Making it up
Brief: Construct a stand alone image of your choice. Alternatively you may choose to make a series, elaborating on the same theme. The only stipulation is that you produce work that has been controlled and directed by you for a specific purpose. The aim of this assignment is to use props, costume, models, location, lighting etc. Also consider the symbolic meanings of objects and try not to be too literal in your approach.
Setting the scene
As I work on assignment five, I am aware I need to create a narrative in a much more contrived way with a focus on detail and use of props – this is a move away from my photography work to date but one I am really excited about. I already have an idea in mind and look forward to developing my concept. I wish to continue the theme I have built on throughout the module; specifically the passing of time, nostalgia and childhood memories.
As a child I loved dressing up and playing with dolls, Mum would make outfits for me and for my dolls. I used to read Judy and Bunty comics and recall the excitement of turning to the back page for the ‘doll’s cut-out wardrobe’. I was interested in fairy stories and escapism (still am). I also have a love of nature, trees in particular. With all these thoughts in mind I immediately knew what I was going to create for my image/s.
The idea is to introduce a mix of reality and fantasy. I gained some inspiration from the wonderful work of Tim Walker (in particular his Story Teller Book), Cindy Sherman’s Doll Clothes, Alice in Wonderland and of course Bunty comics.
see video clip here: https://www.moma.org/explore/multimedia/videos/196/1041
I called on my mantra to; read the brief, turn it on its head and play with it, take risks! I have enlisted the help of my enthusiastic friend Lesley to be in the scene with me. Lesley and I will be the ‘dolls’. Because we live out in the sticks and Lesley is travelling a 130 miles to spend the weekend here, we have to get it right, whatever the weather! The plan is to make the ‘clothes’ and prepare the props one day and shoot the scene the following day in the garden.
I am spending some time roughly sketching out my ideas and gathering all the materials for the set. I want the outfits to suit the era of when I was a young girl, early 60’s. I have looked at old dress patterns and chosen a party dress very similar to one I had for my sixth birthday. Lesley wants to wear a gingham dress. We have chosen our favourite colours.
Day one: With all the materials gathered we set about making the outfits and chatting about how we would present ourselves.
I am using mount board to make adult sized ‘cut-out-wardrobe’ clothes and a handbag. I had contemplated using crayons on the board to get the colours and design, but decided to use actual fabric to cover the board – to replicate making dressing-up clothes as a young girl. The fastening tabs will be exaggerated.
I wanted to use ‘rouge’ on my face as I did as a child, borrowing my Mum’s. But I used lipstick on my lips and cheeks to exaggerate the look. Again using references to Tim Walker’s images and Alice in Wonderland.
Day two: After putting the finishing touches to the ‘clothes’, we headed outside to arrange the set. It had been snowing overnight! I could have shot the scene indoors, but wanted to stay with my original plan to shoot outdoors near the trees. I also thought the snow added to the quirkiness of the scene – posing in summer outfits on a cold winter’s day. The only props in the scene not constructed by me are from nature itself – trees, grass and the snow on the ground.
I set up the camera equipment while my husband David acted as grips and props man! This was necessary as the ‘models’ could not bend or move around with any speed. I set the camera on self-timer, but this proved slow and fiddly, so David offered to shoot the photographs under my direction. All the time I was thinking carefully about the detail, gesture and pose.
It was a very cold day so we had to keep dashing inside and putting coats on in between shoots. Gradually the daylight faded (it goes dark around 3.15 pm here in winter), but we carried on regardless. We had great fun! A few practice shots…..
Some of the many shots on the day. As you can see daylight was fading fast!
I am toying with the idea of using a pair of images to form the narrative of ‘friend and foe’. Children easily fall out with each other over the simplest things, but then quickly ‘make friends’ again, practising for adulthood, just like when pretending to be grown ups by dressing up.
I also like the surrealism of the intense colours in this image.
See A5 Submission to tutor for the final image/s and commentary.
Bunty. (1965 & 1971). Bunty’s Cut-Out Wardrobe. D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd, London.
Carroll, L. (1958). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Children’s Press. London.
Sherman, C. Clothes Make the Woman. Available from: escapeintolife.com
Walker, T. (2008). Tim Walker Pictures. te Neues, London.
Walker, T. (2012). Story Teller. Thames & Hudson, London.