Ross School - Senior Projects 2012


Student: Olivia Combemale

Mentor: Carrie Clark

Domain(s): History, Media

Faculty Grader: Kenneth Sacks




Documentation of Product


Title: Beneath The Surface

Description: In my book I combined a collection of eight short poems, which are in essence case studies that each demonstrates my interpretation of one of Sigmund FreudŐs defense mechanisms. I illustrated each story with photographs I took to create a connection between the reader and subject of the story. Additionally, I wrote a comprehensive essay on FreudŐs life and influential theories, which I placed at the end of the book. In the essay the concept of defense mechanisms is fully explained, accompanied by a description of each one.





Exhibition & Presentation Summary


(Written description of your project and process. Pull from your presentation notes to complete this.)




For my Senior Project I created a book called Beneath the Surface. In my book I combined a collection of eight short poems that each demonstrates my interpretation of one of Sigmund FreudŐs defense mechanisms. Some people also called them case studies because they were fictional descriptions of a person experiencing a defense mechanism. I illustrated each story with photographs I took to create a connection between the reader and subject of the story. And at the end of the book I placed a comprehensive essay I wrote on FreudŐs life and influential theories. The essay also explains the concept of defense mechanisms and a description of each one.


Choosing My Project:

During the modernity unit in eleventh grade I was briefly introduced to Freud. I was fascinated by what I learned and decided to do my modernity project on him. After finishing that, I knew I wanted to learn more about Freud and psychology, but my original idea for my senior project was to start a t-shirt company for charity. This project was huge because I had wanted to start a business, not just one line of t-shirts and the entire thing was just too big, so then Ms. Clark, my mentor, and I decided we were going to make it a business plan.


Whenever I would talk to my parents they could tell I wasnŐt particularly excited to be creating a business plan, and they were right. Even though I was interested, it wasnŐt something that got me super excited without the actual design aspect of the shirts, so I decided to change my project.  Right when I made that decision, I knew I was going to change it to something about Freud and I also knew I wanted to create a book that combined photography and writing because I liked the idea of having a tangible final product.

-       I met with Ms. Clark over the summer and she liked the new idea. She was also familiar with my interest in Freud because she had also mentored my modernity project.

-       Before I began narrowing down my project, I emailed Sacks to ask if there was a good book on Freud that I should read. He recommended one by Peter Gay, but by accident I ordered the wrong one. It actually ended up being a great mistake because I ordered a book that he edited with all of FreudŐs original writings.



-       After I had a picture in my head of what I wanted my final product to look like and a broad idea for the content, I needed to choose what aspect of Freud I wanted to focus on.

-       I had a conversation with Sacks and when I told him I wanted to focus on one specific part of Freud, he recommended that I look at a book by Anna Freud on defense mechanisms. I became really interested in this topic, and I liked the idea of being able to interpret each mechanism in my own way. After I had done a significant amount of research from both Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud, and secondary sources, the creative writing came naturally. By that I mean the stories that accompany the photos and represent my interpretation of the defense mechanism, which IŐll show you in a minute.

-       After I had each poem finished, I began shooting the images. For some of the stories, I had a clear idea in my head about what I wanted to shoot and exactly what I wanted the final photos to look like, but for others it took time to brainstorm.

-       After I had finished writing all of the stories, I understood the concept of defense mechanisms pretty well and started writing that portion of the essay. From there, I wrote the introduction and continued with the other parts of the essay as well. 

-       As I was still writing the essay I began learning how to use blurb and testing out different arrangements for the photographs and stories.

-       When I had figured out what sizes the photographs needed to be for each layout, I learned how to resize the images and make them the most compatible for blurb.

-       This was actually a very important part of putting together the book because if I didnŐt put the correct color profiles on the images and resize them to exactly what they needed to be, then blurb would be handed the control over the images and the colors and pixels could get messed up.

-       Once I had all of the stories and photographs on the right pages, I went back and rearranged the fonts and placement of the stories to fit the images.

-       When I was happy with the way everything looked, I asked several people for advice on the layout and had Ms. Clark check for grammatical errors once more. Then on the day before Christmas break I was ready to order my book!

-       While I was finishing working out the layout, I also stayed afterschool to print the four images I was going to use in the gallery show.

-       When I came back from break, I had my book and all of my images framed, so the last step was hanging everything in the gallery.


-       Thankfully, time management was not an issue for me. Ms. Clark and I sat down and made deadlines in the beginning of the process and I made an effort to meet all of those. I did not want to be working on anything last minute because I knew I would be unhappy to show my project if I knew I hadnŐt worked hard on it.

-       There were times where writing was super easy, and in those situations I often met my deadlines early, but there were other times where I had to push myself or set time aside to actually write a particular part of the essay or plan a photoshoot.

-       A big challenge for me was finding primary resources on the last two defense mechanisms, which were Reversal and Turning Against the self, and just accepting that I needed to leave them out.

-       I didnŐt want to rely on secondary sources because I was already making my own interpretations and it was important that those were made from FreudŐs actual ideas.

-       Another challenge was trying to take photographs when I wasnŐt inspired or didnŐt have a clear idea of what product I wanted. During those times I just had to accept that my photographs probably wouldnŐt come out the way I wanted them to and normally waited to shoot when I had a clearer concept.

-       The last challenge was for me to get comfortable with what I was writing about. A lot of FreudŐs work is sexual and deals with complicated topics that are not always easy to write about. At first I had tried to get around using examples that had to do with sexuality, but then I realized that it was really part of human nature and necessary to include because they are crucial to understanding most of his theories.

-       I was definitely nervous to show my creative writing because I had never been vulnerable to an audience like that.


-       This entire project really ended up being a self-exploration.

-       I was aware that by taking on a psychology project I would gain a deeper understanding of the way our minds work, but I did not realize how much it would personally affect me. Exposing myself to the concept of the unconscious and being forced to absorb the notion that we only have a certain amount of control over the way we act and feel was overwhelming at times, but overall helped me mature on an emotional level. It opened me up to how important it is to deal with and confront emotions in the moment, because they never disappear when you push them back.  

-       It wasnŐt like I began overthinking everything or relating everything to Freud, but there were times where I would find myself being much more aware of the way I was acting and feeling. There were also times where I would catch my friends using defense mechanisms to avoid facing problems, and I was able to actually acknowledge the process of this happening.

-       Future Plans—I donŐt plan on being a therapist when IŐm older, but I definitely plan on continuing to pursue psychology in college. I really enjoy learning about how our minds work and also plan on looking at more contemporary theories as well.

Skills Acquired:

-       The biggest skill I acquired was learning how to use photoshop.

-       I had learned some basic photoshop stuff when I was in Kenya, but this time I was really picky about how I wanted them to look because this entire project was going to reflect on me, so the editing process was a lot more tedious.  

-       I also learned how to navigate blurb, improve my ability to breakdown complicated readings, form a long and coherent essay, and present a project in the gallery. 



Bibliography or Works Consulted


Works Cited:


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Works Consulted:


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