My Final Major Project, ‘Havisham’, was strongly influenced by my love of classical literature. Working through the Lens Based Media pathway, I selected photography as my medium to explore the thematic subject of mental health and how a traumatic event can change a person forever. Using a Nikon DSLR camera, NIKKOR lens, ring lighting, Adobe Photoshop, props, and costumes, I created a series of photographic tableaux vivants in the style of portraiture, creating three prequel scenes and recreating two scenes from the novel ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens.
My sister acted as my model, in the role of the antagonist character Miss Havisham, whose mental health was the main focus of my theme. My aim was to show how relatable the Havisham character was, when her breakdown was revealed through imagery. This was to examine how Miss Havisham ended up as a bitter, vengeful recluse. I feel that I have achieved this through showing her emotional state of mind, starting from the morning of her wedding day, and ending with the day she died.
In addition to my photographs, I also created a series of cyanotypes and photographic prints, outlining passages from the novel, and the poem ‘Havisham’ by Carol Ann Duffy. These prints were created using a Calligraphy ink script typeface, appropriate to the time-period, to pair-up alongside the imagery. Each passage of writing was paired with the corresponding images to give more context to the photographic story. However, under advisement, I decided not to install my paired-up text work alongside my images, as it would detract from the visual story of the photographs.
The story and character of Miss Havisham is one of the most famous works created by Charles Dickens. When I decided to create three prequel scenes, I created them in reference to context found in the novel, so the story was unchanged. I then selected key scenes from the novel to recreate as my tableaux vivant portraits, scenes that most people would recognise; the descriptive scene from chapter eight and the death by fire scene from chapter forty-nine.
Throughout working on my Final Major Project and taking note of my critical feedback on my work, I personally found that most people do not tend to think much about the mental health of Miss Havisham, they usually just see her as a bitter old woman. This was a factor that affected some of my artistic decisions.
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