Ross School - Senior Project 2007-08
Mentor: Alexis Martino
Title: A Scene Laced in Vogue
A captivating combination of glamour and sophistication, or a synthesis of simplicity and elegance, is what defines certain fashions as unforgettable. Characters appearing in films of the 1940's and 1950's, not only used this tool of fashion to their advantage, but they also had authentic personalities to accompany their looks. I focused on three films from this period and with that I created a series of photographs in this style of cinematic vogue. Each film that I focused on had a recurring theme of the importance of life, and the reasons behind the importance. My images portray the themes and stories of the films, but in a way which emphasizes the classic fashion aspects.
47 black and white photographs that were processed and printed in the darkroom on 16x20, 11x14, and 9x9 fiber paper. They were framed and hung on the upper level of the senior building.
For my senior project I created a series of photographs that illustrate three old films. From the beginning of the senior project process, I knew I wanted to do a photography based project and I came up with my initial concept pretty quickly. I was first inspired by antique Vogue magazines. Each image portrayed the women, the models, as icons to aspire to. The women looked so different than the women in today's magazines. They looked glamorous and sophisticated, yet still innocent. The fashion content of the images was something else that interested me. I decided I was going to create fashion images that emulated these old vogue images. But, I realized I needed to define my concept better, I needed a little bit more structure. I began to search for a new concept that I could still incorporate my original fashion idea into. At first I was going to do a theme of a few different famous models, like Twiggy, but then I came across images from some old movies in a magazine that looked really interesting. That's when I came up with my new, defined, concept. I was going to create a series of images that illustrated old films with fashion acting as a chief component. Each image would act as its own visual narrative and contribute to the whole series. I began the process of searching for the films I was going to illustrate. I watched lots of films, such as Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Big Sleep, and Chinatown. After watching a number of films I settled on the final three that I was going to use; Funny Face, It's a Wonderful Life, and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Funny Face (1957) is about a fashion photographer who works for a prominent fashion magazine and he transforms an ordinary salesgirl into a beautiful model. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) is about a man who is about to commit suicide and his guardian angel saves him by showing him what life would be like if he never had existed. And, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) is a love story between the ghost of a sea captain who haunts his old house, and the woman who rents the house. Each of the films that I illustrated deal with the importance of existence and what can be discovered during a lifetime.
In the beginning I set a few goals for myself, and as my project evolved I developed new goals. My main goal was to successfully capture the style of cinematic vogue. I wanted my final images to look authentically old. I wanted my images to illustrate the characters from the movies well and to successfully portray the mood of the film. In the beginning I planned on producing 20 final large fiber based images, that would be matted, framed, and displayed in a final show. This changed as I began to have to eliminate my images. I realized that I had more than 20 I wanted to keep for my show, and I ended up having 47 final images. I had previously worked with fiber paper, but one of my goals was to master the technique of printing on large fiber based paper. Fiber paper is harder to print on than RC paper, however the final result is much better. The image quality and feel of the paper are far superior to the RC paper. Another goal was to learn the process of creating a show and then to have a great show. Other goals were to dry-mount, spot tone, mat, and frame my images well, and also to have good time management. At the end, I had achieved all of the goals that I had set for myself.
I began shooting in August and finished with my final shoot in December. After I finished shooting, I processed all of my film, and made the contact sheets. I made about 250 work prints of the images I thought were the best from the contact sheets. After I chose my final images for my show, I began the printing process. For a few weeks, I spent all of my time in the darkroom printing. After I had finished all my prints, I spent the next week rewashing them. After my prints were dry and my mat-boards had been cut, I began to dry mount. Then I spot toned all of the little white dust spots on my images to get rid of them. When all of the images were ready, I began framing, which turned out to be a very tedious process, because of the dust that kept getting on the glass, and the glass breaking. The final steps were hanging the show, putting up the labels, and the artist's statement.
The first and most difficult challenge was defining my final concept. I knew I would only produce an amazing product in the end if I was completely excited about my concept, which I eventually was with the added film aspect. I also needed to find a way to help illustrate the films, since with my photographs I wasn't going to be illustrating every single scene. So that's when I came up with the idea of taking various photographs of the films on the TV and then putting these images below mine to help as a guide to understanding the full stories of the films. I messed up one of my images while dry-mounting and I had to go back and re-print it, which was discouraging. A lot of glass broke when I was framing, which also was a little aggravating. Nothing was easy during the process of this project, everything I had to work at to make it the best that I possibly could. I discovered my ability for commitment during this project. I was dedicated to produce to final result in the same way that I had envisioned it from the beginning.
I realized how deep my passion is for photography and I never gave up once because of this passion. It was the feeling, to be done and to be satisfied with my work, that kept me going. The process was intense, but it showed me just how much I could care for a project. In the future I will definitely continue with photography. I'm interested in further exploring the role that photographs can take to tell stories, or express opinions.
The Big Sleep. Dir. Howard Hawks. Perf. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. DVD. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1946.
Breakfast At Tiffany's. Dir. Blake Edwards. Perf. Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. DVD. Paramount Pictures, 1961.
Chinatown. Dir. Roman Polanski. Perf. Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. DVD. Paramount Pictures, 1974.
“Cover Archive.” Vogue Cover Archive. Fall 2007. <http://www.vogue.co.uk/CoverArchive/>.
Flowers, Charles. Elliott Erwitt's Handbook. New York: The Quantuck Lane P, 2003.
Funny Face. Dir. Stanley Donen. Perf. Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, and Kay Thompson. DVD. Paramount Pictures, 1957.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Perf. Rex Harrison and Gene Tierney. DVD. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 1947.
The Internet Movie Database. Fall 2007. <http://www.imdb.com/>.
It's a Wonderful Life. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Henry Travers. DVD. Liberty Films, 1946.
Last Tango in Paris. Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci. Perf. Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. DVD. MGM Home Entertainment, 1972.
Martino, Alexis. Personal interviews. Spring 2007-Winter 2008.
Photo-Eye. Fall 2007. <http://www.photoeye.com/>.
The Richard Avedon Foundation. Nov.-Dec. 2007 <http://www.richardavedon.com/>.
Roman Holiday. Dir. William Wyler. Perf. Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. DVD. Paramount Pictures,1953.
Sabrina. Dir. Billy Wilder. Perf. Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden. DVD. Paramount Pictures, 1954.
Savoia, Stephan. "Project." Email to the author. 3 Dec. 2007.
Savoia, Stephan. "Re:" Email to the author. 27 Nov. 2007.
Savoia, Stephan. "Re: Project." Email to the author. 4 Dec. 2007.
Savoia, Stephan. "Re: Project." Email to the author. 11 Dec. 2007.
Savoia, Stephan. Telephone interview. 11 Dec. 2007.
Vogue Aug. 2007.
Vogue Dec. 1972.
Vogue Oct. 2007.
Vogue Sept. 2007.
Community Member (Details)
Stephan Savoia is a national staff photographer for the Associated Press. He was born in New York City and graduated from the State University of New York College at Potsdam. He joined the Associated Press as a staff photojournalist in November 1990. He currently works out of the Boston bureau as a national photographer based in the northeast. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, he was the lead photographer on the Associated Press' photo team that won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. He also shared in the AP's 1999 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. Stephan Savoia was a great help during my senior project process. He is excellent at critiquing, and his insight was very thorough. He is incredibly knowledgeable and experienced and his thoughts about my photographs were very helpful.