Background Story:

For this photo essay, it was really important for me to explore and explain how a person’s worldview changes as they grow older, and experience more of the world. This is a process I experience daily, and it is both alarming and exciting to me. One way I could think of to solidly explain this transition is to frame it in the context of how I interpret a reoccurring event, such as the holiday season. A lot of my interpretation in this photo essay comes from the way I remember experiencing the holiday as a child, which included ripping through presents and cookies without really appreciating why I was getting them. As a child, there wasn’t the give and take that I am now familiar with.  Growing up, my worldview gradually widened, allowing me to appreciate a few others and some of the holiday spirit that wasn’t associated with consuming from others, but the prospect of gifts and getting always loomed large for me, and I think for most of my peers.

It is only recently, when I left home and began making my own adult decisions and choices, that I really began to take on a larger, more balanced, more humble worldview than I did in the past. It is still a transition, but the allure of taking rather than giving seems to be largely absent–I can appreciate the beauty of the season without expecting anything back, and there is some relief in that. However, there was also sadness and wariness that comes with being an adult, and that was never clearer to me than when I was shooting in the “adult” section of the photo essay, especially at the National Christmas Tree. In everyday life you are consumed by your own problems and thoughts and dreams, but being an adult also acknowledges how small you really are in the world. Looking at the photograph of the tree and seeing the swarms of people gathered there to share in the same experience, I was forced to acknowledge that sense of smallness, and it made me long for the days when life was simpler, and the only thing I needed to concern myself with during the holidays was what to ask for from Santa Claus. There is a bit of tragedy in losing that sense of innocence and narrowness for me, but it generally gives way when I think of all the beauty and possibility that exists in adulthood.

I also wanted this photo essay to convey the beauty of the holidays in Washington DC. During my freshman year, I was too overwhelmed by new experiences to really take in what the holidays looked like here, and I was really homesick for the way the holidays are spent in New York City. It was one of my biggest regrets that I missed out on the holiday seasons here. It seemed fitting that I was just coming into my new “adult” worldview, seeing the world and the season in ways that are vastly different than when I was a child, and yet I was completely innocent to the holidays here in DC. It was a strange dichotomy for me, but I really enjoyed the chance to explore and admire the beauty and grace that are everywhere in this city.

Gifts

When you’re a child, the holidays are all about the presents. You are overwhelmed by the color and splendor of the holidays, and that’s all the importance they have for you at this stage of life.
Camera: Iphone 4
Photo Size: 2.5 MB/ Width: 300 Height: 224
Dimensions: 2592 x 1936 pixels
Close Range
Edited with iPhoto

xmas cookies

All of the baked goods are very important as well. For better or for worse, the holidays for children are focused on consumption. A child’s worldview is very narrow, and that is never clearer than around the holiday’s, when their sole focus is really what they are presented with.
Camera: Iphone 4
Photo Size: 2 MB/ Width: 300 Height: 224
Dimensions: 2592 x 1936 pixels
Close Range
Home
Edited with iPhoto

xmas sweaters

At this point, your eyes hopefully widen enough to appreciate other things, such as joy in the company of your friends, and the silliness that can ensue when you’re together. However, the scope of your view is still relatively narrow, and filled with the idea of what material aspects the holiday will bring you, such as the trendy ugly sweater featured above.
Camera: Iphone 4
Photo Size: 2 MB/ Width: 350 Height: 400
Dimensions: 2592 x 1936 pixels
Medium Range
Model: Kimberley Cate
Urban Outfitters, Chinatown
Edited with iPhoto

xmas sbucks

When you grow up a bit, your worldview widens some, and you can see past the gifts right in front of your eyes. But the scope of your view isn’t entirely enlarged, and its still often dominated by material things, such as the arrival of the holiday starbucks cup.
Camera: Iphone 4
Photo Size: 2 MB/ Width: 350 Height: 400
Dimensions: 2592 x 1936 pixels
Medium Range
Starbucks, Chinatown
Edited with iPhoto

xmas singer

As an adolescent, you begin to notice different things about the holiday season than you did as a child. Yes, consumption and gifts are still dominating factors, but you also begin to appreciate and share in the sense of revelatory celebration and happiness.
Camera: Iphone 4
Photo Size: 2 MB/ Width: 350 Height: 400
Dimensions: 2592 x 1936 pixels
Medium Range
Holiday Festival, Chinatown
Edited with iPhoto

xmas wreaths

As an adult, a much larger view begins to take hold. At this point, the holidays are not solely based on what you receive anymore. You are able to appreciate a sense of beauty that would have been lost on you as a kid, and you can take in and savor aspects of the season that years ago would not have even crossed your mind.
Camera: Iphone 4
Photo Size: 2 MB/ Width: 450 Height: 500
Dimensions: 2592 x 1936 pixels
Long Range
Union Station Decorations
Edited with iPhoto

photo 1

At this point, that adult view includes other people as well as yourself, and you are able to appreciate the spirit and beauty of the season without the spirit of materialism clouding your view. It shows the loveliness and maturity of being an adult, but also the sense of smallness in the world, as opposed to the narrow, self-centered standpoint of a child.
Camera: Iphone 4
Photo Size: 2 MB/ Width: 450 Height: 500
Dimensions: 2592 x 1936 pixels
Long Range
National Christmas Tree
Edited with iPhoto

