Insight into My Process

Recently, I have gotten a lot of questions about what exactly my art "means" and how I create it 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 thought process for this project:

This is a selection of some of the items I use in my photographs.

This is a selection of some of the items I use in my photographs.

  • 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 art 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 in any of these things. I am simply referencing how things have been or are perceived. This is my interpretation only.

First Images and Subsequent Failure

Even though I thoroughly enjoy the research process, creating art is what I'm meant to do so it wasn't long before I started fiddling around in the studio. If I'm honest, my first pieces were terrible and lacked depth or meaning. But I also understood that I needed to make those first as part of the process so that I could get to something that truly conveyed my message. 

One of the very first pieces I created for this project.

One of the very first pieces I created for this project.

I think that often people (myself very much included) are afraid of failure and so they don't even start. I knew that I would probably fail, a lot, but I tried to keep the bigger picture in mind and see the whole process as necessary to get where I wanted to be. So yes, my first pieces sucked, and I was frustrated and impatient about it. 

But I kept at it and slowly I started to see progress. I have an internal rubric that I use to evaluate my art. First, does the photograph give me a shiver of excitement and enthusiasm to keep creating? Then, does it convey the message I was intending and does it fit in with the body of work as a whole? And then I consider the technical aspects. Is it sharp/in focus? Does the composition and lighting work? 

If a work of art meets all of these criteria, I keep it. If it fits the first two but not the third, I will either try to redo it or use it as a jumping off point for new image. 

All of my "failures" ended up being totally worth it because they got me to the point where I am today. To see the progress I have made so far keeps me excited for what I will create next.

Get some insight into my process here.