Dear Valerie: A “Response” image.

A long time ago, probably around a year ago, I came across this image, The Proposal, by photographer Valerie Kasinsky.

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Upon seeing this image, I was really fascinated by it. There were several reasons why this image was of interest to me:

  • The lighting: I love candlelight and images that are shot at night/in the dark. I feel that the darkness surrounding the subject in such images really create a sense of mystery and secrecy.
  • The costuming: The way that Valerie had set up the scene so that the subject appeared to be someone from an era long gone really appealed to me. I am a big fan of vintage objects and I find that timelessness is something that I try to experiment with in my own images.
  • The props: I particularly liked the way that Valerie had used an old quill and paper to give the image a sense of narrative and to fix the subject to a certain period of time.
  • The subject: I learnt that this image is a self-portrait of Valerie. Self-portraits are something that I am particularly fond of creating and one of the most interesting aspects of them is the way you reinvent yourself in each image.

I thought that the way in which Valerie reinvented herself as this character that was living in a past era really interesting. Upon seeing this image, it did what most of the images I like do; it made me wonder.

It made me wonder who this person was in this photo and it made me wonder why they were writing this letter in this dark room lit only by candlelight. From this, my mind wandered and created a story around this image:

This was an image of a woman, who is writing a letter to her secret lover, who she is forbidden to contact. They haven’t seen each other for weeks and she thought that she could live without him, but she can’t. She has to send him this letter to tell him how much she loves him and to see if he feels the same way. She is writing the letter under the cover of darkness so that no one can stop her.

This image really left an impression on me. So much so it made me think:

What would the person she was sending the letter to look like?

I was then struck by the idea of creating a “response” image. I would portray the other person, this woman’s secret lover, who has received the letter and is sending another one back. I thought about where I was going to shoot this image and what I would wear. How could I create a similar image that isn’t just a copy of what Valerie has done? How could I make it ”my” image whilst also keeping the same principles of the original?

Dear Valerie

It took me awhile, pretty much around a year later to consider creating the image. At first I thought it was an awesome idea that I should really do, but then I thought of how much of the idea is really mine. To be perfectly honest, I felt that I didn’t want to just copy an image I like and pass it off as my own. So I came up with the idea of linking the idea back to the original source- in more ways than one:

  • The title for the image is called Dear Valerie. This is so that I can let people know whose original image inspired mine. Also, I felt that it would be a nice idea to add Valerie’s name in the title as homage to her image. Also, it gives the images a cohesive narrative.
  • I will send the image to Valerie herself and inform her about my image. This could go two ways. Se could like the idea that I’ve created my image or she could just think that I’ve ripped off her idea.
  • I am also going to post a link to the original image wherever I post my image. This means that anyone will get to see the source of the idea for my image.

So, what have I done differently?

Well, I thought about it for a while. I really wanted to create an image that was set in a similar era but I decided that my image could have more depth if I changed the era to suit my work and me. With this in mind I decided to set the image in an era inspired by 1920’s to 40’s (somewhere like that) and wear black trouser braces with a simple white shirt and black tie. I was tempted to wear a trilby hat but I don’t own one and wasn’t sure if it was a prop I could afford just to use in one image.

After deciding what to wear, I then had to decide on the props to use. I didn’t want to use a pen and paper, as it wouldn’t have suited the era I was recreating. Instead, I decided to use a 1930’s typewriter that I own as it offered the image a different form of communication that was as equally outdated as writing a letter.

Overall, I am happy with the image I created and although the original idea wasn’t mine, I feel that I have successfully added my own twist to create an interesting image, regardless of where the idea came from.

I would be really interested to hear other people’s opinions on this image and the idea of a ‘response’ image.

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