Tag Archives: Black and White Photography

Black and White Skull Makeup Continued

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Yesterday, I shared one of my self portraits with the black and white skull makeup and I thought I would add the rest of the photographs from the series. Once I’ve taken the photographs in the dark laneway, I decided to take some additional photos before I started to remove the makeup. I do enjoy experimenting with the makeup, my aim is to expand or enhance the overall design.

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in my next attempt, I would create a different shape for the teeth and I would add some additional shadows around the eyes or the jaw line. In some of my previous posts, I have discussed my interpretations of death via black and white photography, I have highlighted the most crucial elements so I thought I would keep this particular post relatively short and simple. If you are interested in viewing the previous posts, just click on the link here for Death & the Photographic Image Part I and Part II

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Towards the end of the night, I smudged the makeup in order to created a distressed or deteriorated effect that did create some interesting results. When I view the images, I sometimes can’t believe that I’m the person in the image, I’ve become my own personal representation of death. This is my first attempt with the black and white skull makeup in about two or three years and the photo shoot has provided an excellent opportunity for me to practise, I intend to continually develop or enhance the design.

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The photographs are inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe’s Self Portrait, 1988 and the artist passed away in 1989 from AIDS, as referenced by the Tate Gallery Website.1 At first, I was fascinated with Mapplethorpe’s black and white self-portrait and the surrounding darkness definitely isolates the artist’s own face and his skull shaped cane; these particular elements have a profound effect in regards to my perceptions of death.

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I regularly associated death with darkness and the reduction of colour or movement, although it’s so hard to articulate the ending of life, as there are so many different explanations. I have repeatedly mentioned these thoughts over the past couple of years and it will be interesting to see if these ideas will progressively change over time.

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Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photographs and I have a surprise that I’m really excited about! I can’t wait to share the details!

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1. Mc Ateer, Susan, Tate Gallery, “Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, 1989,” (Accessed 5/2/15) http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/mapplethorpe-self-portrait-ar00496/text-summary


Self Portraits become distressed and decayed

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Last Friday, I uploaded some self-portraits that I’ve taken in one of Melbourne’s deserted laneways, today I thought I would share some of the photographs that I have destroyed. I’ve undertaken a project / experiment where I’ve ripped or destroyed my own self-portraits using water and cello tape in order to determine whether these alterations increase my connection to death.

The modifications definitely provide a distressed, sinister appearance and I can’t believe that I’m the person in the image, I’ve destroyed the image of myself in order to create a different effect.I have often placed the smooth image opposite the decayed version in order to observe the process or the progression, this experiment often reminds me of a body slowly decaying into a corpse, which is something I’ve mentioned before in my previous posts and this is one particular thought that will continually reoccur when I view these images.

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The scariest thought is the realisation that  I’ll start to decay or deteriorate once I’m dead and I’ve discovered that there is a similar parallel with the images that I’ve destroyed. At first, the photograph features a smooth, polished surface until it’s destroyed into something imperfect, flawed or decayed.

This is a really challenging task for me, as I will spend a long period of time preparing the make up for the photo shoot, installing the equipment and taking the photographs of myself. I often whether death is meant to feature a smooth, flawless or polished appearance? To me personally, I am able to establish a closer association to the concept of death through my distressed images, all the imperfections elevate the context of the work, the process from life to death isn’t a perfect experience.

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The images remind me of my car accident back in 2010, where I sandwiched between two other cars, I was lucky to be alive actually. While I crumple the image in-between my hands, I continually remember the car crumpling into a square box, this was a very close encounter to death and I actually thought I would die in a matter of seconds. Destroying the images has become a reminder of my experience and the overall process has allowed me to face this memory instead of trying to forget everything all together.

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Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased with my initial photographs although I do enjoy observing the smooth or polished surface of the image progressively transforming into an element of decay or deterioration. When I’ve crumpled the image, the texture provides a very interesting effect to the overall portrait and I’ve also rubbed the paper together in order to transfer the ink to another area of the photo, this technique also creates some very intriguing results.

There was one stage, where I experienced a printing error and the default created some very interesting filters with one of my photographs. Instead of throwing the photograph away, I wondered if I could use the image somehow. I crumpled the photograph and the texture complimented the colours, I don’t normally work with colour, although I thought this would be an interesting experimentation.

