Friday, June 5, 2009

7 Deadly Sins

7 Deadly Sins
“These pictures may engage us with emotive subjects, but out sense of what the photographers’ emotion might be is not the obvious guide to understanding the meaning of the images. The emphasis, then, is on photography as a way of seeing beyond the limitations of individual perspective, a way of mapping the extent of the forces. Invisible from a single human standpoint, that governs the man-made and natural world. Deadpan photography may be highly specific in its description of its subjects, but its seeming neutrality and totality of vision is of epic proportions.” (Cotton, 81)
My work for this project is largely inspired by the deadpan aesthetic and there are many choices I made in the creation of the idea as well as in the way I choose to shoot each individual that was inspired by deadpan work and the Deadpan chapter (chapter 3) in the book, “The Photograph as Contemporary Art” by Charlotte Cotton. As you look at the portraits I have taken, without even knowing what the project is about, you can see the detachment of me as the photographer from my subjects and the way they are presented to show their emotion in a very matter of fact and straight forward way. Another way that the deadpan aesthetic has influenced the appearance of my project is my selection of rather stark and plain surroundings that act as a neutral aspect of the picture. There is nothing in the backgrounds that can distract from the emotion of the subject. The viewer is then forced to focus on the subject and to take the time to read their emotion and to try to understand what is going on and what the models are thinking.
I am inspired by work such as ‘Muazez’ created in 1998 by Celine van Balen. Van Balen’s portraits of residents in temporary accommodation in Amsterdam include a series of head-and-shoulder portraits of Muslim girls. Her choice of the stark, deadpan aesthetic to represent the girls emphasizes the self-possession with which they confront her camera and their presence in contemporary society. Her stunning portraits do not show her relationship with the individual as a photographer, you are given a more objective and straight forward view of these girls and as a viewer you are able to focus on the emotional feel of the work and to think about these girls rather than wonder what the photographer is doing or trying to say.
For my project which I have given the title “The 7 Deadly Sins” I picked 7 different models and gave each of them one of the 7 deadly sins as well as specific directions for the shoot. One week before each of the models posed for me, I asked them to write a story about their experience with the sin I gave them. They were to think of the ways this sin has affected their life and also to think about how it makes them feel today to think back on that memory. After that, each model read their story to me and allowed me to capture their reaction to their own story and to try to capture the way they feel about the sin and their experience with it.
The 7 deadly sins are; Pride/Vanity, the excessive belief in one’s own abilities that interferes with the individual’s recognition of the grace of God, It has been called the sin from which all others arise. For this sin, Laura told a story about her refusal to follow the rules of her parents and doctors just so she could wear excess amounts of makeup because she believed she was so skilled at applying it, and looked so good with it on that she did not care what the consequences were. The second sin is Envy, the desire for others’ traits, status, abilities or situation. For this portrait, Ryan told a story of his envy of athletes and their natural abilities and the wealth that they can bring. The third sin is Gluttony; this is the inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires. For this portrait she told a story about her consumption of cigarettes and alcohol when she had nothing better to do. Lust is the fourth sin and it is where an individual has an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body. Lauren told a story about her desires to be with an unknown individual and her extreme draw towards him that she could not always resist. The fifth sin is Anger/Wrath and it is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts for fury. For this, Jaci told a story about her angry outburst towards her stepmother one day after her feelings has built up over time and she was pushed into a situation she was uncomfortable with. The sixth sin is Greed, that is where the desire of material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual, It can at times also be called Avarice or Covetousness. For this, Kerry told a story of her intense desire for attention when she was younger and how she would do anything to take the attention of her parents away from her siblings. She was envious when they got any attention and anything her parents gave her was never enough, she always wanted more. The seventh and final sin is Sloth; this is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work. The model, Scott, told a story about his laziness when applying for college and how he wishes he would have tried harder to get into a better school and to have done more research to find a school that was perfect for him rather than one that he knew would accept him without an essay or much work on his part.
This project was a very interesting one to do because I was able to hear stories and talk to people about things that would have never come up in normal conversation, I learned a great deal about each person who modeled for me and we bonded though this awkward and somewhat emotional experience. I am grateful for that experience alone because as they told their stories and told me of their regrets or worries, I was able to think about my own life and reevaluate my actions and sins. After telling me their story, the expression on each person’s face would change many times, there was often a time where they wanted to put up a strong front and act like this story was not a big deal and they were perfectly ok with this actions and then slowly, their real emotion would break through and they would show me, just for a second how they really felt and how it had pained them to think of their sins. It makes me think of how every person carries around such burdens and holds in all these emotions and regrets about their actions or desires in the past and how they shape whom that person becomes in the future.
Another artist whose work has inspired me is Thomas Ruff, especially his work in 1998 a series he shot of his friends and family called “Portrait”. In the book by Charlotte Cotton, she said, “Ruff asked his subjects to remain expressionless and look straight at the camera. At the same time as offering great detail in the sitters’ faces, right down to the hair follicles and pores in their skin, the works’ blank expressions and lack of visual triggers, such as gesture, confound or expectations of discovering a person’s character through their appearance.” (Cotton, 106) The way he positioned his models and the detail he worked to preserve is something that I wanted to show in my portraits as well, I knew if I were to shoot my seven models in this way it would be easier to read their expressions and to see if you can tell how they feel about their sin based off of this hint of an expression.
I feel that this project has opened my eyes to the regrets, fears and feelings of others and it has allowed me to sit down with people and talk about an emotional time in their life and capture that with my camera. My goal for this project was to see what sort of emotion I could get from each person and to see if they change through out the story and through out the shoot. I was able to see these people go from relaxed and carefree to full of guilt and at times shame. This was a powerful thing for me and it is my hope that the viewer will be able to see what I saw and to understand and learn something about this person that they have never met before. I also hope that the viewer will be intrigued and able to compare the expressions and to get an impression of the models emotion and reaction to their story.

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connie said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. I love reading your thought process for these photos. I love them!

Mark said...

Very introspective and thought provoking. We all carry sins and we think we are only one with those ideas. Very well written and expressed.

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