Wedding & Events
The first style of photography I wanted to experiment with was working in a studio setting. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, this was not possible so I had to utilise studio techniques at home to create imagery that was reminiscent of working in the professional grade studio. I was eager to experiment with a combination of lighting types by using both continuous lighting alongside flash. I felt the style of image I was looking to create for 'Concept One' would lend itself to this skill set.
The first concept I was looking to picture was that of my own feeling of being swallowed by the grief I was experiencing. I had originally toyed with the idea of creating imagery that looked as though I were being literally swallowed but that felt too prosaic, I was also keen to use mainly in-camera techniques to reduce the digital footprint on my work. I came to realise that a more conceptual idea was needed to draw the audience's attention.
To gather ideas I made a list of how grief felt for me and honed in on that 'swallowed' feeling to better grasp a way of conveying that to a group of strangers. 'Sticky, trapped, enclosed' were just some of the words that came to mind. I also began to understand that I wasn't necessarily unhappy with how I was feeling, in fact I was grateful to be feeling something having felt numb for some time. 'Sticky but sweet': I pondered that phrase, feeling that it was the perfect way to describe my emotional state. This situation is 'sticky' in that it is tricky to navigate, whilst there is a profound level of bliss 'sweetness' to be feeling something.
The concept links directly to my need to self-soothe through grief. For this image I wanted to capture the glazed over appearance that I was presenting the world in real life whilst tapping into the numb, yet, safe feeling of my grief.
I chose to use honey as the sole prop within the shoots that followed as I felt it would capture the light in an interesting way whilst acting as the oozing sliminess that is grief and its ability to consume its host.
Test Shoot One
As I was unable to have access to a studio space, I conducted this shoot in my living room so that I could make use of the bare magnolia walls. Also, the living room in my house is the most versatile space to set up for a shoot as there is plenty of room to maneuver equipment. For the entirety of Test Shoot One I used a Neewer LED panel as fill light to illuminate myself, whilst using the Neewer Vision 4 to create a backdrop that looked more reminiscent of a white studio backdrop.
The Neewer Vision 4 is a wireless monolight with flash capabilities and offered the perfect solution to creating a more crisp white finish to the wall in frame behind me. Without the flash of lighting from the Vision 4, the wall would remain the same dreary, off-white tone which was not what I was looking for. I wanted to capture a self portrait that largely looked like a traditional portrait alike to the clean headshots that actors have in their portfolios. The traditional composition alongside the simplistic lighting would balance the obscurity of the honey running down my face. Balancing this oddity would be necessary to avoid an overwhelming aesthetic in my submission.
Creating the illusion of a brighter white background was easy, I positioned the flash head facing the wall with the lighting rig hidden in the frame behind my body. The wall, being light in colour, reflected the light to the camera producing a whiter seeming finish than in real life. Despite the technique of bouncing light being effective, I would have preferred to work with a brilliant white paper roll in a studio as the finish would be consistent across the entirety of the background. As the light from the flash head travels it loses its intensity which is why there is a natural vignette effect occurring on the wall in all of the images. Though I am not overly happy with this, it does not distract from the concept of the shoot, in some circumstances the circular hot spot of light draws attention to my face which is the focus point of the imagery.
I do feel that on a whole this shoot lacks a certain sense of interest, when looking across the contact sheet there is not a single
image that demands my attention and though that is almost synonymous with my feelings during this time of grief, I am disappointed. Adding to this, the honey dripping down my face doesn't seem to make sense. This could be down to handling the substance badly and perhaps that has skewed the vision that I initially had for the images. As well as this, there is nothing connecting my grief and the honey on my face. At the time of shooting I was getting visibly frustrated with the way the images were coming out and felt that I was not working well in the conditions I had set up but had no inclination on how I could better capture the ideas I wanted to. The shoot felt thrown together with little consideration for the concept that I had worked hard to devise.
shoot to get to grips with using the new equipment. As for my other camera settings, an ISO of 400 lends itself to indoor flash photography whilst f16 sat comfortably in the mid-range of the potential aperture settings I could have used. I opted for a mid-way aperture as there was no foreground or background to the images to experiment with depth of field, as well as this f16 offered a reasonable amount of light to enter the camera for well exposed work.
