Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment? Is it an approach, such as intention – creating a fully authored image rather than discovering the world through the viewfinder?
Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.
A photograph inspired by another is called ‘homage’ (pronounced the French or English way). This is not the same as Picasso’s famous statement that ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’; the point of the homage must be apparent within the photograph. It’s also not the same as ‘appropriation’ which re-contextualises its subject to create something new, often in an ironic or humorous way. Instead, the homage should share some deep empathy or kinship with the original work. An example is Victor Burgin’s series The Office at Night (1986), based on Edward Hopper’s famous painting of the same name:
‘The hackneyed idea of ‘influence’ is not at issue here. I am not interested in the question of what one artist may or may not have taken from another. I am referring to the universally familiar phenomenon of looking at one image and having another image spontaneously come to mind.’
You may already have taken some homage photography where you’ve not tried to hide the original inspiration but rather celebrated it. Refer back to your personal archive and add one or two to your learning log together with a short caption to provide a context for the shot.
The idea for this project came from multiple sources. It began with the various thoughts that crosses a woman’s mind as she ages and the transformation that she undergoes as she passes her youth and heads towards her silver years. It all started with a conversation I was having with a fashion designer friend of mine. Having recently celebrated her 51st birthday, we were just reminiscing over the years gone by and how ageing women are treated so differently than men. Our society is not forgiving to older women and and I also believe has quite the double standards. Whereas older men with salt and pepper hair and wrinkles and age lines are considered hot property, a woman with the same qualities are scorned at as old hags and such derogatory terms. After reading a post recommended and written by my tutor about a similar themed project that can be found here, and the consequent comments on that post are quite true to any place, location or country I believe.
Different women react to becoming older differently. While some might be comfortable in their skin with the onset of silver hair and wrinkles, many are not. This often results in a lot of women lying about their age, the constant need for gratification by getting age defying treatments, hair colour treatments or many others that scream to be noticed. Many dermatologists and plastic surgeons would go out of business if there was not such a huge demand from women to somehow look younger and going to great lengths to hold on to whatever shred of youth they have left; and many often fantasise about themselves to be something they know they have lost long back, like their youth.
And thats how we decided to do a tribute to women by planning a shoot for women, by women, and inspired by women – celebrating womanhood!
This thought process gave birth to the idea of doing a ‘fantasy photoshoot,’ based on elaborate outfits, with a unique viewpoint and a set-up that will add to it, as a celebration to womanhood and what it actually means. The outfits were carefully thought of for the way they were stitched, for their choice of colours, fabrics, etc. to make it symbolic and meaningful. Hence began our collaboration to create “an Alice in wonderland” kind of a look. I was quite clear that I wanted to shoot from a different viewpoint, kind of a top shot so I decided to shoot from an over the top viewpoint. All the locations were in the house itself and were taken hanging from the balconies, ledges and terraces, looking down upon the subject.
Whereas one one hand it represents the celebration of womanhood and how she should never undermine her essence just because she is older now, it also is reminiscent of an era of youth gone by and is representative of a fantasy of how a woman on the edge of her silver years would probably wish she could be – to hold on to that youth which is passing by every minute. This is an ode not only to being the nurturer that a woman is, but also celebrating all the women across the globe who are comfortable in their skin – with or without hair colours and treatments, to always make them remember that their role is much more than the superficiality that is based on looks alone. And to every woman out there – you are not dissolving, but constantly evolving.
The earth is known as Mother Nature. If we take away material possessions and look at the bountiful beauty earth has provided then it is clear that nothing can be more beautiful than nature, nothing more alluring than a woman as she continues to blossom at any age. The life of a woman is a celebration for her various roles in different stages of her life, like motherhood, the caretaker, the giver, the provider, the nurturer. This is to celebrate her and the fact that she is strong and powerful enough to be what she wants and should embrace her various roles for she will be beautiful as long as he lives, even if not externally but internally she is a powerhouse and must embrace every year of her life as an achievement and not go by the society standards of what she is expected to be.
Annie Leibovitz is the photographer who I would like to pay homage to for this series. I definitely wanted to have a woman photographer as my inspiration. Her Disney series, particularly this image, with its elaborate outfits and trademark poses is what I will be trying to emulate. It is an attempt to copy the mood of the image and create a fantasy kind of an image. It is not about producing the exact same image as I as I wanted to include my personal voice for this project. But to emulate a look and feel of a reality away from the real.
We planned five looks representing various stages in a woman’s life. The inspiration for the outfits are before each look as a thumbnail image. The caption of that look represents the essence of being a woman in various stages of life.
