Graduates 2018: Willis Annison: Media Studies

My project explores the human body as an expressive medium and the effectiveness of visual design and literacy as a reflexive tool.

When the project first started out, I wanted to combine photography with the creative element of art, essentially creating a mixed medium image. I started off by photographing dancers expressing set emotions. I had them contemplate the emotions beforehand to make sure they came with ideas, as I specifically wanted it to be their interpretation. I had chosen dancers as through research I found them to be highly expressive people and thought that it would be a huge benefit to my work. In a previous project, I had focused on head and shoulder profiles, so I wanted to develop that and focus on the expressive capabilities of the entire body.   


The creative element consisted of the subjects of the photos, reacting to them using paint and craft paper. I wanted them to create pieces of art expressing their reactions when they looked at the photo. I put a major emphasis on not over thinking the art, I wanted an organic and reactive feeling. Last year, I had done a similar thing, but rather created the art myself and using Photoshop. This year I wanted the participants to do that part and use physical art materials. Once the participants had reacted to the photos, I got them to explain their artwork so I could understand their point of view and then assess if the visual design element was a good reflexive tool.   


During the project, I realised that there was too much emphasis on the people’s interpretations and a lack of my own voice within the project. Therefore, it led to me creating collaborative pieces, where I had to reflect on each emotion and think about what I connected to it. To express this, I picked parts of the reactive art pieces I liked and felt strongly represented that emotion. Furthermore, I decided to edit parts of the artwork to really create exaggerated meanings to be a part of the final pieces. All of this resulted in the final body of work you see today, which is a collaborative piece based on emotion and visual design.  

Main inspirations were the work of Hertta Kiiski and Niina Vatanen and their book Archive Play (2014) which combined the photographic medium with elements of visual design in a reactive way. Their work consisted of a photograph in which they added coloured shapes to add extra meaning or draw emphasis on a certain section. Another inspiration was Ouka Leele’s work Peluqueria (2010). In this collection, Leele painted on photos of people, creating vibrant, colourful pieces of mixed medium. This inspired my work to be creative and colourful.


How did you find studying Media at Brighton?

I found my Media Studies course interesting. There were some topics I found interesting, such a Political Communications, Journalism and Project Management, whereas some others I did find a little less interesting. Photography has been a journey for me, when I started in my first year I never had done photography within an educational capacity and it was not a good experience. Luckily I decided to do it again in second year and this time with a different lecturer, Patricia. Patricia has really helped me hone my craft as a photographer and has allowed me to creatively choose the directions I wish to go. I am so happy to have done a photographic dissertation as it allowed me to access my creativity, which they theory side does not. Overall, I am happy to have had such academically stimulating lecturers with a broad range of topic choice.    


What are your plans following graduation?

My plans following graduation are to find a job in the advertising or PR sector. Advertising is something that can be creative and I do always enjoy embracing my creativity. PR is very organised, which is something I like to be and I like to be able to plan/manage events or strategies. Finding a job that is a balanced mix of both would be ideal and satisfy both my creativity and organisational skills. Project management has always been interesting to me and having completed a module on it, it really has made me want to do something of the sort. It would have to be media based obviously, as that is where I would fit best.

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