Asssignment 5 : Narrative and Illustration
Final version : Tales with Valeria
I know I’ve been full of indecision regarding the subject theme – veering backwards and forwards between the Common and the Holga images. I’ve really appreciated my tutor’s pre-assignment comments and support. In the end though I just knew I had to do something more definite with the Holga set. It was like the thought fox in Ted Hughes’ poem, http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/ted-hughes/the-thought-fox/ nosing its way into my early waking moments and nudging me throughout the day.
I had some very encouraging comments when I placed the first four images on Flickr, including from Clive one of the tutors which gave me a boost and spurred me on to continue with something which is very new for me.
There is something about the doll that intrigued me from the start – a slight oddness. Flaxen plaits; pretty dress; retrousse nose and downcast eyes but I could imagine a whole lot of other thoughts below the surface – something wilful. She reminded me of those two rhymes , “What are little girls made of’ and ‘There was a little girl who had a little curl ….”. There’s a book I’ve had for many years – “Women who run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes , who is a Jungian psychoanalyst as well as being a cantadora, a keeper of old stories. The book concerns the inner life of women and the theme that runs through it is that there is within every woman a Wild Woman that has been repressed.
“We grew our hair long and used it to hide our feelings. But the shadow of Wild Woman still lurks behind us during our days and in our nights. No matter where we are, the shadow that trots behind us is definitely four-footed” (Foreword, 1992)
The book is filled with Dr. Estes’ own written versions of tales and poems which have been handed down in the oral tradition in different versions for generations. One of her versions is of the Russian Vasalisa tale – a dying mother hands her little daughter a doll, telling her that if she ever loses her way or needs help, she should ask the doll what to do. The doll guides her and there are adventures along the way, including a meeting with the fearsome crone, Baba Yaga, who gave her a skull with fiery eyes.
In my previous post, ‘Holga Lens – working with light in a different way’ (under Reflections) I described how I liked its soft and slightly surreal effect. It can seem to make inanimate objects look almost human and living creatures almost inhuman. Reality is blurred and I think it is an ideal medium to use for photographic images in fairy stories. ( I have also experimented with processing photographs to give a more ‘painterly’ effect as well). I began to think of ideas for scenarios and bought some more ‘props’ cheaply through eBay– a book on wolves; 2 old versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1933) (which is another story!); red riding hood clothes for a patch doll; a decorative ‘birdcage’; two magnetic, retro, french dolls, and a Snow White doll. I wanted Red Riding Hood to turn the table on the wolf and go out hunting him. My idea was to use pictures from the films ‘Wolverine’ and the Twilight series but then I had a better idea with less issues re copyright. I bought an image from iStock – a handsome, muscular young man in a wolf-type pose.
I didn’t have any difficult problems regarding sequencing or captions, it was placing different format images on the page which was (is) the challenge. What’s the best page format when you use landscape, portrait and square images and want to have one on a page rather than several in magazine style? I still haven’t worked that out.
I think that the images actually suit a smallish book and the 7×7 one which Blurb do seemed ideal. In fact I’ve already started a prototype using their software. For the Assignment though I decided to start from scratch, using a Blurb template plug-in in InDesign so that I could utilise some of my learning. I also decided here to use a standard portrait format which is larger. I did this thinking about the prints for assessment but there is a disadvantage here because I think that photographs from a Holga lens can look good on a monitor but, printed, are better smaller because the larger they get the more blurry they can look. Anyway, I’ll wait for feedback and take it from there
It took me a while to think of a name for the doll. I went through the alphabet and made a long list. In fact, at one point I even decided to maybe have a competition on Flickr. I decided to call her Valeria and here she is:-
(Open it in preview mode and then view as two page display).
Working through Part 5 took me even longer than Part 4 and I really struggled with it but I did enjoy working with the Holga lens and doll. It brought me back into touch with that part of me that likes myth, legend and fairy story and wants to understand the lessons that these are trying to impart. I discovered a different way of telling a story through images and seeing it through a different lens.The camera can’t be controlled in the same way with the Holga lens and you have to see where the light falls through that pinhole and search for the image.
My tutor gave some positive feedback on an initial look at my first four images and also some research references. She suggested I have a look at Olivia Parker’s work http://oliviaparker.com/, and particularly Weighing the Planets http://www.edelmangallery.com/parker-planets.htm. The images certainly appeal to me and I immediately thought of something I could do if I acquired an old wooden, puppet!
My tutor also suggested to read some of the books by Marina Warner and Angela Carter. I have already read some of Angela Carter’s work but have now bought Marina Warner’s ‘From the Beast to the Blond’. This is a comprehensive, well-researched and literary review on storytelling, and its practitioners and images through the ages. Her book is basically in two parts – the Tellers and the Tales and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
This is just a beginning really…….
11th April 2012
Estes, C.P., Women who run with the Wolves, 1992, Ebury Publishing, The Random House Group Ltd
Warner, M , From the Beast to the Blond, 1995, Chatto & Windus Ltd, London.