Tag Archives: Makeup

UV and Black Light Sugar Skull Designs


#1 UV Sugar Skull Body Paint by Matt Deifer – http://goo.gl/mcsOEM

Last Week, I discussed my favourite sugar skull makeup designs that feature a range of highly creative and decorative patterns or styles. Over the past few days, I’ve discovered a series of sugar skull designs that are created with ‘ultraviolet / black light responsive makeup and body paint.’ These particular materials do create some spectacular, fluorescent patterns that provide a very artistic depiction of the Mexican Sugar Skulls.

While there is a limited number of UV or black light sugar skull makeup designs online, I’ve discovered at least ten different styles that feature a high level of detail, intricacy and craftsmanship. At first, I struggled to search for some of the artist’s names or websites and I’ve spent a good few hours searching for all the relevant information. It’ll be interesting to see whether the UV sugar skull makeup / body paint becomes a fashionable or popular trend, only time will tell. The black light and UV paint would definitely compliment your next Halloween outfit or celebratory event, you’ll immediately stand out from the crowd.


#2 UV Sugar Skull Makeup by Krystaltips – http://goo.gl/K9r6Vv

What is Black Light Paint?

Before we get started, I thought I would briefly discuss the concept behind back lights or black light reactive paint. I initially researched UV makeup, although I suddenly discovered the term, ‘backlight’ that did create some confusion to begin with. According to Mark Chervenka, black light is another term or definition for ultraviolet light that is “invisible to the human eye.” However, the black light converts the fluorescent source into a “visible light” that features a different “wave length” compared to the lamps / electrical equipment within our households, as referenced by Chervenka.1

The black light is used for a range of creative or artistic purposes that does produce some fantastic results within a dark environment. David Cay Johnston from the new York Times explains that Joseph and Robert Switzer invented the visible, ‘fluorescent paint’ that is commonly known as Day-Glow. Robert Switzer severely injured his left eye, while he continued to unload packaged goods and he was confined to a dark space; this inspired the young chemistry student to experiment or research UV lighting.


#3 Hybrid Black Light Sugar Skull by DRE Images – http://goo.gl/0U7sP5

According to Johnston’s article, the paint was used for the ‘warplanes’ during the Second World War that enabled the troops to “operate at night from aircraft carriers in the pacific.” The armed forces used ‘bright panels’ in North Africa in order to highlight their goodwill or friendliness to “Allied Dive Bombers.”2

David Johnston suggests, “ultraviolet light goes in and its energy is converted into visible light emitted by the chemicals in the paint, creating the bright fluorescent quality.”3 The technical procedures and the back story is fascinating; the black light paint is now used for many artistic, creative and inspiring projects including the bright and colourful sugar skull designs.


#3 UV Sugar Skull Makeup by Agnieszka Grzelak – http://goo.gl/clKG0V

Black Light Photography

I’ve recognised many photographs that display black light or UV lighting and I began to research the actual process or equipment used in order to create these particular effects. Don Krajewski from the XOIND Studios recommends using a ‘black light’ in order to highlight the intended ‘subject’ as well as a particular material that will react to the black light. Krajewski also suggests experimenting with the manual camera settings including the exposure, ISO and lighting as well as the distance in order to achieve an artistic or stylised effect.

Krajewski’s article features some very useful suggestions or recommendations that’s definitely worth viewing if you are interested in UV / black light photography. WARNING: If you wish to experiment with this particular lighting, just be careful with the type of lights you are using, as there are certain sources who claim that UV Lighting / black lights can burn the skin, cause cataracts and radiation. Krajewski suggests UV-A lights for photography and this particular light source is often used for clubs or other specific environments; overall the article does provide some very knowledgable advice, it’s just something to keep in mind anyway.4


#4 Whispering Ghost, Blacklight Makeup by Lotoff – https://500px.com/Lotoff

Black Light: Conclusion

The black light paint and the dark background does provide a very dramatic effect that intensifies the overall style. From a personal perspective, the UV makeup significantly highlights the vibrant sugar skull designs as well as the fine, intricate detail. Lindsay Adler suggests that people may associate black light photography to a ‘party or a rave’ and there are certain elements including motion or movement that can create a level of interest and spontaneity. If the idea is executed in an artistic or creative manner, the image can feature some outstanding effects, although the UV lighting often isolates the main subject, it just depends on the intended meaning or style.5

I began to question whether the UV sugar skulls establish a closer association to death? I personally believe that the vibrant patterns and the dark background provides a very interesting composition between life and death. The decorative designs aestheticize the concept of death and the skull becomes a subject of beauty. This is such an interesting area of discussion that I’ll investigate over the next few weeks.


