Task 2 Studio practice

Brief – Present 2 images (show 2 different approaches to represent the idea of the
advert – could be still life or portrait)
from your studio sessions. You can use single items or more complex set ups.
Things to consider:

  • Research of ideas and concepts
  • Setting up studio lights
  • Record all of the light settings during the shooting
  • Record all the research and development in your workbook, blog

Record all of the exercises produced in the studio in your

  • You should include all of the exercises that you will produce during the work in the studio
  • Include portrait and still life practice with research and examples of shots
  • Analyse and comment on all of the findings during the work on this project

The Wikipedia entry for melamine contains this extract https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melamine :

Melamine is combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a very durable thermosetting plastic used in high
pressure deco rative laminates such as Formica, melamine dinnerware, laminate flooring,
and dry erase boards.

and its salts are used as fire-retardant additives in paints, plastics, and

I have taken some artistic licence in terms of melamine given that it is used in plastics to incorporate this into the project terms by way of the Barbie dolls, her shoes and the other plastic superhero toys.

In some of my previous posts with both the shoes and Barbie et al, I had researched the lighting schemes and you can see how the pictures and compositions have developed. In particular, the chiaroscuro lighting scheme which I have a real affection for.

As I had decided to incorporate shoes and melamine in my
pictures, the way in which I thought I would do this would be to juxtapose the
images of the human model against those of Barbie and her friends. The best way
to achieve this in my mind was by way of a collage. I experimented with an 8
picture collage, but thought that this ultimately did not work as well as a 4
picture collage – which is what I finally decided upon. It took the collage idea from another class colleague who I saw using this process for his pictures and thought it would work well for mine – thanks, Mark!!!!!

8 pic collage 2

In terms of additional compositional inspiration, the Shoes exhibition at the V&A which I review earlier in the post provided some direction. I did not directly replicate this shot, but used the idea and took the shot from a different angle.


You will see below for the ‘advert’ shots that I have tried
to replicate or ‘reflect’ the model shots with those of the Barbie dolls (in
fact it is Barbie and Tiana). The set up used in both cases was a beauty dish
on the left side which I moved closer or further away as necessary and a soft
box on the right hand side. As I was using flash guns and not proper strobes
and it was easier to move the stands than to figure out how to change the power
output (which I think was possible on one of the guns) – lazy, I know, but
needs must. The set up below was the same for both the pictures with the white background and those with the black background.


Overall I am really happy with the way this came out. I
would have liked the white background to have been more white, but I was
risking blowing out the highlights on the dolls legs in some shots. Creatively,
for me what worked well is having the model against the black background and
the dolls against a white background. In my mind it provides the additional
level of reflection I was looking for, without it being truly an inverted
picture. Also, having the red stilettos against a black background really
brings out the contrast, which to me is better, than the pictures of the same
shoes against a white background.

Red shoes Collage 1

As part of the first task, I delivered a presentation on
Peter Erzvo Zvonar.  I had already decided that I wanted to draw on some of
his more provocative work as inspiration and use this within the project
parameters. This led me to asking my friend to model for me, but to agree to do
this naked. After discussing what I wanted to achieve we went ahead to begin
the shoot. I have included one of the nude pictures in the still life collage,
just to throw things out a bit. You would not really expect to find a person in
a still life composition. Moreover, he modelled not just one, but two pairs of women’s red shoes!!!! Clearly, this is not as provocative as Peter’s work, but we all have to start somewhere…… And yes, I thought it would make it much more interesting to have a man in women’s stilettos than to have a woman… but I suspect my classmates knew that one was coming…. but maybe not the fact that he would be nude 🙂

Red shoes Collage 3

The pictures of purple shoes and Barbie, Captain America and Hawkeye were taken
in class when we had our studio sessions and is already posted earlier on the
blog. I liked the series of those pictures so much, that I decided to include
one in the final project. The still life of the red shoes with the plastic
Barbie Doll shoes was taken a number of weeks ago and again already posted on
this blog as a proper still life. I am still amused by my composition of
placing three small stilettos on the side of a real stiletto. Again in that
shot, the background could have been more black, but this was when I was first
experimenting at home, so cut me some slack 🙂 .

Red shoes Collage 4

The final collage picture again has a nude photograph, which I really like in terms of composition and imagery – there is something alluring, sexual and domineering about red stilettos. This is best represented by the pictures of Barbie and Tiana placing their shoes on the faces of Hawkeye and Captain America. There were some similar pictures taken with live models in the same pose that did not make the final cut for reasons I need not go into.

Again, I drew on other photographs and photographers for these more “provocative” pictures….


© Peter Erzvo Zvonar (final picture only)

One the things that I had not taken any real cognisance of (in any great depth) is how sexualised and sexual shoes are – D’uh you might say, but I see them as functional. I see a pair of shoes, I think they are nice or not as the case may be and that’s that. My eyes opened to their sexualised nature when visiting the V&A exhibition and the way in which that was curated in having a section about shoes and how they have been fetishised. Doing the research for this project my tutor alerted us to Guy Bourdin and some of his pictures of shoes are fantastic and to my mind highly sexual. So they played a part in my thinking for composition and how to approach this task. Hopefully I managed to bring some of this to my work… you’ll have to be the judge of that!!


© Guy Bourdin


© Guy Bourdin


© Guy Bourdin

16388 ART 25G GB FG-Sm_cs.tif

© Guy Bourdin


© Guy Bourdin

To wrap this up – a big thanks to David for agreeing to model for me, an even bigger thanks to Barbie, Tiana, Hawkeye and Captain America for allowing me to subvert their wholesome image 🙂

I hope you like my interpretation of the project brief – shoes and melamine. I’ve had fun thinking about how to present it and putting it all together. The final thing for me to do, is to get some hard copies printed.