I chose two proverbs, “you can’t have your cake and eat it” and “no use crying over spilt milk”.
I remembered some previous collaborative work with my friend Penny. We had used an action man doll and I was surprised how expressive of body language an action man was, and I thought I would use one again as a model for this but I couldn’t find any. (I have subsequently bought one off ebay) Needing a figure with articulation, I made do with a wrestler doll although I couldn’t manipulate the limbs fully.
You can’t have your cake and eat it.
I chose this proverb because it always baffled me as a child, I felt it didn’t make sense, that the point of having a cake is to eat it, so why would you want it, twice. I wanted to depict the wrestler being overcome with bafflement at trying to work it all out.
I took a series of photos using a couple of black boxes as a back drop and dolls house furniture as props. I made a choice of the final images and then added some clothes asI thought he looked a bit too naked which was distracting from the central meaning of the images. Finally I added some speech and thought bubbles.
No use crying over spilt milk.
Another childhood memory of an older cousin saying this to me as a child. Having long forgotten why the remark was made, I still remember the sensation of having a genuine grievance shut down without being allowed to express my feelings on it.
So for this depiction I allowed the wrestler to fully give rein to his feelings of sadness and despair over the spilt milk, lying on the floor howling with sadness. In the second image he is tidying it all up like a good boy.
Having done all 4 images I was still left feeling unsatisfied. I had used the black back drop so as not to distract from the figure but I felt in the final images the wrestler looked as though he was floating in space. I also felt that the words could have been clearer.
I experimented with using a different backdrop, but felt that that wasn’t the answer.
I had a good rethink at this stage. This is an issue that I have had whenever making models. Somehow the magic or charm disappears in some part of the process.
I went back and looked at Mark Hogancamp’s work again. (Here) He is a photographer who makes extremely lifelike depictions of scenes from the second world war using Action Man type and Barbie dolls (although he does get heads specially commissioned with his friends faces). He acts out scenes which he then photographs.
The scenes are very compelling. I think that he acts as a film director, directing the dolls as actors in a vivid scene which he then shoots. He is a very skilled photographer and the scenes are all shot from the “actors” viewpoints, as though they were life-size actors in a real film.
I took the wrestler into the doll’s house (despite him being slightly too big) and tried to imagine myself as a film director. I immediately had the same problems as before, namely the lighting. I find myself juggling table lamps and trying to press the button on my camera at the same time. I’ve broken several lamps before trying this. I really could do with an assistant!
The problem of lighting was particularly bad in the doll’s house because it is such a small confined space. I repeated the shots and I felt overall happier with the outcome, although ideally I would like to retake the last shot with improved lighting and generally finesse the images a bit more, but I feel I’ve already spent a long time on this.
Lessons for next time
I have read up a bit more about still life photography, so I have a bit more of a plan for lighting next time. Also, I am planning to use Action Man next time and he is too big for the dolls house so I would use a built set which would be open on 2 sides and above.