#5 UV Backlight Sugar Skull by Pieke Roelofs – http://photoandgrime.com/

Since I’ve explore the sugar skulls, the black light paint / makeup has become an area of fascination that has provide a level of inspiration. While, I’ve focused upon the history and the overall process, it’ll be really interesting to continue researching this particular subject. Here are some other designs or photographs I have discovered; this is all for now, although I shall return shortly, goodbye for now.


#6 Brittany Couture – http://goo.gl/Tt5kHs


#7 Duende ‘rfs – https://www.facebook.com/duenderfs


#8 Black Light Sugar Skull Makeup by Katie Alves – http://goo.gl/zxcMdD


#9 Lucy Chippindale – http://goo.gl/SVsj5L


#10 TiffyQuake – http://goo.gl/IAZ89I


1.Chervenka, Mark, Black Light Book (Pittsburgh: The Black Light Book, 2007) p.8 – 13
2.David Cay Johnston, “Robert Switzer, Co-Inventor Of Day-Glo Paint, Dies at 83,” Aug 29, 1997, The New York Times, 2015 (Accessed 18/2/15) http://goo.gl/HWySdw

3.Johnston, “Robert Switzer, Co-Inventor Of Day-Glo Paint, Dies at 83”
4.Don Krajewski, XOIND Studio Blog, “UV or Black Light Photography,” Mar 17, 2012, WordPress Blog (Accessed 18/2/15) http://goo.gl/D4aSN7
5.Adler, Lindsay, Creative 52: Weekly Projects to Invigorate Your Photography Portfolio (San Fransisco: Peachpit Press, 2014) p.77

Top Five Sugar Skull Makeup Designs


Sugar Skull Makeup by Lindsay Hancock 

At the beginning of the year, I explored a range of inspiring, black and white makeup designs featuring the human skull. The post featured my favourite design and I briefly discussed certain patterns or styles that I find particularly inspiring. Today I thought I would briefly analyse five different sugar skull makeup designs that I admire; this task has been rather challenging, as there are so many fantastic styles or designs online. Before we get started, I thought I would briefly mention the cultural associations related to the sugar skull face painting.

Since 2012, I developed a fascination for the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival including the sugar skulls that have significantly increased in popularity within contemporary art and popular culture. I decided to conduct some additional research online, where I discovered hundreds or even thousands of photographs featuring various sugar skull make up designs.

According to Elizabeth Carmichael and Chloe Sayar, these vibrant, hand crafted sugar skulls are designed for the Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration, an annual tradition featuring a range of activities, decorations and memorials that welcome the ‘departed souls.’1 The Day of the Dead is often celebrated on the 1st and the 2nd of November that reflects both European and Pre Hispanic traditions, as referenced by David Carrasco and Scott Sessions in The Daily Life of the Aztecs.2 I began to question the growing interest in the sugar skull makeup, why do we paint a skull onto our face? and why do we choose sugar skulls as the primary design?

Margo DeMello investigates certain activities and decorations that are prevalent within the Day of the Dead celebration including the skull face painting that, “one again, represent the dead symbolically.” According to DeMello, the Spanish were perturbed by the Aztec’s optimistic perceptions of death and “this is reflected in the skull imagery used by celebrants today, which universally feature smiling skulls.”3

This is their most distinctive quality, the sugar skulls are colourful, vibrant and creative; they provide a positive approach to death and the designs have deeply inspired various cultures from around the world. So here are my five favourite sugar skull makeup designs, enjoy!


