Image — Final Major Project

Project brief: ‘Wish You Were Here’: produce a tableau vivant-style image with the words ‘Wish You Were Here’ as a starting point.

It took some time to think of a subject to photograph for my final major project. After a visit to Photo London at Somerset House, I came across a photograph of a constructed flower taken by Jennifer Latour. I have always been fascinated about flowers, they’re symbolism and lifecycle.

Flower symbolism

Flower Meanings by Colour

Flowers provided an incredibly nuanced form of communication. Some plants, including roses, poppies, and lilies, could express a wide range of emotions based on their color alone.

Take, for instance, all of the different meanings attributed to variously colored carnations: Pink meant “I’ll never forget you”; red said “my heart aches for you”; purple conveyed capriciousness; white was for the “the sweet and lovely”; and yellow expressed romantic rejection.

The colour of the rose plays a huge role. Red roses symbolise love and desire, but roses come in a variety of colours and each has their own meaning.

White rose: purity, innocence, reverence, a new beginning, a fresh start.
Red rose: love, I love you
Deep, dark crimson rose: mourning
Pink rose: grace, happiness, gentleness
Yellow rose: jealousy, infidelity
Orange rose: desire and enthusiasm
Lavender rose: love at first sight

Dutch Masters

Vanitas became a popular genre of Dutch master paintings in the seventeenth century. It utilised the still-life form to evoke the fleeting quality of life and the vanity of living.

Primarily known as a popular Dutch art genre of the Baroque period (c.1585-1730), Vanitas is closely associated with a cultural phenomenon present in Early Modern Europe known as Memento Mori (Latin for ‘remember you must die’). 

Vanitas paintings are delicate and soaked in detail.  They are populated by symbolic imagery which forces the viewer to study the image.

Vanitas became a popular genre of Dutch master paintings in the seventeenth century. It utilized the still-life form to evoke the fleeting quality of life and the vanity of living.

Jan Davidsz de Heem
Vase of Flowers, c. 1660

The Delft painter Jacob Vosmaer was an early if not pioneering specialist in the painting of flower pictures, which often depict rare specimens known to the artists solely from illustrated books. At some time before 1870 this panel was trimmed on the sides and cut down (about nine inches) at the top, cropping the crown imperial.

The flower paintings of Jan Davidsz de Heem celebrate the beauty of flora while at the same time exemplifying the concept of Ars longa, vita brevis (art is long, life is short) embodied in the Dutch still-life paintings of the seventeenth century. De Heem’s paintings also reflected the great interest in botany at that time, and this work includes exotic flowers and plants brought back from faraway places, such as the tulip, originally imported into Europe from Turkey in the 1550s.

De Heem was one of the most gifted, versatile, and influential still-life artists of his age. His refined technique allowed him to portray a great variety of textures that captured the very essence of the objects, including the petals of exotic flowers; long bent reeds of wheat; minute creatures such as butterflies, ants, snails, and caterpillars; and finally, the reflective surfaces of glass. In this work, De Heem creates a harmonious arrangement by balancing the colours and shapes of thirty-one types of flowers, vegetables, and grains. Despite the illusion of reality, this bouquet could have never actually existed, as the various flowers would have bloomed in different seasons. De Heem often included specific animals and flowers in his work for their symbolic meanings. Representing darkness and decay, a salamander stares hungrily at a spider, while a snail, a moth, and some ants crawl on the marble shelf. The memento mori (remember that you will die) images are counterbalanced by the wheat stalks symbolising the Eucharist, and by the caterpillar and butterfly on the white poppy, which evoke redemption and resurrection.

Flowers – Summer Daze 

The alstroemeria flower has an array of meanings depending on the colour. But the beautiful blooms always connect to a similar meaning of friendship, love, strength and devotion.

They’re often thought to represent mutual support. And the ability to help each other through the trials and tribulations of life. 

The meaning behind alstroemeria derived from the six beautiful petals of the flower. Each petal represents a different characteristic: understanding, humour, patience, empathy, commitment and respect. Their twisted leaves are also a symbol of bonding, stability and overcoming difficulties together.

I took a series of images over the period of seven days. The following images are iterations of layering the different images in Photoshop. I experimented with the different blend effects whilst layering the images. I emphasised the blacks and colours, to replicate a Vanitas painting as seen above.

I used the top floor attic space at The Margate School to set up my vivant style image. The space was a perfect setting for the photoshoot due to no day light and being very warm. This meant (sadly) the flowers died quicker.

