Ross School - Senior Projects 2010

Student: Carlotta Kohl

Mentor: Alexis Martino


Title: Pandora’s Box


Pandora in all her glory, all gifted, curious, and naive. An Enticing woman, looks through the smog through bleary eyes- her hair furled and curled in a wet towel. What was awaiting her- the burden of the world, the fragile secrets of living. Blue velvet climbs and falls over a body too young to know its touch- but better to put a curtain between her and I. What we cannot see, we cannot know. Curiosity overwhelms our bodies and souls. Condemn these thoughts, these visions these realties. Condemn them by the cross, not as he was but only as I can be. Is it a pearl around my neck, a seed of hope, a comfort or a reminder of the torment, the suffering, all of which I unleashed? She falls in a heap like the wet towel tossed aside by the enticing woman. Her dress, colored like cream, blends with the paint on the walls, is close and akin to the cream under the cellophane. I was only curious, we were only curious. Perhaps I can drink his blood and they will forgive me. I drink. It stains my lips, it stains my conscience.  Were you born out of a flower as I was- some say I was. Whatever happened to the fountain of youth? It’s behind me, far behind me. Deep in the past, now only a footnote in this legend- a glorious symbol lost in my shadow. We are constantly looking for the truth, the ones, once we've heard, we wish we never did. But it is important to know- we must know.


Images (Carlotta_01.jpg, Carlotta_02.jpg, Carlotta_03.jpg, Carlotta_04.jpg, Carlotta_05.jpg, Carlotta_06.jpg, Carlotta_07.jpg, Carlotta_08.jpg, Carlotta_10.jpg, Carlotta_11.jpg, Carlotta_13.jpg, carlotta_090702_1078.jpg, carlotta_090702_1079.jpg, carlotta_090702_1269.jpg, carlotta_090920_8813.jpg)

PowerPoint Presentation


Last year, while in Alexis Martino’s class: personal story through photography, I began two separate projects of mine. I have always been fascinated with aesthetic beauty that fosters a sense of underlying darkness. It's that sense, that undertone or hint that makes art so inexplicable. Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Bill Brandt, Paul Outerbridge, and Man Ray are all artists whose work emanates beauty despite how macabre the subject matter may be. They were extremely influential because of simply how innovative and novel the work they produced was. All of these individuals introduced groundbreaking styles and addressed issues that had once been seen as taboo. They brought these topics to the forefront, something I wished to do with my own work

Though all these photographers inspired m, it was guy Bourdin that truly made an everlasting impression. His boldness, his use of color, his setting, and placement choice exuded a real sort of kitschiness. All this made me want to look more. His photographs, saturated with sexuality and desire, really resonated with me. And I knew that I wanted to create something that would grab and hold the attention of its viewers.

When it came time to start thinking of senior project last year. I played with the idea of creating 12 large boxes of different sizes and shapes that would convey the Greek myth of Pandora. They would address the many evils that escaped from Pandora's box at the moment of her vindication.  This idea came to me when I first learned of Marcel Duchamp's boxes. It was his piece entitled Etant Donnes, which moved me in particular. Etant Donnes is an art piece that initially looks like just a door. However, when one reaches a certain level of closeness, one discovers a sort of peephole. Inside the closed door, one glimpses into an alternate reality- a different world. Through this hole, one sees a shocking image of a nude woman, holding a lantern, against a backdrop of lush landscape.

I was hoping to create assemblages that would allow the viewer to interact with art- to experience a sort of personal connection. Because the boxes would have had only one peephole, the viewer would have to individually look through the hole rather than viewing the piece with a collective audience. Through the hole or passage, the viewer would see scenes of great despair- the evils of the world. One would see everything from hate to gluttony to poverty. However, at the very end of the box, though all the horror, their would appear a light- hope. Hope was all of what Pandora managed to keep inside the box.

When summer came along, I quickly dismissed the idea of creating boxes and the theme of Pandora’s Box all together. I decided to create a magazine because I felt somewhat constricted and I really wanted to take photographs. So everyday of summer was spent photographing at least something. Whether it was just of my friends or a real organized production, I made a commitment to shoot. I got together with my outside consultant; Mark Schaefer. He taught me how to light my photographs with the use of light boxes and external flashes. Because I had little to no experience in this area of photography, it was extremely difficult for me. It was very challenging to manually set up lights because they weigh very much and are very delicate. I also felt as if I had little control on how the photograph would end up looking like-lighting wise. However, I learned from trial and error. I also had to learn to use a camera that I wasn’t very familiar with- the Canon D’Mark 4.