#1 Black and White Sugar Skull: Blair Earcret and Amanda.A.Hughes

As soon as I conducted my research into the sugar skull makeup / face painting, I was instantly inspired by this particular design. Blair Eacret and Akins Hughes have created an inverted skull and the overall style is very unique compared to the other sugar skull patterns that I have discovered online.

This is one creative, yet intriguing design that immediately captured my attention and the artist(s) have successfully created a very interesting perspective in regards to the sugar skulls through the use of black and white makeup or face paint. There is limited information in regards to the process and I have struggled to search for a website or a social media page. This particular design would work really well as a professional photo shoot or a makeup tutorial!4


#2 Elvis Schmoulianoff: Vegan Makeup Artist

While I was searching through my Facebook news feed, I discovered a very admirable sugar skull design by Elivs Schmoulianoff, a professional makeup artist who sources “cruelty free cosmetics,” as referenced by the artist’s website.5

The dark lines or patterns significantly contrast with the bright, vibrant colours; these particular elements successfully create a very striking design. The yellow and the red just compliment each other perfectly and the dark outlines exemplifies the circular patterns around the eyes, chin and forehead. While the design is beautiful, the eyes or the pupils feature a sinister appearance, which provides a very unique composition.


#3 Sugar Skull Makeup Tutorial by Lindsay Hancock

This is one incredible, yet colourful sugar skull design by Lindsay Hancock who has created a very instructional video tutorial in regards to the overall style. Hancock is a professional makeup artist and stylist from Los Angeles with an extensive modelling portfolio, as referenced by Hancock’s website.6 As I continued to watch the sugar skull tutorial, I was amazed by the different tones, pigments and gradients; they definitely add a very interesting dimension. The final result is very impressive and the photo shoot presents a very shiny complexion that compliments the colourful sequins around the eye sockets and the wig.

This is properly the most colourful sugar skull I have encountered and the style does remind me of a Barbie doll or Nikki Minaj. In one of the photos, Hancock stands in front of a bright, purple backdrop covered in glitter, although the colours are very overpowering at times; In my personal opinion, the makeup does work really well against a white / silver backdrop. Overall the tutorial, the photo shoot and the final result features a very distinctive and eclectic representation of the Mexican sugar skulls.


#4 Sugar Skull Advertisement for Jose Cuervo

Now this particular design was a surprise discovery that caused me to stop everything completely! According to LEVINE/LEAVITT, the sugar skull make up is designed by Alex Box who has ‘collaborated’ with a very talented photographer, known as Dimitri Daniloff in order to create an advertising campaign for Jose Cuervo.7

The patterns and the gradients are very smooth / refined and the elements contrast with the monochromatic colours and the dark backdrop. There are shadows along the model’s cheekbones that definitely adds definition to the design, the actual shape appears relatively similar to the human skull. This is a very fascinating campaign that has inspired me to try the tequila for myself.


# Royal Sugar Skull Tutorial by Jangsara

Last by not least, I present a very informative, yet interesting sugar skull tutorial by Jangsara. The site presents a list of instructions in regards to the shading, the definition and the decorations. The design is minimal compared the other styles that I have researched, although the shading around the cheekbones does remind me of the human skull. The actual shape appears similar to the skull, although the sequins do add a decorative element to the design.

While I do admire the sugar skull makeup, the roses are quite distracting and a simple, dark background would elevate the overall design. If the roses were smaller, they properly wouldn’t interfere with the main focal point. Overall the tutorial and the final result is very inspiring, creative and compelling.8

Overall, these are my favourite sugar skull makeup styles and the decision was incredibly challenging, as there are so many impressive designs to choose from. I’ll intend to create an additional post with all the sugar skull designs that I have recently discovered over the past few weeks. It would be interesting to research some male sugar skull designs as well in order to create some variation. I hope you enjoy the post and stay tuned for further updates.


