Ross School - Senior Projects 2012


Student: Isabella Rowe

Mentor: Therese Lichtenstein

Domain(s): Visual Arts

Faculty Grader: Jessica Heaney




Documentation of Product


Title: Snapshots!


My Senior Project focuses on self-portraiture through a series of photographs and writings placed in my handmade book. By thematically linking photography, writing and bookmaking in an evocative and suggestive way, I communicate to the viewer/reader a story about my subjective experience of particular places that are meaningful to me. Through the association of images and words that stray from overt expression and specific interpretation, I also invite the viewer to experience this book as their own private window onto a view that is unfamiliar.


Description: mail-3.jpeg Description: mail-2.jpeg In my water colors I used basic colors and relied on gesture, simply capturing the essence of a person.


  To make the book I had to experiment with different textures and colors, discovering what complemented the project and what didnÕt.


  I created a series of photos by making juxtapositions, which, collectively, created a non-linear narrative.


My Presentation Powerpoint:


Exhibition & Presentation Summary

At first, I wanted to make a painting project, but I was confused and was still searching for ideas that were valuable to me. Then, I started to play around with photography and I realized my potential in the field. So I continued to take hundreds of photos, and when it was time to pick the best ones, I had to pick ones that were important to me but I also had to pay attention to the aesthetics of the image. I was able to narrow them down to only twenty-five.


Eventually, the project made its next major step, I was going to make a book by hand. But what I was going to include in the book wasnÕt just going to be my photography, I would have to use other mediums, as well. I wanted to have a multi media approach, I wanted to include writing and other visuals.


Finally, I knew what my project was going to be: a book focusing on portraiture and self-portraiture with the underlying theme of identity. It would consist of photographs, written vignettes, and watercolor paintings.


The self-portraiture in my project is defined by the relationship between personal identity and place in my photographs. I took familiar sites and transformed them into subjective images by making them transcend their strictly documentary appearance, I manipulate the documentary photograph by making, at times, abstract images.


The relationships between the photos are why they are really a series of their own because they are all linked in a pattern of subjective associations.


The written vignettes play a role in the narrative experience along with the photos. They are sketches of fictional people based on personalities familiar to me. I enjoyed writing these because it was a free process, I just let my ideas flow into these written portraits of people. They were brief pieces but they captured distinct identities. The link between the vignettes and my photos is that they both portray the construction of identity. In the vignettes, I revealed the unique personalities and the many faces of the person.


I will read to you one of my short vignettes:


Paula was a singer. She was a fake redhead and her dark roots could not be tackier. She always made sure an excessive amount of her wrinkly cleavage was shown. Most people, instead of their eyes drifting to it, nervously looked away whenever it came near. Paula always wore such offensive perfume, which forced people to breathe out of their mouths when they were in her presence. When she would kiss people on the cheek, she would grab the personÕs head and violently give them wet kisses on each side, leaving behind bold, maroon lipstick marks. This always left the person feeling slightly vulnerable and damp.

            Despite her overbearing personality, Paula was a loud, beautiful singer. She was like Aretha Franklin only Italian-American and funny looking. When she sang, she didnÕt belt out the lyrics, but boldly drew them out, knowing their meaning, and causing shivers to run down spines. By the end of the song, people would be in tears and very eager to return her violent kisses.


My watercolor paintings in the book function as accents, but are still important. Mostly they add color to the book but they also act as visual impressions of people. They are ambiguous figures and they are gestural. So these arenÕt documentary but are states of transformations. However, the photos are documentary while also being interpretations of place.


The book has a lot to do with the awareness of time, it is impressionistic of moods, places, and everyday objects that have shaped me, which lead up to this new beginning that I talk about in the introduction essay of my book.


In the essay, I reference a Charles Dickens quote, it reads:


ŌThat was a memorable day for me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day stuck out of it and think how different its course would have been. Pause, you who read this, and think for a long moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on that memorable day.Ķ


I write about how life is a chain, each link representing a significant change, another beginning. I referred to my first link as being the beginning of my adulthood. In a way, the book is like a timeline of experiences, the photos function as memory traces. I have captured moments along the way, and I have culminated them in the introduction of my book.


Also the book is an aesthetic object in its self, it is a work of art. This is an artistic book—a personalization of a book.


The bookÕs format of fold out pages like a fan allow the viewer to have more intimate and personal experience. The handmade quality of the book is very evident. For example, the pages come out of a box, which is a metaphor for discovery.


Time Management – I am actually a very lazy person, which is a problem. So the doing was very difficult.

What I found especially difficult while making my project was the writing process. Because sometimes, the writerÕs block hits you hard, giving you the worst kind of anxiety.


I started out writing short poems but the genre wasnÕt communicating what I wanted to say and wasnÕt working as structure. So when I changed the format, I wrote sketches.


And finally, the reason why I called this book, Snapshots is because a snapshot is the capturing of a fleeting moment, which is what I have done in the written sketches and the photos.


At first, in this process, I was afraid to express myself because this project allows interpretations to be open ended for the viewer. My images are associative and there is an associative level between the images and text, inviting the viewer to respond in their own personal way. So, of course, that made me very nervous. But there is something about being creative and putting yourself out there that is quite rewarding. The fact that youÕve done hard work and you can reflect on it is very comforting.


Throughout my life IÕve enjoyed seeing my artistic vision develop. I think of this project like an anchor that I can reflect on in the future when my artistic vision has changed.  It is a point of reflection point in the process of becoming the self. And I refer to the Charles Dickens quote: it is a link, a part of a process of an ever-changing vision.


In the future, I plan to explore the many faces of my artistic vision. This includes painting, photography, and writing, but it is not limited to them.




















Bibliography or Works Consulted


Carson, Anne. Nox. New York: New Directions, 2010. Print.