'untitled (13 of 23)' highlights my point of the honey looking bizarre and unnecessary in this shoot. The way that the honey has been applied has caused it to run in even and parallel lines down my cheeks which is unflattering and detracts from the idea of shoot. In order to better showcase grief's ability to consume a host the way in which the honey is distributed is important; it needs to look natural and have a sense of movement behind it. However, this image, though not successful in my capturing what I had aimed, still remains interesting to look at. The colours captured are complementary from the warmth of the honey to the eyeshadow used.
Midway through the shoot I choose to compose my work as fuller frame images. Filling the frame with myself demands that the viewer acknowledges me. This acknowledgement offers depth to my work, suggesting that through the grief I am still my own person and haven't entirely lost my authentic self. Additionally, filling the frame complements the consuming nature of the grief I intend to capture.
With the next test shoot I will look to make the honey seem more intentional, honing in on its importance within the image. Capturing the honey more purposefully will mean that my concept can really begin to shine which will be key to forming a winning submission for the Portrait Prize.
As well as this, I need to ensure that my work is reflective of more than just myself. Admittedly, the main aspect of my work stems from my current position and personal circumstances but, as outlined in my plan, a blatant disregard to the needs of an exhibition piece could hinder my chances of being selected.
Test Shoot Two
Test Shoot Two offers a great contrast to the imagery captured previously for 'Concept One'. After taking time to appreciate grief as the dark and solemn experience that it is, the bright white and clean presentation of the initial setup no longer seemed appropriate. I continued to shoot in my living room but moved to have a darker background of my curtains over the single toned, magnolia walls. The lighting set up remained simple but no longer concerned itself with bouncing light. Instead, I looked to capture a truthful depiction of my skin tone that remained harmonious with the other colours in frame.
I positioned the LED panel directly to my right on set and used it at 30% intensity at 4200K which offered a slightly yellow toned, low level light source. The effects of this can be seen in 'untitled (2 of
108)' which document the first stage of the lighting progression for this shoot.
The lighting diagram below shows how I positioned the Neewer Vision 4 as the fill light. Placed 45 degrees to my left, the flash lighting produced an evenly dispersed light that covered me entirely, shown in 'untitled (3 of 108)'. Using flash lighting meant the background would become submerged in darkness whereas the continuous state of the LED panels would had led to light spilling onto the curtains in the background. The blackness of the background is interesting as the dark parts on my hair and shadowed body almost blend into it. The darkness is balanced by the extra lighting provided by the LED panel that highlights the right side of my body with a 'barely there' kind of subtlety.
With the knowledge that the honey must look to belong in the photos, unlike Test Shoot One, I worked with more care when applying it to my face. The first three frames that incorporate the honey show a single line painted down from my forehead to my nose. From there I gradually added more until my face was ultimately covered. Using a slower and more thought-through method allowed me to produce a greater amount of images, and also meant I had less issues controlling the way in which the honey moved down my face.
In Test Shoot One the honey ran down my face at such speed that the viscosity of the product was lost and the honey traveled in straight lines. The gradual addition of honey in this shoot led to layers developing and, as such, a greater sense of the slow moving nature of the product was developed. In doing so the images better communicate the story behind their creation.
'untitled (78 of 108)' opitimises the slow and unrelenting nature of grief's consumption through the way that the honey has been frozen in its movement down the face. A moment of anticipation has been captured here as a droplet is ready to trickle from the end of my nose. The anticipation for its natural movement aids in forming a dynamic image that captivates viewers.
There is also a sense of contentment captured in this self portrait, feeding the idea that feeling anything at all is better than feeling nothing. Again there is anticipation for a smile. The facial expression captured looks as though the shutter was released just before I dare to crack even the slightest smile yet, despite this, my eyes remain vacant. The eerie vacancy shown in my eyes remind viewers that this portrait offers more than a girl covered in honey.
Something I had not considered when thinking of incorporating honey was how that would effect the image compositionally. In the above image, for example, the diagonal lines created by the dripping honey guide the viewer's eye downwards. Compositionally the honey aids the legibility of my work and dictates the order in which the image should be viewed: from the top down rather than as a whole.
Of course, the question is whether the imagery here is more relatable than the last. I do believe so. The images hold a feeling of sensuality whilst offering nothing sexual in their presentation. The male gaze forces viewers to see my bare body covered in a thick liquid to be flirtatious and daring. There is a sense of empowerment through these images as I have the choice of looking at the camera or to look into the distance. When I choose to not look into the camera, it is suggested that there is no need for me to acknowledge those looking at me. I do not make a connection with the viewer through my eyes, through which mystery is created.
