Meaningful Personal Projects: Drawing Inspiration from Art and Literature

A common struggle among my photography friends, myself included, is finding and making the time to shoot for ourselves. One way I have found to stay inspired and create meaningful, personal work, is to commit to personal projects.

It is always interesting to look inward and explore why we are drawn to certain things, what has the power to move us. Music, art, theater, literature and mythology have always been unlimited sources of inspiration for me, so I began to keep a journal and created an inspiration board on Pinterest.

I quickly noticed that a common theme emerged: my fascination with clowns. There is something so compelling about a painted face and the true emotions that may be hiding behind it. Our human desire to please and seek approval is a universal theme, so the character of a clown, constantly striving to make people laugh, gains symbolic significance.

This first image is a self portrait, titled “Pierrot Dreams”. The image was inspired by the character of Pierrot, a stock character of pantomime in Commedia dell’ Arte. Pierrot is the sad clown, often depicted as reclining on a sliver of moon, always lovesick and pining after his Columbine. The following lyrics from Pagliacci by Luciano Pavarotti, truly embody the character:

Bah, you think you’re a man?
You are just a clown! on with the show, man,
And put on your white-face.
The people pay you and you must make them laugh.
And if harlequin should steal your columbine, laugh,
Youre pagliaccio, and the world will clap for you!
Turn into banter all your pain and sorrow,
And with your clowns face hide grief and distress…

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The second image, “Where Have All The Children Gone?”, is about the palpable loneliness of a child eager to fit in, eager to please and play, who is left on the sidelines.

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The third image, titled “Under The Circus Fog”, is a story about the true feelings and exhaustion behind the scenes of a circus show. A moment of truth during a brief respite from the bells and whistles of a performance geared to constantly amuse and entertain. It is also a story about the strength found in a companion, and the power of comradeship.

Under-the-Circus-Fog...-(1-of-1)

The final image, “Watchful Eyes” addresses the objectification of the exotic other. Even more importantly, it embodies the love and fierce protectiveness of a mother, willing to sleep with open eyes, always ready to pounce in defense of her child.

Watchful-Eyes-(1-of-1)

I used a Canon 6D and a Canon 50mm 1.8 lens and a Lensbaby Composer Pro with Edge 80 optic.

 

 

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About Melina McGrew

Melina Nastazia was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, and came to the US at age 17 to explore her American roots (and never left). She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two beautiful daughters. Melina is interested in capturing human connection, because it is what drives and fuels us, and 'soul' because it is all we have left when everything else is stripped away. She is also very drawn to creating conceptual, creative, fine art images, because imagination can be a strong, emotional and therapeutic creative outlet: a source of comfort, solace and a means to escape.