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While I have established a closer connection to death through the reduction of colour, the filters as well as the uneven textures do present a level of decay or destruction. There are certain scenarios, where accidents or defaults can work in your favour, it’s interesting to utilise these mistakes and transform them into something interesting.

There is another distressed photograph that produced some very interesting colours featuring blue and orange and I purposely set the white balance incorrectly in order to determine whether the adjusted settings would create a different effect. These experimentations do create some very interesting styles that are worth exploring further or later down the track. I often reuse the same image in order to determine what I can create something interesting all together, there is just so much to explore, stay tuned!

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Photographic Self-Portraits: Death and the Photographic Image II

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In one of my previous posts, I uploaded some self-portraits / test shots that I’ve taken in a deserted laneway in North Melbourne. I painted a skull onto my face with some black and white makeup along with the Kryolan Supracolors and I visited same location for my scheduled photo shoot. I decided to assign myself with a challenge and I began to take the photographs of myself around 9pm at night, the lamp posts provided some additional lighting that successfully illuminated the dark laneway behind me.

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About a couple of weeks ago, I briefly mentioned Susan Sontag’s theories in regards death and the photographic image. Sontag explains that a photograph has the potential to capture a “person’s mortality” and these explanations have invited me to consider my own interpretations of death.1 When I am standing still in front of the camera, I become completely motionless and the experience reminded me of death, I am confronted with the idea that the living body will eventually turn into a lifeless corpse and I have wondered whether death or the end of life results in darkness or complete silence. Sometimes I’ll view the images and I can’t even recognise myself, I’ve become something entirely different, the images have become a deathly version of myself, a persona or an alter ego.

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The lamp-post created some very interesting colour combinations including blue, yellow, green and even orange, although I decided to change the images to black and white in order to establish my connection or association with death. A couple of years ago, I realised that the reduction of colour enhanced my association to death and my thoughts / opinions haven’t changed significantly during this particular time, this is quite an interesting discovery!

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There was on particular moment during the shoot when the wind lifted my black cloak that successfully produced some very interesting photographs. When I viewed the images on-screen, I discovered at least five self-portraits that appear fairly similar to one another and they do work well as a series ,this would be another interesting idea for a stop motion animation. These images would work well as a story documenting the process of death, this is another concept I intend to explore further.

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The graffiti in the background does provide a very interesting element and I intend to expand upon this project; using some other venues or locations across the city would be perfect! This is just the start anyway, I’m hoping to deconstruct or destroy these photographs in order to elicit the notion of death and decay. I hope you enjoy the photographs, stay tuned!

References

1.Susan Sontag. On Photography (USA: Penguin Group 1977), 15

http://kryolan.com.au/products/supracolor


Work in Progress: Death and the Photographic Image

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About a couple of weeks ago, I began to draw a skull onto my face with some black eyeliner, eyeshadow and a very pale foundation. This is my first attempt in about two years and I thought I would practise applying the makeup onto my face before I move onto something more elaborate. I decided to take a few test shots around North Melbourne in order to search for the most appropriate locations and backdrops for a potential photo shoot. Back in 2013, I have taken some self-portraits at the beach in Airey’s Inlet and I thought it would be interesting to take some photographs within the city.

I began to question whether the makeup impacts my perception of death and the human skull? As soon as I create the eye sockets, I begin to realise that death is inevitable, unavoidable, yet so ambiguous; the end of life will eventually occur and my skull will eventually surpass my very own existence.

At times, I am slightly perturbed by the idea, although there are certain stages of the makeup process, where I’ll concentrate on the actual design or the application. There are times, where I won’t think about death until I’ve taken the photograph, as I have the time to go back and reflect upon the overall process. It really depends on my mood or my surroundings, as my interpretation in regards to death changes on a daily basis.

I decided to take some photographs / self-portraits opposite the train station, as well as an empty alleyway that I discovered on my way home. I decided to take some test shots and I intend to revisit the same location for the photo shoot, I was surprised with the results and I was pleased with the photograph next to the train tracks, hopefully I can expand upon this particular idea.

When I viewed the photographs on my computer, I began to realise that the images capture a younger version of myself, I have aged since the time the photo was taken. The overall concept has invited me to consider the idea that every day, every month and every year is another step closer to death.