I have two regrets with this shoot. The first being that I did not experiment with my camera settings, instead I continued to work with the same settings from Test Shoot One. I wish now that I had trialed the effects of purposefully underexposing the images to see how the honey impacted the light and its dispersion. My second regret is somewhat more out of my control; had the Covid-19 regulations have allowed for it I would have jumped at the opportunity to have a second figure back to back with me in these images. I think the mere suggestion of the this feeling forming a pattern would have created a more sinister tone within my work, as well as suggesting that grief affects more than just I.
The practical element of this shoot was very heavily influenced by Leibovitz and her commitment to capturing the surrounding moments of action, I adopted this technique with capturing the dripping of the honey and I think it really elevated the imagery produced. Anticipating how the honey would move became so interesting, and made the shooting process a lot more fun. Enjoying the process of shooting was a step in the right direction for me on a personal level suggesting Bryce Evans' theory of therapeutic photography rings true.
One of the overarching concepts for my submission to the 2021 Portrait Prize was to soothe myself through photographic art, I had anticipated that it would be analysing the photography and the way I presented myself that would achieve this, however, it seems that it is in fact the process of creating art that is therapeutic whether the imagery meets my own expectation or not.
I will not be completing another test shoot for 'Concept One' as I have produced work that I feel achieves what I had aimed for. There are multiple images, particularly from Test Shoot Two, that exceed my expectations of what I wanted. I would have considered working to see the effects of using coloured gels in this shoot but I have plans to do so with another image in an alternative way. Also, I do not wish to overwhelm these images with content; the simplicity of the lighting is part of what makes the work so compelling and aids in the image clarity.
I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to experiment with split colour lighting, I find it so intriguing and visually satisfying. I wasn't entirely sure, however, whether the technique would work for the themes I was working to incorporate in my work. Steering clear of cliches like using a red gel to symbolise pain and anger, I wanted to create something unsettling that was grounded by surrealist influences, like Fran Carneros.
Finding a starting point to shoot from was difficult with this image as I did not have a vision of what I wanted it to look like, I just knew that I was aiming to perturb viewers whilst incorporating split colour lighting. The technique didn't lend itself to disturbing imagery with most photographers using it in fashion and editorial work. As the test shoots developed I began to look for ways to make the secondary colour more subtle to heighten the mood and atmosphere.
Portrait .vs. Landscape
Traditional portraits are shot with a portrait orientation, hence the name. However, as time and artistic interpretation has progressed, photographers are more free to decide for themselves which orientation they wish to shoot/present their work. I tend to work landscape for most projects, but for portraiture I prefer to keep things traditional. That being said, I would like to offer both orientations for the Portrait Prize submission. In previous years, both portrait and landscape oriented imagery have been selected for exhibition so there is little chance of this costing me my place in this year's exhibition.
I have chosen to shoot with a landscape orientation for 'Concept Two' exclusively. This is due to the image content. As I am wanting to produce perturbing work, I feel a portrait that is landscape oriented will best suit due to how much wall space it would take up in an exhibition. I realise that all entries are the same size, 10x8 inches, across the competition. However, it is important to consider how each image type will read:
Portrait oriented images are viewed in a downwards motion and are perceived as taking up less space due to their smaller width. Landscape oriented images are surveyed from left to right, like a book, and require more horizontal space to be hung.
I want my image to demand the attention of all who view it and so I plan to submit 'Image Two' as a landscape oriented self portrait. I imagine, informed by previous entries, that fewer images will be presented this way therefore my work will be more likely to stand out it a room full of images.
Test Shoot One
I figured that a darker environment would be better suited to the lighting style of split colour and chose to shoot in my bedroom where I could limit the natural light entering the room much more effectively than I could elsewhere in the house. With the window covered with black card and the door closed the room could be submerged into relative darkness at any time of day allowing me more opportunity to develop my work.
I used a combination of continuous and flash lighting to develop the colour split. When initially setting up, I used two LED panels with different coloured gels however the colour intensity was weak due to the continuous lighting being overpowering effectively washing out the colours produced. Before beginning the shoot I changed the key light for the Neewer Vision 4 which allowed for a more intense flash of colour to be captured alongside the fill colour from the LED panel. I operated the single LED panel on 100% intensity with hopes that doing so would help cast the desired
colouring across the whole frame.
