Utopian Shoot

The project criteria required a wide range of research, looking into other pieces of work other than photography. This is what inspired me to focus on Film, researching and studying movies which explored the same message of Environmental awareness. For my research into the Utopian World I began looking at the 2009 film ‘Avatar’. This was because of the films strong message about the effects of mankind pillaging the world for natural resources.

Cameron himself spoke about how the film is a metaphor to how human kind treat the natural world, ”There’s a sense of entitlement – ‘We’re here, we’re big, we’ve got the guns, we’ve got the technology, we’ve got the brains, we therefore are entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That’s not how it works and we’re going to find out the hard way if we don’t wise up and start seeking a life that’s in balance with the natural cycles of life on earth.”

Avatar is an American science fiction film directed, written and produced by James Cameron. The film is set in the mid-22nd century, when humans are colonising Pandora, in order to mine for the precious material scattered throughout their rich woodland. Pandora is mostly covered with lush rainforests and wildlife, and home to the primitive, indigenous ‘Na’vi’, a sentient race of tall, blue-skinned humanoids. The expansion of the mining colony threatens the existence of a local tribe of Na’vi. Peace between humans and the Na’vi people will succumb to war, in the battle for Pandora.








I wanted to find balance between the real and the imaginary, and although Avatar’s fiction is a metaphor for how humans treat the natural world, I started to look at literacy works such as, James G. Stewart’s book ‘Corporate War Crimes: Prosecuting the Pillage of Natural Resources’. This was helpful in explaining how real exploitation of the wold’s resources is. Stewart mentions how “since the end of the Cold War, the illegal exploitation of natural resources has emerged as a primary means of financing armed violence. In countries as diverse as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone, the sale of natural resources within conflict zones has created incentives for war”. This demonstrates the political side to exploitation and colonisation of nations to gain access to resources. Stewart also talks about the consequence of illegal trade in minerals “metals, timber, and other natural resources, armed conflicts – in which participants are able to draw upon easily accessible natural resource. Resource wars also contribute to the so-called resource curse, whereby the richest nations in terms of resource endowment are poorest in terms of social development and most prone to violent upheaval”. Stewart then goes on to explain about plagiarism, which means theft during war. However, this was not as relevant to exploitation of the natural world.

Preparation for Utopian shoot.

Creating the right look for my Utopian World has been a challenge for me, due to the millions of styles I could explore. Originally I was set on having my model solely wear vivid colours such as green, pink or gold. However, I did not really have any specific reason as to why I wanted to use these colours; apart from the fact that I found them visually pleasing.

Instead I began researching how I could style my model for Monday’s shoot (20/3/17). I started looking through my own magazine collection of Vogue, Vogue Japan, iD, W magazine and Elle; doing this really helped me spot in editorials what had the potential to work and what would not.

Among the interesting articles throughout each magazine, I was extremely drawn to:

iD Magazine – Activist Issue 2015.
‘Be the change you want to see’ 

Photography: Harley Weir
Styling: Julia Sarr- Jamous

“Every time we buy something we should think about the conditions in which it was made. If we are not sure it was produced in fair conditions, we should not buy it. Economic sanctions and boycotts are a powerful way to make companies change their behavior”. – Aya Jones, 20

  • The layout for this series of images looks really beautiful. I had considered having my model bare more skin for the shoot, like the photograph below. As I thought it would be a stronger reference to – ‘The Fall of Man’ painting by Peter Paul Rubens.

Prada – 2015

Considering make up and hairstyling for the shoot I looked at Prada 2015 for their unique, slick-back, clean ponytail styled on the models for the catwalk fashion shows.

Vogue – 2015.

Featuring Emilia Clarke. How the images were captured technically interested me to create the same magic, other worldly visual effect, which was achieved using a torch and slowing down the shutter to paint the image with light.

After seeing these images of Emilia Clarke I started thinking about what I wanted my model to wear in more detail.

I wanted to use a white outfit, this is because the deeper I researched into the colour white, the better meanings and connotations I discovered about the colour which fitted in perfectly to the meaning behind my work.


From the research I gathered, the common associations for white are: light, goodness, innocence, purity, and virginity. It is considered to be the color of perfection. White means safety, virtue and is a very minimalist colour.  as opposed to black, white usually has a positive connotation to it as in the West, white is commonly worn by brides on their wedding day. It’s also associated with the health care industry, especially with doctors, nurses and dentists.

Utopian Studio Shoot. 

