University Projects

5. Narrative video and photoshoot: Explanation

Narrative Video

This project sought to capture representations of flowers that were related to human memories and emotions and also find the way to represent my theme in a progressively fashion-related manner. More specifically, my experiment and final photo-shoots focused on framing flowers as objects that can show themes like life-cycle, time-lapse, disintegration, memory and nostalgia. More details explained below:

  • Couple (woman and man) dancers: As an art director for this video I have decided that it will include a woman and man. The rationale behind this decision is that I want this video to conceptually continue the narrative of the initial video (in the narrative photo-shoot). In this way I want to offer a thread that links the beginning to the end of my project conceptually, by re-enacting the spirit and of initial video in some respects.
  • Exchange of flower: I’ve decided that the video will conclude by the female dancer physically handing a flower to the male dancer. The narrative I began depicting in my first photo-shoot was a very personal one: it was about my grandfather’s love for flowers and how that love passed on to me specifically and my family more generally. In having a woman dancer passing on the flower to the man I recognise the origins of my story (and those of my project). Therefore, I wish for this video – which I see as the climax of my project – to symbolically reverse the original gesture of my grandfather passing on his love of flowers to me.
  • Conceptual coherence with the rest of the project: Finally, this video will be bringing together some of the key themes that were present in the previous photo-shoots as well as the experiments done in this project [and this is the reason why I see it as the “climax” of the project]. For instance, one of my thoughts is to have the dancers imitating the life cycle of flowers with their forms and figures: with this I will re-invoke the themes of time lapse, invoking memories and emotions etc. While my photo-shoots can be separated by their functional purposes – advertorial, editorial, beauty – they also come together strongly by telling a simple and powerful story that the first narrative photo-shoot began.

Narrative Photoshoot

An additional aspect of this video was a photo-shoot that I compiled, which shows the narrative explained above.For this photo-shoot I was inspired from the experiment with the fade-out technique where I faded out the image in order to illustrate how memories fade out with the passing of time.

5. Narrative video and photoshoot: Story behind it

 

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.

4. Editorial photoshoot

In my editorial photo-shoot I decided to show the theme of flowers by my choice of photo-shoot location, which was a greenhouse. I was inspired to do this photo-shoot by my visit to Kew Gardens in London, which was part of the experimentation phase of my project. Because I intended this photo-shoot as an editorial, I chose to work with a professional model, a make-up artist, 2 womenswear fashion designers (IouliaRadou and Elena Koutsia) and 1 womenswear fashion boutique (Infolio Boutique). In choosing a greenhouse as my location, I took advantage of beingin a space specifically designed for growing flowers. I situated my model in specific areas of the greenhouse: some areas exhibited the vibrant colours of growing flowers while others emphasised the wilderness of disintegrating flowers. Thus, I sought to integrate the conceptual elements of floral colours and disintegration in an editorial photo-shoot.

 

 

3. Jewellery/Advertorial photoshoot

In my Jewellery/Advertorial photo-shoot I planned to follow binary style of moods as regards the emotional response I seek to generate from the viewers of the photos. However, rather than having a division of light/dark emotions and colours here I intended to explore a new emotional avenue. More specifically, my stylistic mood will be twofold. First, the model I collaborated with displayed a “refined” and chic appearance that highlighted the elegance and delicate aspect of flowers. Second, I shifted to a “wilder” approach in which the objective will be to illustrate a more vivid display of colours and emotions. Thus, I intend to show the capacity of flowers to affect us in both subtle and powerful ways. In terms of the techniques I will be using to bring about this effect, I will drawing from the insights I got from my experiments with adding colours to flowers.

Finally, in addition to the professional model, I also collaborated with a well-known jeweler designer. In so doing, The name of the accessories designer is Bianca Makris. Bianca Makris designs is often inspired by flowers and it has been published in well-known magazines such as Elle magazine and Vogue magazine.  http://www.biancamakris.com/ I made sure that the jewellery are a central element in the photoshoot. In turn, this focus on the jewellery is vital in emphasising the advertorial character of this photo-shoot.

2. Beauty photoshoot

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.

Synthesis

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.

 

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