For this initial test shoot I chose red and blue gels having considered the effects of using contrasting colours. I felt the use of contrasting colours would accentuate the colour split and offer a sense of being disjointed, something which remained relevant to my personal state and the theme of mental health.
Images 'untitled (1 of 21)' through to 'untitled (3 of 21)' document the developing lighting state. '1 of 21' shows the outcome of using two LED panels and how the coloured gels lost their intensity. This softer approach is what I would associate with the editorial shoots that I had seen the technique used in the first place. They tend to use more gentle colouring on the model, whilst using an additional light directly in front to disperse a more even light. The additional light in the front causes the model's edges to hold the split colours rather than their whole body. I was looking for something intense and in your face, something that the dual LED setup could not provide. '2 of 21' documents the intensity of the red gel when used with flash lighting. As a standalone image it is very striking and would have been an interesting lighting state to have worked with had I not been so struck by the transitional effect of the split colour technique. The positioning of the Vision 4 allows for the red light to submerge just one side of body in its colour, allowing space for the fill light to add colour.
The collective effect of using the LED panel and the Vision 4 is shown in 'untitled (3 of 21)'. There is a blatant split down the
middle of my face with either side presenting the opposing colour. As a first attempt, I am happy with the outcome of this lighting set up though it does need work. The balance between the colour intensities need to be rectified as the red is much more saturated than the blue. Using opposing colours from the colourwheel was a wise decision for the first attempt as this allowed for an obvious colour split, from here I should look at using varying colour palettes in order to establish different styles of splits.
By looking at the contact sheet it is apparent that the shutter speed that I was using was not best suited to capturing a frozen moment. The majority of the images captured have a slight hazy effect to them. This is due to the camera shutter being open for too long, 1/2 seconds, which allows for more light to enter the camera and capture the slight movement of my body. This was not my intent. I should have used a fast shutter speed or maintained a better level of stillness across my body whilst shooting.
Despite not intending to capture these minimal movements, in doing so some of the images look to have the fuzzy appearance of a 3-D film without the 3-D glasses, 'untitled (18 of 21)' particularly so. It is interesting to look at but lacks control. From this I feel experimenting with movement and front curtain sync flash could aid in creating a disjointed vibe across the imagery.
The emotional state of the early portraits, '4 of 21' through to '9 of 21', does not fit this shoot. I was trying to outwardly express the sadness embroiled in grief but my facial expressions are strained and not summative of being sad. Instead the remaining images portray a much more diverse and accurate sense of grief and the emotions associated with it. On the contact sheet, we are presented with frustration, laughter as well as a sense of numbness. 'untitled (18 of 21)' to 'untitled (20 of 21)' are far more expressive than the previous images. They are not flattering and are cropped in closely . They are not images that you would expect to see in the National Portrait Gallery. This unexpectedness drives them forward, despite this they will not form part of my submission. The standard of work in the NPG is much higher than these and for that reason they cannot be submitted to the competition as they show little skill in terms of my approach.
Two images stand out from this shoot: 'untitled (14 of 21)' and 'untitled (15 of 21)'. They present viewers with a restful looking state. The facial expressions captured seem to show a calm yet
tired expression, as though the mental strain is reaching breaking point. Typically this kind of message is communicated in an aggressive, action-packed style. The imagery I have produced contrasts the norm offering an alternative narrative of grief and mental health; showing how it is not always something to be fought with. The composition of these shots being captured off-center adds to the easy going, no effort mood of the pieces without looking as though there was no thought to the photographic presentation of these ideas. Tilting my head allowed for the colour split to be less harsh and decisive, again linking to the narrative.
The fuzziness that was captured throughout the test shoot is still present here but is not as obvious as in other images. I do wish that frames were more still looking to amplify the 'at peace' nature shown but the slightly rough edges add an element of the images representing a fleeting moment. The sense of this calming atmosphere being short-lived is a fair representation of any mental or emotional struggle.
These images achieve the the overall concepts of portraying a thoughtful response to the themes whilst realising my own emotional turmoil. However, they do not meet the criteria of perturbing viewers as I had wished for 'Concept Two'.