Along with gaining a deeper understanding of the camera, I learned a significant amount about Photoshop. Over time, I acquired the necessary skills and tools to guide me in my struggle to keep the subject looking somewhat natural and untouched.  In the beginning of the summer, it would take me three hours of retouching a photograph in order to achieve what I believed to look finished. By December, a photograph would only require one hour of retouching.

On September 22, 2009, according to my blog, my final product was to create a tangible magazine, present an underlying theme that binds editorials and content together, to introduce a certain amount of contributors, produce an exhibition displaying certain images of my magazine, and to create a video of editorials coming to life.

Though I had such an ambitious project ahead of me, I had no underlying theme that bonded my work together. Alexis never failed to let me know that. Yes, I had completed a significant amount of photographic work, but I was essentially stuck. So after several weeks of me not doing any work and avoiding contact with Alexis, I finally agreed to meet with her to discuss a theme for my project. Alexis reminded me of my initial idea- the theme of Pandora’s box. I was excited to tackle this theme and I was surprised I didn’t think of it before.  Now I would be combining photography to this beautiful mythological story. I was going to create a magazine that portrays the evils of the world in a stylized manner. Towards the end of the magazine, one would reach hope- images that inspire and symbolize a better time to come.

Then in art history we learned of Joseph Cornell. And I thought that I could still create my boxes that would be displayed in my magazine as photographs. I chose to create many variations of boxes- not limited in form; Such as a shadow box, or a large crate, or even a religious shrine. I tried to go full force with the magazine. I found out I had to learn a program called Indesign, which I literally had no idea how to work. I decided to take a seminar in the city at the Javits Center during the “PDN Photoplus expo”. It was a three-hour seminar and I learned how to create page numbers. It was at this time that I realized that there would be no way I could successfully create a magazine- at least not in two months.

I felt a bit disappointed that I wasn’t making a magazine, and I knew the boxes would never fit in with my photographs.  However, I knew my photographs could be as effective or even more effective on a wall. Yet my theme was also lacking. It was now time to brainstorm again. I decided to focus on “Pandora”. I would not emphasis the evils, but on Pandora as the individual- the Victim of her own doings.  I decided to base my project on her own mistake and the struggle to cope with her discoveries of the harsh realities of the world.

So during a three-week period, I selected photographs from my previous and new shoots that I thought tied in well with the narrative I was trying to convey. Then in my winter break I learned how to personally print my work on a large-scale printer that my outside consultant had. It was a very delicate and tedious process, as photograph paper must be handled with the utmost care in order to prevent scratching or dust gathering. When I completed printing my collection, I was left with the hardest task; creating an artist statement. I knew what my photographs meant and I knew what I wanted people to perceive when viewing my work. However, I am a visual person and that’s how I prefer to express myself. Yet I was instructed to write. I knew I couldn’t write a traditional artist statement, so I chose to create a poem- like narrative infused with the details found in my photographs. Through my artist statement, I was able to communicate my intentions. My body of work entitled “Pandora’s box” is about the Pandora in all of women. The moment in which we are first faced with our sexuality and the moment we come to terms with it, qnd all the pondering and reflecting periods between the two. It is about the discovery of a bigger truth: The ones we must know, but the ones we wish we hadn't.

This project definitely gave me a preview to the life of a working photographer. I definitely plan to go to school for photography in order to develop the skills I have already acquired. I hope to continue my fashion photography approach, but I also plan to create documentary photographs to promote positive change. I also hope to go to school for film as it is another passion of mine. Film, after all is another form of photography, as every shot is a still in itself.

Works Consulted

Koetzle, Hans-Michael. Photo Icons II. Koln, Germany: Taschen, 2008. Print.

Koetzle, Hans-Michael. Photo Icons I. Koln, Germany: Taschen, 2008. Print.

Phaidon Press, Eds. The Photography Book. New York: Phaidon Press, 2005. Print.

Gingeras, Alison M. Guy Bourdin. New York: Phaidon Press, 2006. Print.

Newton, June. Helmut Newton: Sumo. Koln, Germany: Taschen, 2009. Print.

Carter, Graydon. Vanity Fair: The Portraits: A Century of Iconic Images. New York: Abrams, 2009. Print.

Roversi, Paolo. Paolo Roversi: Studio. London: Steidl, 2009. Print.

Weber, Bruce. Branded Youth: and Other Stories. New York: Bulfinch, 1997. Print.

Community Member (Details)

Mark Shafer- freelance photographer