Ross School - Senior Projects 2011


Student: Sara Salaway

Mentor: Alexis Martino

Domain(s): Media






Title: Unrequited


Unrequited is an abstract narrative about the unicorn as a metaphor of fleeting hope and desire. Throughout my project I created imagery that represented the darker side of my emotional connection to desire. In many of the images sexual tension was juxtapositioned against alluring backgrounds. The over arching theme was the chase to catch to the unicorn.


Images (Senior Photos/IMG_0099.jpg, Senior Photos/IMG_0100.JPG, Senior Photos/IMG_0101.JPG, Senior Photos/IMG_0102.jpg, Senior Photos/IMG_0103.jpg, Senior Photos/IMG_0104.jpg, Senior Photos %232/IMG_0108.JPG, Senior Photos %232/IMG_0109.jpg, Senior Photos %232/IMG_0110.JPG, Senior Photos %232/IMG_0111.jpg, Senior Photos %232/IMG_0112.JPG, Senior Photos %232/IMG_0113.jpg, Senior Photos %232/IMG_0114.JPG, untitled folder/IMG_0105.jpg, untitled folder/IMG_0106.JPG, untitled folder/IMG_0107.jpg)






         My original idea was to recreate and capture the feeling and culture of the 1960's in America through photography. I have always been really interested in this time period, most specifically when related to art and music. I thought as long as I was doing something I enjoyed, photography and the 1960's, I would have a very successful project………that turned out to be false.

         When I began shooting, sometime in late September, I realized how broad my subject was and that I really did not feel as passionate as I thought about this subject. I became really frustrated and so did my models because I wasn’t giving them an idea of what I wanted from them. I had originally wanted my images to be somewhat eerie and surreal and I realized I could not achieve this through the subject of the 1960's. I went to my mentor Alexis with my troubles and we started to brainstorm about other subjects I could focus on. Alexis had read a children’s book about unicorns the night before…..I’m not quite sure why, I tend not to question Alexis….. and mentioned it to me. I was immediately interested. The book is Song of the Wanderer by Bruce Coville. I ended up reading a few pages of the book and thinking it was incredibly ridiculous and corny I dropped it.

         I then took off on a narrative of my own that I became deeply engrossed in:

This series of images is a narrative that illustrates a relationship between a unicorn and a despondent girl. The unicorn personifies a sense of hope that is unattainable to her. The unicorn is fleeting, as it drifts in and out of her reality. As the unicorn is just beyond her reach, the reality of the unattainable desire becomes apparent. With the reality of the inaccessibility, the girl turns angry and violent towards the object of her desire. The unicorn does not mind the violence, but takes pleasure in it. With that begins a journey of despair for the girl in her search for hope.

         I have always been interested in mythology and fairytales and became increasingly interested in unicorns throughout this project. I feel that unicorns have this immense power, and I felt this even before the project, and yes, I do know unicorns are not physically real but I do believe that the qualities they posses show themselves through other forms and media.

So I decided to get 15-20 images based on my narrative for the unicorn.

         So before each shoot I would have to schedule a time and day with my model and a horse, which, proved to be very difficult. Once everything was planned I had to create a shot list and prop list for the images I wanted to get from the shoot and the props I would need for the shoot such as the unicorn horn and dresses for the girls.

         Once I shot I went through my images and chose the ones that followed the narrative best and made small work prints out of them. At the end of the project I went through my work prints and chose the best images and printed them on a large scale.

         To get more input on my images I sought for an outside consultant. My mom had just seen an add or something at the Ricco Maresca gallery in the city featuring a photographer she thought I might like. His name is Gerald Slotta and lo and behold mother knows best, because I fell in love with his work. I was able to set up an appointment with Gerald and he gave me his complete honest opinion about my portfolio. Once I began shooting the unicorn I would show him what I had and he helped me a lot to try and figure out what I needed more of and what I didn’t. I met with him a couple of times, which was EXTREMELY helpful, as well as the owners of the gallery Frank Maresca and Roger Ricco.

         Finding the unicorn horn was really difficult. I could only find one horn made for a horse online at Etsy, but it did not come with a strap or anything to actually keep it on the horse.

         When I first began shooting I did not have the horn but once I got it I found it a lot more difficult than I had expected. The horn looks somewhat like a carrot, which was really unhelpful because the horses kept trying to eat it. Once I got the horn on I guess the horse realized how silly it looked and tried to knock it off every time I got it up so I'd say it was probably the fastest shooting I've ever had to do.