Test Shoot Two
For Test Shoot Two I made use of the same lighting set up as in the previous shoot with different coloured gels that I felt would blend more seamlessly across my face and body. Using colours that were more harmonious than the contrasting red and blue would hopefully create a more gentle split over my face whilst still presenting two blatant coloured light sources. I settled upon pink and cyan gels with the thought that they came from similar colour families to the previous shoot where the red and blue worked well but too harsh.
I set my camera to ISO 400, f22 at 1/2 seconds. In Test Shoot One I was unhappy with the movement captured as a result of the shutter speed, I continued with the same settings here as I had plans to experiment with movement in this shoot. The ISO of 400 was optimal for the shooting conditions, being indoors and using flash, ensuring my work was grain free in order to present crisp and precise looking images to the judges and audience. I felt the addition of grain would have distracted from the image and would negatively impact the transition of the cyan and pink lights.
I chose to use a high aperture to ensure all elements of the image were focused. I knew that whilst experimenting with movement I did not want a shallow depth of field as that could have obscured the way it was captured.
I chose to use the cyan gel on the key light over the fill light like in Test Shoot One. I did so as I felt the pink gel would create a more intimate looking image that invokes a sense of gentleness and femininity. Additionally, changing the direction and amount of blue tones within the image separates this shoot from that of the first by forging a new identity for the images captured, ensuring they do not look alike to previous work. I prefer the look of the gels in this set up as the mood feels less heavy and depressing. The concepts of my work are emotionally challenging and require deep thought from the viewer to consider them, I feel having imagery that is heavily saturated in a deep blue adds to this and can make my imagery feel a little one dimensional. Of course, it is essential for my work to be thought provoking in order to meet the high standards that the NPG uphold, that being said it is possible produce thoughtful content in a manner that is easier to digest.
For the movement, I focused on swift upper body motions that would create interesting shapes within the frame. Making use of front curtain sync flash, where the flash lighting is fired at beginning of each exposure, I was able to capture a camera still looking to be layered with a freeze-framed movement. I could have achieved a similar looking result in Photoshop but chose to work purely in-camera with the front curtain sync technique as it is much more interesting than two images digitally layered.
I found that capturing this movement often produced an unflattering outcome; 'untitled (10 of 20)' offers more of an 'anti-portrait' and a typical self portrait. Showing characteristics that are unsympathetic to the camera is not the traditional aim of portrait work. The sweeping hand captured adds a sense of passion behind the emotional distress being shown. The 'outburst' looks to be uncouth and gives sight to private moments being filled with the emotional turmoil being shared here. Compositionally this image is interesting. With my back to the right side of the frame, I allow room for the moving hand in the foreground by incorporating negative space. The balance provided by adding this breathing room makes the image less weighted. Also, the panning
hand and my hair is all moving in a unified direction which offers the viewer an indication as to how the image should be viewed: from left to right. The movement in this frame is more controlled and purposeful than that of Test Shoot One, it helps communicate the overarching concepts whilst seeming like a very 'in the moment' response.
There are some more conceptual images, 'untitled (13 f 20)' and 'untitled (16 of 20)', that consider the implications of a faceless portraits. I feel this style of image is more successful in creating the unsettling surrealist portrait that I sought after for 'Image Two'. The mystery and intrigue mustered by offering no explanation as to the identity of the character in shot is compelling. I feel there is more scope for exploration with this 'unknowing' imagery style.
Is flattering work important to the submission?
Usually the point of any portrait is to capture a complimentary likeness of a person however in conceptual work there is the question as to the appropriateness of this. By only presenting a favourable rendition of myself my work could not fully explore the scope of the themes I have chosen to work with. A lot of the relevant subject matter for my work is cringe-worthy or unappealing to look at but part of my work is to look at and accept it.
There is a generalised fear in the public of being caught in an insulting position or state, of course there is that hurdle to overcome when considering that the images are being submitted with the intent of being exhibited in a nationally recognised portrait gallery but I would not be offering a fair analysis of the themes if I did not provide work that explored the 'ugly' side of grief and mental health.
Test Shoot Three
Having completed two tests shoots I had a more clear idea of what I was looking to capture with 'Concept Two'. Test Shoot Two birthed the idea of a faceless portrait which was not something I had originally considered for this particular image however I now feel it would be the most interesting prospect for creating an unnerving image that takes influence from Fran Carneros, a surrealist photographer.
