Hannah Ciancarelli
Sussex Portraits

My Honors Thesis, titled “Sussex Portraits,” is in the medium of photography. My focus for this project is on the intersection of, or interface between, my imagination and the world. The project draws inspiration from fashion photography as well as the paintings of the Rococo and Romantic movements and applies it to contemporary subjects. I incorporate Rococo colors and fabrics and reimagine the landscapes depicted in Romantic paintings by using the spaces I grew up surrounded by in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

My project began with an exploration of a paradox in the nature of photography: We tend to lend photography a kind of authority, assume its truthfulness, because, unlike other art forms, it has a more intimate relationship with reality; at the same time, a photograph can be manipulated and staged in ways that are not immediately available to the viewer. I started taking photos that felt like they were “moments,” images that could have been seconds out of everyday life, yet were in fact deliberately staged. As I progressed with my project, I began to think about what it would look like when this “moment” was dramatized, so that it seemed to come out of a fantasy rather than ordinary life. To help me achieve this effect I turned to paintings such as Ophelia by John Everett Millais and The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, drawing from the style and freedom that painters use in interpreting and translating reality.