of images about self-destruction, often translating it a bit literally and imagining my body as something delicate and breakable like glass that is shattering." - Kyle Thompson
Void by Kyle Thompson

Thompson’s images are usually centred on the idea of loneliness – the backdrop and subject matter featured help to convey this emotion. Location-wise, his images are usually set in “lonely dreamscapes”, places that are commonly empty (forests and abandoned homes). Reinforcing the idea of loneliness, his images have a minimalistic look which is achieved through simplifying everything in each shot, “remov[ing] certain details so that the images are easy to relate to, but difficult to define”.

I was inspired by Thompson’s technique of using subject matter to convey loneliness and emotion. Limiting the set-up, in my opinion, not only draws focus to the subject featured, but also helps in giving the object an emotional aura. I therefore intend to adopt his idea of limiting subject matter, and at the same time, focusing on “elegant compositions, rich colours, and powerful juxtapositions” (acclaimed factor of his images), to convey the intended message and creating emotion.

Task 1: Denotation

For the first task, we were required to portray the object in its literal form, both in physicality and functionality.

Task 1 Image 1
Task 1 Image 2
Task 1 Image 3

This task required us to capture two main aspects of the assigned object – its physical attributes and functionality. Since this series is to convey a straightforward message to viewers, I wanted to make use of different principles along with the pin’s environment to emphasise its physical attributes and functionality.

The first image shows where one can typically find a safety pin; in a sewing box. It also shows the safety pin as something that exists in abundance – one would usually purchase a handful of safety pins as oppose to just one pin. The second image focuses on the main function of the safety pin; to fasten clothing. The last image focuses on the physical attributes of the pin, the most prominent being its sharp point.

Principles Applied
I. Varied Angles
Image 1 Top-down angle
Image 2 Eye-level
Image 3 Eye-level

I wanted to photograph the pin using different angles to highlight certain elements. In the first image, I used a top-down angle to show the pin in its usual environment; doing so helped me to clearly establish the physicality of the entire pin as well as the environment. In the second image, I used an eye-level angle to show its main function. Having the pin situated at an eye-level also helps to clearly establish the subjects in the shot and how they relate to one another. In the third image, I used an eye-level shot to show the pin’s sharp point. Doing so again, helps to clearly highlight one of the more prominent physical attributes of the pin.

II. Varied Shot Scales
Image 1 Wide-shot
Image 2 Wide-shot
Image 3 Extreme close-up

I also experimented with different shot scales. In the first image, I used a wide-shot – in my opinion, I consider this a wide shot due to the smaller sizes of the objects portrayed – to establish the pin’s usual environment. Using a wide-shot helps in clearly portraying the environment, as well as forming a more interesting establishing shot. For the second image, I also chose to use a wide-shot to show its main function – similar to the idea behind the first image, it helped to clearly portray the subjects in the shot and their relations to one another. As for the last image, I used an extreme close-up to draw focus to the pin’s sharp point.

III. Cropping

Cropping was another principle applied. In the first image, I cropped out the rest of the sewing box as a means to draw focus to the pile of safety pins but at the same time, keeping certain elements in the background to convey the setting to viewers. Similarly, in the second and third image, I chose to zoom into the safety pin as opposed to having the subjects in their entirety; this was meant to highlight certain aspects of the pin and draw focus to its literal functionality, clearly conveying the message to viewers.

IV. Symmetry

The shots were also captured with the intent of keeping everything symmetrical. This was to emphasise on the safety pin’s rigid nature, as well as reduce clutter from the other elements in the shot, keeping the focus to the safety pin.

V. Colours & Textures

Since the shots in this task were meant to clearly convey the pin’s physical form and functionality, I used colours and textures to emphasise its structure and at the same time, make the shots more visually appealing. In the first image, I tried to capture the patterned background of the sewing box along with the colourful spools of thread; they were also able to serve as a contrast to the pin’s metallic colour. The wooden frame of the sewing box also served as a contrast to the pin’s metallic material. As for the second image, using a blue and white striped fabric complementing the pale blue background and skin colour helped to make the shot more visually-appealing. For the third image, I chose to have the pin situated against a plain, subtle background to emphasise the pin’s sharp point.

