Part 3 – Project 3 – Constructing Narratives – Domestic Abuse

The argument – Niki Gibbs

Taking the Mosaic mirror that I made for Project 4, I wanted to turn it into a stage. I had in mind scenes from Tim Burton’s films such as The Corpse Bride, Nightmare before Christmas and Sleepy Hollow.

I took two sheets of A1 Black 300gsm card and cut out the shapes of the trees. I then slotted the two cut-out sections to eachother to form a circle and slotted it over the mirror. I carefully ironed a black sheet and set up the room with some lights and a tripod for my camera.

Having just the stage to photograph did not really tell me any story. I had just attended One Small Thing’s Live event on the 20th May 2021 looking at Trauma informed spaces and practices. This gave me the idea of using my stage to focus on violence and abuse against women, showing how threatening, isolating and traumatic the experience of coersion and abuse in any form can be.

I cut out a series of characters with their own stands, also out of the black card and placed them on the stage.

The Characters for my stage

It took me a while to get the composition and lighting right for each image, the black surfaces reflected differently with just a fraction difference in the light position. The camera automatically focussed on certain areas of my stage, not necessarily the ones I wanted, this was because I was quite close in and my depth of field was not as big as my stage set! I tried to focus it manually, but this was not successful. I am sure you can focus my camera manually, but it wasn’t happening that day! I decided to use the out of focus aspect to my advantage, I really like the atmosphere it creates, I felt it was really effective for this project.

I have used narrative to a greater extent in my Assignment 3 animation, however, I feel that these images have narrative not only within them, but as a series of images.


Gaze (5)

The idea of this image is to introduce you to our character, she is alone and vulnerable in a dark and foreboding place, she holds her arms close to her body and her feet are turned in as she looks around into the darkness.


Looking (3)

She sits, still alone, slightly leaning away from the unseen threat, in a void, still alert for any dangers.


Shock (9)

Something has happened, she stands up to look around, braced in shock at the unseen threat. (I reversed this image in the opening compilation as it seemed to suit the narrative better to have her face the same way in that instance).

The Argument

The Argument (5)

Her agressor appears, looming over her showering abuse and threats. The light is on our victim, the perpetrator is dark and looming.


Fear (1)

She is left trembling, the effects of the abuse inflicted on her resonates for years to follow.


Hunched (7)
Hunched (4)

Again, she is alone, her confidence and self esteem has been taken away. The images of her out of focus represent how she is just another statistic fading into darkness.

What I found interesting about all the different images of each scene was that the position of the trees in relation to the figure, the incidental and direct lighting and the focus contrast between crisp and out of focus. The different images each conveyes a slightly different feeling to the story, the hunched example being the most obvious example. When the figure is sharp, you focus on the figure, the mirror draws you up to her and the background is so out of focus that it just frames the figure in a soft texture. when the forground is in focus, you find yourself looking through the foliage to make out a blurred figure. I loke them both for different reasons, and depending on how and why I wanted to use it would influence my exact choice of image.

One in 4 women will experience Domestic Violence in their lives. How is this allowed to continue. Women need somewhere they can go to grt the help that they need, whatever that may be. This is why my paraellel Project is campaigning for a Nationally Recognised Transformative Women’s Building to be built as an iconic Living Legacy foor the 170 years the Holloway Prison stood on the site.

Niki Gibbs

25 May 2021

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