For my final project images I decided to focus on two of the themes that I have researched in previous weeks, Emotions and Still Life. The reason I decided to use these two categories is because throughout my weeks of researching and looking into different forms of photography, I found that these were the two categories that intrigued me the most and created the most inspiration within me. They are also the two categories that I have indulged the most research into throughout my blog and the two categories that I am confident enough in to throw into my own final project work.
Originally Emotional photography is photography which captures the emotions of a human model, a concept which I researched when I studied the work of Steve McCurry; however I wanted to try something different and focus on what causes the emotion rather than the emotion itself. I decided to use the idea of emotions as it an idea that every audience participant can relate too and ask there own questions about, for example “why do I feel these emotions?”. I also wanted to include a Still Life aspect to my images as I wanted my images to contain detail, the same kind of detail that was used throughout Dutch Still Life, and wanted the audience to be able to really connect with my images which once again will create questions within them. I did not want my images to be normal ‘run of the mill’ emotional representation images which is why I decided to combine the aspects of Still Life and Emotions together.
Before I started my project I had to research into different emotions and what the main causes of each emotion was determined to be. I decided to conduct my own primary research rather than rely on articles written by other theorists as I believed this was the best way for me to gain a realistic and reliable opinion on the different emotions that people feel everyday. I asked a variety of males and females the kind of emotions that they feel on a regular basis, asking them to think outside the box and come up with true, raw emotions that weren’t typically used to describe themselves. The emotions that were re-occurring and the focus group seemed to be most passionate about were being ‘lonely’, ‘alive’, ‘in love’, ‘insecure’ and feeling ‘regret’. To give me further detail I then asked the focus group to tell me some of the reasons they feel these emotions and what triggers these emotions off, all of which helped me start to draft what I wanted my final images to look like. I also referred to popular social media sites such as Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest to help me delve deeper into what other audiences believe their emotions to be.
I knew from the start that I wanted to include Still Life as part of my final project images so started on a series of secondary research ideas to help me gain a deeper understanding about what makes Still Life so important and valuable in the world of photography. I came across a newspaper article written in The Guardian by journalist Jonathan Jones that helped me have a clearer understanding about why Still Life is important within modern society. In the article , Jones states that Still Life is “the simple truth of everyday objects that is far more fascinating than fantasy” which had me thinking about my own images and how they are not depicting fantasy but the everyday truth about how people’s emotions affect their own lives.
My idea for my final project was simple. I wanted to capture a variety of images that showcased emotion and still life. To do this I took an empty mason jar which I was going to use as my base for showing the different emotions. The idea behind the empty mason jar was for it to be a metaphor of the human being, it was an empty shell that without emotion would never be full, the same way in which primarily a human being works. I used the same mason jar throughout all of my images to give the idea that it’s representing a person and this one person can feel a range of emotions throughout their lives.
The easiest part of my project was deciding on the emotions that I wanted to portray; however the hardest part was deciding what I was going to do with this empty mason jar to portray these different emotions. When I was taking my focus group they said that when they had the emotion of feeling ‘lonely’ they felt “hollow and empty inside, like nothing was really working for them” which is why in my Image 1 I decided to just capture an empty mason jar with the words ‘LONELY’ written inside. This was to show that the person was feeling empty with this emotion and didn’t really feel as if they were important. I captured this image from above as it gave the photograph more of a three dimensional feel, something that was needed as otherwise it would have been a very bland and boring image which would not have captured the audiences eye. I post edited this image as well in Photoshop and made it black and white, dulling down the image and giving the sense that this emotion of loneliness has created a darkness over the person.
The second image I created was for the emotion of feeling ‘alive’. The focus group said that when they had this emotion it was usually brought on my positive vibes around them so I wanted this image to be full of colour and vibrance. This image was an image that was inspired by Dutch Still Life the most. I took the simplicity of flowers and the way I arranged them from earlier research I done on Still Life and added them to my mason jar to give the feeling of being “alive”. I decided to use flowers in the jar for two reasons. One was that they are beautiful part of nature that was a positive aspect of our world and the second was that they are bright and vibrant which would be able to capture the audiences eye and keep them interested in the image. I did no post editing on this image as luckily the day I shot it was very sunny with really good lighting, therefore the image came out just as I wanted it and needed no post editing
Image 3 is an image that portrayed how people deal with their everyday emotions. In the focus group the girls said about how they felt insecure on a regular basis and turned to appliances such as make up to help them deal with these insecurities. Therefore, I wanted to create an image which showed this emotional problem. My Image 3 was shot using a compact make up mirror in which I photographed the reflection of the mason jar which held a variety of make up appliances such as lipstick, foundation and mascara. The reason I wanted to photograph the reflection of the mason jar rather than normally is because I wanted to give the impression that this was a woman / girl looking into the mirror and having the emotion of feeling ‘insecure’.
Image 4 for the emotion of being ‘In Love’ was a lot similar to my Image 1. This is because I wanted to show the stark contrast between the two emotions so used the same method of shooting, lighting and mason jar with the only thing being different is the mason jar in Image 4 is full of pink paint. This pink paint was used as the colour pink is a connotation of ‘love’ and the fact that the paint fills the whole jar relates to the focus group saying that when they were in love they “felt full”, the complete contrast to what they said when they felt the emotion of loneliness.
Image 5 was based around the emotion of feeling ‘regret’. I wanted this image to be a very de-saturated image as the lack of saturation shows that the regret is foreboding over the person and creates a sense of darkness over them. Image 5 shows the mason jar full of well known chocolate bars and crisps which links to the information I gained through my focus group when many of the participants said they felt regret when they over indulged in certain treats such as food and drink. I did not want this image to be black and white like my Image 1 as I still wanted the sweet wrappers to be noticeable and relateable to my audiences.
I found that the easiest part of this project was gaining the research that I needed to help develop my ideas. I believe that the focus group was a success and helped me establish what emotions my audience would be able to relate too most. I also found that the setting up of my images was fairly easy as well due to the use of basic backgrounds with bigger set ups not being needed due to the focus being purely on the mason jar and the emotions that it contains. The hardest part of my final images would be the photographing of the mason jar. Even though I have had a lot of practice with the camera throughout the past year and find myself pretty competent with it, I found that the lighting was a struggle, especially when capturing Images 1 and 4. However, I was able to find a way around this by using a light tent which gave me a better exposure of light and allowed me to take sharper and more defining images.
Overall, I believe that my images for my final project achieved what I set out to do. They show a variety of emotional feelings through the art of Still Life photography and use a different and unique way of representing emotions that connects to the audience and interacts with the way they may be feeling. If I was to do these images again I would perhaps spend more time on my secondary research, going into the history of representational photography and the effects that it would have on society. I would also prepare my photography shoots better and make sure that I have back ups for anything that may go wrong, for example while shooting one of the light bulbs in my lamp exploded which delayed me for an extra day and created more stress on me to get it right first time. In conclusion to this, I find that my images are easy to understand, thought provoking and do not obey to regular emotional representation photography set ups , therefore creating a series of photographs which have combined two different aspects of photography to create five whole new images.
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Still Life Photography: Jonathan Jones