IMG_0631Tree:Gifts

IMG_0625

Tree

Lights

IMG_0576

OrnamentsIMG_0632

IMG_0633

–Please excuse the shot list, I am a really awful artist

Final Project Production Journal

Pre-Production:

What I really wanted out of this project was a chance to recapture a little bit of the magic of the holiday I used to love as a kid. I was a huge Christmas fanatic as a child, but as adulthood set in I’ve lost a bit of that in the quest for the perfect gifts for others, and the subsequent affect that this quest has both on my psyche and on my bank account. As now is the season of stress and finals, I thought this would be a good time to remind people (and myself) to relax, breathe, and remember what the innocence and magic of the holiday season meant to us as children. As a sophomore in college, I often feel as though I’m being pulled back and forth between child and adulthood—I am technically an adult, I suppose, but I in no way feel like one. I came up with this concept on reminiscing about what I loved about Christmas when I was little, and wishing I could rediscover that for a moment.

I can’t really say any one style or photograph really influenced me for this project, because I don’t know a lot of styles particularly well. However, one aspect that I really am going to try to create is a kind of candid, comfortable quality. My idea for this project is for it to resemble a photo album of sorts; one that captures the happiness and comfort that I remember about the holiday season. In my head, it comes across as more of a collection of images that remind me why the holidays were of such importance to me. The most important part is for the photos to have a celebratory, happy feel to them, which I think would be exceptionally difficult to produce if I were to choose a photographic style that focuses on dramatic flare, such as the Herb Ritts photography I studied earlier in the semester.

Prior to shooting, my main concern is finding moments that will fit into the vision I have for this project. At this point, I have an idea of what I want the photo essay to look like, but I am mostly planning on going with gut instinct, and to photograph images that inspire the emotion I’m looking for. This is a bit of a double edged sword; one hand, this sense of candidness and a slightly haphazard, happily chaotic feel is what I’m hoping to create; however, the lack of specificity is also a bit nerve racking for a final project.

Production:

Once I started the photo essay, I ran into a few problems—namely, I had some trouble deciding and sticking with one approach for conveying the joy of the holidays. In trying to decide exactly what I was going to photograph, I decided that I wanted to focus on the progression of the holidays from childhood into adulthood. This was jarring, because it was a bit of a shift from my original idea. However, I decided that if I were to stay with the idea of Christmas from a childhood perspective, my essay wouldn’t have any real variety to it, which bothered me. So, I shifted the focus of the essay to how we experience the holidays as we grow up—from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. I thought this would make the essay a lot more visually interesting, as well as a bit more resonant.

Once I’d gotten the main idea down, I worked out the shooting a bit more. The whole process of shooting took a fairly long time—I shot over the course of two weeks. I collected some of the photos on my walks to and from school—some of which I thought were particularly visually interesting, others simply reminded me of the happiness I felt when I was little around this time of year. Over the two weeks, I made trips to Union Station, The Holiday Festival in Chinatown, and the National Christmas Tree. For some of these trips I was accompanied by friends who posed for me, because I wanted to get a sense of holiday spirit in action—to give the photo essay a little kinetic energy, if that makes sense. Also, the idea of going to the Holiday festival by myself around the holidays was enough to make me feel like Scrooge.

One way I came up with to express the passage of time was to alter the way I staged each shot, in conjunction in the “stage” I was in. When taking the photos for the childhood section, I wanted very tight shots, very close up. This, to me, represents the narrow worldview that a child has. As I moved on to the adolescent stage of holiday celebrating, I pulled back a bit, to represent an increased sense of awareness that goes with growing up. In the adult section, I really wanted to give the shots a much larger scope, and to incorporate a sense of vastness, in order to illustrate intense the evolution from childhood to adulthood is. This was especially important to me, because it’s a transition I am still in the process of experiencing, and it is simultaneously beautiful and jarring. In terms of editing, I wasn’t sure how to go about it. My first instinct was to enhance the color in each photo, because color is what I really associate with an innocent, childhood aesthetic. However, I decided that it would be a better idea to give the essay a vintage faded look for the “childhood” segment, and as I move up in time to the “adult” segment, reduce the fade until the photos were clear and modern, to help further illustrate the passage of time aesthetic I was trying to create. I also changed the size of the pictures, so that the smallest pictures were of the presents and cookies and smaller world view, and as that world view grew, the size of the photographs reflected that.

