The Memento Series

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Photography and Makeup by Charlotte Pridding

The other day, I was searching through the files on my computer, where I rediscovered one of my photographic projects from the beginning of last year. I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that these photographs were stored away in my computer and I wondered why I haven’t shared them before.

The project continues to explore my own interpretations of death and the human skull through the application of face paint including black and white self-portraiture. I decided to experiment with different environments / props in order to create a different effect that significantly contrasts with my previous self-portraits, where I have often photographed myself in front of a dark backdrop.

To be honest, the photo shoot provided an excellent opportunity to practise my makeup / face painting skills within a limited timeframe and I randomly decided to include a black sheet at the very last-minute that surprisingly complimented with the face paint and the natural backdrops. Sometimes it’s those last-minute decisions that can deliver some very interesting results!

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I have often wondered what actually happens to the human body after death? Do we find ourselves in a completely different existence or realm all together? It’s quite difficult to explain, as the whole idea or concept in regards to death seems quite ambiguous to me.

I’m particularly fascinated in the interpretation of death within Western culture and I have often wondered whether death or immortality remains a sensitive subject? Is it something that we fear or have we accepted or embraced the idea? While the subject isn’t openly discussed, the contemporary culture is completely saturated with skulls and I often wondered whether it’s original meaning or purpose is diluted through constant repetition? The skull certainly appears as a popular icon that attracts fascination from the public or the consumer.

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It’s hard to tell really, as each person would have their own experiences or perceptions. These self-portraits are used as a way to explore some of these ideas and they also reflect some of my own interpretations that frequently change on a daily basis. While the whole concept of death is rather daunting at times, I have acknowledged that it’s an important part of life itself.

The self-portraits remind me of a life threatening experience a few years ago involving a car accident and I can remember my mind turning completely blank, everything became dark and unfamiliar, as if I was taken to a different place all together. I tried to forget about the incident for a while, although I have discovered that my interest for skulls derives from this particular experience.

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The self-portraits have allowed me to come terms with the accident and the photographs have become a reminder of death, the overall concept reminds me of the Memento Mori. Over the past few weeks, I’ve become fascinated with Susan Sontag’s publication, ‘On Photography’ that explores some very interesting concepts relating to photography and the Memento Mori.1

According to Susan Sontag, “All photographs are Momento Mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify a time’s relentless melt.” 2

I then began to wonder whether it is possible to record my own mortality through my self-portraits? In reference to Sontag, a photograph reflects a particular moment in time, while I’m growing older I can refer back to the younger images of myself. 3 The whole idea just seems surreal to me, I would love to take photographs every year in order to document the process or the journey from life to death.

According to Enrico De Pascale from ‘Death and Resurrection in Art,’ the Memento Mori is a Latin, Medieval concept that was used as a reminder or death and mortality. Many traditional or Renaissance paintings relating to the Memento Mori would normally feature ‘hour glasses, clocks or skulls’ that were used to reflect one’s own mortality. 4

I have had a couple of people who have mentioned that the works appear similar to a Swedish film, known as the Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman; this is quite fascinating, as I only discovered this film after the photo shoot and it’s strange how these things happen! If you are interested in learning more about the Seventh Seal, click on the links below.5

skull5 Overall, the portraits explore the way death can cause anxiety, fear and isolation; they have become a very useful way to confront some of these thoughts and ideas. This is just the very start, as I’m hoping to expand upon these concepts in the next few months.

Check out the Facebook page to view additional images, https://www.facebook.com/BlackCalavera22

References:

1. Susan Sontag. On Photography (USA: Penguin Group 1977) p.15
2. Sontag. On Photography, p.15
3. Sontag. On Photography, p.15
4. Enrico De Pascale, Death and Resurrection in Art (USA: Paul Getty Museum, 2009) p.86-89
5. The Seventh Seal by Igmar Bergman, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0050976/


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