This winter, Elena Jones ’14 and Daisy Fornengo ’14 received a co-curricular exemption in order to pursue their love of photography. Having taken both photography classes that Deerfield offers, the pair used their time this past term to work closely with visual arts teacher Tim Trelease to produce an extensive series of photographs.
When Fornengo mentioned to Mr. Trelease that she wanted to focus on dramatic lighting and shadow play, Mr. Trelease immediately urged the pair toward film noir.
The film noir genre hit the peak of its popularity in the 1940s and ’50s. Films from this genre have often been based on detective novels and are characterized by their distinct black-and-white visuals.
Mr. Trelease suggested that Jones and Fornengo watch movies from Hollywood’s classical film noir period in order to look for inspiration, which they eventually found in various Orson Welles films.
While exploring different ways to imitate still images from Welles’ films, and studying the archetypes of film noir, Jones and Fornengo were struck by the character traits of the femme fatale. The femme fatale is a complex female character, typically morally ambiguous and always mysterious, who often tries to achieve her hidden agenda by using feminine wiles such as seduction and charm.
Drawing inspiration from this character while continuing to explore the film noir genre, Fornengo and Jones began weekly photo shoots at PVMA (Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association).
In looking for models, the pair wanted classmates who would be confident enough to be able to get into character, because the film noir theme of their photos required a certain amount of acting. Jones explained, “The models were really receptive to our ideas and instructions, but all of them also had their own style, which made each shoot unique.”
The pair set up these shoots themselves and staged scenarios using props one would typically associate with a femme fatale, like the gun, cigarette and martini glass. They had the models dress in black and created extreme contrast using bright lamps. “We would play music from the time period to put ourselves in the right mindset for the shoot,” said Fornengo.
Although much of the duo’s work was done independently, Mr. Trelease was always there to help and critique when needed. “Because there is no post-AP class, having Mr. Trelease set aside time to help us continue with photo has been really awesome and a lot of fun,” said Fornengo.
Both Jones and Fornengo plan to continue to pursue photography in college next year, and they agree that their classes at Deerfield were instrumental in instilling their love of the subject.
The two really enjoyed working together and benefited from the collaborative experience. “It was nice to do this project together, because we understood each other’s artistic vision and [combined] our strengths to get the best possible result,” said Jones.
Mr. Trelease is very excited about the work that the pair did: “Daisy and Elena worked really hard experimenting, revising their work, trying every variation they could and pulling from great films in the film noir genre.”
The results of this hard work are now on display on the second floor of the library.