Brief Three – Memento Mori

Brief 3: Memento Mori

“n. pl. memento mori

1. A reminder of death or mortality, especially a death’s-head.
2. A reminder of human failures or errors.”

For this brief I wanted to tackle it from a different angle; rather than looking specifically at objects and domestic materials, I wanted to use a person/people as my subject. Furthermore, having recently become very interested in Fashion Photography, I really wanted to find different ways in which I could explore ‘momento moro‘ from a fashion photography point of view, whilst tastefully and subtly incorporating the concept within my work.

Having considered the different ways in which I could tackle this, I finally decided on an idea for my work that incorporated both fashion and concept. For my idea I decided to explore through my work the ways in which there are many similarities, as well as differences, between life and death. To do this, I had an initial idea of contrasting youth and beauty of a model, against a decaying, old setting of something such as a forest; this would therefore show that though there is beauty in youthfulness, there is also a sense of beauty within death and decay as seen in the beautiful forests and woods that surround us.

Having chosen this as an idea, I therefore decided to look into two photographers, from fashion to landscape as I would be incorporating both into my work, and I felt these particular two would work as great inspiration for my idea.

Photographer Research

William Neill:

Having photographed Landscapes for 30 years,  William Neill is a well respected photographer, passionate about capturing and conveying natures core, natural, spiritual beauty within his work. Having lived in the Yosemite Park area since 1977, he has for the majority of his life been surrounded with natural beauty, and it is clear to see within his work how much he truly endeavours to embrace his surroundings in all ways possible. Having had his work published in many publications, galleries, museums and exhibitions across the world it is evident that his work is of a powerful disposition. Having describes his work as, ‘romantic and idealistic’, it is clear to see that he always manages to capture somewhat mystery within his images, all seeming to have some depth and a strong sense of a spiritual connection to the earth.

Within this image I love the way in which, dependent on how you decide to interpret the image, when looking at it, the mood seems to change almost. When looking from the top down, you see this yellowish light within the sky, which would give you a presumption of a brighter mood, however as you continue to look further down and into the photo, you gain this sense of foreboding, created by the stark contrast of the trees against the softness of the fog. Furthermore, I feel there is a great depth added to the image through use of the fog. I feel in many senses this image mirrors the idea of life and death through is contrasting moods it captures; the brightness of life, and the shrouding sense of death.


One of my favourite things about this image is the way in which when looking into the image, it seems as though your seeing various different images that have been layered together to create such a calm and peaceful landscape. Furthermore, I love the way in which if feels slightly as though time has somewhat stood still, due to the lack of movement within the image. However in many ways, the sense of life is still very evident within the image, whether it be shown through the brightness and warm tones within the sky, or the very faint, yet visible ripples in the lake. It a sense, it contrasts greatly to the last image of Neill’s and shows just how changeable nature can be!

Mark Borthwick

British photographer Mark Borthwick may not be particularly well know, however creates some beautiful work, working within  Fashion, Music, Advertising and much more, leaving his mark within the creative media world. Usually portraying a minimalist, sharp feel and look to his photos, Borthwick has work with various publications such as Vogue, Purple and Index, and fashion brands such as Missoni. In fact it was his branch of Missoni work that surged my interest in the photographer, as it is some what of a difference from the norm, with some of his signature traits such as his light leaks and wash of colour within the images.


Within the Missoni work, it is set in the Elba Island, on the rocky shores of the coast looking out to sea. One of the reasons I really love this work of his is because despite it being a campaign for a fashion brand, there is still so much atmosphere caught within the images, through the use of having them faded, and almost silhouetted against the bright background of the ocean. It has so much meaning to it through use of body language of the models, and I really love the wash of colour to the images. Through use of the colour it acts well to contrast with the jagged rock formations, adding softness, much with the gentle fade upon the images. By far Borthwick is one of my favourite photographers, as he constantly incorporates his own personal look to his images.


Another characteristic I like about his work is that if shooting on location, such as the island, he does not fail to capture the beauty of both the fashion being promoted and the location. You have a great acceptance of the beauty within which the campaign was shot. Furthermore, though stereotypically you might assume a light leak would create this happy atmosphere or mood, Borthwick still maintains a generally thoughtful atmosphere within the images, creating a perfect fashion editorial shoot.


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