These were the four final raw images — capturing the flowers’ lifecycle.

The photoshoot set-up was simple, using one single light source pointing up which bounced light back toward the flowers, mimicking a natural light source such a a window. I used a black backdrop to draw attention to, and saturate the frame with the bright coloured petals.

Final print titled “Summer Daze”
1 m x 1 m

The tight crop adds further mystery to the dreamlike image. Inspired by many record sleeve designer, the square format to pay homage to record sleeve designs. The colours and tones has a similarity to the work of Hipgnosis.



British design studio Hipgnosis was founded in London in 1968 by two photo artists, Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson.

Hipgnosis created some of the most innovative and surreal record cover art of the 1960s, 70s and 80s for many of the big name rock bands of the era including Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney, Yes, Genesis, 10cc, Peter Gabriel, Bad Company, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Scorpions, Styx, Syd Barrett and Black Sabbath. Hipgnosis were nominated five times for Grammy Awards.

I like their use of bold, saturated colours and considered compositions. The subjects, their stances and split second outtakes reminds me of the idea of the uncanny. I want to use Photoshop and post production techniques to my advantage to duplicate subjects and manipulate the colours.

Album cover for Wish you were here pink floyd
Pink Floyd’s 1975 album cover for Wish You Were Here.
faceless man
The back cover of the 1975 Pink Floyd classic, Wish You Were Here, an album which relentlessly critiques the music industry. It features a variation on the burning salesman featured on the front cover, depicting a faceless agent selling Pink Floyd products in the desert.
red veil shot represented air within the inner sleeve of wish you were here by pink floyd
The red veil shot represented air within the inner sleeve. © Hipgnosis/Aubrey Powell/Harvest Records/Columbia Record
wish you were
The square format version of the ‘splashless diver’ shot by Powell. Lake Mono, California
Pink Floyd, Atom Heart Mother. 1970. Design Hipgnosis – Aubrey Powell / Storm Thorgerson. Foto Storm Thorgerson. © Pink Floyd Music Ltd
Pink Floyd, Atom Heart Mother. 1970. Design Hipgnosis – Aubrey Powell / Storm Thorgerson. Foto Storm Thorgerson. © Pink Floyd Music Ltd
The Creation, ‘66-‘67
Def Leppard’s second album High and Dry
Ian Dury, Reasons to be Cheerful
The Police, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” single
Hot Chocolate, Every 1’s a Winner
Yumi Matsutoya, Voyager
The Nice, ‘Elegy’ (1971)
Genesis, ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’ (1974)
AC/DC, ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ (1976)


NPG P620; Madame Yevonde - Portrait - National Portrait Gallery

Madame Yevonde
by Madame Yevonde
colour dye transfer print, 1940
14 7/8 in. x 12 in. (378 mm x 305 mm)
Purchased, 1995

This self-portrait combines many aspects of Yevonde’s picture making. It was also one of her last pictures made using the Vivex colour process. At the left is a still life composition made up of her photographic chemicals and camera lens. Yevonde sits within a gold old master frame which she often used in her photographs as a framing device. At the top of the picture is a version of one of her ‘Goddesses series’ portraits, namely The Duchess of Wellington as Hecate. In Greek mythology Hecate was a Goddess of the Underworld, Earth and Moon with powers in sorcery and black magic.


Paloma Picasso (1990). Model: Paloma Picasso, cover of Jardin des Modes magazine
En Plein Coeur (Right Through the Heart) (2016). Model: TOP (Choi Seung-Hyun)
Portrait de Lady Swinton (1996). Model: Tilda Swinton

May Ray

Glass Tears, 1932 by Man Ray
Glass Tears, 1932 by Man Ray

“Like the emotive expression of a silent screen star in a film still, the woman’s plaintive upward glance and mascara-encrusted lashes seem intended to invoke wonder at the cause of her distress. The face belongs to a fashion model who cries tears of glistening, round glass beads; the effect is to aestheticize the sentiment her tears would normally express. Man Ray made this photograph in Paris around the time of his breakup with his lover Lee Miller, and the woman’s false tears may relate to that event in the artist’s life” (source).


This week, we created dioramas inspired from a childhood memory as a starting point. It was a fun task; exploring creativity with found objects and recycled materials such as cereal boxes, bin bags, glass jam jars and mini led lights.

