I conducted my final shoot which comprised mostly of human recreations and re-photography. I began by asking a friend to model for some shots, posing in ways that replicated some of my existing images taken from STEAM. This was a successful shoot in the respect that I was able to get some really good images that attempted to replicate some of the waxwork poses. I was also able to edit my images in post-production using camera RAW and Photoshop which gave me more control over the appearance of my images, allowing me to replicate the ‘inanimacy’ of my subjects. Within my project, I am blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, artifice and authenticity whereby I am making inanimate wax figures appear animate whilst also making animate humans seem inanimate and fictitious. The act of re-photographing something is also largely interesting because it acts to suggest frozen temporality rather than posed and stationary mimicry.
During this process, I began to experiment in greater depth with the possibilities, affordances and limitations of post-production using Photoshop and Camera Raw. I began by making minor adjustments to my RAW format images, adjusting contrast, clarity and colour temperature in order to make my human subject appear warmer and more vibrant in tonal contrast; giving these images a very similar appearance to my waxwork images. This initial experimentation with image settings and levels worked to make my human subject appear more inanimate which led me to experiment further by attempting to give my subject a broken and damaged appearance like that of the aged and worn wax figures. I began by opening my processed images, duplicating, adjusting and blending layers to appear somewhat realistic by tampering with opacity and the eraser tool. I also rather cheekily borrowed some stock images of ‘cracked paint’, ‘chipped wax’ and ‘broken stone’ as to overlay over my original images. This is my first real attempt at this kind of post-production work of this nature meaning that the effect in some of these images isn’t terribly effective or realistic but in some images, I feel that this worked well.
It is interesting that when during my final shoot, I attempted to control lighting in the best way possible. Although it is important to mention that I was shooting in our workshop room where the lights are mostly bright LEDs that give off a white luminescent appearance alongside white/overcast natural lighting from the window. This made my images appear cold and my subject appear dull and somewhat lifeless although I did manage to strike a compromise/balance between my shooting condition through subject placement. I was also able to combat these issues in post-production by making minor adjustments to colour temperature, vibrancy and contrast in a way that replicated my shooting condition in STEAM.
Here are some of the images from my final shoot…
Recreating the past….
Here is a small selection of images taken from my original shoot at STEAM, I have inserted them below showing the images from the original shoots along with the replicates taken today. I am aware that some are more successful than others although, I am also very conscious that it is difficult for an animate individual to replicate the pose and stillness of a waxwork, I am also conscious of the lighting differences which also impairs the effectiveness of my images from this shoot. Within many of the images of my human subject taken today, I made fairly drastic adjustments to the clarity level in Camera Raw (a setting you would normally avoid when editing portrait style photographs). However, this was a very conscious decision because I wanted all of the tiny details such as pores, wrinkles and defects on the surface of the skin to be accentuated in an attempt to recreate the overtly expressive and accentuated details of the waxworks. I also made adjustments to shadow, contrast and black and white levels in an attempt to further control my shooting conditions in a way that accentuates details in this way.
Nevertheless, here they are…
It is interesting that within the original image, the waxwork is posed clutching a very aged and worn book titled “The Children’s Hiawatha”, I do wonder if this book has any particular relevance or connotations attached with it?… It is also interesting that the book’s appearance is extremely worn, aged and dog ended, this encapsulates the aged and historical post-industrial connotations in which STEAM is exploring and displaying. Representing a very strategic and effective way in grasping audience attention, these are the books and possession that we may be familiar with or grown up around, this could also invite further reflection and personal contemplation in a way that draws on individual past, experience and childhood memories that we fondly keep close to our hearts.
Unfortunately, I lacked the appropriate props to fully replicate this magical effect. However, for the purpose of this exercise, I was mostly concerned with the post, texture and detail of the subject rather than making an exact replicate of an image I had already taken so I had to compensate slightly by using my worn academic diary which definitely detracts from the immersive potential of my image. Unless, this project and that particular image were acting to encapsulate and critique the burden and often detrimental constraints associated with intense studying, with a worn down journal acting as a symbol or material metaphor for my personal and academic struggles… haha!
This set of images, in my opinion; is one of the more successful examples of waxwork mimicry. After many shots taken, I was able to capture the pose and replicate the pose of the figure through selective camera angle, placement and lighting. This allowed me to cast shadows in similar areas to that of the inanimate figure. Although I feel that after this shoot with a human subject, it made me realise that the secret to making the animate feel dead and the inanimate feel alive lies within the eyes of the subject! I feel that the tonality, shadow and pose of these images work well together, successfully recreating my original shot on the left. When photographing my model, due to the white LED lighting and white walls, it was difficult to control, it also gave my untouched photos a very cold colour temperature. Post-production adjustments combatted this whilst emphasising detail and texture.
In my opinion, this was my most successful recreation, I feel that the camera angle, lighting and post production adjustments all worked to capture and accentuate the shared likeness between wax figures and my model. These images illustrate the exaggerated detail that is present within the waxworks appearance. This exercise has also allowed me to personally pinpoint exactly what makes these inanimate objects appear to be uncanny. In my opinion, it is largely an issue with subtle details such as the depth and glaze of the eyes and the subtle imperfections that lie within the actual human body alongside the subtle variations of tonality and colour that reside within the skin.
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