1.Carmichael, Elizabeth and Sayar, Chloe, The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico, (Texas: Texas Press Printing, 2003) p.6
2.Carrasco, David and Sessions, Scott, The Daily Life of the Aztecs, (California: ABC-CLIO, 2011) p.249
3.DeMello, Margo, Faces around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the Human Face, (California ABC – CLIO, LLC, 2012), p. 58-60.
4.MuchPics, (Accessed 12/2/15) http://goo.gl/NmNW3J
5.Elvis Schmoulianoff: Make Up, Wigs and Body Art, ‘About,’ (Accessed 12/2/15) http://goo.gl/pifYhI
6.Lindsay Hancock, YouTube, “Sugar Skull Makeup Tutorial,” 31 Oct 2012 (Accessed 12/2/15) http://goo.gl/4pBjgG
7.LEVINE/LEAVITT, “Jose Cuervo by Dimitri Daniloff,” Nov 12, 2010 (Accessed 12/2/15) http://goo.gl/CM3gJC
8.Jangsara, “Tutorial: Royal Sugar Skull,” Sept 16, 2011 (Accessed 12/2/15) http://goo.gl/Zd9qcP

New Twitter Page for Black Calavera


Hey there everyone, I finally created a Twitter page! I have wanted to create one for a while but I just needed to find the time, now I’m just getting used to all the different settings…this is kind of fun. I’m specifically using the social media sites as a way to record / reference my inspiration for future blog posts and reviews. I discover so many different artworks and designs featuring the skull, it’s often difficult to keep up with everything.

I thought I would sneak in another photo with me experimenting with the skull makeup, I would love to create some additional patterns / designs and I’ll have all next week to devote to some experimentations, yay. I just need to work on the shadows and the shape of the teeth but I’ll release a post later in the week anyway.

You can now follow me on Twitter, just click on the link below, stay tuned!


Top Five Skull Makeup Designs


‘The Skulls,’ Photo Shoot by Gregory Martins 

Since the very beginning of 2012, I’ve been particularly inspired by the black and white skull makeup and I’ve decided to write a short review / article in regards to five different designs that I’ve discovered online. I decided to search for various makeup designs as a source of inspiration for my upcoming project and I’m aiming to create my own personal style.

I’ve often wondered the signification behind the skull makeup and whether it’s possible to find a connection to death. Is the skull makeup just a popular trend or are we searching for a personal association to immortality? I always find this such a difficult question to answer, as everyone will have their own interpretation. From a personal perspective, death doesn’t have a right or a wrong answer and I am interested to explore the way death or the human skull is interpreted / perceived within the contemporary culture.

In the next upcoming weeks, I intend to explore some of these concepts including my own personal interpretations of death through the application of black and white makeup. Without further ado, here are my favourite makeup designs featuring the skull, there are so many different patterns / styles that I admire, although I’ve decided to narrow these choices down to my top five favourite designs.


#1 ‘Gold Skull Halloween Makeup’ by Paulina Misery

This is definitely my favourite makeup style and the golden skull is very inspiring and compelling. Paulina Misery has created an online makeup tutorial that provides some step by step instructions for the golden skull makeup design; this was inspired by a YouTube video tutorial by Goldiestarling, known as ‘ BEAUTIFUL DEATH: 24 Karat Skull Makeup.’ While the videoclip is very informative, I do prefer Misery’s makeup style and the skull is refined through the use of Kryolan Supracolours that provide an incredible complexion / consistency.

I’m impressed with the photography and the dark cloak successfully contrasts with the golden, metallic skull within the centre of the image; unfortunately I was unable to find the name of the photographer but I’m sure there’s a way to find out. The dark eye sockets, nose and jaw provides the overall makeup design with a very interesting effect or dimension, although the golden, metallic complexion immediately captured my attention.

From a personal perspective, the eye sockets are relatively small and the nose features a stylised appearance, although I personally believe that these particular details provide authenticity to the work as well as a unique, distinctive style. For further information, please click on the link at the bottom of the post in order to view the tutorial.