I reverted back to using the blue gel on the fill light for this shoot as, despite having felt it was too harsh initially, it better suited the style of image I was now looking to capture. I coupled that with the pink gel on the Neewer Vision 4 to add a softer, playfulness to my work. I looked into the associations with the colour pink and found that studies have proven the colour to be linked with youth, innocence and cheerfulness. These adjectives are not directly affiliated with my themes but they do impact them. I outlined in the planning stages that part of the self-soothing process for me was unifying my current self to my authentic self. In order to do that the innocence that I have lost to bereavement and emotional turmoil must be addressed. Even though I am expressing a negative portion of my life, I must express that there is hope and that I have experienced better times. Acknowledging that not everything is as it is now
helps heal my own real life suffering as well as forming a well rounded, transitional portrait.
Having established that I do not wish to capture movement in my final image for this concept I adapted my camera settings as follow ISO 400, f16 at 1/8 seconds. The ultimate reasoning for this was that I wanted to capture motionless imagery, barring a few more examples of experimentation where I used 1/2 seconds (see 'untitled (12 of 21)' and 'untitled (16 of 21)'). As I reduced the amount of time that the camera lens was exposed, I needed to adjust the ISO and aperture accordingly. I lowered the f-stop from f22 to f16 as I did not need as large a depth of field considering there was only one depth to my set up. I avoided decreasing the f-stop too much as this would let in more light that I was looking for. Finally, I maintained my ISO at 400 as I was having no issues with this setting and had already achieved the exposure state I was looking for by adapting my aperture and shutter settings.
In the first instance, I played with holding a third coloured gel in front of the camera whilst shooting but immediately disregarded this practice as it did not work in line with the image concept, also doing so made the image grainy looking, see 'untitled (3 of 21)', which was not what I wanted. I would consider using this technique in different circumstances, perhaps had I not already been using two other gels as part of the lighting set up.
The main takeaway from this shoot are the frames that focus on the faceless concept that I stumbled upon in Test Shoot Two. 'untitled (9 of 21)', 'untitled (10 of 21)' and 'untitled (19 of 21)' to 'untitled (21 of 21)' offer a sinister mystery about them. The split colour in these frames is minimal but looks to show great skill and precision. The slight inclusion of the pink coloured lighting is more appropriate than a greater amount like in 'untitled (14 of 21)' due to the associations with the colour. The glint of hope that the pink hue offers is exaggerated if used unsparingly,
a delicate approach is more in tune with how the emotional journey actually feels. Realism is key when breaking down these themes as an unrealistic standpoint in my work would decrease the likelihood of an audience connecting to my imagery.
Somewhat contradictory to the statement on realism, I was looking for an air of surrealism about the image produced here. The surrealist aspects of automation and letting the subconscious be free to its own artistic expression is interesting for my work.
Can a self-soothing visual diary be truly that if I do not open my mind's eye to what I truly feel without the hindrance of reason and rationality?
To explore what posing and emotion was dictated once I shut off from the world was interesting even though the examples documented across the contact sheet are limited.
A great example of coupling the realistic emotions alongside the style of surrealism is that of 'untitled (21 of 21)'. This image provides a visual explanation as to the feelings of grief all whilst giving very little information away. The darkness and moodiness captured help to tell the story of my suffering in a non-direct way. The only sense of character provided is from the single eye looking into the camera from behind parted hair which covers the face. The way that the hair covers the face forges an illusion as to which way the head is facing. Here I am in a position of power, demanding the attention of viewers to figure out what it is that this image says.
Others have responded to this image stating, 'I would suggest making the face more clear' but I disagree. In order to keep the intrigue about this image in particular I must keep viewers yearning for more from the shot. Some may argue that too little is given away but I'd argue that if you read into the colours of the image and other components of this image, all the information is there.
I want for this image to create dialogue; for people to look at this frame as talk about how
it makes them feel, discussing what their response is. If my work could change anything in the world it would be to break down the barriers and the stigma of mental health.
I do not like the connection made with the viewer in this image. As interesting as it seems to have broken the fourth wall and so blatantly tried to connect with the audience, I feel the peering eye looks a little cliché and over dramatic. The eye acts as though it is pleading for attention, perhaps for help, and looks tacky. I think this image would be much more engaging had I have been looking upwards or been rolling my eyes; doing that would have produced more questions than the current image.