by Mark Peterman on April 11, 2020
The story introduces protagonist Emma Easton, the world that Emma lives in, along with her quest to reconnect with her estranged father.
This project came about in 2014, after I completed the ‘Stills of Imagined Films’ project. I was looking for new ways to expand narrative storytelling into a different form. In creative terms, that project had achieved a very specific goal for me, I had created narrative scenes with a cinematic lighting style and combined that with a narrative voice that I felt was unique. However, the project was still a series of fragmented moments that was created piecemeal over a number of years.
As I moved forward, I knew that I wanted to explore fictional storytelling in greater depth. I realized that I was really interested in building a constructed reality and trying to create moments within a series of images about a single subject and their experiences. I wanted to build a more cohesive narrative that was envisioned as a series beforehand.
I knew that continued growth and development in my creative process would be necessary. I started doing visual research utilizing sourced imagery as reference to more clearly define the ideas in my head. Part of my new process included reimagining the idea of story. Around that time I had started writing short stories of my own that began in inspirational fragments about life experiences and characters. I also started reading books about the process behind character development and story structure. I became intrigued by the ‘journey of the protagonist’ in novels screenplays and film.
With some of these new ideas I realized it wasn’t possible to create using the same methods I had been using previously. I started sketching ideas that would become scenes and writing about the characters involved. I created technical drawings of sets that I wanted to create. During this process I started studying the film work of Ken Adam and Harry Lange in regard to production design.
I had previously built full scale sets in studio for the ‘Stills of Imagined Films’ project and that experience had made me realize the expense involved with creating sets at full scale. Building anything full size was always expensive, time consuming and not very practical. This started my experimentation with building miniature sets and models. The difficult part of creating anything at a smaller scale size is making it look real or tricking the viewer into believing the reality of the scene.
Through this process I started analyzing the use of propping in my work in greater detail. This led to me having a better understanding of the authenticity of sets and ultimately led to me creating props for some of these scenes. I had determined that I didn’t want this to be an exercise in elaborate post-production and combine talent into a miniature-scale set.
One of the things I have learned over the years about staying creative is that you have to constantly follow your interests no matter where they lead. This includes enriching your skillset by learning new things in areas that you may not have a practical use for at the moment.
This endeavor has been a huge experiment for me, stretching my skillset in all sorts of areas (some that I had little to no experience in) including: writing short fiction, building miniature scale models, building full scale sets, directing talent, expanding my lighting skills to include cinematography with continuous lighting, editing video and learning new ways to animate stills such as cinemagraphs, Gifs, and plotagraphs.
On another note this project was a huge failure. In an attempt to be ambitious and make the most of a project, I had thought at one time that this would be best finished as a short film. Once I realized how projects like that are born, developed and finished I saw that I hadn’t properly done that work in advance. While I did capture some motion elements I really hadn’t created what I needed in order to make this into that the of piece in a successful way.
I spent a significant amount of time struggling with what this work should and shouldn’t be. When you have no deadline for a project, and you allow half finished work to wallow in that state for too long, you can wonder if you will ever finish it. Allowing self-doubt to creep in was good and bad. If you ask too many opinions you will get too many answers and circle back to where you started. During the time I had spent bringing ideas into focus I realized that my vision hadn’t been singular enough. It needed more definition from the outset. That was okay since I felt that I had created some imagery that I really like. I just needed to find a way to complete the work so that it lived up to the original story I had written. My main goal was growing my narrative work by saying something in a different way than I had before. As long as it had developed so that it was true to that original story I knew that I would okay.
The success or failure of any work is hard to judge. Was it a failure because it didn’t achieve what I had hoped in my own mind? Do things ever?
The development of this project was very slow but I knew that I needed to allow it to grow naturally. It had started with an idea I had from a novel I read in Summer 2013. The story was developed (between 2013-2015), sets and models created and photographed (between 2015-2018) and the final edit was finished in 2019.
With this project completed, I am looking to expand on what I learned from the perceived success and failure. I guess each step is a building block, for me I need to combine everything I learn from each project and forge ahead with new ideas. There are new avenues to pursue and mistakes to be made. I’m looking forward to where that path leads.
Written, concepted and executed by Mark Peterman
All images copyright Mark Peterman
Talent - Aly Smith, Forb Robert Black Agency
Talent (hands on letter closeup) - Lauren Mary Bateman, The Agency Arizona
Hair Makeup - Laura Flagler
Wardrobe - Hilary Brubaker
Cinematography - Stephanie Saathoff (on shots with talent)
Cinematography - Mark Peterman (all other shots)
Digital Tech - Sean Deckert (talent scenes)
Special Effects (rain & fog machine) - Kim Valentine, Kinsey Ball, Kevin Karg
Miniature and Studio sets concept and construction - Mark Peterman
©2020 Mark Peterman. All rights reserved.
I'm an artist who explores narrative storytelling through photographs and multimedia using constructed realities that cross over into implied fiction. My work contains a graphic story-telling quality with a cinematic feel. I continue to experiment with new concepts as an approach to solving old problems and see refinement through perseverance as a way forward. My work has been featured in the American Photography Annual, PDN Photo Annual and selected for Center’s Review Santa Fe 100. My projects in book and print form have been exhibited at museums and galleries around the country.