Paulina Misery, ‘Gold skull Halloween makeup with Kryolan Supracolor,’ blueeyesmakeup, Accessed 1/2/15, http://blueyesmakeup.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/gold-skull-halloween-makeup-with.html

 goldiestarline, BEAUTIFUL DEATH: 24 Karat Skull Makeup, Youtube, Accessed 1/2/15, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRbd3tzp9xQ 


#2 ‘Skeleton Makeup Tutorial’ by Emily Benitez

Emily Benitez has created a ‘skeleton makeup tutorial’ on Youtube that is very informative and easy to follow. The fluorescent highlights, the glitter and the cracks in the forehead are my favourite aspects of the design; these particular elements provide a stylised, distinctive effect. The sharp lines, angles and shadows around the eye sockets successfully compliments with the overall design that provides a unique perspective of the human skull.

According to Benitez, the detail is the most important aspect and I agree, all the corrections create a very artistic appearance or characteristic. Benitez also explains that the “shading provides dentition to the makeup” and I believe that the shading is an integral part of the overall style. Click on the link below to view the video tutorial.

Emily Benitez, ‘Skeleton Makeup Tutorial,’ YouTube, Accessed 1/2/15, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xix826tcc_g


#3 ‘Skull Makeup’ by Catherine Nameless from Kosmetista

I’ve recently discovered this interesting skull makeup tutorial by Catherine Nameless from Kosmetista, although I had to translate the text from Russian to English in order to develop a very basic understanding for the tutorial or article. I was able to follow the process through the photographs that displays Nameless’s unique ‘black and white makeup’ design.

The shading around the teeth and the jaw line provides definition to the overall style and the photographs are incredible. While the eye sockets feature a shiny complexion or appearance, I believe that this particular element creates a unique appearance. Catherine has used the black and white makeup in order to create the bones around the neck and the chest; all of the minor details do create a compelling image and the dark background emphasises the skull within the middle of the photograph.

Catherine Nameless, ‘Skull Makeup,’ Kosmetista, Accessed 1/2/15, http://kosmetista.ru/blog/beautiful_makeup/53532.html


#4 ‘The Skulls’ Photo Shoot by Gregory Martins

At number four, is Gregory Martins’s unique, yet inspiring photo shoot featuring two female models wearing some black and white skull makeup. I admire the cracks around the eye sockets and the forehead, these elements do create a very interesting image. The makeup does appear smudged, although this particular effect does provide a distressed appearance as well as a personalised style.


‘The Skulls’ by Gregory Martins

The makeup is emphasised through the white backdrop, the jewellery and the costumes, although there is one particular photograph that I find absolutely captivating. One of the images features a close up shot of a model with some jewellery draped across her head, although I find myself fixating upon her bright, brown eyes as well as her nose / lip piercings.

From my personal opinion, Gregory Martins has successfully captured the subject’s personality and her hair does create a sense of movement. To be honest, I do admire all of the images from Martins’s collection or photo shoot, I would highly recommend clicking the link below to view the entire series.

Gregory Martins, ‘The Skulls,’ Accessed 1/2/15, http://www.gregorymartins.com.br/305504/5343267/gallery/the-skulls


#5 ‘Halloween Skull Makeup’ by Sandra Holmium

I have discovered this particular image through the Skullspiration website in a post known as ’40 Halloween Skull makeup Ideas’ and I was immediately surprised when the subject opened his eyes, I’m assuming this is an animated gif. At first I struggled to search for the name of the makeup artist, although I finally discovered that the fabulous black and white skull makeup is created by Sandra Holmium and her blog features some very artistic or creative designs.

I do love the shadows and the shading around the lips, jaw line and cheek bones; these particular elements appear realistic. The black and white photograph appears rather creepy, sinister and distressed, this definitely achieves a death-like appearance.

Sandra Holmbom, Accessed 1/2/15, http://rodeo.net/sandraholmbom

Skullspiration, ’40 Halloween skull make-up ideas,’ Accessed 1/2/15, http://www.skullspiration.com/40-halloween-skull-make-up-ideas/

So here is my top five favourites, there are so many different designs, styles and effects that I find inspiring! I will post some of my own skull makeup designs in the next few weeks, I haven’t practised for a few years, although I do have some free time over the holidays to practise and the opportunity will provide some invaluable experience!

