Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: Laura Lemus

Mentor: Kerry Sharkey-Miller

Title: Journey Interpreted


Using digital photography, I took photographs of women from different cultures to contrast and compare them back-to-back. My images focus on the strength of women, where they've been, what they've been through, where they are now, and where they are going. All of this contributes to their role as women in their society and how they feel in their cultures. I interviewed my subjects to gain more personal information so that I could convey their past in my photographs. My final product is a set of photographs. Also, the interview information along with the photographs has been made into a book.



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When choosing my topic I decided to go will a very passionate interest of mine, which are women and women rights.  It has always been a part of my personality to defend women, and many people consider me a feminist. Once I knew what my topic was I needed to figure out a concept. When I came across ‘The Global campaign to Stop killing and Stoning Women” I knew had found the center of my project. I would photograph women from different cultures and religions, and interview them in order to get their life stories. I would then put all my images together in a book to hopefully sell a few copies and raise some money for this campaign. I wanted my images to depict what these different women had gone through, where they were going, and how their past had strengthened them. I wanted my images to show woman strength and potential. While looking through the book “Global Feminisms” I came about an artist who had created sequenced images of the Stations of the Cross. I really liked the idea and figured I could somehow use this in my project. At this point I had three women as my subjects; my mother who is a devoted Catholic, and two other Muslim women from Morocco and Iraq. I decided to use the Stations of the Cross as the outline to my mother life, and the 5 pillars of Islam for the two other women. I thought it fit perfectly with the theme of my project because it would be a way to connect the important religious aspect to that of their culture. The basic idea was that I was going to photograph my mother in representation of the Latino origins in conjunction with her deep faith and devotion to the Catholic religion. I would use her life stories, personalities, struggles, and challenges into my photographs by putting them into context according to each Station of the Cross. I would do the same exact thing with the two women from Morocco and Iraq, but in context with the 5 pillars of Islam since they follow the Islamic religion. I wanted my images to be natural, and for my subjects to be photographed in their setting with no set-ups. I began to focus more on my mother and the Stations of the Cross. I wanted to depict my mom’s life through her eyes in relation to the Stations of the Cross, so I sat down with her and connected each station to something she had gone through in her life. I then had to shoot these memories and moments like she had retold them, but in my perspective. As I continued shooting, my images became very set-up, something I didn’t want at the beginning of my project. As the deadline to approval to present arrived my mentor and I sat down to look at my images as a whole and realized that the concept was not coming together. The images did not fit well together as a photo essay. In order to take a good photograph too many things needed to be understood, which made the concept too complicated. I needed to look at my mother’s life, understand how she was feeling, and use both her interpretation and my interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. There were too many complex layers to surpass in order to achieve the photographs I wanted so my mentor and I thought it would be best to reconstruct my concept and restart a project. With the help of Alexis Martino I came upon the very interesting photo-essay “Room within a Room” by Hye young Kim. She created miniature scenes and photographed them with a dark, eerie mood. I emulated this essay, but stuck with the idea of the Stations of the Cross. I also altered my concept by interpreting them in a more literal fashion and in my point of view. The protagonist in this new project would not longer be my mother, but I assemble small models and construct scenes to place them in, according to each station. In order to make my images more interesting I used a ‘baby lens’ which blurs the borders of the photographs. You can control how much you want blurred and where you want things to be sharp, so at the beginning it was a bit difficult to get used to the new lens I had never used before. Throughout my images I also wanted there to be something in common to tie them all together. I chose rosary beads to symbolize religious attachment or boundaries. Throughout my process I came across numerous challenges. Starting with the process of making my model. The first model I made was made out of aluminum foil, which was way too distracting because of the color and texture. The second model was very thing and small, which worked out fine, but because it was so tiny it didn’t fit well into some of the scenes I had set up. The third model was very big and thick in contrast to the other models and did not work well at all. The final two models were the perfect size, width, texture and color. Once I had the models I was going to use in my essay I had to go back and reshoot the scenes I had shot with the old models. I also had to re-shoot when the lighting wasn’t right, the focus was off, when I needed more pictures of a scene, or when a whole concept of a station wasn’t working. Once my shooting was complete I was in the digital lab making as many Photoshop edits needed to better my image. Unfortunately, the paper I had ordered online was a different profile for the printer that was on the computer so I had to change the profile of the images. This new profile altered my colors, changed my blacks, and so I had to go back and re-edit all the images I had already edited and continue to struggle to edit the rest of my images with the new profile. Once my prints were finished I was ready to mat and frame, because I was not able to get to Ikea due to the weather I ordered my frames online. Upon checking the online status I realized that the frames were coming in a couple of days too late and so I had to go out and re-purchase 12 more frames to get them all matted, framed, and hung on time for my presentation. Due to the fact that the Ikea frames are a tad smaller than the new frames I had gotten I needed to do something in order to accommodate the smaller mats. Luckily with the help of Robin, the woman who cut my mats, we were able to figure out a small technique to adjust this problem. When all the images were frames and matted came the hanging. There were so many measurements to be taken and patience became such a key element. Fortunately with the help of my mother I was able to get it done and finally see my work hung up. 

Works Consulted

Ades, Dawn. Art in Latin America. Yale UP, 1989.

Avakian, Alexandra. Windows of the Soul. Washington DC: National Geographic Society, 2008.

Cardinal Newman, John Henry. "The Stations of the Cross." Catholic Information Network. 1987. Dec. 2008 <>.

Eskildsen, Joakim. The Roma Journeys. Steidl, Gottingen, 2007.

"Global campaign to stop Killing and Stoning Women." Women living under Muslim Law. Oct. 2008 <>.

Global Feminisms. London: Merrell Limited, 2007.

Grillo, Gina J. Between Cultures. Sante Fe, New Mexico: Center for American Places, Inc, 2004.

Kim, Hyeyoung. "Room within a Room." Dec. 2008 <>.

Latin American art. New York, NY: Phaidon P Limited, 1996.

"Photoessays." FiftyCows. 2009. Fiftycows Foundation. Nov. 2008. <>.

"Stations of the Cross." Stations of the Cross. Catholic Online. Oct. 2008 <>.

"Wicker Park Grace's Stations of the Cross." Weblog post. Blogspot. Nov. 2008 <>.

Community Member (Details)

Martha Stotzky

Art Historian