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The Final Ember – Concept Notes

After sharing my latest photostory on ClubSNAP, the leading photographic forum in Singapore, there has been a few comments and questions regarding the portrayal of the character in the photostory. Basically, some viewers felt that the portrayal of a sick and dying cancer girl is glamourised.

Their argument lies along the lines that a girl who is ill cannot look so pretty. Nor have beautiful hair. Or doesn’t look skinny. Or has radiant skintone. Along those lines, you get what I mean.

So I decide to post my thoughts regarding the intended concept here.

I never have the intention in the first place to do a true portrayal of a person in her final days. I have no intention to find a scrawny girl with severe eye bags or balding hair or a bloated face to do my photostory. I have every intention to dramatise the story into beautiful images and showcase the model’s talent in portraying the bitter-sweet emotions.

When I create a photostory, I look at the subject that I shoot and decide how I should structure the theme. Should it be glamourised or should it be realistic? When I see the reference photo (refer to my original “The Final Ember” post) and Zoe, I knew I will be creating a glamourised theme.

For the sake of justification, I could say that the girl in the story did not actually die from the illness. Rather, she died because she fell from the stairs and injured herself. I only mentioned she has cancer, or in the story, a tumour, but I did not specify what cancer and the severity.

If I were to truly create a true-to-life photostory portrayal, there will be a few things that I would want to bring in:

– The interaction of the dying girl with her loved ones. You notice that there is no one except the girl in my story.

– Create low-key images such that it mirrors the emotions of the subject. My story images are mainly high-key.

– Less pretty wardrobe. This girl would not be dressed up nor will she be going out for walks.

– A portrayal of the sufferings she had to go through due to the illness. She’ll be bedridden, on drips, throwing up, messed hair, basically showing all the signs of final-stage illness. My story is about her doing the ‘pretty’ things like writing letter, going for walks, playing with water.

Surprisingly, no one actually commented on the areas that I feel I should really be improving on – areas of photography and acting, to be specific. And I won’t reveal here so as to give viewers a chance to share their opinions, if any.

And if you want a clearer view of the photostory, you can watch the 640×480 WMV file (35 MB) at http://photo.chester.sg/final-ember/final-ember.wmv

3 comments
  1. jeraldine

    Sorry for the late reply. I read your blog entry regarding the photo story you did and if you don’t mind, I would like to share some opinions I have about it to you. My knowledge is limited in this aspect but I shall do my best to give a good feedback to you.

    The things I liked about the photo story you did with Zoe is that you managed to capture her solitary state in a very good way and her acting skills were moderately good however, I thought it would have been improved if you had a shot of her with tears or something like that, like maybe at the house while she writes the letter. It is a very good and interesting concept as the departure of life evokes the most emotion in a person as they reflect and think back on their regrets, the people they love and things like that.

    Contrary to the popular opinion that your work has “glamourised death”, i thought there was nothing wrong with a sick girl looking good, it is not glorifying cancer or anything but rather, destroying the stereotype of sick patients being, as mentioned, “She’ll be bedridden, on drips, throwing up, messed hair, basically showing all the signs of final-stage illness.” This is a common misconception you have proven wrong by showing sick people in a different light from what society perceives it to be and you have succeeded by making it look realistic.

    The lighting is good, it made the girl look sick yet not too horrible or anything and most importantly you brought out the idea of “purity of death” kind of thing which is quite cool and you not just brought out the purity of death, you also brought out the purity the girl in the story has. Lighting aside, she portrays a character of innocence, doing ‘girly’ and very feminine stuff like playing with water. I can imagine a totally different effect if you had used a dilapidated house instead with darknessā€¦the effect would be gone.

    I hope to be able to see some more of nice works and new and interesting concepts.

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