Research & Process
Task 1 test shots

To prepare for this task, I dissected the safety pin’s physical structure and functionality and chose certain attributes to highlight. These attributes included its sharp point and clasp, its rigid nature and metallic body, its typical existence in abundance, and its function of fastening fabrics. With that, I proceeded to think of structuring shots in such a way where I can highlight these features.

To highlight the pin’s metallic and rigid structure, I tried to contrast it against softer textures; this was done by placing it against materials such as cloth and felt. I also experimented with different textures of fabrics when fastening the safety pin to them – this was done to see which gave better visual appeal and at the same time, keeping the focus drawn to the pin.


Task 2: Connotation

The second task then required us to subvert the object’s meaning, capturing its cultural relevance and meaning, as well as celebrating, changing, or critiquing its meaning.

Task 2 Image 1
Task 2 Image 2
Task 2 Image 3

The safety pin, as small as its structure is and direct as its functions are, has a long history. Hence, I wanted to take the attributes and functions displayed in the previous task and completely subvert their meanings. The images are related as follows:

  • Task 1 Image 1 = Task 2 Image 1
  • Task 1 Image 2 = Task 2 Image 2
  • Task 1 Image 3 = Task 2 Image 3

The first image of this task was meant to convey an alternative scenario where a safety pin was regarded as a rare object of high-end culture and something only the wealthy can afford. Contrasting against its relating image in Task 1 (which displays the safety pin as a basic tool in sewing and the tendency for one to easily find and purchase them), I wanted the image to show the safety pin as something associated with royalty. With a make-shift display, I tried to recreate an auction display or art exhibition with satin cloth and fairy lights to give the safety pin a “high-society” aura.

The second image, on the other hand, was meant to represent two things – a contrast against its main function, and a homage to its role as a fashion accessory in the punk rock movement and haute couture. Relating back to its literal function displayed in Task 1 Image 2, it contrasts against this by showing the utilitarian nature of safety pins can be subverted and they can be shown as something useless, being used merely as an accessory; instead of having a useful feature in fastening fabric together, the safety pin can also be used to further enhance one’s appearance. 

As for the third image, it shows the pin as a “utilitarian superhero”. This is meant to pay homage to its role in European culture, where a safety pin is worn as it seen as something that wards off evil, as well as relating to Task 1 Image 3, where it highlights the pin’s sharp point. The image is meant to convey the safety pin as a superhero through mimicking the well-known moment where superheroes sense trouble and immediately go into a costume-change moment.

Principles Applied
I. Varied Angles
Image 1 Eye-level
Image 2 Eye-level
Image 3 Low angle

Similar to earlier shots, I wanted to experiment with different angles. For Images 1 and 2, I used an eye-level shot. Using an eye-level shot in Image 1 reinforces its intended concept and setting; since the image was meant to convey the idea of a safety pin, an object of royalty, housed in an exhibit, having it at eye-level helps viewers to experience the scenario better. Using an eye-level for Image 2, on the other hand, helps to position the subjects better, showing a clearer shot.

As for Image 3, I used a low angle. Since the main subject in the image was supposed to represent a superhero, I thought it would be fitting to use a low angle so as to paint the subject in a more “heroic” manner, and something that people tend to look up to and highly regard.

II. Varied Shot Scales
Image 1 Mid-shot
Image 2 Mid-shot
Image 3 Wide-shot

I also used varied shot scales to better relay the intended messages. Since the images were meant to portray the objects as something of importance – an object of royalty and a superhero – I used mid-shots and wide-shots to show the entirety of the object. Using a mid-shot also helped in conveying the subverted function of the pin more clearly (in Image 2).

III. Cropping

Cropping was also used in the photographs, especially evident in Image 2, to draw focus to the safety pin but at the same time, keeping aspects of other elements in the shot to clearly establish the setting, thereby better relaying the image’s intended message to viewers.