It was exciting to realise the artistic potential a few low-cost items can create and opened ideas to develop further with more time and resources. Photoshop helped take these dream-like images to another level. I like the idea of attempting to create as much of the raw data in the frame as possible and using post-production to emphasise elements of the composition.

Edited – I emphasised the blacks using the ‘curve’ tool and altered the tones using the ‘selective colour’ adjusted layer.

Raw image – Using a glass jam jar in front of the camera lens distorted and reflected the light, creating a dreamy, hazy effect.

Edited – I used multiple Photoshop layers to emphasise lighting and tones.
I experimented with the ‘perspective’ tool for a lower camera angle.


When I was younger, around 5 years old, I saw a ‘ghost’ through the window of my bedroom. At the time, I lived in Canterbury with my family until we moved house when I was around 6. I remember the layout of my bedroom which I shared with my older sister quite vividly. It felt cosy and just enough room to fit in a small bunkbed. The bunkbed was pushed up against the left hand wall as you walk in to the room and on the same wall as the door. If you slept on the top bunk and came down the stairs, you’d be facing the window opposite.

One evening, around Christmas time, I was waiting for my sister to come through to the bedroom once she’d finished brushing her teeth. I remember it was around that time of year because we used to have these 90’s vinyl Christmas stickers stuck to the window – putting those up made it feel more like home … I was leaning patiently against the bottom bunkbed whilst looking out of the window opposite me. From my height you could just about see the top of the houses to the back of the garden. It was dark and looked cold. There was usually this bright light which shone through the window, belonging to a house a few doors down.

Belle Vous Christmas Window Sticker (4 Sheets) - Large Santa, Xmas Tree,  Snowflake, Merry Christmas Window Clings Static PVC Stickers for Home Shop  Door Window Display Christmas Decoration Ornaments : Home

As I waited, I saw the top of a ladder appear and move close to the window. I suddenly felt scared and out of place. I was too engrossed in what was happening that the walls drew in around me and I felt fixated for a few more seconds. All whilst this was happening, and the ladder found its balance against the bedroom window, I saw a feather hat. It occurred to me that it was a young boy wearing a native American tribal hat – almost like a fancy dress outfit. As he was climbing to the top of the ladder and looking into the room directly at me, I ran away in fear.

I ran so fast into my parents room across the landing from ours that I nearly tripped over. They were making their bed and laughed as I came in screaming. I remember being so confused because they didn’t believe me. I explained what I had just seen and they kept saying its the light playing tricks. I thought they were part of a joke being played on me and I suddenly felt quite vulnerable.

I’m not one to usually get into ghost stories and to this day, I have never properly understood what that memory meant. Perhaps it was just the bright light creating an illusion…?

The Uncanny Valley

Life After Fiction: The Future of Lil Miquela
Lil Miquela. Instagram model.

Androids, avatars, and animations aim for extreme realism but get caught in a disturbing chasm that has been dubbed the uncanny valley. They are extremely realistic and lifelike — but when we examine them, we see they are not quite human. When a robotic or animated depiction lies in this “valley,” people tend to feel a sense of unease, strangeness, disgust, or creepiness.

The uncanny valley is a term used to describe the relationship between the human-like appearance of a robotic object and the emotional response it evokes. In this phenomenon, people feel a sense of unease or even revulsion in response to humanoid robots that are highly realistic. 

Origins of the Uncanny Valley

The term was first coined and described by the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in an article published in 1970. In his work, Mori noted that people found his robots more appealing if they look more human. While people found his robots more appealing the more human they appeared, this only worked up to a certain point. 

When robots appear close but not quite human, people tend to feel uncomfortable or even disgusted. Once the uncanny valley has been reached, people start to feel uneasy, disturbed, and sometimes afraid. 

“I have noticed that, in climbing toward the goal of making robots appear human, our affinity for them increases until we come to a valley, which I call the uncanny valley,” Mori explained in his seminal paper on the topic.1

Mori used a number of examples to clarify this idea. An industrial robot has little human likeness and therefore generates little affinity in observers. A toy robot, on the other hand, has a more human likeness and tends to be more appealing. A prosthetic hand, he noted, tends to lie in this uncanny valley — it can be highly lifelike yet generates feelings of unease.

Survival Response

Mori and others have suggested that the uncanny valley is an aversive, evolved response to the potential threats of death and disease. Because something is human-like but not quite lifelike, it may evoke the same response that people feel when they encounter something that is dead or dying.

