Unit title: Magazine
Assignment: Essay Tutor: Honey Salvadori Level: 2 Name: Kerry-Louise Barnaby Student Number: 8001634 Date: Wednesday 8th December
“From Cavewoman to Businesswoman” How much have we really changed?
Photography, that is the form of creating images through a chemical process, began in approximately 1839 when the Daguerrotype image was announced. Although it may have originally been seen as a poor-man’s portrait, photography was soon seen as its own unique medium. However, there are still many arguments surrounding the discussion on whether photography is a true art form or simply a copycat. Many superstitions have long stated that when you photograph someone you take a part of their soul. I do not believe this, but what I do believe is that to create an amazing photograph, you need to capture a part of the soul: the essence of the person, otherwise as Roland Barthes says: “I could doubt that these photographs would speak” (Barthes 2000: pg.64) Opinions and function of photography have changed a bit since Barthes wrote his final book, Camera Lucida, and now, I believe that for portraiture you need to find this essence of the person or subject, this is not necessary in the same way for other types of photography; namely the style that I have chosen to do for this project, Fashion Photography. I have chosen to do my final assignment in a studio so as to create a blank canvas, not only to make the clothes pop out of the photo, but also as an important signifier. The blank, white canvas will create continuity throughout the spread, which I believe to be important as the costume or fashion is very different in each. While, on the other hand, the white backdrop will also signify the idea that all fashion begins or begun with a blank canvas. This blank canvas is shaped and coloured as desired to create something that, when we wear it, creates its own myth.
“A myth inserts itself as a non-historical truth. Myth makes us forget that things were and are made; instead it naturalizes the way things are.” (Rose 2007: pg.97) The blank canvas therefore serves as a reminder to the viewer that everything starts out as nothing. Everything must be desired and created from a blank canvas, whether that is something tangible, for example, a jumper, or a thought. Moreover, everything started out on an even playing field and it is how we manipulate our own canvas that can lead to great achievement or great failure. Revisiting the idea that one must capture the essence of the subject in photography, I do believe that for a shoot such as mine, the essence that needs to be captured is that of the time. For example, when one things of the 1940’s, depending on their own education and cultural background, one may think of World War 2, the Nazi’s, Concentration Camps, and then on another level, The Home Front, Women going to work for the first time, and that wonderful Glamour that came out of the most unexpected decade. For, when life is full of darkness, one must seek out the light and capture it. Therefore in my piece, I have tried to capture a mood or feeling appropriate to the time as well as what I hope is a valid interpretation of the dress. When creating a series of photographs, one must first look at the most important theories towards creating magic. The photographer must be aware of the studium of his collection and the signs that lead the spectator along the path to discover it. In simple terms the studium is the photographers own personal myth or message. Or: “Studium, which doesn‟t mean, at least not immediately, „study‟ but application to a thing, taste for someone, a kind of general, enthusiastic commitment, of course, but without special acuity...for it is culturally (this connotation is present in studium) that I participate in the figures, the faces, the gestures, the settings, the actions.” (Barthes 2000: pg.26)
I have chosen to create a spread for the “Future Issue” brief. Instead of, however taking this idea in its literal sense, to look to the unknown, I have chosen to take a more nostalgic approach. My spread looks back at six key moments in the evolution of women’s fashion: From the simplest Cavewoman, to the most powerful Businesswoman. The styling is clearly very different in each image but the colour scheme in the first and last images are the same – this is my studium. The idea that: “Everything changes; everything stays the same”. Furthermore I am trying to show that while we may have evolved in the style of dress and our attitude towards personal beauty and “style”, fundamentally, clothing has not changed at all since the dawn of time. We killed animals, then draped their fur around our bodies, and today, (though it is become less and less so) we kill animals and drape their hides around our bodies, or feet in the case of shoes. Clothing has always existed for two core reasons: it is there for modesty and to keep us warm, and this is still the case. Furthermore we may have evolved as people, but in some ways are exactly the same, we eat, we sleep, we work in whichever way we need to in order to stay alive, we procreate, we die. And the one thing man has been constantly brilliant at? Killing. Is the strong, dominant businesswoman (or man) of today, really that different to the (wo)man of eons ago? This is the idea I wish to present through my images. I anticipate that most people will simply see the images for the clothing and essence of the era, in order for people to see this studium they are going to have to dig deep and instead of looking at the pictures, look into them as the studium is subtle. My model wears bright green nail varnish in each of the images, again to reinforce this main studium, but also as the Punctum: To draw the viewers eye instinctively into the images.
