Photography, Text and Video by Victoria Meng, Copyright 2017
“WENDY THE DINOSAUR”
My interest in photography actually began in the wild days of the second grade. Some of my earliest memories involve taking snapshots of a plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex named Wendy.
A Lysol-scented, Fisher-Price Kid Tough Camera captured Wendy floating in my bubble bath, rampaging on an ant pile, and lounging among my mother’s pearls. One evening, spurred by excessive television and Cheetos dust, I had a horrible idea. My magnum opus: a photograph of Wendy on the stove, in the center of a cobalt ring of flames. She melted.
My grandmother, who watched the slow destruction of my most prized possession, shared a story. Perhaps it was to soothe me, perhaps it was so she could avoid scraping away Wendy’s molten remains in front of me.
She claimed to know a very wise man who owned a priceless porcelain vase. One day an enemy of the man shattered the vase, but as the wise man held the pieces of his broken treasure, he only smiled. When asked why he felt no sadness over such a loss, he replied that he had already seen the vase was broken and simply treasured the time that he had with it.
The magic of my grandmother’s story still lingers in my mind to this day. I realized that memories, like a porcelain vase or plastic dinosaur, draw value from their ephemeral nature. Yet, in a photograph, the magic and imagination of a moment can be conveyed.
Shooting this still-life project, I was grateful for an opportunity to get back in touch with a childlike sense of imagination. While my roommate gave me more than few weird looks as I painstakingly stacked vegetables and arranged sprinkles, I think that at the very least I was able to have fun with this project.
Inspired by a hoax that involved an umbrella being mistaken as the Loch Ness Monster, I used everyday objects to create unique ecosystems where my miniature dinosaurs could romp. The incorporation of food items in a surrealistic style was also strongly influenced by the “food-scapes” of photographer Carl Warner.
In terms of the technical aspects of this shoot, I ended up using a 50mm Canon macro lens on a T3i Rebel body. I used several soft boxes to diffuse the stand lights and I shot indoors at night. To create a miniature white backdrop, I used some paper that I stole from the printers in Huntsman Hall, a pineapple to lean the paper against, and a good amount of Scotch tape. (Upon constructing this makeshift studio, I briefly considered a transfer to the School of Engineering.) Upon finishing my shoot, I experimented with textures like plastic wrap, the photo filter adjustment, and the HDR filter.
Overall, I am very pleased with the results of my shoot and am glad to finally put my dinosaur collection to good use. I’ll always look back fondly on this rare opportunity to play with my food and know that I’ve done justice to Wendy’s memory.
About The Author: Victoria Meng is a Sophomore enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2020. To access additional articles by Victoria Meng, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/victoria-meng-life-penn-museum/