I personally believe that the skull has become an area of fascination, although It’s difficult to determine whether the skull is viewed as another popular image or do we view the skull as something quite meaningful, spiritual or even frightening? Only time will tell, this is a subject that I will explore in further detail during the summer holidays. I’m fascinated with the various styles, as well as the artistic depictions of the skull, they’re all so different from one another. If the makeup designs were all perfectly smooth, I believe this would defeat the purpose or the intention to appropriate death all together.

Black & White Self Portraits in Mirror


17/1/13 – Do the Black and White Photos Appropriate Death?

So I have been replicating the sugar skull imagery through the application of makeup and face paint. In these series of self-portriats, I have decided to stand in front of the mirror and take photographs of myself with the face paint. This process is easier then extending my arms in the air in order to take a photograph; I do actually have a tipod but for some reason, I can’t achieve the same results.


I don’t really use the tripod for my own self-portriats, I often like to experiment with various angles and compositions. Just holing the camera is easier than using the tripod; I just keep taking the photographs until I find at least two or three that I am pleased with. The photographs are inspired by Australian photographer, Sue ford who exhibited 47 black and white self-portriats at the Monash Gallery of Art in 2011. Ford’s most important works, including ‘Self-Portriat with Camera’ examine’s the artist’s own identity and self image.


What I do find fascinating is Ford’s an personal statement about her works that is also cited by the ‘Brummels Gallery of Photography, 1974″. Ford explains, “In Time Series I tried to use the camera as objectively as possible. It was a time machine. For me it was an amazing experience. It was until I placed the photograph of a younger face beside the recent photograph that I could fully appreciate the change” (Sue Ford)

It is interesting see the artist ageing through her own self-portriats; In a way, photography does take you back in time, photography documents a younger version of the self. It is quite a strange feeling when I look at myself in my self-portriats; the person in the photograph isn’t the same person I am today. I am constantly ageing, each day is another step closer to death.


This particular idea questions whether the living body is dying each day? In a way my portraits represent death; they represent a person that no longer exists. I’m older than the person in the photograph, I’ve actually aged since I have taken the photograph, I am no longer the same person that I used to be.

The self portraits have invited to explore my own interpretations of life and death. While the photograph documents my own presence, my own physical existence, my bodily being is permanently absent. Is absence an indication of death? I’m still trying to think of an answer for this question, so stay tuned! Enjoy the photographs!

Monash Gallery of Art, “Time Machine, Sue Ford”, Accessed 25/1/13, http://www.mga.org.au/exhibition/view/exhibition/86

“Time Series, 1977″, Brummels Gallery of Art, August 16 – September 9, 1974”, Sue Ford, Accessed 25/1/13, http://www.sueford.com.au/TIMESERIES1974.html

Black & White Portraits inspired by Sugar Skulls Part III


16/1/12 – Darkness

So I have decided to add some more work in progress photos. There was one afternoon, where I did have some free time so I decided to take 387 photographs. The sugar skull makeup does take a few hours to complete and I just keep taking photographs until the sun disappears. I have decided to darken the photographs; this particular effect intensifies my own personal connection to death.


For some reason, I always associate death with darkness; I then begin to wonder how the living body becomes a decomposing corpse. Once the body dies, I believe that the body submerges into complete darkness. My favourite image so far is the one with black and white sugar skull; the skull becomes the main focal paint within the image that contrasts with the makeup as well as the dark backdrop.


The skull does capture my attention immediately as well as the various patterns and designs. My face on the other hand appears to be submerging into darkness; the image does provide a very interesting juxtaposition between the actual sugar skull and the makeup.  I must admit, I was quite difficult to photograph myself with an SLR camera in one hand and a sugar skull in the other. This particular idea did require quite a lot of patience in order to capture a clear image.


When I decorated the sugar skull, I did have a problem with the icing sugar, the mixture was so runny it just decided to just spill all over the place. Instead of
throwing away the sugar skull, I decided to incorporate the mistake into the actual design. The skull does appear to be crying; this particular element does add an interesting effect to the photograph. Here are some more photographs for now, enjoy!