IV. Rule of Thirds

Rule of thirds was considered when placing subjects within the shot; this is mostly displayed in Images 2 and 3 where the subject of focus (i.e. the safety pin) is placed 2/3 in the frame.

V. Colour & Texture

Colour and textures of different elements were also taken into consideration when composing the shots. In Image 1, I used a white satin cloth to form the backdrop; this was meant to highlight the safety pin as an object associated with wealth. The addition of white fairy lights in the background also helped in creating a layer of depth and added more visual appeal. As for Image 2, I chose to have a muted-coloured background to create a neutral background for the bright skin colour and scattering of safety pins. In Image 3, I chose to have complementary colours (yellow and blue) for the clothing as well as a mixture of cotton and denim to provide a layer of depth through different textures. This helped in making the shot more visually appealing.

V. Signs, Symbols & Icons

I wanted to experiment with safety pins as symbols and therefore, portrayed them in situations that convey their cultural contexts. However, viewers are required to have prior knowledge on the safety pin’s history before understanding the images’ concepts.

Research & Process

To prepare for this task, I conducted some research on safety pins and turns out they have quite a prominent history. I then created a mind map to note down the safety pins’ literal functions and their subverted versions.

Mindmap for safety pin subversion
Mindmap for safety pin subversion

In a cultural context, they were a symbol for the punk rock movement where they were conceived as a fashion accessory amongst followers. They then became a fashion symbol in haute couture amongst high-end brands that range from Versace to Marc Jacobs.

Mood board for punk movement

Safety pins also hold a significant role in European culture where they are seen as a symbol of good luck, typically worn on clothes as a means to ward off evil spirits.


Mood board for superhero, superstition, object of royalty

After conducting some research, I decided to pick out a few contexts I could carry forward with. I chose to experiment with the ideas of safety pins as icons of the punk rock movement, a defender against evil spirits, and subverting its physicality as an affordable and insignificant tool.


Task 2 test shots

I experimented with different ways to convey the cultural contexts of the safety pin. I tried object association where I paired the safety pins with objects related to its cultural background – to portray the punk rock movement, I used items commonly associated with the movement (this included splatters of black paint, graffiti art, music instruments, and black clothing and fish nets. Additionally, showing it as a defender against evil spirits, I tried using different representations of evil spirits (having a print of a monster and painting my hand black). However, I felt these shots, although quite straightforward, were not as visual appealing or captivating.

Task 3: Text and Image

Task 3 Poster

For the final task, I wanted to expand on the idea of a safety pin being a superhero. In its physical structure, the safety pin consists of a clasp in which it holds its sharp end, protecting users from pricking themselves; this is symbolic of superheroes, where their main role is to confine evil and protect others. Their heroic nature is further reinforced through their main function, fastening clothing. It is once again, reinforced through its cultural meaning where they are perceived as symbols of good luck and objects capable of warding off evil spirits. Therefore, to show it as a superhero, I mimicked a pop culture reference of Superman in his call to justice.

I used the tagline “The Insignificant Superhero” to reiterate the idea of the safety pin, an object so insignificant due to its cheap production value, small size, and tendency to be forgotten until needed, having a capacity to carry out tasks beyond its appearance. The tagline used is a relay where viewers have to have prior knowledge to understand the context behind the poster. However, in a literal context, the text can serve as anchorage, where viewers who know the main function of a safety pin (fastening fabrics), will be able to realise the usefulness of the pin.

Feedback & Improvements

Some of the feedback I received was that there were other portrayals I could have used to better convey the subverted versions of the safety pin. For example, with regards to it being a superhero, I could have portrayed a scenario where the safety pin is responding to person in need of desperate help but the situation in this case is the person accidentally tearing his/her clothes before an important job interview.

In future projects, I hope to work more on my conceptualising stages and deliver images that are able to clearly convey the intended message.


I. Rene Magritte




II. Tommy Ingberg



III. Kyle Thompson

Kyle Thompson

Kyle Thompson Surreal Photography


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