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In one of my previous posts, I briefly mentioned Susan Sontag’s publication, ‘On Photography’ that explores the camera’s ability to capture one’s own mortality.1 According to Sontag, “photography is the inventory of mortality. A touch of a finger now suffices to invest in a moment with posthumous irony.”2 Sontag’s theories have invited me to question whether my self-portraits will continue to exist after my death?

Have I managed to capture my own mortality through these self-portraits? As I mentioned before, the self-portraits have invited me to explore my ageing process, while the person in the photograph remains young forever, I’ll continue to age everyday until I face the inevitable. The end of life and the beginning of death is such a natural, yet disturbing idea that I do find particularly fascinating and perplexing.

Sontag does explore some very interesting concepts relating to the connection between death and photography. The author refers to Roman Vishnic who has taken photographs of the ‘ghettos in Poland’ during the early 1930’s and Vishnic realised that the people / civilians would eventually ‘perish’ or disappear.3 Sontag explains that “photographs state the innocence, the vulnerability of lives heading toward their own destruction, and this link between photography and death haunts all photographs of people.”4

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I agree with Sontag’s theories, as I am haunted by this particular idea and it’s often strange to realise that the people in the photograph or the image will eventually die, everyone will die at some stage including myself.5 In a way, the self-portraits resonate a connection to death and mortality, although I have wondered what would happen to the image if I destroyed the physical surface of the photographic print.

I decided to take a closer look at my self-portraits and I realised that the photographs were very smooth and I decided to destroy the physical surface of the print in order to establish a closer connection to death. I decided to crumple the images and rub the paper together; as a result the ink from the printer tarnished certain areas of the images and the experiment successfully created a distressed effect.

In 2012, I decided to destroy my images using water, cello tape, paint and chalk in order to present the notion of decay and disintegration; I have decided to continue the project in order to determine whether these ideas or concepts have progressed since the beginning of 2012.

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I do prefer the distressed images, as they successfully establish a greater connection to death. I cannot imagine death as a smooth, perfect or pristine image, I imagine death as a body slowly decaying or disintegrating into a decomposing corpse. I believe the images can be destroyed even further in order to establish this particular style, at the moment I’m just exploring different concepts.

Ripping or crumpling the photographic portraits distorted my self-image and the backdrop, when I viewed the images in the laneway, I noticed that the colour has changed to a brown / sepia tone. I actually prefer this particular effect and the change of colour adds to the level of decay, maybe it is possible to find a connection to death through monochromatic or sepia tones.

I have often questioned what happens to the body after death, can the photographic image portray the process of decomposition? This is what I intend to explore over the next few weeks and sometimes it is really difficult to destroy something you’ve created yourself, although it would be interesting to see what happens over time, will these images change in some way? I am really interested to see where this project will take me, this is all I have for now but stay tuned for further updates!

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. Sontag, “On Photography” p.15
5. Sontag, “On Photography” p.15


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/


Black & White Sugar Skull Part II

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15/1/13 Work in Progress Part II

In my previous post I have explained that the sugar skulls have provided inspiration for my black and white self portraits. Over the past week or two, I have been decorating the sugar skull moulds I produced last year; the floral patterns around the eye sockets have inspired me to reproduce this particular design for my self portraits.

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I do prefer using the black backdrop as the surrounding darkness does provoke an emotional response. These photographs I have uploaded are very dark compared to the photographs in my previous post; to me the darkness becomes a reminder of death. Something very strange had happened to me the other night; as I continued to stare at my self portraits, I was disturbed at the fact that I was looking at another version of myself. It’s a strange feeling when you view a photograph of yourself and you begin to see a completely different person.

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In a way I have created a character, a persona that emerges from my own self portraits. I then begin to wonder, what would I look like if I was dead? Would I just be buried in a coffin, surrounded by darkness? The Mexican sugar skulls on the other hand have become an area of interest for the past 12 months; the sugar skulls are associated with the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico where death becomes just as important as life itself. I have been fascinated with the fact that the Day of the Dead is portrayed in vibrant colours and designs; I have always associated death with black and white.

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In my own photographic work, I have decided to replicate the sugar skulls via black and white self-portrait photography. As a result, the absence of colour does provoke a response towards death. In this particular project, I have combined both Mexican and Western / European perspectives of death.

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I have also realised that the dark backdrop does distort the shape of the face, the backdrop almost creates a triangular shape, which also creates a rather interesting effect. While some of the photos are blurry; this effect does add a distressed appearance to my self portraits, it does impact my own understandings of death.

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