Sugar Skulls inspire Black & White Self Portraits

14/1/12 – Work In Progress

Last week, I decided to practise my makeup style for my own self portraits; over the past few months I have been using makeup and face paint in order to replicate the Mexican sugar skulls. The black and white portraits were apart of my honours research project that explored my own personal interpretations of death. Throughout the project, I discovered that the absence of colour did impact my own emotional response to death; I then began to explore the way the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration differs from Western / European interpretations of death that is often considered as a subject of fear and anxiety.

I’ve decided to continue with the project and I have used my sugar skulls as a source of inspiration. I have been making my own sugar skull moulds and decorating them with icing sugar; the blue and orange skull I had created has provided inspiration for my self portraits. I have replicated the floral patterns around the eye sockets; this particular design did contrast with the dark backdrop.

So I did have a small problem while I was applying the makeup; my eye pencil actually snapped in half and I had to used a liquid eye liner to finish the job. The liquid eye liner was quite difficult to use although I did manage to complete the design towards the end of the day. Once I had completed the makeup, I decided to sit in front of the backdrop I have made for myself and I started to take photographs.

So many people have asked…how do I take the photographs of myself? Well I have tried to use a tripod, for some reason the photographs never seem to work. So I just hold the camera and I continue to adjust the settings until I am able to take a photograph I am pleased with. The photographs are quite dark but that is what I like about them; it is the darkness that instantly reminds me of death.


16/10/12 – Work In Progress: Skull Montage

At the moment I’ve been trying to find ways to distort and manipulate the photograph by slicing, crumpling, ripping the surface of my own self portraits. These processes were inspired by the Starn Twins, two contemporary photographs who reconstruct their own photographs in order to create a different interpretation of the image. I have written about the Starn Twins, please click on the link below for further information,


In preparation for my exhibition in November, I am applying various techniques and processes to my own photographic work. The first attempt involved slicing the photograph into different segments and reconstructing the image with glue. The lines were uneven and I my stanley knife was quite blunt also this process did produce a different effect, I was distracted by the textural surface of the image.

Attempt One 


I was no longer looking at the actual context or subject matter, I was looking at the different squares and segments. In a way, slicing and manipulating the photograph withdraws from the original context of the photograph, in the original image I had used makeup to replicate the Mexican Day of the Dead skulls in order to explore my own interpretations of death. When I view the reconstructed version of the image, all I see is squares, I no longer think about death or mortality, just squares.

I decided to take a photograph of the montage with artificial lighting, the image is very blurred although this particular effect adds a very old, distressed appearance to the photograph.

Attempt Two 

In the second attempt, I had tried to use a similar process, I sliced the photograph into smaller segments or squares and I could not remember where to place them. I had placed numbers on the back but they did not match the image, it was similar to solving a jig saw puzzle. Instead of throwing away the photographs, I decided to apply the different segments onto another photograph. As a result, the squares did manipulate and distort the original image and I was instantly attracted to the textural surface of the photograph.

These processes could be used for the exhibition at the end of the year, the aim is to continue experimenting with my own photographs as much as I can. In comparison to the first attempt, I do appear creepy and even sinister through the actual placement of the photographs, this is quite a different response from the first montage.

I would recommend some of these techniques, try adding water or cello tape to your own photographs, you’ll be surprised how many different effects you can create from a few simple materials.

Self Portraits inspired by Christian Boltanski.

30/9/12 – Work In Progress: Self Portraits and Photographic Work

At the moment I have been trying to manipulate my own photographs through traditional printing techniques. I have been using a digital SLR camera, although I thought that I would try to modify the photographs without using photoshop. I have been testing my ideas on normal cartridge paper through an inkjet printer. Instead of using photoshop I have been dipping photographs into water, ripping, tearing and cutting the paper into segments in order to create a different effect.

I also found one of my visual diary’s that I had bought when I was in High School, although I had realised that I have never used it. I had removed the folio from the back of my closet and I decided to use it for all of my experiments that I am currently working on at the moment.

Drawings, Photographs displayed on my Wardrobe Door. 

I have discovered that dipping the photograph into a tray of water will remove some of the ink from the image. This particular process adds light and texture to the actual image and ink that has been used for the photographs does tend to change colour.

