Recently, I have gotten a lot of questions about what exactly my images "mean" and how I create them so I thought I would attempt to offer some insight into what goes into each image.
I've talked about some of this in my statement but I'll briefly reiterate my "general guidelines" for this project:
- I primarily work with rich, jewel tone colored fabrics for the background. This is my nod to traditional oil paintings, many of which featured nude women.
- I use one constant light source. I have worked extensively with flash but choose to use a constant light because I've had too many instances where the flash didn't go off and it really came down to not wanting to have to mess with the light so that I would be free to focus on the other aspects of image creation.
- How I select the objects that I use is a little tricker to explain. It began with thinking about and researching what kinds of things have traditionally either represented being female/femininity or were considered traditionally feminine. For instance, white pearls often symboled purity and are traditionally worn by women. I then began to expand my definition to include things that were in some way special/significant/important to women that I care about. For instance, my sister lent me her wooden elephant that doesn't necessarily symbolize femininity but it is significant to her and so I used that in several images. Some of the objects belong to myself or are significant to me in some way. I have always loved flowers and herbs and plants in general. A man will often give flowers to a woman he admires or cares about. Learning and understanding the symbolic language of flowers has been popular for quite some time. Overall, it's a very intuitive process that is difficult to put into words although my guiding principle is to use things that have meaning and importance associated with them.
- Then comes the part that is really difficult to explain - setting up the arrangement that I will then photograph. I keep everything that I have on hand to use in a photograph laid out in my studio so that I can easily see everything. I usually have something on my mind, whether it be related to current events, or a past or contemporary feminist who I find very inspiring, or even something I encountered in my daily life that I use as a guiding force for the image. I then think about what kinds of images I have recently created and often try to take a different direction with the new image. I know that I will end up repeating themes (which keep the images consistent) but by pushing past what I have already photographed, I think it keeps things interesting and varied.
I often combine symbols or show them in a way that I think could be interpreted in a variety of ways. My main goal is to challenge traditional representations of femininity or what it means to be female/feminine. To me, the best way to do this is to leave some ambiguity in the images. Why is the pink ribbon cut in that image? Does it mean a loss of innocence? Or is it about being cut off from your femininity? Or something completely different? I leave that decision up to the viewer.
Disclaimer: When I say that something is traditionally considered feminine or in the realm of the female, I am by no means saying that men shouldn't or can't or don't partake of any of these things. I am simply referencing how things have been or are perceived. This is my interpretation only.