Inspirera en mer medveten värld.
English translation: Inspire a more conscious world.
Time is flying by! This is the final week of session 1 classes here at DIS Stockholm. My class, Storytelling through Photography, taught by the renowned photographer Lærke Posselt has ignited a creative skill that has laid dormant in me for some time now. Our class learned photography by practicing it. She taught 15 students, all at different skill sets, the history and importance of photography. On our first day of class we learned about our fellow classmates by taking portraits of each other, sharing our best photos, and divulging what brought us to Stockholm. We often went to various exhibitions and galleries to see and hear from real-world photographers. She taught me that there are many productive ways to take and critique a photo. Overall, Lærke Posselt helped me rediscover something I thought was lost, my photographer’s eye.
What’s the photographer’s eye?
The photographer’s eye is all about how one views the world. Having an “eye” for photography is all about creativity and vision. It doesn’t need the newest or most expensive camera. It’s about how one sets the scene, and brings it to life. It is not an automatic skill, it comes with a great amount of practice. I believe the best photos put the viewer into the scenario, like they are viewing the scene in real time.
Before this class, I felt as if I lost my “eye”. I spent weeks before this program in a creative funk, which was unusual. I am not new to art, yet alone photography (refer to my previous blog post). I love to create scenes and bring them to life. I was about 7 years old the first time I picked up a camera, it belonged to my older sister. She did not use it frequently, so I would capture anything I thought was pretty or unique. This skill has been building in me for years but somehow I was creatively stuck for weeks on end. If I did create, I didn’t think it was good enough. This feeling fell by wayside once I began this class. I felt free just like I was a 7 year old again.
Visit to the Tuijia Linström Exhibition
Last Wednesday, my class visited the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern right outside of T-Centralen, Stockholm City, Sweden. Translated in English as “culture house”, it is filled with amazing exhibitions, food, and activities for people of all ages. We went to see the Tuija Lindström exhibit in the fifth floor art gallery.
Tuija Lindström was a photographer born in Finland and then moved to Sweden at the age of 25. She had a background in journalism and writing, but turned to photography as a new way of communicating in a foreign land. Her subjective and self-expressive personal styles paved the way of a new generation of photography in Sweden.
I thoroughly loved her exhibition! My instructor had us watch some of her video works to understand who she was and why she created art. One thing Tuija said that stuck with me was “I see photography as an extension of a language already born inside of me.” When I saw that clip, everything clicked in my head. She definitely had the photographer’s eye. Below are a few photos I loved from the gallery (TW: a few of these photos are explicit):
The Final Project
My final project entitled Femme Fatale is a conceptual double-exposed self-portrait photo series capturing fragile femininity through the lens of horror. Its intention is to explore the intersections between dissociation, identity, loss, and sensuality. My desire was to convey the feelings of Medusa: being ostracized from society, a stranger in foreign lands and the nightmares of feeling unseen. Her subjective feeling of isolation is an untold story.
Before I visited the Tuija Lindström “A Language of One’s Own” exhibition, I had no idea what to do for my assignment. It was a preface to our final project of creating a photo story. We had to prepare a group of photos that told a singular narrative. When I saw her work and listened to her ancedotes, I was automatically entranced.
Compelled to pick up and read her biography, I was immediately inspired. She was a stranger in foreign lands, unbeknownst of the language and created her own Rosetta Stone through photography. In the exhibition description, it described her approach to crafting photos as painterly paintings and performance art. I knew then that my project had to convey some of the emotions I felt in the gallery.
On the day of critiques, my classmates and I printed out our 10-photo stories. After watching in amazement of my classmate’s work, it was time for my critique. I displayed my photos on a large white table, feeling self-conscious and nervous because my work was completely different from my peers. While others chose to photograph landscapes and strangers, I photographed myself, rather distortions of myself.
One day, I decided to get up after lazily laying around my apartment here in Stockholm. I chose a blank wall, picked out my favorite oversized Polo shirt, set the mood light to red and modeled in front of my Lumix camera for nearly an hour. In a way, it was somewhat of an improv performance. I was the actor and the prop. I felt as if I were Francis Bacon, as mentioned in the reading “Man with a Blue Scarf” by Martin Gayford, working from my imagination creating things unseen to man (15). Using a long shutter speed and lots of editing in post, my self-portraits were abstract, my face was barely recognizable. In the end, my critique went so well that I only decided to cut one photo for the final project.
My inspirations drew from the subjectivity of Lindström’s work, abstraction, and my favorite self-photographer Cindy Sherman. Her superpower is her ability to conceptualize ideas, transform herself into anyone and tell their story through photography. She is an icon in the feminist art movement. Motivated by her eminence, I wanted to create something that not only shocked the viewers but provoked them to step forward for a closer look.
I am an intuitive visual artist. I typically do not plan my artwork or designate meanings prematurely. I draw from my inspirations, create, then piece it together in the end. The idea of Femme Fatale came posthumously. She is defined as an archetypal woman who is gorgeous, mysterious, seductive, and most of all dangerous. However, there is more to her narrative. She is seen as someone who does harm to others, but the tale never shines a light to her personal story. Who is she? What has she been through? How did she get there?
I focused on the most popular of all her archetypes, Medusa. She experienced loss and trauma that impacted her life, she was disconnected emotionally, and forced to hide her identity. Medusa was transmuted into a monster with snakes for hair and piercing eyes that turned men into stone. She was reprimanded into isolation. What was once a beautiful, feminine woman became a figure of tragedy.
Her legacy was deduced to being a seductress and losing her life by the sword. Horror was conveyed in this photo series by movement, saturated colors, and overall photo placement. Viewers were meant to feel uneasy, as if I/Medusa were about to strike them. Distorted self-portraits captured Medusa, a woman beyond her archetype.
Femme Fatale is a story meant to reflect on the personal lives of women and their disheartening stories. Most women have experienced trials and tribulations yet are only seen for their reactions rather than their truths. This series’ purpose is to show these individuals that they are seen, heard, and valued. They do not have to be alone anymore because I stand with them. I reclaimed and redefined the term “femme fatale”. Femme Fatale is a powerful, charming woman who thrives beyond her calamities and prevails through all misfortune. She is a championed hero to all!
Conclusion: Abstract Poem
A stranger to foreign lands
came to find what was lost to them.
A right of passage turned hero’s tale.
What was once gone, now reappeared.
a.k.a Femme Fatale