[1.52] Explained

Posted on June 9, 2011


So, this is the first image in the Samsara Nirvana 52 Week Project and I must say I had a lot of fun doing this. Then again, it’s just the first one; I’ll see how I feel in 6 months.

The theme of the first four weeks is the Four Noble Truths, with the first being the truth of suffering. I was really thinking about this one a lot, and how to try and convey a sense of suffering, without having too much overt horror/blood/poverty. I also wanted to link in the ideas of impermanence and change which are talked about a lot in regards to suffering in Buddhist philosophy. I initially had the idea of a young person looking at the camera, whose face was starting to wrinkle but was still youthful on one side, but over time this developed into a young person looking into a mirror and seeing an aged, wrinkled face.

After I posted this, some people mentioned that maybe I should have done it the other way round, in other words, an old person seeing a young person in the mirror. In my opinion it wouldn’t have worked as well, because most of the ‘old’ face wouldn’t be visible. As for the theme, this idea would also work well, however.

Thinking about the comments and messages I’ve received about the picture and especially the idea of suffering involved, I wanted to talk about it a little more. Really what I want to say is that the truth of suffering is part of a set of teachings. Obviously with this project, you’re having to wait a while before seeing the next idea, which can make it seem a bit, well, depressing. Suffering suffering suffering.

But it is an important idea. We do suffer. Sometimes we don’t even realise it. But if we don’t know, and accept that we suffer, then we’ll never want to stop suffering, just like if you don’t know you have an illness, you won’t actually do anything about it. At the same time, acknowledgement of suffering can bring about a feeling of compassion for others, who are suffering too. When someone annoys us, or hurts us – well, they’re suffering too, so we should feel compassion for them. This thinking regarding our suffering is like a bond uniting all beings.

Anyhow, more about the picture:

Here you can see the original shot compared to the final result:



The lighting in this shot is completely natural. I wanted the face to be slightly darker in the centre and lighter on each side, so I place a mirror on a window, which blocked and at the same time allowed light in perfectly.

The end was result was semi-laborious to achieve (about 2 hours work), and I ended up with 10+ layers in Photoshop upon completion (and a file size of over 250MB). I’ve seen a lot of people create wrinkled faces using A LOT of burning and dodging but this doesn’t work so well for me, and I’m lucky enough to have wrinkly grandparents to ‘borrow’ from!

If anyone has any questions, send me a message or write it in the comments below!

See you next week!


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