I have also reconstructed my own photographs and in some of the images I’ve also applied black paint to the surface. I have been experimenting with as many techniques, styles and methods that I could possibly think of. At the moment I am trying to find ways to change the exposure, the lightness and the contrast of the photographs without using modern technology.

I must admit, it has been difficult to abandon the computer, especially photoshop but it has provided an insight into different methods and techniques. I intend to manipulate, distort and fragment the photographs until it is time to actually display some work in my exhibition.I decided to sprawl all of my work onto the floor and take a photograph of everything that I have produced so far.

Christian Boltanski, Humans 1994

Christian Boltanski 

The way I have sprawled my photographs all over the floor and the walls reminds me of Christian Boltanski’s photography. There is one installation in particular that I have found inspirational especially for the final display of my photographic work. According to the Guggenheim website, Humans 1994 by Christian Boltanski questions the representation of death in photography through a series of black and white portraits that cover the entire gallery space.

Boltanski’s family portraits evoke a certain presence and an absence through the lens of the camera. The way the photographs are displayed is very interesting and the Guggenheim also describes the artists portraits as a “monument”. In “Camera Lucida”, Roland Barthes explains his own interpretations of the photograph as a “monument”. Barthes quotes “Death itself should be immortal: this was the monument. But by making the (mortal) photograph into the general and somehow natural witness of what has been, modern society has renounced the monument” (Barthes, 1993 p.93)

I do find it quite difficult to personally reflect on Boltanski’s work through the images on the Internet and I do believe that I would engage with the works on an emotional level if I was present in the actual gallery space. Humans 1994 features such an interesting and unique display that may possibly generate a personal and an emotional response from the viewer. One can argue that the display in the gallery space may alter the meaning and the context of the photographs. Over the next few weeks, I do intend to research other works and exhibitions by Chrisitan Boltanski for ideas and inspiration.

Guggenheim, “Christian Boltanski”, Guggenheim Art Gallery, 2012 http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/show-full/piece/?search=Guggenheim%20Museum%20Bilbao&page=1&f=Institution&cr=2 (Accessed 1/10/12)

Roland Barthes. Camera Lucida Translated by Richard Howard.  London: Vintage Books, 1993. p. 93

Image Citations:


Momento Mori

17/9/12 – Skull Makeup in the City: Filming Momento Mori 

On monday, I had put my acting skills to the test in one of my boyfriend’s media project at the Melbourne cemetery. The film, “Momento Mori”, features a businessman who wakes up in a graveyard, “Dave” does not know where he is until he finds a figure wondering in the distance.

The figure begins to walk directly to “Dave” who then begins to wonder why he is wondering around an empty graveyard. The figure, is undead who begins to point at the gravestone, although Dave begins to become exasperated by the figures lack of words or expressions.

I had agreed to play death and I had used my own makeup to create a representation of the skull. I decided to apply the makeup at the art studio at the university and I had then travelled to the other side of the city in a suit. I will not lie, I did get a lot of strange looks as I walked through the city with the image of the skull painted onto my face.

Actually I had received a lot of mixed responses, some people didn’t even care that I had tried to replicate death, others looked shocked or offended. The reactions that I had received on the day had invited me to question how one may define the subject of death? I don’t think there really is an answer, everyone has a completely different interpretation of death.

After the filming, I had decided to take photographs of myself in the cemetery and I actually look quite creepy. For some strange reason I did not feel uncomfortable or disturbed in the cemetery, it was quite peacful. After spending an entire day in the cemetery, it was quite a strange feeling to arrive back into the city.

So the main question that I wanted to ask myself is…did I feel any closer to death? I played death, replicated death, acted as death, but do I have a connection with death? I actually forgot that I had the makeup on my face and at some stage I had even forgot that I was playing death.

I must have some sort of connection with death, perhaps I haven’t found it yet. To a certain degree, everyone must be frightened or afraid of death that affects each person differently. On the way back to the city, a woman has approach me and she had said that my makeup looked really scary from the back of the tram.

It was actually quite interesting to see and hear all the different interpretations on the day. Some actually liked the makeup and others had given me a weird, disconcerted look. It would be interesting to actually film myself walking through the city with the makeup on my face just to see of the different responses and reactions.