My first beauty photo-shoot was heavily influenced by my experiments with frozen flowers – this can be seen especially in the liquid element which was central in this photo-shoot. The aim here was to explore the capacity of floral colours to invoke and express a wide variety of emotions. I sought to represent this capacity both stylistically and photographically, by dividing the photo-shoot into two moods – a “lighter”, more jovial mood represented by bright colours and a “gloomier” more melancholic mood expressed by darker colouring. In giving this photo-shoot (as well as the next two photo-shoots) this binary direction, I emphasised the versatility of using flowers in fashion as a medium that can convey a substantial number of distinct emotive images.
Life is not only happiness, and is more than sadness
The story – my narrative – with which I began this project is a complex one. It is complex not because it is in any way extraordinary or unexpected. Family stories can be the most common place thing imaginable: most people have one to tell. Ordinariness, however, does not make these stories any less complex. Life, even everyday life, is a combination of different things, emotions and happenings. It is precisely in the normality of life where I also locate its complexity. In my family’s story I sought to represent this mingling of emotions which shaped and continue shaping it: warmth, connection and love, but also loss, absence and pain.
Antithesis: Buoyance and Descension
All the above made me realise that if I wanted to employ flowers as vehicles that would carry understandings of lived experience and its memory, I needed to take my work beyond the conventional path of making flowers appear as objects that allude only to pleasant feelings and experiences. In this beauty photoshoot I sought to use the theme of flowers to present visually the opposing and often conflicting emotions that make up our lives.
I find that two photos capture this kind of representation as starkly and accurately as possible. The first one represents a blooming flower rising up in water, staying afloat and spreading its petals outwards. As a photo it is meant to a positive affect on its viewers – they are compelled to bring their attention on the abstract image of the bloom, ignoring momentarily the darker overtones of the margins and focusing instead on the vibrant and vivid centre. The photo (its mood and message) is defined by the trickle of bright colour from the centre outwards. One can perhaps see that as hope and love helping overcoming past misfortunes and pains, but at the same time not completely erasing their existence.
While it follows the same form – flower at the centre, surrounded by a substance – the second photo is meant to have the complete opposite effect. In this case, the bloom sinks in a mud-like substance. The bloom appears to be drained of its colour, its vitality becoming dull and muted. Rather than spreading outwards, the flower loses its shape by being swallowed into the substance. The dread this photo inspires is located in its representation of hope slowly and inevitably disappearing. The stem, half-way gone, acts as a warning sign for the eventual fate of the flower: disintegration, demise, disappearance, desolation.
I decided to utilise this binary framework of bright/dark undertones of flowers at my beauty photoshoot in order to test and portray visually this capacity of flowers to evoke emotions.
In the photographic samples I provide below one can see how colour opposition was a central component in differentiating between the different moods I wanted to convey. So, for instance, the brighter colours are meant to communicate an enchanting image – the model is bathed in water of bright blue hue and white blooms surround her face. Conversely, in the darker photographs the model’s visage is gloomier, as if in a swamp surrounded by lifeless flowers, giving her a death-like appearance that sets up a more dreadful visual mood.
However, I intended to show a more nuanced representation of the interaction between flowers and emotions than simply as a bright/dark or happy/sad dichotomy. Thinking about the complexity of human lives and emotions, I wanted to show that this dichotomy is not always absolute – sometimes even seemingly positive moments in someone’s life can conceal an underlying sadness or, vice versa, moments of sadness do not take away entirely the positive aspects of life. In order to show this blurring of lines, I decided to synthesize the buoyancy/descension aspect of the conceptual images of this photoshoot (see above). In the “bright” part of my beauty photoshoot I captured photographs of my model in varying degrees of submersion under the water. Likewise, in the “dark” part, I captured photos of my model emerging from (and even taking her face completely outside) the muddied liquid. While none the other aspects of the photographs were changed (for example, the hue of the water or the type of flowers surrounding the model remained the same), nonetheless the varying degrees of submersion had a substantial effect on the mood of each photograph. In this context, on the surface this photoshoot might seem as a visual journey consisting of two paths. Upon closer investigation, however, those paths also branch out; they interlock and communicate with each other, using the theme of flowers to construct a labyrinth of emotions.