Before seeking subjects for my final project, I gathered some of my friends to do a gender bending photo shoot all of whom have alternative sexualities and identities. I echoed the visual aesthetics seen in Bettina Von Zwehl’s constructed portraits as well as Bettina Rheims mysterious series, ” Gender Studies”. I used a white backdrop and had my subjects wear white to heighten that sense of ambiguity which I knew from the beginning was what I wanted to achieve. I never actually got round to doing anything with these images but the creative process was a valid one and helped me make some drastic decisions which helped form what my final project has become today. I noted on the shooting experience:
Lessons learnt: use a high F stop! Some of the images were not as sharp as I would have hoped due to a low F stop so in future I will ensure before I get snappy happy that my settings are all set! I manage to salvage a few through post-editing but that shouldn’t have been necessary. I used the white studio, emulating the images created by Bailey and Rheims. However, I’ve had a change of heart. I feel my subjects would have been more striking if I had used a slightly darker background. The images where you can see a crease in the background I feel work better. As a result I hope to use a grey backdrop on my next shoots. Whilst I love the lightness and subtlety of Bettina Rhiems portraits of her gender bending beauties, I feel having a slightly more moody angle could be interesting. We’ll see.
And so from this experimentation, I decided I would shoot my subjects on a grey background to denote the idea of sex and gender being a grey area, not black or white. This would help denote the sense of ambiguity I craved. I also thought that I should not restrict my subjects to wearing only white. I still want them to appear individual and unique whilst accessories and props can help signal certain gender stereotypes, or maybe even mock them. Overall, the experience was helpful and I may get round to using these images in some way.