Friday, December 18, 2009

COMMON APPLICATION ARTS SUPPLEMENT Photography by Emma Coleman: Utopia

Utopia: The ‘50s

Emma Coleman


            “Utopia” is a term generally applied to a place or community.  In literature, philosophy and even attempts by leaders to create real-life utopias, there is always some critical flaw that, inevitably, leads to destruction.  This imminent doom is by and large due to the imperfect nature of humans.  I find the subject endlessly fascinating.  For my project, however, I chose to approach the term from a different angle.  Rather than operating under the assumption that a utopia is a place, I’ve chosen to view it as a moment in time. 

            My friend Cassie agreed to pose for me as a fabulous woman of the 1950s.  With a few props and some mood music she was transformed. ‘50s Cassie is a successful sports editor for the New York Herald Tribune, a lady of society and, most importantly, the recent bride of Marlon Brando.  While Mrs. Marlon Brando receives an important business call on her fashionable rotary phone, Elvis softly serenades her from the family record player.  Later she lounges on her four-poster, catching up on the most recent Kennedy gossip. Hers is a life I envy, one that, in my mind, is utopic.  However, as with every utopia, truly living it is an impossibility.  The 50s are in the past and Marlon is dead.  Like a world without war or a nation of unicorns and rainbows, it is a fantasy that will forever live in my imagination. 

            I framed the shots using cloth from my grandmother’s old dress (made in the 50s) and stored them in an old hat box along with a few of the props used in the photo shoot.  I like to think of it as a hat box of dreams. 

COMMON APPLICATION ARTS SUPPLEMENT Photography by Emma Coleman: Personae


Personae: At A Glance


            Before even picking up my camera this time around I spent a few days breaking down the term persona.  “What is a persona?” I asked myself, “What is my persona?”  Hard as I tried I couldn’t seem to pin myself down to just one, perfectly descriptive character.  It finally occurred to me that the role I play differs depending on whose perspective is taken.  We are all of us defined by memories, each of us a construct of a web of suggested identities.  This initial conclusion satisfied me, but I wanted to take it a step further.  In what context could I neutralize the evaluation of a person’s identity?  Where could I capture the personae of strangers? 

            My solution was a trip to Cleveland Hopkins.  At the airport we brush past people, exchange brief glances and rarely pause to wonder about them.  All we know about these strangers is what we can see. They are stripped of a history, ungrounded… fleeting mysteries. 

COMMON APPLICATION ARTS SUPPLEMENT Photography by Emma Coleman: Emulation

Emulation: Tony Gleaton



From 1988 to 1995, Los Angeles-born Tony Gleaton photographed communities of African descendants in Mexico, Central and South America.  The portraits are shot straight-on with beautiful simplicity.  They depict children and adults, boys and girls, fishermen and couples on their wedding day.  The common thread between the pictures in Gleaton's “I Have Almost 500 years: Africa’s Legacy” series is the sobriety of the expressions on his subjects' faces. There is remarkably ambiguous depth in their eyes, a restrained gaze that I find utterly intriguing. I am not in a position to explore the faces of a foreign culture but I think the visual quietude of Gleaton’s photographs is something present in all of us. 

I attempted to replicate this sentiment using my high school peers as subjects, a task which initially appeared simple… deceptively so.  As I began to shoot I ran into quite a few problems.  One of my biggest issues, and an observation I find exceedingly interesting, was the sensitivity of my friends to the camera.  We are a culture deeply accustomed to photos and it is instinctual for us to pose when confronted with a camera.  It was difficult for me to assert myself enough to illicit the expressions I desired, and I became increasingly frustrated with my results.  Gleaton, I finally concluded, was working with individuals unaccustomed to the inundation of photographic imagery.  Therefore, he seemed able to more naturally capture his subjects’ less adulterated expressions.

COMMON APPLICATION ARTS SUPPLEMENT Photography by Emma Coleman: Mapping


Last Thursday my Grandma, after suffering from pneumonia and the repercussions of several brutal falls, passed away.  My mother's siblings traveled thousands of miles (from Germany and from Idaho) to say their goodbyes and to comfort each other.  We were all heartbroken.  It was a weekend of tears and stories, of old photographs and love letters.  At one point, after coming across a stack of grainy videos that brought back some of my fondest memories of her, I was overwhelmed by grief and couldn't seem to stop crying.  A family friend pulled me aside and comforted me with very brief, yet miraculously assuring words of wisdom.  She recited to me the old proverb about grieving: "Pain comes and goes- love lasts."

For this project I mapped the love that my grandmother left behind, in its most tactile form: her children.  I photographed each of them in a location or with objects that made them feel most at home.  For my uncle Sean it was the comfort of a playground, for my uncle Tim, the soothing purr of a housecat and for my mother, a familiar mattress and one of her works of textile art.  I attempted to capture each of them at a moment of laughter or vulnerability.  I wanted to map the purest glimmers of life within each of them, signs, I think, that my grandmother's loving spirit lives on. 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Valeri Nistratov

Kenneth Kajoranta

John Sevigny

Woman in Saltillo

Woman in Monterrey

Woman in cantina

Man in San Juan de Dios

Man in Guadalajara