A5 Formal assessment submission

“…but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

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Introduction

On the approach to my 60th birthday there is something quite comforting reminiscing about my childhood. Lately, I’m hearing songs on the radio that take me back to “eeh, I remember when…”. But, as Alice ponders, when in Wonderland, “I was a different person then”. [1] 

Children easily fall out with each other over the simplest things, but quickly ‘make up’ again. My images portray two worlds, somewhere between the actual and the imagined, abstract yet object. The scene is surreal, overcoloured and amusing, models pose in (oversized, ill-fitting, cut-out) summer dresses, yet there is snow on the ground. In ‘Model of the Psyche’, [2] Carl Jung compares the perception of reality to the eye, implying that we can only see a limited number of things at a given time, likewise our experience of reality. So, what then, is real?  Twilight connotes the boundaries of light and darkness, then/now, child/adult, foe/friend. A familiar place by day surrenders to the mysteries of the night. Philosophically a twilight sky relates to notions of an ‘in between’ place of reality, another world (see Gregory Crewdson), or dimension – in my instance, another time. The space between the friends changes as they ‘make up’ again, connoting brevity of time. The flattened dresses are interesting in the way they work as 2D images – a montage effect, a metaphor for the layers of time. Peter Davidson writes: “As time passes, my student years in the 1970s begin to look like the last, fading decade of a sensibility of twilight”. [3] As the light faded and we finished our photo shoot, I pondered over the fact that ‘it will never be the same again’.

Context

I gained inspiration from the wonderful work of Tim Walker. Walker’s fashion photography is theatrical, bordering on surrealist, every scene is fantastical.  “I think an intense enthusiasm to create a vision you have seen in your head makes you ignore certain obstacles” [4]. In my case the cold Cumbrian winter!

tim_walker_inside_out2002  1c  www.thomastreuhaft.com

Graham Clarke says; We look at a photograph as recording time, as a historical record, whereas invariably it stops time and, in turn, takes its subject out of history. Every photograph, in that sense, has no before or after; it represents only the moment of its own making. [5] My Tableaux Vivants weave past narratives into present places creating ‘before and now’.

My images bring into question how our values change as we grow up, we conform to expectations and lose a little (or a lot) of ourselves in the process. Canadian inspirational speaker, Danielle La Porte asks, “Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” [6] For a child it is acceptable to dress up as adults, fairies, dragons etc; ‘make believe’ becomes reality. Adults are expected to assume maturity, but fancy dress, theatre and film are all acceptable excuses for ‘dressing up’. Nietzsche says we have potential to overcome the barriers imposed upon us, “In every real man, a child is hidden that wants to play.” [7]

My photographs may be viewed in different contexts by others. Here are some additional thoughts and artists I considered.

I am encouraged that I am not alone with my musings in relation to paper dolls! Cindy Sherman’s, Doll Clothes see film clip here explores how identity is constructed and how behaviour and performance shape conceptions of gender. More here.
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My doll clothes are a veneer, an attempt to disguise identity – albeit a thin disguise! Research led me to Erving Goffmann’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” [8] . Goffmann discusses how we perform socially and how our ‘charade’ changes depending on the situation. I note that many photographers who masquerade as others are women – see here. This leads into thoughts on feminism and how women are cast as stereotypes. See Dawn Woolley and Maria Kapajeva.

Martha Wilson’s, A Portfolio of Models [9] explores the ways in which women are defined by society. She focuses on six identities  – goddess, housewife, working girl, professional, earth mother and lesbian. Wilson as the model, modifies her appearance to cast herself as each character.
martha-wilson-2  martha-wilson

Workflow
For full details of my process see  A5 Planning and preparation. But in summary:
Inspiration came from recalling the excitement of receiving my weekly copy of Bunty comic, turning to the back page for the ‘Doll’s Cut-Out Wardrobe’. I was (still am) fascinated by fairy stories and escapism. For the assignment shoot, I enlisted the help of my longstanding friend, Lesley. We were the ‘dolls’ in my photographs.

Day one: We made the ‘clothes’ and prepared the props. I had already spent some time roughly sketching out my ideas and gathering all the materials. I wanted the outfits to suit the era of when I was a young girl, early 60’s.

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I chose mount board to make adult sized ‘cut-out’ clothes. We covered the board in fabric – to replicate making dressing-up clothes, kiddies wax crayons were used for colouring-in the handbag. The dresses were intentionally made to be ill-fitting and childlike. The fastening tabs on the dresses were exaggerated, as was the lipstick daubed on my lips and cheeks!

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Day two: It had snowed overnight! I could have shot the scene indoors, but wanted to stay with my original plan to shoot outdoors with the trees. The snow added to the quirkiness of the scene – posing in summer outfits on a cold winter’s day! I hung some of my clothes from the tree branches to give a sense of a present day wardrobe – influenced by Tim Walker’s fashion images. As the light faded the clothes were less visible, adding to the fading memories theme.

www.thomastreuhaft.com

Tim Walker The Dress/Lamp Tree 2002

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I had carried out a practice run prior to the shoot, so setting up the camera equipment and props was straightforward. I had volunteered my husband David to act as grips and props man because I, as a ‘model’, lacked agility! I tried the camera in self-timer mode, but this proved limiting and lacked spontaneity. It was a bitterly cold afternoon and we needed quick fire shots. David offered to shoot the photographs under my direction, while I concentrated on composition and gestures/poses. The lighting was regularly repositioned to enhance the scene. As the light faded a third (halogen) lamp was introduced.

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Here is a selection of images from the photo shoot.

The two images submitted represent memories of childhood depicted by the comical scene of adults performing as comic book children in a fantasy setting. The passage of time is portrayed in a surreal context utilising the twilight sky as a metaphor coupled with adult/child models, condensing the lengthy transition between childhood and adulthood into an image.

References
1. Carroll, L. (1958). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Children’s Press. London.
2. Jung, C. The Model of the Psyche: Available from: http://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-    jung. [accessed 4th January 2017]
3. Davidson, P. (2015). The Last of the Light. Reaktion Books (1st edition). Scotland.
4. Walker, T. (2013). Tim Walker: A Fashion Fairytale. Available from: www.theguardian.com/fashion/2013/may/24/tim-walker-photographer-fashion. [Accessed 18th December 2016].
5. Clarke, G. (1997). The Photograph. Oxford University Press. London.
6. La Porte, D. Inspiration. Available from: http://www.daniellelaporte.com. [Accessed 4th January 2017].
7. Nietzsche, F. (1844). Quote available from: angelwithinphotography.wordpress.com. [Accessed 4th January 2017].
8. Goffmann, E. (1990) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Penguin. London.
9. Wilson, M. (2008) A Portfolio of  Models. Available from: www.smith.edu/artmuseum/ collections.

Websites
Sherman, C. Clothes Make the Woman. Available from: http://www.escapeintolife.com [Accessed 18th December 2016]

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