First Look – Light
The first look represents the young girl, on the threshold of being a woman. In this stage of her life, she is celebrating her youth and becoming a woman. everything is still new and for now her looks, how she presents herself, what clothes she wear, and how desirable she is are perhaps the motivation of her young life. Like the Mulberry Velvet Celosia flower, the inspiration behind this outfit, she is an acquired taste. You will either love her or hate her but it doesn’t matter to her because she loves herself. Flamboyant and smug, she belongs to land and sea. She is a cloud of colour, a creature unlike another. She might not be the obvious choice but how does it matter. She loves herself.
This outfit, inspired by the flower ‘Red & White Fuchsia,‘ has 108 tube petals in the skirt below, and is symbolic of the various chapters that a woman undergoes through her entire lifespan. The number 108 is considered to be extremely auspicious and significant in our culture, and likewise a woman’s role and her transition through her life is represented by the number 108 here. She embodies all the grace of this flower, soft and graceful, yet fiery and bold, embodying the grace of the Fuchsia. She is finally a woman, strong as a fire, responding to life with a gusto that only confidence and self-respect can bring.
This outfit is inspired by the ‘Pink Dahlia flower‘ – the pink skirt representative of the fact that you are forever blossoming, irrespective of age, and will continue to blossom till the day you die. This image represents the middle age in a woman’s life when things are changing and so is her role. Maybe the kids have left the nest and she often wonders where did her youth go in all these years while was busy taking care of others. The top portion of the outfit is black in colour symbolic of age and how beauty, as per some, fades, but yet it contains floral detailing like sparkle in silver, bronze and colours in it and again is reflective of the brilliance of the various moments and achievements of your life, symbolising that even with all the darkness that you might experience from time to time as you get older, when you see yourself in the mirror thats what you see – the internal reflection of what you actually are, even though you might not look like that on the exterior and nobody can take that sparkle away from you.
Representing the silver years in a woman’s life, this outfit was inspired by a glacial lake. A woman’s life is full of constant struggles in her daily life representing the cold icebergs in the inspirational image. She is like a lake in between these icy blocks, managing to stay fluid and go with the flow as she approaches her silver years of her life. No matter how hard it gets she will always strive hard not to crack and become cold like everything around her. She is like water, moulding effortlessly into wherever life takes her.
The colours of this outfit are representative of the golden years in a woman’s life and is inspired by a wild tigress. She is now in the final years of her life and her instincts are at their sharpest, thanks to all the bitter-sweet experiences she has had in her life. She is perhaps a grandmother now, caring for her grand children. No longer does she need to move in packs as against the time when she was younger and needed that to feel stronger perhaps, or as a validation that many young people need. Now she has become a formidable force by herself and she is fierce. That illustrates very subtly the power that comes as we grow older. She is dangerously beautiful and wild. One can’t take their eyes off her as that grace can only come with age. And women like her are in danger of becoming extinct. Coveted by all she is loyal to herself. She can allure you with her beautiful smile or show you her fangs and scare the living daylights out of you.
Annie Lebovitz’s work is characteristic of fantasy and dream sets and this is a beginning of something I see myself pursuing and adding on to in future projects. I want to recreate sets with props and things that will make it look more magical and more fantasy. This particular project was consciously not an identical copy of the original image but was an attempt to combine the two – a homage to a great woman photographer with my personal vision celebrating the essence of a woman.
Responding to the Question
Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case?
Original context refers to the picture’s causal environment, namely, that which was physically and psychologically present to the maker at the time the picture was taken …(Barett)
I believe that these images are representative of the original context as I have tried to approach this keeping that thought in mind. The expressions, the poses, the viewpoint were all carefully thought of keeping the original context of the different stages of a woman’s life journey. Having said that and reading Barrett’s paper, it becomes quite obvious that context is changeable when an image is looked at outside of its original context. I do agree with him on that and like any image, my images can easily be pulled out of context to being read in any different manner whatsoever.
Fig 1 Leibovitz, A. (2014) Celebrities As Disney Characters. [image] At: https://www.fashiondesignweeks.com/celebrity-style/celebrities-as-disney-characters/ (Accessed 16/12/2020).
Norrington, A. (2018) ‘Thou Shalt Not Age’ | The Open College Of The Arts. [online] The Open College of the Arts. At: https://www.oca.ac.uk/weareoca/creative-writing/thou-shalt-not-age/ (Accessed 16/12/2020).
Mahon, N. (2016) Assignment 3; ‘thou shalt not age’. [Blog] Context & Narrative, At: https://nuala513668candn.wordpress.com/category/assignment-submissions/assignment-3-thou-shalt-not-age/?theme_preview=true&iframe=true&frame-nonce=fef21dc655&calypso_token=bf77e440-6709-4088-858c-a7fc294a91da (Accessed 12/12/2020).