Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Body Unit: Final Ideas, Research and Shoot Plan

Reading a book called 'What is a Child? Popular Images of Childhoos' by Patricia Holland which analyses how children have been portrayed in the media drew my attention to the idea that girls grow up with a totally different perception of the world.
 Girls grow up having to learn how to present themselves obviously more exaggerated before the 20th century where females were expected to wear floor length dresses and behave respectfully; however girls are still more aware of being watched rather than watching others. It is a sort of exhibitionism where they observe adult behaviour and reproduce the qualities they see and think is expected of them; by deliberately putting themselves on dispaly like this they have already lost their innocence in this way. 
Whereas I felt when reading the book as well as in everyday life boys have a lot less expected of them in terms of behaviour especially at an early age as it has been found that the male gender mature a lot slower than females. Therefore I decided to use male models as they are often less self-conscious and less posey, so will have produce more naturally occurring scenes in my work.

The child's obliviousness to the camera would create the most natural image and in turn a much more innocent result. My first concept that I wish to capture in my shoot is an image where the child is distracted inspired by Bettina von Zwohl's work where she hangs a toy out of frame to distract the attention of the one year old. 
  To create this I may use the mother with a toy stood to the side of the shot or have the toy in the frame of the image so that the child is playing with it like a cuddly toy. As I have two models it would be interesting to do some individual shots where they play on their own and other when they're are interacting with one another to see what sort of image this gives me. 
Learning is a part of life which comes in many forms- socialising, playing but nowadays this has taken the form of technology such as telelvision programmes and Nintendo DSs; I feel that this distracts the child from the real world and limits some areas of leanring. I have asked the mother to bring something similar to this and she is bring a Leapfrog game, again on the one hand the child playing with it will be acting naturally to the game but at the same time have an unnatural feel as the child is unsociable and in a way we now expect children to pose in front of the camera lens due to familiarity to technology. 
This was discussed through a series of images made by Wendy McMurdo called 'Dark Matter: Digitial Play 2007' which depicts children emersed statically in their DS while surrounded by a location normally associated with activity.
They are very uncomfortable to look at as they are showing the reality of childhood these days, emersion into a screen and anti-socialness which I think stops creativity and for me being an art & design student when I see an advert for a DS game where you can colour in drawings on a computer screen and this is called creativity I am disgusted by what a child's creativity has been boiled down to; which begs the question what is innocence nowadays really?

Even without a computer screen young children are often seen staring into the distance emerged in their own little world or just simply playing by themselves; when looking at Vee Speers although so are slightly twisted the costumes are an expansion of the child's imagination. 
So in a way I feel that these children are portraying more innocent acts than those in Wendy McMurdo's images as they are simply acting out and dressing up as a character they have dreamt up rather than characters of a story being forced on them like in many DS games.
And interestingly even though Speers images sometimes contains dead animals, I find Loretta Lux's images less innocent, they are very posed and the children dressed by Lux are almost perfect doll-like figures frozen in time.
The setup seems a lot more contrived as if trying to portray a perfect world rather than a child's imagination unlike Speers work.
I want to try and have some much more posed images like Speers and Lux's where the child is still, looking either into the camera or in to the distance much like von Zwohl's work but in a much more setup scene.

Although I interpret Speers images as a portrayal of childplay the overall feel of the images are quite eerie touching on this idea of tainted childhoods due to the media, technology, society etc. Being exposed to things affects our behaviour whether it be a camera put in front of us or a more disturbing occurrence such as witnessing violence or being exposed to sexualised behaviour. I watched a programme which drew my attention more to this called 'The Sex Education Show: Stop Pimping our Kids' where they highlighted the way that the most recent generations of children are growing up too fast due to watching sexual behaviour in music videos, wearing inappropriate clothing and observing men's lifestyle magazines.
Speers seems to highlight some of these factors in her work, where children hold guns and dead animals which we wouldn't normally want to expose children to tainting the idea of innocence. 

The flat lighting combined with the dead pan backdrop with cracks in is also intriguing as white is usually associated with innocence which gives this feeling to the image but is almost to flat giving a peculiar unease to the scene. 
I want to create a similar background for all of my images but with a different message linked to it; I will use creased fabric to mirror this idea of children plaing in their bedroom building imaginary locations eg. castles and tents which reverts back to this feeling of innocence. I will use flat lighting to make sure the backdrop & child's complexion is quite pale to make it very soft and not high in contrast. 
In the posed images I want the boys to look straight into the eyes of the audience to create a feel of innocence like in charity adverts; children of third world countries are filmed looking down the camera at the audience sat at home which tries to persuade them to donate.
This is innocence where the child would not be very aware of what it is they are looking at but at the same time they sort of aren't portraying true innocence due to a foreign object being shoved in their face.

I also looked a little at Ingar Krauss' Juvenile prisoner series where she uniformly photographed children in the prision against a blank wall. This children due to the fact that they had committed a crime are no longer seen as innocent therefore I wanted to think about what it was that makes the children look different to Speers' children.
The bricks gives this sense of hardness, a barrier stopping the inmates from escaping and therefore conflict with our idea of a child's persona. The uniform of the children without knowing the reason for them wearing it is very bland and doesn't remind me of what a child should look like. The expected clothing of a child would be pastel tones which is why I will have my models in light clothing.
The camera position is below the figures eyeline which I find intriguing as it gives this sense of the child overpowering the adult audience members making them look quite powerful. Therefore I will position my camera ever so slightly above the child so as not to intimidate the subject but to show them as how they should be. 
Again I will use soft lighting and the children's own light coloured clothing to keep it natural rather than looking like Lux's almost small adult looking children where she dresses them in shirts and suits.

      So to recap my two models are boys aged 4 & 7, I will have them dressed in light clothing, with several different concepts- some posed and some natural. I have asked the models' mother to birng some of their favourite toys both soft and cuddly like teddies and technological like Leapfrog to capture different emotions and expressions produced by the children. 
      I will bring in two small chairs to give a well-proportioned image rather than adult chairs so it gives a more childish atmosphere combined with the crumpled white sheets. 
      I will create my lighting using soft boxes to create extremely soft shadows and no harsh bright light on the surface of the child’s skin (as shown in the diagram below)

It is interesting how when we think of child toys we see cuddly toys like teddies etc. as a symbol of childhood innocence whereas technology is associated with adulthood eg. Mobile phones etc., the teddy bear is like the modern day lamb that represented Jesus. So it will be interesting to look at the way an audience views a child with a cuddly toy compared to a technological toy like a leapfrog. Doing research into child toys I have found that even Leapfrog games are being turned into a sort of advertisement for products which children seem to be acquiring earlier and earlier in life; for example they now produce LeapPad with apps which will lead on to iPads and phones etc. This makes me curious as to whether children are being exposed to technology too young and therefore making them lose their innocence at a much earlier age.
I don't think I will ever quite figure out what innocents is as it has been interpretted in so many different ways through history and art forms; but in my final image of the Body unit I want to portray my personal view on innocence or possibly the loss of it.

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