Post-Production:

This photo essay really taught me the importance of revision and flexibility. While the subject matter essentially remained the same, the way I wanted to shoot and stage the pictures really dramatically changed. It was a process letting the essay transition and adapt after I’d already developed an idea that I really liked at the beginning. I really like the way the essay came together, and I think the evolution of mentality that I wanted to convey was really captured through the photos. My favorite photo was of the wreaths at Union Station, because they were the first things I saw when I cam back from the Thanksgiving holiday, and really marked the beginning of the season for me. The other photo I found important for the adolescent section was the Starbucks photo. It may seem trivial, but all through high school it never truly seemed like the holidays to my friends and I until Starbucks pulled out those particular red cups. I shot the cup so that it seemed a bit looming, to try and convey how important this seemingly unimportant cup could be.

If I had to do this project over again, I would probably not have let the period where I took the photos run so long. Two weeks was a bit too much time, and left me with too much time to second guess the pictures I took. By the end, I had around thirty or forty pictures—choice is a good thing, but it made it a lot harder to decide on which pictures were good enough to include. Overall, though, I think the project was a lot more fun than I’d been expecting, although participating in holiday cheer is hardly a taxing activity. I’m really proud of the way it all came together, and that the pictures are really able to convey what I wanted about growing up and the way we interpret things as children, adolescents, and adults. I would definitively do this project again

Visual Literacy PSA Project

Caroline Handel, VL Fall 2012

“Holiday Cheer”

A PHOTO ESSAY

Concept/Theme:

For my final project I decided to create a photo essay based on the varying degrees of emotions that is involved in preparing for the holiday season. The holidays are generally considered a time of pervasive, sometimes oppressive cheer, and I think it would be interesting to explore the way we incorporate the holidays into our own lives.

Purpose/Intent:

Ever since I was a child, the winter holidays were always my favorite time of year. I grew up in New York, and I was always spellbound by the way the city seemed to transform during this time, becoming something more mysterious and magical to me. One of my favorite activities was shopping and preparing gifts for my friends and family; it was an activity I anticipated every year. I still do appreciate it, but I now also share in the harried, often stressful emotions that come with the holiday season, and that have come to bother me—I hope this photo essay can help me tap back into my former holiday cheer.

Production Plan

To tap into the childlike, wondrous quality I hope to convey with this photo essay, I don’t want to plan ahead for this project too much. I can create an outline of the pictures I want to include, but the content is harder to pin down. My basic plan is to take 8 photographs that display the grand, pervasive, beautiful aspect of the holiday season. I will spend a day and partial night walking from downtown DC towards campus, seeking ways to translate the way the city can change this time of the year. I will only be using my iphone, because I like the offhand, candid quality of the pictures that it takes. I plan to make color an extremely important part of my photo essay. The main objection of this essay for me is to tap into the innocent with which a child sees the holiday spirit, and the strength and vividness of bright colors speaks to that aspect.

After I choose the images that I will include in the photo essay, I don’t want to edit or change them too much, because I don’t want to make them look too sophisticated, which I think is often what happens when photos are edited. One of the main aspects of the photo essay is freshness and a candid quality, and I would find it hard to retain that if I changed the pictures too much. The part of the pictures I will edit is the quality and vibrancy of the colors, to enhance them as much as I can. I want the colors to jump out at the viewer. I associate colors with innocent and freshness, with childhood, qualities that I want to convey above all else, so I plan to spend a lot of time helping the colors stand out from the photo.

In terms of the elements and principles of design, I’ve noticed over the course of the semester that I am often drawn to contrasts between light and dark, so for my final project I want to really accentuate that. Symmetry and shape are also things I’m attracted to in photographs—by combining all of these aspect, I think I can create a visually striking photo essay with these elements, as well giving the essay a fluidity throughout.

Inspiration

My inspiration for this photo essay is, obviously, a yearning to appreciate the holidays as I once did, and to convey the beauty and innocence that is often lost upon us. Many times, the spirit of the season is lost in our quests to make plans and buy gifts and “make the holiday perfect”. It’s often maddening to me that I lost the appreciation I had for the holidays as a child; when I looked forward to it for the feeling it gave me, rather than what my parents did one Christmas morning. The season, and the feelings it can invoke are very pure and joyous, and I hope to capture the power behind them.

Expected Outcome

With this photo essay, I hope to appeal to a wide range of people. My main objection is to invoke happiness and innocence from the photos, so I hope viewers can appreciate it for that, and that it has the desired affect on them. I suppose the audience I’m trying to reach is those suffering from disillusionment or fatigue during the season; who are distracted by what it is, rather than what it can be. I hope that I can inspire viewers to tap into the appreciation and love of the holidays they might have experience as children, before understand and reality intervened—our younger selves knew it, why can’t we?

Photo-Essay: Architecture in DC

Photo-Essay#2: Nature and Concrete 

Film: Music Video of natural distraction (song to be decided)–Focuses on erosion of natural life

 

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.

-Dr. Seuss