Photography, Text and Video Interview by Jesse Halpern, Copyright 2017
Before shooting to try and capture the emotions of happiness, sadness, despaired, and love, I tried to think of what those emotions consisted of, what provoked them, and how they manifested themselves in terms of facial cues or actions. The two emotions that I had the easiest time in creating a concept for were happiness and despair.
Despair Is initially reactionary, to either one specific trauma, or to a multitude. These traumas tear at the fabric of your life. Despair is a period of a revaluation of the traumatic event and of one’s existence. I chose to depict this by reviewing myself in a mirror. There is an initial shock in the first photo, followed by a unpleasant realization in the second.
Happiness can also be provoked. This reaction I took as being a laugh. It’s an instinctual happy response. But that laugh and happiness is only temporary. It is followed by an assessment of one’s surroundings and one’s life, and if it’s beyond a momentary laugh, it turns into a soft content smile, indicating a satisfaction with one’s place in the world.
Love is perhaps the one I struggled with the most. Love is extremely personal. Everyone loves different things, different people, but love I find is an internal happiness. I wanted to put my model in a situation in which they were beyond content, so that way they could close their eyes and find an inner love, an inner peace.
Sadness is less of a reaction and more of an emotion that sets in over time. To depict this, I wanted these photos to look very still, very calm, and very dark. I wanted to depict a melancholy. Melancholy is a more rational sadness. One isn’t bombarded with a flurry of quick thoughts they can’t make sense of. Rather one contemplates their sadness in an analytic way, or they might not be contemplating their sadness at all. To some degree they have accepted that they’re sad.
With my analysis of these different emotions, I wanted to showcase them in a real life setting. All of them were shot in the same apartment and all incorporated in some way or another, the lighting fixtures that were already present in the apartment. I used tungsten lighting for love because although the color didn’t seem natural to me, none of the preexisting lighting reflected internal tranquility.
To shoot in these low light conditions I had to use an 85 mm lenses so that way I could use a wider aperture, and relatively quick enough shutter speeds. This lenses allowed me to focus on the elements I wanted present in my compositions. It did limit me in the sense that if I wanted to do a full vertical portrait, It would be very confining and ultimately not a good photo given the cramped quarters of the apartment.
About The Author: Jesse Halpern is a Sophomore enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2019