Ross School - Senior Project 2013
Mentor: Alexis Martino
Faculty Grader: James Earle
Documentation of Product
Description: elsewhere is a body of work that explores the boundaries of real versus imaginary by illustrating narratives of individuals each in their own unique elsewhere. i created a non-linear photo-essay culminating in a final installation based on this concept. these elsewheres are not necessarily distinct physical places, but instead several seemingly realistic scenarios of both utopian and dystopian nature. through this project, my goal was to compel the viewer to question the borders between actuality and make-believe in a visual context.
Artist Statement: elsewhere is a body of work that explores the boundaries of real versus imaginary. i strived to capture the subtleties of interior and exterior worlds by creating fictional characters who are placed in situations that appear real, but are instead imagined. thus, these characters live in a world that is neither home nor away, but simply elsewhere.
elsewhere questions what it means for something to exist. what are the limits between real and pretend? what defines oneŐs reality, thoughts, or experiences?
these captured instants rest in the midst of individual narratives. rather than string together a plot throughout the entire body of work, each piece is a paused moment of single stories. i left the viewer to settle the unknown areas of these narratives.
employing photography as my medium, i created worlds that appear real, yet are of my own construction. i utilized photography as a way to bridge the gap between what is real and what is fantasy.
while creating the works i made use of peculiar materials as props to further the otherworldly quality of the images. i chose props by examining the relationship between the model and the prop. strong chemistry between the two is an important element in this project.
as the artist, my goal was to evoke distinct feelings within each piece. i would like the observer to experience an evocative and visceral response to the work. by embodying an unsettling feeling throughout the project, i aspired for the viewer to feel a relationship with the emotions the character is manifesting in the piece. each photograph should resonate with different viewers in varying ways.
Exhibition & Presentation Summary
I first took a photography class in 10th grade. I didnŐt
like it at first, but after many weeks in the darkroom, photography clicked
with me. Since that point, I knew that my Senior Project would be in
photography, but the difficult part was finding a topic to focus on.
Alexis had always said to me that as an artist, one constantly tells the same story through different contexts in their art. So, I embarked on a journey to find the narrative my images tell.
In May of junior year I began brainstorming for my Project. After many days of ruminating over several topics, I wrote on my preliminary proposal that I would create a narrative photo essay concerning life and death that would be called Elsewhere. But, when it came time for us to refine our ideas for our formal proposals, I realized that the theme of life and death was too broad and not something I wanted to focus on. After many more brainstorming sessions with Alexis, I decided that I would choose several bizarre characters from history, such as Opehlia, and illustrate their stories.
I began my Senior Project during the end of June by traveling to Iceland for an intensive photographic workshop with Alexis and six other students. I brought 30 rolls of black and white film and several props with me to shoot.
I did an intense photoshoot with my peers modeling for me at least twice a day for eight days. At the beginning of the trip, I was still shooting my idea of historical characters, but as the trip progressed and I shot more and more, I realized that this idea was not something I was fully interested in or something I wanted to do for my project. For the rest of the trip, I kept on shooting, but it was a little unclear to both me and Alexis as to what my idea was.
Also, when I got back from shooting each day and converted all of my images from the original color to black and white in photoshop, the images looked worse. I realized this was because the colors of the scenery where we were shooting were so beautiful, and turning them to black and white took a lot of dimension away from the images. After a few days of shooting, Alexis and I decided to scratch my idea of printing in the darkroom and keep the entire project in color.
When I got home from Iceland, it occurred to me that I needed to develop my concept fully before I could go on shooting. While thinking about this, I was reminded of my original title for my project, Elsewhere. This word had been in my head for a while, even way before I began my project. I had always been drawn to the idea of Elsewhere, even though I wasnŐt really yet sure what it implied.
I got the idea for my title from a book I had read in middle school of the same name. In the novel, a 15 year old girl dies in a bicycle accident and wakes up in a place called Elsewhere. She quickly learns that in Elsewhere, everyone ages backward until they are babies and return to Earth to be born again.