“The second element will break (or punctuate) the studium. This time it is not I who seek it out...it is this element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me.” (Barthes 2000: pg 26) I agree with Barthes when he says that most photographs, “Provoke only a general and, so to speak, polite interest: they have no punctum in them: they please or displease me without pricking me: they are invested with no more than studium..The studium is of the order of liking, not of loving; it mobilizes a half desire, a demivolition.” (Barthes 200: pg 27) While a picture can be interesting, without a punctum it has no fire, no spark to get you involved. I hope the green nail varnish and the technical effects will be enough to give my photo’s that je ne sais quoi! As my idea is Evolution, it is important to note that I have been influenced by the ever-popular images of man evolving from an ape in stages. The images gradually grow taller in height, from laying flat on the ground to standing strong and tall. My first image was inspired by both Man Ray’s hugely influential piece of Kiki’s back (symbolising a violin) and Justine Kurland’s primitive style. I had her topless and laying on faux animal fur, on her front, and covered her, from the waist down, in another animal print. I wanted her to be a mixture of an animal waking up and fashion “being born”. It was important to capture the stereotypical essence of this era and I thought primal animalistic was the best way to do this. The image implies that she is naked and therefore unclothed, simply covered, or draped, using the idea of closure. It then moves into the Roman Empire which was influenced not by photographers but Roman statues. I wanted to capture the idea that she was on her knees looking up towards the
heavens, as if bowing down, or worshipping God. I kept her simply clothed in a modern interpretation of the toga with a single statement necklace. To add to this idea of worship, (which I felt was important because we think of Romans as being very proud and we forget, that they had a strong faith in God), I drenched the picture in a soft golden light – as if the heavens were literally shining down on her. From there we move in to the Medieval or Dark Ages. I wanted this to stand out from the others as this was a time when there was a lot of pain: Many battles and death (the plague). This was reflected in the clothing of the time, it was during the medieval period that, “Men and women found ample opportunity for self-expression in dress” (Brooke 1956: pg.7-8) And, “Something emerges which we can already call fashion.” (Laver 2002: pg. 62) As is true of most culturally difficult times, people found an escape in dress and a new sort of competition began with all women wanting to outdo her neighbour. This is a very poignant image and the essence needed to be reflected. The modern styling involves a black sequined cloche hat which serves as a second punctum to this image; you cannot see the eyes which gives a dimension of mystery. The lighting is darker and tinted a red-purple to give a true essence of the time – the red lighting has been used to symbolise the torment and blood spilt at the time. The Victorian image is a breath of fresh air and a complete contrast to the image before. Inspired by the Renaissance paintings of the time, the colours are all very light with lots of cameo brooches and flowers. I couldn’t get a bustle so I posed my model with her back arched and hand on her lower back to create the illusion of a bustle. The lace dress is white
and all the colours were kept feminine and pastel. There is a small black trim on the dress that portrays that, although we associate this time with beautiful women and beautiful things, it wasn’t all wonderful. There were huge class divides and while the rich had everything one could desire, the lower classes, who did most of the work, had nothing. To add to the contrast, the image is very light. I also gave it strong “contrast” so as to make it pop and give the illusion of a painting. I wanted to give it a slight pin-up-girl affect and I wanted it to look almost cartoon-like because that time is thought of as the time of fairy tales. When considering era’s from an aesthetic viewpoint, the 1940s oozes glamour. I styled my model in colours associated with the war, dark green and brown/khaki and a cloche hat, and made sure the lips were bright red. I wanted to get the essence of the glamour while still respecting the war. I thought of great wartime films such as Casablanca and Pearl Harbour, and Kate Beckinsale was my main inspiration. I also looked at works by Lee Miller who, while being a documentary photographer at the Home Front, still managed to create glamorous portraits. It was a time when women were working for the first time and due to rationing, they needed to feel glamorous more than ever. I considered black and white or sepia affect for this image but I wanted to keep the colour continuous so I faded it to try and create an older-style portrait while still maintaining an image that didn’t fall flat. The model needed a cheeky expression to represent the optimism and escapism of the time. As with the Victorian image I wanted to use the pin-up-girl idea to give the cheeky Hollywood Seductress image that I wanted to incorporate with the hard-working Home Front wife and mother. Finally, I looked at modern (2010) fashion shots of powerful women to create a strong and simple image of a modern woman taking on the world. This is probably the simplest shot but sometimes less is more and when seen in context with the other five images I think its simplicity makes it stand out.
While I may have had a studium in mind when creating this series of images, it is important to remember that one can interpret an image in many different ways depending on the audience: â€œBal and Bryson argue that semiology is centrally concerned with the reception of images by the audience.â€? (Rose 2007: pg.99) My studium relies on the spectator reading the signs in the same way as me as they will hopefully be from a similar background. In semiology there is no wrong or right, only reason.
Barthes, R., 2000. Camera Lucida. London: Vintage
Brooke, I., 1956. English Costume of the Later Middle Ages The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. London: Adam & Charles Black
Laver, J., 2002. Costume and Fashion a Concise History. 4th Edition. London: Thames & Hudson
Rose, G., 2007. Visual Methodologies. 2nd Edition. London: Sage Publications