Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: Angela Gay

Mentor: Alexis Martino

Title: Deceit of the Honest

Description: "Deceit of the Honest" is a series of images that express my reaction to the imposition of religious prohibitions on women. My journey began by researching biblical stories that foreground acts of transgression. The resulting photo essay takes these and other narratives and examines the double-bind that women often find themselves in, where every victory is also a loss. In these images, the women are challenged to overcome temptation without succumbing to evil. 

What would make someone ignore God’s injunctions? I am interested in the ways in which an individual’s moral code is tied to these ancient stories. Can we ever escape these notions of transgression? Inspired by my own religious delusions and my eagerness to discover the effect of temptation on those who worship the unknown, I have created a series of photographs where each image expresses the unjustified motives that define morality.  

And though faith is swallowed by fear in many of my narratives, a sense of hope remains in the faces of those whose optimism survives. In the end, as I hope these pictures show, I am on the side of the transgressor.

Details:

Image 1, Image 2, Image 3, Image 4

For my senior project I did a photo essay entitled “Deceit of the Honest,” that expresses the restrictions religion places upon women. My goals for the project have remained the same throughout; to expand my knowledge of religion and create a series of images that embody a given theme. 

My original intention for this project was to illustrate biblical stories. In the beginning, I planned to group these stories by the seven deadly sins.  I decided this was too clichéd of an idea, so I focused on researching stories related to the virtues that come out of those sins. I had a lot of trouble finding stories directly related to the virtues that would be easily portrayed. After meeting with my outside consultant and mentor, I decided to illustrate biblical stories relating to disobedience. The three stories that I decided to use in my product are Judith and Holofernes, Adam and Eve, and Sodom and Gomorrah.

Through the process of taking these photos and developing them, I wanted experiment with using triptychs to create short narratives and connect my pieces to the ancient religious art that was typically done in this style. I also wanted to use photomontage, the idea of layering merging different portions of photographs together to create a more surreal image. My influences, Tom Chamber and Joel Peter Witkin, used this technique in their work, which made it much more substantial and open to many more interpretations. I also looked at works by painters Goya, Caravaggio and Rembrandt as a jumping off point to portraying the stories in a new light. 

The process of my project began by distinguishing personal stories vs. biblical stories. I wanted to incorporate my own voice into the product, and thus decided to include a series of images less constricted by stories I was illustrating from the Bible. I also struggled to define the question, “What is disobedience of God?” to further relate myself to my project. After shooting half of my project, I decided to include still life into my stories. This decision was mainly based on my thought to include both images where the viewer could relate to emotion and a concept.  I found that to solely portray a concept can only be achieved when a viewer is not connecting to any human emotion. An additional part of my process was identify my personal connection to my project. I found that I was interested in the motives behind each of the main characters’ actions, and the control religion has over these acts and our morals. 

The main challenge I faced throughout this project was time management. Because of the amount of time I have to dedicate to riding, it was difficult to find weekends to shoot. All of the weekends I was available I spent shooting my senior project. I was also forced to stay at school until 8:30, for a week and a half before our products were due. It was pivotal that I dedicated a sufficient amount of time to print my product, but it was difficult to balance this with all of my homework and college applications. Another challenge was fully engaging myself in my project. Before I could relate to my project, I was faced with numerous shoots that lacked spirit and my personal voice.

Seventy-six rolls of film later, I arrived at nineteen final prints. These images expressed my view of religion, as it impacts women, and as it is used as a moral code. The skills I acquired were time management, conceptualization, how to learn from unsuccessful images, burning and dodging, dry mounting, and framing. My outside consultant really helped me identify myself in my project, and conceptualize each story without purely illustrating it. My mentor addressed the unsuccessful images almost more then the successful ones, to identify what wasn’t working. Burning and dodging images (exposing given areas on the paper to more light and preventing given areas on the paper from light) were some the of skills I further developed. As a photographer, it is essential to be able to effectively burn and dodge your images, in order to create a tonal range within the photograph. While dry mounting was the most irritating aspect of the project, it forced me to have patience. My paper kept coming through the dry mount pressed warped, requiring me to re-wash it numerous times. I also struggled to frame my photos, as there was a plethora of dust that kept sneaking into the corner of the frame. After wiping and vacuuming the glass time after time, I truly learned the value of each image that was being placed behind it.

In the future, I plan to pursue photography in college and hopefully as a profession. I also hope to acquire an internship this spring/summer with a magazine or famous photographer.

Works Consulted

"Adam and Eve." Christian Bible Reference Site. Sept. & oct. 2008 <http://www.twopaths.com/story_AdamAndEve.htm>.

"Anne Arden McDonald at photo-eye Gallery." Sept. & oct. 2008 <http://www.photoeye.com/gallery/forms2/index.cfm?image=1&id=28335&imagePosition=1&Door=6&Portfolio=Portfolio1&Gallery=0>.

"Bible Stories for Children - A Sad Day." Welcome to Internet Services. Sept. & oct. 2008 <http://www.essex1.com/people/paul/bible5.html>.

Bowker, John, and Donald C. Kraus. The Complete Bible Handbook : An Illustrated Companion. Grand Rapids: Dorling Kindersley, Incorporated, 1998.

Bowker, John, and Donald C. Kraus. The Complete Bible Handbook : An Illustrated Companion. Grand Rapids: Dorling Kindersley, Incorporated, 1998.

Browning, W. R. A Dictionary of the Bible. Ed. Richard Coggins and Graham N. Stanton. New York: Oxford UP, 1997.

Caputo, Michael. "What if God had not urned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt?" Is God Cruel? Is God Love. Sept. & oct. 2008 <http://michaelcaputo2.tripod.com/lotswife.htm>.

"The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah." La Vista Church of Christ. 6 Jan. 2009. La Vista Church of Christ. Sept. & oct. 2008 <http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVstudies/Genesis/43_sodom.htm>.

"Disobedience to God." Next Bible. Sept. & oct. 2008 <http://net.bible.org/dictionary.php?word=Disobedience%20to%20God>.

Ewing, William A. Body : Photographs of the Human Form. New York: Chronicle Books LLC, 1994.

"The List of Capital (Deadly) Sins." The Seven Deadly Sins. 19 June 1996. Sept. & oct. 2008 <http://www.whitestonejournal.com/seven_deadly_sins/>.

"Seven Deadly Sins." 2006. Faust. Sept. & oct. 2008 <http://www.faust.com/index.php/legend/seven-deadly-sins/>.

"Tom Chambers at photo-eye Gallery." Sept. & oct. 2008

<http://www.photoeye.com/gallery/forms2/index.cfm?image=1&id=185856&imagePosition=1&Door=6&Portfolio=Portfolio2&Gallery=0>.

Community Member (Details)

Martha Stotzky is a historian as well as an artist, whose work focuses on religion.