At first, I thought of the idea of taking this story literally and illustrating it through my own photography, but after thinking about it more, I realized that I wanted to make up my own story instead of following someone elseŐs.
Then, I had an epiphany. I wanted to make up my own stories, but I realized that instead of following one singular narrative throughout all of the images, I wanted each of the photos to tell its own story and have a common theme connect them all. I then decided to have the theme Elsewhere to tie all of my photos together.
This quote by Gregory Crewdson largely inspired the ideas behind my project: Ňi am drawn to photography because of its limitationsÉany storytelling is left an unresolved question. it is not narrative in the conventional sense, but, i am interested in investing the picture with a kind of ambiance of a story. that final story needs to be deciphered and resolved by the viewer.Ó
Once I got home from Iceland and my idea was solidified, I shot a ton. I would get really excited about each shoot before it happened, but once I looked at the images, I would get really frustrated. When Alexis asked to see my work, I would shut down with anxiety. I was afraid that she hated my images and wasnŐt telling me. It was difficult for me to like anything I had done. I was going through a vicious cycle of self-defeatism and anxiety.
The fact that I hated everything I shot made me want to shoot even more so I could eventually get something that I was happy with. So, I ended up shooting at least two to three times a week during the summer.
During the intense process of shooting, I learned a lot about working with models. I worked with a total of 15 models, and shooting each one was a different experience. In the beginning of the project, I didnŐt know what to look for while choosing people to model for me. But, as I shot more and more, I realized what I liked and didnŐt like about each model. As the project progressed, I noticed that I liked to shoot outgoing people because they tended to have a magnetic presence on camera. I also noticed that I gravitated towards people who were not necessarily conventionally beautiful, but people who had a strong appearance and charisma to them.
Over the summer, Alexis and I set goals for me to achieve with my project. They were:
á creating a cohesive body of work that speaks to a concrete concept/theme
á learning photoshop
á curating an art show
á mounting/framing images
á writing an artist statement that is reflective of the project
á touching the audience
Once I got over my initial anxieties about my work, I was slowly able to show my shoots to Alexis. Because I shot so often, I ended up with tons and tons of work. If I combine all of the images I took from each shoot, the total is roughly 15,000 pictures altogether. This made condensing my work a difficult task. Alexis and I had to sift through my work many times in order to figure out which pictures were usable and which werenŐt. We had to brutally edit down the numbers of adequate images until there only a few from each shoot.
Before my Senior Project, I had barely worked with Photoshop at all. I had always printed in the darkroom. Since I originally planned to work completely in the darkroom for this project, I didnŐt expect to have to use Photoshop, and it proved to be a challenge for me. Fortunately, Kerry Sharkey Miller was able to come in and help me make my images presentable. We used several tools which I had never used before, including the brightness and contrast tool, hue and saturation tool, and the levels tool. In the photo above, you can see how we brightened and saturated the yellows and greens in the image, and darkened the sky.
From the beginning of my project, I had always wanted to print HUGE and mount my work onto bamboo. My dream was to fill an entire wall with one photo, but Alexis quickly shot that idea down. Even though I couldnŐt print THAT big, I was still able to print to relatively large sizes, the biggest being 30 by 45 inches.
Because I wanted to print to such large sizes, the editing process became even more difficult. I had to make sure that each photo was edited properly so it would not become pixelated when printed. Kerry and I worked on brightening and sharpening each photo so we wouldnŐt have that issue.
Printing this project was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my life. During the earlier parts of the project, I assumed that this would be one of the easiest parts, and that one could simply press ŇprintÓ on the computer and the photo would magically come out of the printer perfectly, but I was wrong.
The printers we have here at school are only capable of printing up to 17 by 22 inches, so I had to come up with another place where I could print my images at a larger size in a costly manner. My dad is a graphic designer who prints things like this for a living, so I first went to him to see what I could do about printing my project. He reminded me that he himself had an Epson 10,000 printer, which is capable of printing up to 44 inches wide. I thought all of my problems were solved and my dad and I would sit down one weekend and print all of my images out ourselves, but again, I was wrong.
