In my second narrative photoshoot, I wanted to develop a narrative that would unfold within two different dimensions.
The first dimension was one which was established by the first narrative photoshoot that I had done at the beginning of the project. My understanding of my family’s story was not only as the starting point of my project, but also as aconstant source of inspiration throughout my creative work. It was a story that I had never abandoned – and, vice versa, had never abandoned me – while I ventured in new creative paths. Thus, it made perfect sense to have traces of this story also in my second narrative photoshoot. It is, after all, a story that best shows the uniqueness – that is, the personality and specificity – of my creative work in relation to the theme of flowers.
The second dimension was one which emerged out of my effort to represent my personal understanding of flowers to a wider audience who could identify, and identify with, the message my work aimed to communicate. In other words, even though the guiding thread for my project was my story (which is familial and specific) through my various photoshoots and experiments I created a body of work which was also intended to be conceptual and generalisable. Thus, I wanted my second narrative photoshoot to be performed in such a way that, though it would contain my story,it would not be confined to it. I felt that there would not have been a more compelling argument for the capacity of flowers to communicate human emotion and memories than showing how my story could be transformed into one which my audience could personally relate to and claim as theirs.
I must admit that I found myself facing a challenging task when I set out to realise my ideas for the second narrative. The main problem was maintaining the integrity of my personal narrative in the process of moving beyond it. The balance was delicate: on the one hand, I did not want my family’s story to lose its centrality and, on the other, I did not wish to impose limits on how other people interpreted my work. Making sure that there was always stability between the two meant that I had to reflect carefully on all decisions I took as an art director, photographer and stylist. I will explain how I did so by focusing on three key aspects of my second narrative photoshoot.
The locus of the narrative – The ForsakenHouse
When I began my search for a place to create my second narrative photoshoot,I had my grandfather’s empty home in mind. I wanted to replicate the sense of the empty home, but in more radical fashion so that it was could not be identified as a specific person’s home. I ended up choosing an abandoned house near my grandfather’s neighbourhood. I thought the house was ideal for my purposes: its walls were bare; its pillars broken; its floor completely devoid of any human objects and memorabilia; its structure entirely exposed to the elements of nature. It was a space that because it could not be recognised as someone’s home it could have been anyone’s home and thus everyone could identify with what such a place represented. In this way, I managed both to stay true to the initial narrativeas well as create a more abstract representation of my grandfather’s empty house.
The subjects in the narrative – The White Garments
I followed a similar method in the way I dressed and represented my models in the photoshoot. In this narrative I wanted to emphasise inter-human relationships in general, rather than bonds of a specific kind (for instance, romantic, friendly, familial etc). In using plain white garments for the two models in the photoshoot I tried to avoid labelling their relationship in any particular way. I, therefore, wanted to leave the interpretation of what kind of relationship these two subjects share at the discretion of the viewers of the video. At the same time, even if I depicted the subjects in an abstract way, their dynamicsas a couple offer a concrete connection to the story I presented the first narrative video.
Flowers in the photoshoot
I tried to find different ways to include flowers in the video. I wanted to use flowers to express an element of nostalgia and even disintegration in my narrative. I did so by spreading flower petals on the floor of the abandoned house. My thought was that the petals (disjointed and removed from the original flower) could act as a symbolism of human memories. Our memories are not always tetheredto a single, unchanging narrative and the stories we say about our lives are not absolute. Just as the wind can move and re-arrange the flower petals on the floor, so our memories can shift to form different narrative patterns and offer new meanings through which we can make sense of our past. Our stories change, not just because we might forget something, but also because the things we remember might affect us differently at different times. By positing flower petals on the floor (and by having them rained over my models at the end of the video), I wanted to show the fluidity of memories, emotions and the relationship between the two.
Another representation of flowers (and by far the more explicit one in the photoshoot) is the rose that my female model picks up from the floor and passes on to the male model. This gesture of passing a flower to another person is, again, connected conceptually to the beginning of the project and the first narrative video. What I wanted to show by this depiction – of a flower being passed to a loved one – was how flowers can be medium for representing emotions shared among people. Unlike the scattered petals on the floor, the flower exchanged now is whole, symbolising the power and certainty of the emotion being shared between people.
My representation of flowers in this photoshoot can, therefore, be seen to work on two levels. On the one hand, the scattered memories that are present but may change shapes and positions to form new life-narratives and new ways to understand them. On the other hand, memories and emotions that remain unchanged through the passing of time; memories and emotions which are solidified and strengthened by being shared among people. One can see flowers operating on these two levels in my first narrative photoshoot: the memories I possess of my grandfather are sometimes blurred by the distance created by time; but when those memories are exchanged and shared among my family it creates a powerful and clear emotion that I have carried with confidence through the years.