Artist Statement
(As created for the assignment)

This semester I returned to school after over a decade to study digital media and art. I felt like coming to school again was right for me and yet I still feel apart from my fellow students. For this creative photography project, New Worlds: A Self-Discovery Journey Through Technology and Art, I wanted to explore the concepts of self-discovery and this feeling of being out of place in a new world, the conflicting desires to meet and rebel against perceived expectations, and technology being double edged as part of my focus here as well as part of what feeds those expectations. From a technical standpoint, I also wanted to find ways to create effects in camera, so I experimented with techniques like rear projection, forced perspective, and other in-camera effects. Throughout the creation process I learned a little about what worked and what didn’t. Alice in Wonderland felt right for my desired theme to illustrate being in a strange new world. For self-exploration I worked from my subconscious as much as possible, using memories and impressions of Alice’s stories without research in order to extract what I found interesting enough to stick with me over the years. I also used lucid dreaming techniques to allow my mind to create ideas while I slept and wrote them down on waking. I used vividly colored lights in front of a projected scene to convey the idea of being in another world and chose colors I thought fitting for the mood of those moments shown. To reinforce my focus on digital media & technology in art, I used two separate AI bots to create rear projected backgrounds. I would start with a simple description in ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that specializes in writing, and ask it to better describe the scene I wanted to create. I would then use the resulting description to create prompts in the second AI software, Midjourney, that specializes in image creation. The end results were changed greatly from my initially sketched thumbnails through a process like playing “telephone” with artificial intelligence. I would then adapt my desired concepts to those backgrounds. To enhance the illusion of space, I used perspective and depth of field to incorporate physically constructed elements that I felt really made the scenes feel layered and three dimensional.

If I look at my work critically, I can see some of my strengths and weaknesses.  I used poses and facial expressions to express emotion or interaction in my scenes, but some seem a little subtle for what I intended. Sequencing is mostly undesired in this series, but I did experiment with one moment of time passing in the garden where Alice becomes tired of the farce and tears away at her fakeness. I think this speaks of a cycle more than a single instance and is a successful moment despite the unique nature of time in the series. The use of bright colors was effective to convey otherworldliness, and the choice of colors enhanced the concept of the scenes. The AI generated backgrounds were very detailed and oddly dreamy, suiting my theme. They helped add texture, and color that I desired in camera without having to use any compositing, however, the rear projections made lighting a difficult balance, and sometimes washed out the images. The use of symbols were easily understood and augmented the concepts of their scenes.

This project worked in multiple layers that took a lot of creative thinking and evolution. Conceptually I wanted to tie as many of my ideas to technology as well as self-exploration in a new world. Technically I wanted to explore new creative photography techniques and incorporate them into my process. I also had to think about costuming, makeup, props, posing, & expressions to create readable and interesting scenes. My personal limitations of time, cost, and space required the process to accommodate my limitations, but I still had many tools to work with from my time here in school. Research into Anna Gaskell’s series Wonder and Override was extremely helpful in constructing my concepts. I found her use of color, framing, and depth of field particularly useful to keep in mind while creating my project. I used skills learned in Art History to analyze the content in images for their meanings. Not unlike Jacques-Louis David’s Oath of the Horatii, Antoine Watteau’s Pilgrimage to Cythera, or William Holman Hunt’s The Lady of Shalott, I borrowed symbols from the story of Alice in Wonderland to better communicate my concepts. Reflecting further on symbols and what is expressed through color, lighting, and composition while visiting our own art museum and seeing photographs on display also helped me to better analyze my own images so that I could use colors intentionally and arrange my compositions in a visually compelling way. My desire for in camera effects gave me the opportunity to explore on my own using rear projected images created with AI. I also started working with forced perspective and practical effects with guidance from my instructors. These new skills will no doubt become regular tools in my creative toolbox. In the end this has been an effective process that I intend to explore further.

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