Unofficial Language, according to David Crow in Visible Signs, is language that runs counter to or is outside of official channels. Where graffiti is concerned, most often it is considered vandalism. However, graffiti runs the gamut from simple defacement of property with tagging to informing or commenting on society with iconic messages. For this assignment, I had to choose an idea or concept that could be clearly articulated through images and limited text, if needed. I then had to choose 3 colors and create stencils for the graphic so I could spray paint it on illustration board and photograph it. Using Photoshop, I placed the graffiti in contextually relevant places around Chattanooga.
My children recently had an infestation of head lice and in researching how to combat it, I learned a lot about the louse. Lice prefer clean hair; don’t jump, but can very quickly crawl; and most importantly, affect all economic levels in society. Having head lice is considered repugnant in our culture to the point that we tell our children not to mention the infestation for fear someone will think we are unclean. In reality, head lice affects 12 million children a year and I’ve heard stories of people getting lice from trying on hats at Disney World to picking it up at a church overnight.
My original concept was to show a woman wielding an enormous lice comb and fighting an equally enormous louse. I surmise that most of the people engaging in lice treatment are actually women, so depicting a woman combating the louse seemed natural. Having her use a larger-than-life comb against a larger-than-life louse would also convey how large a problem head lice really is. In exploring the idea I realized I didn’t need the louse. Not only was it superfluous, but most people upon seeing it wouldn’t know what it was even with the lice comb present. I was working with how to show that lice infestations can and do affect the wealthy, and so I considered using an image of a woman in a ball gown wearing a string of pearls or an image of a woman in smart business attire. It occurred to me that an image of Wonder Woman might work as a stand-in until I could photograph someone. That’s when I realized that Wonder Woman was the perfect woman for the job. Who better symbolizes the United States, reaches out to all economic levels, and is a woman?
For the contextually relevant locations, I wanted to run the gamut of economic levels. I photographed a homeless shelter, a children’s museum, a private boarding school, and an upscale hotel.
Let me know what you think in the comments.