Final Project – Self and Shadow
With the development of my photography skills throughout the session, with the Thematic Project, I have chosen to explore and use the idea of The Self and The Shadow. This idea formed as a deviation from a desire to explore the interaction between a person and a chair, but as I further explored the idea, I found myself drawn to the interaction and dialogue between the person and their shadow self.
The shooting session was carried out at the University in the V-block’s gallery space. The equipment that I used was my own Canon SLR camera, a tripod borrowed from the University, and a torch. Setting up the equipment and directing the sitters to position themselves, I used a long exposure (usually 30 seconds or longer) and the torch to control and direct the light and shadows of the photograph. Through the processes of light painting, and working strongly with light versus dark, I wanted to create a strong distinction between the person and their shadow, highlighting the idea that the Shadow is different from the Self.
The central idea behind my photos is the idea of the Shadow being the alter ego, or other self. For many years there have been interest in the idea of alter egos being possessed within someone’s psyche, from the novel ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ to comic book characters like Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman. The idea of being able to contain another personality and/or psyche within oneself is something that has been debated, with diagnoses like ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’ and ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder’ being made. Although, these diagnoses can be widely questioned and criticised, with some believing it impossible for a person to lose themselves within another psyche, there has been much research and investigations into the area.
What I’m hoping to examine in my photos is how this alter ego can be ‘found’ by changing how a person’s body language is read by the audience. In reflection, I feel that my photos do capture some essence of the Shadow being another version of the self. My biggest interest in the photos is how the light reveals an alternate point of view. With the camera positioned at one angle, you only see the model from one angle. Directing the light to move the model’s shadow however, reveals a different perspective on the same position. The model’s shadow then reveals other characteristics about the pose being taken.
For example, in the above photo, the model is taking a very dramatic forceful movement, and looks like she is the middle of a dance. Her shadows however, can be read differently – the lowered head and the hunched back of the shadow to the left looks like it is pain or in anguish, while the one on the right looks casual and unconcerned, leaning against the corner. The shadows change the perspective and the size of the shadow, and as such, reveal things that would previously have been unseen.
One of the biggest influences on this series has been three select paintings by Vincent Fantauzzo. His paintings ‘Inner Conflict’ and ‘Battle of Self’ are introspective paintings that examine the inner conflict that stirs inside an artist. The paintings themselves are very direct, with the artist being depicted as visibly and brutally fighting with various versions of himself – it directly questions the idea of which self is true and which is a creation. The third painting, ‘Heath’, is a portrait of Heath Ledger, where three different versions of the actor are portrayed interacting with each other. The central version looks lethargic and distant, while the two on either side are more jovial, leaning towards him and whispering conspiringly in his ears. Strangely suggestive – more so after Ledger’s unexpected death – the painting continues to query the idea an individual being alone within their mind or being.
Vincent Fantauzzo, ‘Inner Conflict’, 2009
Vincent Fantauzzo, ‘Battle of Self’, 2009
Vincent Fantauzzo, ‘Heath’, 2009
Several practice runs were previously done before the final shoot, with technical issues, poses, problems being identified and dealt. However, even in the final shoot, several issues arose. The main issue was working in the dark while the shutter was open. Trying to position myself and the torch in the dark was incredibly tricky, and often, shots were ruined because my aim was off or if I appeared in the photo. The only viable solution to this problem was practice, and after the first dozen or so shots, positioning myself became easier as I learnt the layout of the room and the camera position.
The second main problem was the model’s moving. Although my initial approach to the task was to capture this movement, as I developed the series, I became less concerned with the movement and more interested in the model’s shadows. The long shutter speed caught any sway or change in position, and as such, the clarity of the shots was often ruined. This mainly became a problem if the pose the model was holding was difficult to maintain, such as poses that required balancing on one leg or raising an arm. Adjusting the positions and letting the models rest in between poses was the best solution for this problem.
Although the actual poses the models were taken were largely influenced by what they felt comfortable doing, during the process of shining the light on the models, I found that for Adrianna (female model) I consistently lit her up twice, and only once with Simon (male model). Although I experimented with doing it the other way, I found that the shots worked better with different lighting. Reflecting back on this, I have decided that structurally, their differences in size influenced how I lit the shots. Adrianna is significantly smaller than Simon, and did not fill the frame as successfully as Simon did. Looking back on them now, I still think it was a good decision. It differentiates between male and female, and I think it’s important to be aware that, while neither is lesser or more than each other, there is a fundamental difference between how females and males are seen, perceived and portrayed.
In the couple shots, the direction and amount of light was strongly influenced by the models positioning. There was a shift from focusing on the solo self and the shadow to how the two separate selves, and their shadows, interacted with each other. Instead of merely having themselves to create dialogue, there is another entity to communicate with. The ways in which the two selves and the two shadows interact highlight the previously mentioned differences between male and female. Both models difference in size and shape fill and use the frame differently, and furthermore, their shadows are also reflected differently.
My main purpose of this project was to examine the Self and the Shadow, and the dialogue that is created between the two, and I think I have been successful. By using evocative body language, different models, lighting directions and other techniques, my investigations into the Shadow as a deeper reflection of the Self has revealed that there is in fact something there, hidden within the nuances of light, dark and shape, and only by emphasising and isolating it can we truly see and examine it.
Word Count: 1250
Jungian.org, ‘Shadow Self’
Light Painting Photography Blog, ‘Light Painting History’
My Modern Met, ‘When Shadows Come Alive’
Vincent Fantauzzo, ‘Vincent Fantauzzo: Gallery’
WebMD, ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder)’