Although my dad had this printer in his possession, it had been sitting in our garage for five years and never had been used. My dad told me that it would be A LOT of work to move the heavy printer from our garage to his office, get hold of the correct inks and paper, set it up to the computer, and finally start printing, on top of his normal workload. He told me that we could try sending my images out to a wholesale poster printing company before we went through all of the work of setting up our own giant printer. I reluctantly agreed.
In mid-December, my dad and I sent one of my images to be printed at a company called POSTER XXL in Queens. But, once I got my initial print back at 30 by 45 inches, it looked horrible. It completely lacked contrast and was printed on the wrong kind of paper. After a lot of persuasion, I convinced my dad that we could set up our own printer together and print my entire project ourselves.
We spent two days setting up the printer. After it was set up, we were finally able to begin printing my images. I was so excited.
It took us two full days to print all of my images. Because there were so many of them at such a large size, it took a long time for everything to be finished. Each print took the printer about one hour to complete. But, once it was finished, my Dad and I were exhausted, but SO relieved.
Figuring out how to mount my images was another difficult task. Although I originally wanted my images mounted onto bamboo, I came to the conclusion that doing that would not be possible due to the high cost. The total would be over 2,000 dollars, which was simply not in my budget.
So, I had to come up with another solution. I looked at many different options, and although I didnŐt want to pursue any of those options, I had to because of the limited time and budget.
I ended up printing the five photos that were 30 by 45 inches onto foamcore, and framing all of the ones that were smaller.
My Dad and I spent a night cutting the foamcore, rolling a sheet of glue onto it, and then carefully placing the photo onto the board for each photo. Even though this sounds like a simple process, it was not. If one tiny thing goes wrong, the entire piece could be ruined. I had to learn to be extremely fastidious, which I am inherently not.
Because I had such a large space and so many walls to fill, (almost the entire basement of the Senior building), it took me a long time to get everything up. Luckily, I had a professional helping me which made the process much easier. Once everything was finished and hung, there was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders and I was ready.
On January 17th, the time had come for me to show my work. Initially, I expected to feel happy and proud of myself, but I actually felt quite the opposite. In the days prior to the exhibition, I had several meltdowns in which I would cry and cry. Although I felt I was crying about things not pertaining to my project, Alexis and I realized that the stem of my meltdowns was the fact that I was experiencing a letdown because my project was over. I had been working so hard towards it for so long, and suddenly everything was over and it was completely out of my hands. Alexis told me that this was a normal thing to feel as an artist, and that I just had to accept the fact that it was over and start focusing on a new project.
Once I attempted to let go of this sadness, I felt better. At 5pm, people started coming downstairs, and I begun to discuss and display my work to others. I didnŐt feel completely satisfied, but, I knew that I had to try my best to not let my anxiety affect me. There was a generally positive response to my work, which made me feel good.
Throughout the course of my project I faced many challenges.
The first and probably most difficult challenge to overcome was anxiety. Anxiety is a major issue that I deal with in my day to day life, so there was no question that I would have a lot of anxiety when it came to my project. As my project progressed, the anxiety would be about different things. No matter little or small, I would always find SOMETHING to be anxious about. These crippling states of worry, that were often based on scenarios that I made up in my own head, would distract me from the real and important things that I needed to get done in order to keep my project going at a good pace. I had to learn, or try to learn to embrace my anxiety and use it as fuel to create art.
Because I was so passionate and obsessive about my project, time management for the project wasnŐt an issue for me because I loved doing everything that I had to do. But, even though I didnŐt procrastinate on my project, the fact that I worked so hard on it left little time for me to focus on my regular homework or college applications, so I procrastinated on those. A lot. I didnŐt start my college applications until October, and I left most of my other tasks to the last minute because I spent so much of my time shooting or working on other aspects of my project. This proved to be a challenge because even though I worked at a perfectly good pace for my project, I had to learn to balance what I loved doing with those things that I didnŐt love as much but still had to do so I didnŐt fall too far behind.