Working with horses even without the horn was very difficult to do. They are very impatient creatures and it's very difficult to let them be free because they tend to run away. My models were usually the owner of the horse so they were able to get the horse back but a lot of chasing and treat giving took place.

Scheduling with my models and horses and conveying my message was very difficult. Conveying the narrative to my models is always a difficult task for me because it is like letting someone into a part of my brain and showing them how I think, it’s very personal. Also the image I want is always transforming and growing and I like to work off of my models so it’s difficult to input the feeling I have, into them.

         Printing was a REALLY big issue because I had never printed on 16'' x 20'' paper, not to mention fiber paper. Printing on large paper is very threatening. Printing on fiber paper has to be so precise because the paper is so expensive so you want to use as little of it as possible and make little mistakes. It's also very sensitive because the water temperature changes how it develops the image and its so delicate that picking it up the wrong way can put a dent in it that will not go away.

Changing my idea and narrative put me way behind schedule so that was extremely difficult to deal with, and that brings me to time management, which was a huge issue for me. I didn't finish shooting until December, which is also when I had to start printing. I pretty much did everything at the last moment and it made me incredibly stressed, but I do work better under pressure.     

         I discovered that I am not a fastidious person AT ALL. I do not really pay attention to small details and happen to be really clumsy and got a few cuts on the way.

I also discovered the difficulties of shooting horses; I don't think I will be doing it again any time soon.

I had difficulties staying true to the narrative because I had all these images in my head but some did not pertain to the narrative.

When working with Alexis it is really good to carry stress balls around because I discovered that ALEXIS can be VERY TERRIFYING. I didn't let it get to me too much but she definitely kept me on track. Another thing I learned about Alexis is that she is very twisted and corrupt.......and so am we make a great team :)

         I got a new camera during this project to capture the feeling I wanted. I bought a Diana camera, which is a toy camera and makes images dream like and makes it very easy to overlap images. I had a lot of difficulties learning how to use this camera and getting things perfect since it is a toy camera, but one of the images ended up in the final series

I have learned how to work with horses and I wouldn’t say that I have mastered how to photograph them but I am definitely better than I was at the start.

I acquired new darkroom skills for printing on larger fiber paper, which is a basic skill that I will need to have for the future to make serious prints.

I have learned how to follow through on a large-scale project and stick to one narrative and make the images true to my narrative.

Things I might have done differently. Start in summer, which Alexis did nag and call and call and call me ….I think this was a learning process for her as well, because she learned how absolutely stubborn I am. Produce more violent images to help the narrative flow more.

Experiment in the darkroom with chemicals and such. Thought more about narrative and develop it.

         My narrative really resonates with me although I am not sure why. When I shoot for fun the images usually wind up being pretty eerie and when I create narratives they are usually pretty twisted and involve death and sexuality. Unfortunately I have had a lot of death in my life and have been through some traumatic events and that seems to come out through my photography much like any other artists personal life would. I have been sticking with this term that I have created to describe my work, which is “deadly lacey victorian.” Hopefully you can make some sense out of that because it makes complete sense to me.

         I have been accepted to Bard and am waiting to hear from Bennington, both of which are my top two schools and both of which are liberal arts colleges. They each have amazing darkrooms and I can pursue photography seriously or as a hobby if I please in college. I am definitely thinking about minoring in photography because it is such a huge part of my life and it makes me happy but I am not quite sure yet if I would want to major in it because being a photographer doesn't really have a bright future at the moment. If I do have a career in photography I hope to create more narratives and conceptual works because I feel like I have a story to tell and I want my audience to be struck by my images and maybe even disturbed. As Mrs Cross quotes each year, “My role is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”


Works Consulted

Andy Warhol America. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1985.


Authors, Various. Words Without Pictures. Los Angeles: Aperture, 2009.


Baldwin/Jurgens. Looking at Photographs. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2009.


Chambers, Tom. Tom Chambers 2010. 2010 <>.


Coville, Bruce. Song of the Wanderer. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999.

Fine Art America. 14 January 2009. 2010



Goldblatt, David. American Suburb X. 2009. 2010 <>.


Inc., Good Reads. Mila Kundra Quotes. 2011. 2011 <>.


Maresca, Ricco and. Gerald Slota. 2010. 2010 <>.


Marsh, Tony Nourmand and Graham. Film Posters of the 60's. London, 1997.

Owens, Kevin. All About Unicorns . 2011. 2010 <>.


Phaidon. The Photo Book. New York: Phaidon Press Limited, 1997.


Taschen. A History of Photography. Los Angeles: Taschen, 2005.


Outside Consultant


Gerald Slota photographer.