Category Uncertainty 

Theories also suggest that the uncanny valley may exist due to the difficulty in determining what category an entity belongs to.

When something approaches a point where it seems to transition from one to the other, it can trigger feelings of cognitive dissonance. When people hold conflicting beliefs, they tend to experience feelings of psychological discomfort.

In this case, there is a conflict between the belief that an entity is human and the belief that it is not human. Something that looked human might abruptly appear nonhuman, or it may even shift back and forth as the viewer observes it.


Uncanny lunch

Today, I took some photos of the cafe where I had lunch in Margate. The decor and setting reminded me of the colours

Before – raw image
After – edited in Photoshop
Working with different layers, I ramped up the colours, saturation and played with tones to evoke.
Before – raw image
After – edited in Photoshop
The wider shot creates a cinematic feel and captures more empty chair, portraying a sense of loneliness

Blue Velvet

Last night I watched Blue Velvet directed by David Lynch with cinematography by Frederick Elmes.

Blue Velvet — Small Town Horror Tale - The American Society of  Cinematographers

Heavily psychological and dreamlike images combine to create a mood of almost unendurable dread, yet his dark visuals are infused with a peculiar beauty and humor.
“The whole idea of the film is going underneath the surface of a supposedly peaceful neighborhood in a small American town,” Lynch says. “It’s a real American film and it starts, because it’s so personal to me, with that first image of blue skies and a picket fence and the roses and the angle looking up I don’t know if Fred and I even talked about the angle, but it’s something that had to be looking up because it’s a childhood sort of image. It had to start with that kind of thing, but then it had to go from there and there’s a transition from the blue skies to things that are connected to plants and watering, and then that became pressure and then it had to do with introducing certain people. The image of the mother watching television and the image of the gun on TV didn’t happen until the very end, but it said something about Jeffrey and his love for a detective thing — it gives it a mood.”

Part of the contrast Elmes was seeking was built right into the film’s structure from the outset. Both Lynch and Elmes had agreed that the opening and closing sequences of the film should be mirror images of each other in overly bright, cheery tones — a sandwich made with Wonder Bread surrounding the dark meat that makes up the film’s disturbing middle section. “We had always planned to have the beginning and the end look like this very cheerful — slightly too cheerful — a little-bit-more-than-real world that David wanted to create,” Elmes says. “We designed it with that in mind. We didn’t do anything to manipulate it, except to light it in such a way that the colors really appeared to be saturated. That, contrasted with the middle part of the film, gives you that sense of difference.”

The joyride upon which Frank and his cronies have taken young Jeffrey pauses for a brief time at Ben’s club, undoubtedly the film’s most bizarre location, not so much because of the setting itself, but due to the unusual clientele the place attracts. Then again, Ben, as played by Dean Stockwell, is an effete counterpoint to Hopper’s brutal Frank, and the usual byplay between these two characters is largely responsible for building the perverse mood of this sequence. 

Simplicity became the key to their approach, and then the true horror and humor of the situation became apparent. Simplicity is a deceptive word because it tends to make things sound easy; Elmes’ photography in the sequence is flawless, and its apparent artlessness is so artful that the scene becomes painfully real. The audience is made to feel that they’re in a horrible, claustrophobic environment with some very unsavory though oddly amusing types, and Elmes does nothing photographically to make it look the least bit inviting. “What’s interesting about this scene is that we have this group of very strange characters in one room,” Elmes remarks. 

“We’d already chosen the exterior of the building, so we knew what the interior should look like and then David and Patty Norris spent a lot of time talking about it and I think she came up with a wonderful design for the apartment. It was quite fabulous and styled after the era. Also, the palette of colors in there is very well chosen and sets a real mood for the things that happen.” 

“We chose our slats carefully because we knew we’d be spending some time in the closet, and we knew this element of his voyeurism was important to the script,” Elmes explains. “We tried a couple of different things and this one seemed to be the one that gave him the best visibility and also gave us the opportunity to do an interesting light that we knew we’d have to live with for awhile once we established it. We never shot anything that he couldn’t actually see from the closet. The set was designed in such a way that the closet was in a special spot where Jeffrey can see the living room, he can see down the hall to the bathroom, and he can see part of the kitchen, but he can’t see around the corner which is the place Dorothy sneaks up on him with a knife. 

A production still from German filmmaker Peter Braatz’s 2016 documentary Blue Velvet Revisited, showing Elmes operating a closeup on Rossellini while shooting the cabaret sequence (seen below).