Once I decided what outfit I wanted to use I started styling for the shoot. I decided to use a vintage white dress I have had in my wardrobe for years, I thought it would be perfect for the shoot as it looks very similar to a wedding dress; which is what the colour white was connected to when I researched its theory, as a connection to purity. This to me was a perfect outfit, I thought it fit the ‘Utopian’ theme perfectly.

I found using a blue background was much easier when setting up the lighting equipment. The lights did not create a dark shadow on the background in comparison to the Futuristic (yellow background) and Desolate (brown background) photoshoots. The blue was very pale – so perhaps this is why it picked up on the light better than the other two backgrounds I used. The only real problem I faced when taking these images was trying to fit my model in the background, without going to far to the left or right and adding in the wall behind the blue paper.

I had to narrow down my final chosen portrait images as I had too many pictures from the shoot. I tried looking for the most interesting poses, I did not want to have final images that all looked the same. I had to go through all my images and narrow them down through the process of elimination. The images below did not meet the visual criteria due to technical problems such as: shadows on the paper, awkward hand positions, blurry images, the model being too far away from the camera, the flower props being too dark and shadow on one side of the models face.

Utopian Shoot. 

Green Screen.

I took portrait images on both a colour blue background and green screen paper. I wanted to have a portrait image taken in the studio, but I also wanted to try using green screen; as I have never used it before so I wanted to set myself a challenge of using photoshop on green screen and editing my model so it looked like she was out on location. Below are a few of the many images I took for the green screen pictures. My model was very good at changing poses for each image (I believe this is because my model Cat has had some experience modelling before, so this made my selection of images much wider as each pose is different).

Technical issues. 

Showing the technical issues I faced when taking my images is important for my development and to see where or what I struggled with when setting up the lighting equipment (over-exposed or under-exposed lighting), setting up the paper (making sure there were not creases in the background paper which would show up in the images) and including the wall of the studio room I was in (this happened sometimes when I moved the camera too far to the left or right).

Green Screen Editing. 

Once I began to edit the studio images on Green Screen I did a basic google search looking for “English Fields”, “Meadows” and “Beautiful Gardens” to get a background image that could be seen as ‘Utopian’, fitting the criteria of natures lush greenery.

Once I had a wide selection of Utopian settings I began experimenting on photoshop – placing my model in different enviroments and seeing which one worked best.  Below is the process I went through in order to create my green screen collages.

Best Green Screen Images. 

This is my favourite green screen image I made, the flower prop fits in perfectly to the background image – so there was consideration to my own image and the chosen background image. The lighting is also strong in this image.


I do not like the green screen image below, this is because I attempted to darken the exposure to make my model image less bright (as it did not fit into the dark background image/ too bright). However, the photo of my model Cat is too underexposed in this edit and is now darker than the background. This is why the green screen edit below does not work, I also dislike how faced away she is from the camera, it makes me feel uncomfortable.


The very first location images I took at the start of the project were not interesting or colourful enough for me:

I knew I wanted to re-shoot so I went to Bournemouth Garden’s as I know how much greenery and colour there is there from all the different flowers and tree’s there. Below is my second attempt at capturing a utopian setting. However, I faced some technical issues with the camera that day as it was so sunny so some of the images were too bright to use.

In my previous reflections I also said I was going to stop taking the images more to scale and not so zoomed in. However, I am starting to think about having my studio images side by side to the location images to overcome my habit of zooming in.

However, I came across a long patch of flowers later in the day so it was not as sunny. This meant I managed to get the correct exposure and get the best images for my final ‘Utopian World’ setting.

flower 2

flower 3

flower 4

flower 5


Location and Studio.

I started thinking about how my location images and studio portraits would look visually side by side. To get a basic visual representation on how the landscape and portrait would look together I used Microsoft Powerpoint to get a basic template and create a black boarder to separate them.

I created four images of landscape and portrait side by side, this meant I could carry out the process of elimination and choose the best two images that would work well together for my final ‘Utopian World’ images.

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Final images. 



Reflection and Evaluation.

My final Utopian Studio image is really strong and represents a perfect, non-matierialistic world I was trying to create. I am very happy with the model I chose as well, her natural beauty really fits with the message of innocence in a green, clean world. I think if I was to change anything about my final images for the Utopian world I would have tried to push myself even further by taking the images out on real location to create more of a Adam and Eve look; making reference to ‘The Garden of Eden’, this would have meant I could have looked closer into the religious theory behind a perfect world, as my images are too studio based to look anything like the oil paintings of the 1500’s.


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