Project: Final Piece – Hidden in full view, living in the shadows

The Ideas and concept

The write up is in my sketchbook complete with additional test shots.

The concept of the project is to produce a tryptic composition following the idea of “the Self” and being hidden, overlooked and shyness, ‘living in the shadows’.

I wanted to take photographs of myself in full sight, but the viewer cannot see my face fully, I wanted to be partially obscured. Part of the face always veiled, to break up the instant recognisable shape of the face.

Development of Ideas

I considered using a mask, but rejected the idea because the mask although concealing, only part of my face would be visible the other part hidden behind the mask. I wanted my whole face to be visible.

I decided hiding behind make-up. The make-up had to be ‘obvious’ not conventional make-up applied to make anyone look attractive, but make-up that conceals.

I considered army style camouflage, but rejected it because I did not think it would be striking or make an impact. Camouflage is designed to make the person invisible. I wanted to be visible, but not fully seen, “hidden in full view”.

Inspiration and Influences

The self-photography is similar to Cindy Sherman, her studio work that

Untitled 1976, printed 2000 by Cindy Sherman born 1954
Untitled (1976), printed 2000. P78505 Cindy Sherman

uses herself as both photographer and model. The Sherman’s 1976 studio shots have simple plain white backgrounds so that you focus on the face, attitudes and stances. Please see earlier blog post about Cindy Sherman

I have been inspired by the artistic work by Piet Mondrian,

Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray and Blue (1921)

his influence can be seen through other pieces of work I have created and the compositions for Destroy 2, Fears 2, compositions have blocks of colour and strong horizontal and vertical lines that contain the colour. I wanted to continue with this influence. I wanted to create strong horizontal and vertical lines that break-up the face and makes parts of the face obscured.IMG_9934


I drew some rough ideas to show and develop the concept of a full face with theme of Mondrian designs. Strong black lines across the face and blocks of colour

The final pictures appear to be more aligned to the photographer Irving Penn (1917-2009) and one picture to the right in particular.

Image by Irving Penn



Test Shots, experimentation and adaptation

The attempts to apply the make-up for my test shots it became apparent that my original drawing ideas were going to be too difficult to apply to the face, and instead of developing a crisp effect, the make-up was a mess.

IMG_9923I therefore adapted and evolved the make-up. I experimented with less and less fiddly make-up as can be seen in the test IMG_9348shots. The blotchy black makeup, interesting effect, but not the crisp lines I was wanting. A second attempt with less make-up and better applied black lines and boxes on the face was more the effect I was wanting.

Because less make-up was so effective I removed all make-up and tried again with one wide horizontal bar across my eyes. I then added more lines, one across my forehead and another across my lips and beyond. I also tried some shots of just my eyes, no make-up.

I also experimented with close-up shots, head and shoulder shots. Standing looking square into the camera or lying down, the camera shooting down. The camera down low looking up under my chin and face, my head looking down over the camera so my dangling hair framed my face.

I wanted a plain background so that the focus of the photograph is just the face.

The Final Piece

The final photographs were taken in the studio. I used plain white background. The camera was synched to use flash onto my face with diffuser plus a large light box lamp to reduce the risk of sharp shadows.

I applied black a wide band of make-up across my eyes. I stood on my mark in the studio and took several exposures.

I removed the make-up and reapplied the black make-up to just one side of my face. Using the same light studio light and camera settings I returned to my mark and took several more exposures.

I removed the make-up, applied the black make-up to the other side of my face and repeated the process so that I had 3 images.

Image Manipulation

The images have not been manipulated.   It was tempting to embellish the photographs and tighten up the lines of make-up, and adjust the light and colour levels to make a more uniform set of three images. I wanted to show the “raw” face not re-worked with Photoshop.

One of the series of tryptics has been produced by using layers to combine the 3 into one.

Hidden in full view, living in the shadows




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