• Madeline Miller: Animating Janet

    Photo: Madeline Miller

    Posted on October 23, 2012 by Madeline Miller

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    ……….I asked Janet to describe herself in one word. She chose chill. On the scale of emotions, ranging from sadness to happiness, from love to despair, chill would fall dead center. It is neutral and safe. It means that very few things faze, upset, or excite her. To say that this describes Janet would simply be untrue, but superficially she can be difficult to read. Chill may more accurately describe her persona, how she comes off to others, but I know her better. As her freshman year roommate, our friendship started during our first days at college. Now, more than three years later, I can sense her mood even when her back is turned. But still, she describes her face as expressionless, going so far as to call herself emotionless. My goal was to animate her.

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    I started with her mouth. I have never seen her wear anything other than nude-colored lip balm but the raspberry, cherry and pomegranate hues of lipstick gave her the freedom to express her emotions vibrantly. The laugh that erupted in her attempt to mock the smiles she has seen in advertisements for trivial commercial products reveals her mix of sarcasm and genuine joy. The irony in her smile is typical of Janet; she is a wonderful blend of contradictions.

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    Photo: Madeline Miller

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    Janet is a loyal friend, but describes herself as unable to provide comfort even to those she cares about most. Many of the stories she tells about her attempts to console friends end in failure. I often wonder what goes through her mind when she is giving out advice. It’s visible in her eyes. She is on the phone, real thoughts passing through her mind. And though she always has good intentions, her efforts rarely translate into comforting words.

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    When upset, Janet does not crumble but exudes grace. Her fingers are delicate, which she attributes to playing musical instruments all of her life. They are a reflection of her fluidity. The water on her face is another source of irony, for though she experiences pain like everyone does, I have seen her cry only once. Her perpetual state of calm and cool are true only on the surface, yet these ‘tears’ are superficial.

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    Photo: Madeline Miller

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    My intention was to make Janet’s emotions pop, to make her bold, and obvious. But one of her best traits is subtlety. Janet is often admired for her laid back nature, the ease and naturalness with which she walks and simply exists. She finds comfort in nature. She is flexible comfortable, she flows. I wanted her in front of the camera because she could act like it wasn’t even there. She resists exposure and blatant emotion while maintaining strength and confidence. This is evidence of both. Janet is not easily described or defined. Her most readily available facial expression is a blank one, emotionless, even cold. These images are a fusion of her simultaneous resistance and willingness to be openly emotional.

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    Photo: Madeline Miller

    About The Author: Madeline Miller is a senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania. Class of 2013.