Because I wanted to print at such a large size, technicality played a big part in my project. I am not a detailed-oriented person, so I often overlooked important components of either shooting or editing that would become issues later. Some of the photos that I wanted to print large were either too blurry to use or not in focus. This was because I often shot in low-light situations, making it difficult for me get a crisp focus. I ended up having to take down the size of some of the images I wanted to print big because of this issue.
When it comes to my art, I am really stubborn. I had a hard time making compromises with myself during this project. It was hard for me to let go of the idea of printing the size of a wall and mounting onto bamboo, but I had to because of matters that were out of my control. Although this may sound like a petty problem, when you are an artist with a specific vision in mind for how your show is going to look, itŐs really hard to let it go and come up with an alternative plan.
Additionally, I had to compromise with ending the project. If I had a choice, I would have kept this project going for many more months. I wanted to keep shooting and I had several ideas that I did not get a chance to bring to life because of the time restraints. I had to learn to accept the fact that every project comes to an end, and as an artist, I will most likely never feel like anything is completely finished.
I have learned so much from this project, both as an artist, and as a human being in general. Because of this project, I now understand what I look for in a model. I also learned what I needed to say in order to effectively communicate with and direct the model so we are both happy. I also learned how to direct the model so that his or her relationship with the prop is what I wanted to portray.
Because printing with my dad was such a hands-on experience, I now feel confident in my printing skills. These skills will be useful for me in college, because now I can come home and print (for free!) with little assistance.
Before starting the Post-Production aspect of my project, (editing, printing, and mounting), I did not consider it to be as important as pre production. I valued and enjoyed the creative process, but I assumed that what came after would be easy and not as crucial. But, after seeing what it would look like if I paid no attention to the printing of my work after seeing the print from the wholesale company in Queens, I realized that I needed to appreciate Post-Production just as much as I appreciated the part before it. I discovered that if one does not display their work correctly, it will not translate the vision of the artist properly.
I have never been one to have confidence in my work. I am really hard on myself on purpose so that I continue to grow with my art. Because of this, I discovered that I often project negative feelings onto my artwork, and that this is not a healthy way to go about doing things, because this makes other people feel the same negative vibes. Although I am never satisfied with my art, I want other people to like it, so I had to learn (the hard way) that if I donŐt have confidence in my work, no one else will either.
Throughout this project, I discovered. that photography is my Ňtrue passion.Ó Because I was so obsessive about it, I realized that there is really nothing I would rather spend my time doing. Before I embarked on this journey, I doubted my identity as a photographer, but now I feel much more secure with my self-recognition as a photographer.
Before this project, I was considering pursuing photography in college, but I wasnŐt completely sure that I would. But now, I feel that it is the only thing I would ever study. I have been accepted to both Savannah College of Art and Design and Bard College, and I am waiting to hear back from five other art schools. No matter where I go, I want to follow my passion for photography and hopefully develop a career as an artist.
Batten, Julia. Teenage Stories. Arles: Actes; 2007. Print.
Crewdson, Gregory. Beneath The Roses. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2002. Print.
Gearon, Tierney, and Charlotte Cotton. Daddy, Where Are You? Steidldangin Publishing. 2006. Print.
Hilliard, David, and Charlotte Cotton. David Hilliard: Photographs. New York: Aperture, 2005. Print.
Homes, A. M., and Gregory Crewdson. Another Girl, Another Planet: Julie Becker, Gabriel Brandt, Sarah Dobai, Jenny Gage, Katy Grannan, Dana Hoey, Jitka Hanzlov‡, Sarah Jones, Justine Kurland, Malerie Marder, Liza May Post, Dayanita Singh, Vibeke Tandberg. New York: Lawrence Rubin Greenberg Van Doren Fine Art, 1999. Print.