Annie Leibovitz [Tableaux]

  • Annie Leibovitz is an American portrait photographer.

I have been inspired by Leibovitz’s work for a very long time now and for many projects; she has even inspired me for a project I did at college, were I looked into tell the stories of fairy tales like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Red Riding Hood. With that project I stayed ‘true’ to the stories and stuck to how it was told to me when I was younger (however I did leave all four stories on cliffhangers as the main characters waited for their ‘heroes’ to come and save them).

Leibovitz’s work tells a story within her work, and in her Disney series she illustrates the stories that were told in the classic movies and stories. In the Disney series; the fantasy ‘originals’ are given a reality look, using the models as celebrates like Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson and David Beckham to take on the roles of the heroes and princesses from the stories. Not only is Leibovitz ‘recreating’ these classic fairytales and stories that Disney had brought to life; but she is also creating Disney’s own original movies like Brave and Pirates of the Caribbean (including Johnny Depp taking up his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the PotC shoot, who he also portrayed in the movie).

Having celebrities take on these roles make me think these images are meant to show that everyone has dreams – and they do comes true, (like celebrities; becoming famous actors, sings, or footballers) but why not use ordinary people? and show that ordinary people’s dreams can come true, however with that being said – I have a feeling that the images wouldn’t have the same feeling to them – I feel that being able to recognize the people as these roles works better than not being able to recognize them.  I feel that being able to recognize the models applies to adults; as they (and the celebs) have grown up with these stories, it reminds them to keep dreaming :). However Disney’s last two films haven’t been following tradition and the women don’t end up with a prince (Brave; a Disney original, and Frozen, which is based loosely on the Snow Queen), which makes me think that they are trying to show that woman are strong and don’t need saving all the time – also Disney’s Mulan didn’t need saving, she ended up saving China!

Disney has made it fairytales seem happy; while the original stories are much darker, due to the fact Disney have a young audience they have to keep things ‘clean’ and suitable for them.

In the original sleeping beauty, the lovely princess is put to sleep when she pricks her finger on a spindle. She sleeps for one hundred years when a prince finally arrives, kisses her, and awakens her. They fall in love, marry, and (surprise surprise) live happily ever after. But alas, the original tale is not so sweet (in fact, you have to read this to believe it.) In the original, the young woman is put to sleep because of a prophesy, rather than a curse. And it isn’t the kiss of a prince which wakes her up: the king seeing her asleep, and rather fancying having a bit, rapes her. After nine months she gives birth to two children (while she is still asleep). One of the children sucks her finger which removes the piece of flax which was keeping her asleep. She wakes up to find herself raped and the mother of two kids.

Frater, J. (2009) ‘Top 10 Gruesome Fairy Tale Origins’, Available at: (Accessed: 19/03/14).

In the end these image are advertising Disney world… But they are still amazing images; and I love the detail in them, like the objects and costumes used – which are almost replica’s of the one’s used in the movies (I’ll have to think about this when I make my Tableaux images, I’ll have to think about the costumes/clothing, objects and even locations – as all these elements will be key to telling my story in my images).

I did have the idea of doing a fairytale theme, but instead of telling the story like I did last time (and tell the story how it is told to me as a child) I would illustrate it; like Annie Leibovitz does in one image, but ‘twisted/dark’ and how the original tales used to tell it. However I’m worried that this would be too predictable and I feel it’s been done too many times; so I thought why not base my tableaux on a different story and try to tell the story though the images, like Stephen King’s work? I feel I’ll be able to ‘recreate’ or interpret his stories into a image.

  • Research for Tableaux idea “Based off books: I would like to look to Stephen King’s Carrie  and have a shoot based of the story.” 

Harold Davis [Still Life]

  • Harold Davis is an American photographer and author.

Davis’ style switches between photographing close-ups of flowers, bugs, sea animal and water droplets to landscapes of the night, the sea, cities, and mountains to portraits as well.

I have been looking at Davis’ still life images of flowers and rain droplets (he photographs other objects like Slinky’s, Marbles, Shells, bugs and skulls) all that have been photographed close-up; he captures the detail in small objects that most people would not usually look at or they know it’s there but never bother to look. To me; some of his images seem almost abstract and they take sometime to work out what they are and what else is in the image besides the main subject, some of his flower images are sometimes of the stem or leaves of the flower – which just goes to show that any part of a flower is beautiful.

Some of his still life work is usually made both outside; using natural lighting, or in a studio, using studio lights and a light box.

In his studio work he places flowers on top of a light box to get pure white backgrounds and also has a light in front of the subjects (so he doesn’t get a silhouette), light comes though the petals at makes them look like they are glowing. He shoots straight down onto the image from above, sometimes this work is all arranged by hand before photographing, while other times he makes eight exposures (then later on he uses Photoshop to layer the images together). A couple of his images that have been photographed like this have had their backgrounds changed later on with a warm coloured paper (which he scans and replaces the background in Photoshop).

Davis has even made a series where he’s changed the background to black! so instead of the flowers having a white glow with a white background, the flowers have a black background with a black ‘glow’ shining though the petals. Having a black background gives a different feel to it, I feel the black background makes it more dramatic and stand out more, where as a white background makes the flowers seem purer (however after having a closer look the colour of the flowers with the black backgrounds seem to look transparent and odd and unreal, some of them look like negative colours).

I’m not too sure which method I prefer myself, I think the colour of the background could depend on which flowers Davis chooses. I’d really like to try this out in my own shoots and explore my own style.

I was drawn to the bright colours and the detail captured in the images; and it just goes to show that the simplest things can be the most beautiful – the dreamy lighting and light behind the petals make them glow and it intensifies the beauty in the subjects. 

  • Research for still life idea “Flowers/Plants or fruit: Close-up of them, experiment with angels and unusual shots.”

Please see more images from the following sites:

All images used belong to © Harold Davis