Positions and Practice – Original Project Thoughts
When I applied to the course, my initial project thoughts were…
I have become aware that the media is filled with stereotypical images of gender, race and sexual orientation. These stereotypes are being perpetuated by films and television programs and as we are a society dependent on many forms of visual media, these stereotypes are being reinforced. To keep our interest, the identities of characters must be established as quickly as possible and this is done using stereotypes. This is also reflected in some forms of print media. Society does not want to invest time in getting to know characters; we have become impatient.
In our society today, there is a huge amount of pressure from many angles to conform to a certain ideal of beauty. We are bombarded with images and other forms of media that tell us who we should be and how we should look. These pressures can become so overwhelming, that some people will go to drastic lengths to change something about themselves. Even when selecting models to work with, I have been surprised the number of times I have seen models who are a size 14 class themselves as plus size. Some of these models have told me that they struggle to find photographers to work with them and so they offer nude or fetish work to try to get booked. I find this quite sad.
At one time, it was believed that the camera never lied; that all photographic images were by definition a true reflection of reality. We now know that photos can and have been manipulated, even before the introduction of post processing techniques and software such as Photoshop. For example, the Cottingley Fairy photos (a series of 5 photos shot by two young girls just before the end of the First World War and endorsed by a number of establishment figures including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) have been shown to be false but only through the confession of Elsie Wright over 60 years after they were taken.
I was curious to know why and how the girls had managed to fool everyone. They are beautiful pictures and beauty can make people believe anything they want to.
The theme I would like to explore for my project is fantasy portraits with a twist. I would like to explore elements of digitally manipulated portraits, fine art photography, gender-bending images, androgyny and body size awareness.
Margarita Kareva is a particularly inspiring photographer. She is relatively new to the industry and she creates images that transform female subjects into princesses and witches. Her work has a distinctive fairy-tale feel through her use of props and costumes. She enhances this with digital manipulations that capture the essence of awe and wonder.
Whilst Margarita’s images are very beautiful and generally illicit a positive reaction, I would like my images to create a strong and definite emotion in the viewer – rather like a ‘Marmite’ reaction. I am not interested in ‘oh, that’s nice’ as a response to an image. I do not want to create mediocre ‘beige’ images. My images will aim to be visually striking with subjects that effect a marked distinction between the expected content and the actual image. I want to produce images that challenge the stereotypes all around us.
To achieve my objectives, my planned subjects include:-
A drag queen
Men in traditionally feminine costumes and poses
Possibly disabled models
I plan to incorporate my own backgrounds onto the portraits and intend these to be digitally manipulated into the images. These will be a combination of fine art style landscapes and the more traditional backgrounds seen in mythical images. I would also like to explore images that present as mixed media or sketches.
The project will build on previous work.
Initial Inspiration Starting Points
I intend to develop this project and build on my current practice by:
Fully research photographic practice regarding stereotypes and the portrayal of sexual orientation, gender and size within the media. This will enable me to visually develop the theme, experimenting with photographic techniques to develop my knowledge and skills. I intend to use different camera types throughout the project – both digital and film. I also intend to use digital manipulation of at least some of the outcomes.
The project will develop my understanding of the technical, commercial and professional contexts, relevant to portrait photography. This will enable me to explore and challenge the established parameters of current photographic practice through practical skills as well as the application of theory and knowledge to the process. I am very creative and innovative and believe this will stand me in good stead to achieve this. I also intend to explore how my theme fits in theory and current practice.
Throughout the project, I will be critical and reflective so that I can improve my practice. This will include analysis and evaluation of my work, and that of others.
As an organised individual, I am very good at researching and applying the findings to my work. I am good at problem solving and have good idea development skills.
My theme needs to be handled sympathetically due to the subjects proposed. My project will consider this in terms of ethical and sustainable practices.
Whilst the intended outcome is a photobook, I would like to explore the possibility of having an exhibition.
I am very excited to see where this project will end up.
This initial proposal has now been developed and modified. Updates to follow.