Advanced Techniques and Processes 2a – Update Proposal – Magdalen – 3-5 images

Relates to Outcome 1 and 3


Following on from our lectures and reading week, basing my photography around my conceptualisation and reimagination of the Magdalen, I am refering to the Gnostic Scriptures and in particular the Gospel according to Mary Magdalene. (For the technical aspects of each composition please see below), studying the Magdalen narrative, which highlights three fundamental parts to her story: i.e. Her love of Jesus, her ability and experience to annoint and her transformational capabilities.

Therefore, basing my work on the kenotic principle of spirituality, all identity it would seem, can be forged through self surrender and within the context of the resurrection, anointing, as the ritual is most closely associated with the passage from death of self to fullness of life which conveys the very essence of Christianity’s transformative wisdom. And its gatekeeper is Mary Magdalen. She is identified as the ”Apostle to the Apostles”. (as a first witness to the resurrection: Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16: 1-11, Luke 24:1 -11 and John 20: 1 -18).

So, basing imagery along this concept, using technique to capture, I have reconceptualised the seven aspects of what the Magdalen revealed as truth in the Gospel of Philip and additionally in terms of the Landscape.

”The first form is darkness, the second desire, the third ignorance, the fourth is the excitement of death, the fifth is the kingdom of the flesh, the sixth is the foolish wisdom of the flesh, the seventh is the wrathful wisdom. These are the seven powers of wrath.”

Basing my investigation on expressing literal truth, the first form is darkness for the Magdalen.. so here are some examples of darkness being the first form and hence a metaphor and a location destination for the final Magdalen shoot.

For the above reference please refer to the Gospel according to Mary Magdalene (

1. The first form is darkness. (Location destinations depicting darkness)



2422 2378 1b & 1c2367


Darkness plays an important part of the Magdalen story. It is well documented that the Magdalen has not been accepted by the Church as being ‘free from sin’ and so subsequently the darkness falls on her whenever discussions arise that challenge the type of woman she was. I have therefore shown her as being sinful (represented by the darkness) so that it adheres to the stereotype of her. The range of images will then be able to demonstrate that her journey is one of enlightenment and raises the question ultimately, through the image, how can the Magdalen be judged so harshly, when the Church (and subsequently its congregation) are not free from sin either.

2. The second desire.


Magdalen will be seen as being ostracised from the Church and the symbolic inference will take the form of railings or a fence.

According to Bourgeault, 2010: ‘‘A crowd had gathered around Jesus and Mary and she hid herself in the back hoping to remain unseen but while the Anointed was speaking he glanced at her, caught her gaze and something passed between them. She was thunderstruck; an energy and vibration filled her whole body. Her sight opened and she saw his true form as light and fire and truth and a love, such as she had never known welled up in her.”

Thus suggesting that there is something special about their relationship and that this ‘something special’ began when she was freed from her original sin (hence the symbolism of being freed from the fence, being freed from the restrictions of their desire and subsequently the church behind it). As ‘Kenosis’ suggests: ”leaving her clothes (her egoic self behind her).” Bourgeault, et al, 66).


The power of ignorance which is tied up with the act of judging.

4. The fourth is the excitement of death


The Magdalen is depicted in the Gnostic Gospel as being ‘‘between two worlds” and the Saviour reminds us that he sees Magdalen for her mind and that her mind exists in a way that only he can see… Additionally, it is well documented that Mary was present during his death and at his resurrection, therefore I have depicted the Magdalen in this instance as belonging in both worlds through the symbol of the shadow on the cross (see image above) and the image below which shows a figure present in the composition but by shaking the camera slightly I achieved a look to make it appear as though the figure is ‘between two worlds’.

The saviour answered and said, he does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two is what sees the vision and it is…


5. The kingdom of the flesh:

6. The foolish wisdom of the flesh:

7. The wrathful wisdom (the final acceptance in a metaphorical sense that the Magdalen will finally be accepted for what and who she is within the Church) and that subsequently Mary will be known for what and who she really was (and spiritually still is).


When thinking of ‘wrathful wisdom’ and the Magdalen’s fraught relationship with the Church, I have again depicted her through symbolism (see the above image of an Open Door). The light is pouring through and you can see a graveyard in the distance. I have supposed that in a metaphorical sense the open door demonstrates that the Magdalen has finally been accepted for who she really is and that the Church have redefined her meaning to become one that is more acceptable so that women generally speaking can feel that there is more of an acceptance for them.

nb. Please note that the rest of the subjects 3 (ignorance), 5 (kingdom of the flesh) and 6 (the foolish wisdom of the flesh) will be discussed at a later stage as the development of the photography continues.


1a. f/2.8 1/3 of a second, ISO 100 28mm

Using low key lighting technique and relying on caustic and reinforcing patterns enabled the photographer to create a mood that reflects current opinion of the Magdalen and will therefore be a perfect location for the final shoot.

1b. f/1.8 1/3 of a second, ISO 100, 28mm

A shaft of light that highlights the door frame and stretches out into an elongated pool on the floor creates an interesting aesthetic. Darkening shadows with the Magdalen sat in the doorway will create a mood to enable the imagination to see that she is a victim rather than the suggested ‘perpertrator’. She ‘belongs’ to the Church but at the same time does not feel a part of it.

1c. f/1.8 1/25 of a second, ISO 800, 28mm

As above (1b) but the light source and location have been changed. The mood is still dark and the Magdalen is clearly ostricized and feels that she is in a place where she does not and should not belong yet she clings to the feeling that in many ways she does belong and should be recognised for her contribution to the ministry of Jesus, so this is again a perfect location to achieve my aims.

1d. f/1.8, 1/25th of a second, ISO 800, 28mm

as above

2a. f/2.8, 1/25th of a second, ISO 100, 28mm

see above

4a. f/16, 1/20th of a second, ISO 100, 28mm

The photograph taken in the early morning light demonstrates that a sense of hope comes to the Magdalen, even as she approaches death, she is reborn (resurrected into something new). The cross in shadow across the grave was one I had to wait patiently for, the sun had to be just at the right angle to achieve the look, I shot low so that the shadow would be as elongated as possible.

4b. f/2.8, 1/3rd of a second, ISO 100, 28mm

Technically this look was achieved by shaking the camera slightly at the moment the person came down the steps. I deliberately wanted to take a photograph in this manner i.e. in a low light setting so that the image causes an element of confusion but at the same time make the movement as minimal as possible. So I shot this on an aperture of f/2.8 to enable a feeling of being close to the subject yet stable in terms of the ISO.

7a. f/11, 1/200th of a second, ISO 100, 28mm

Utilising light as a source for symbolism, all of the compositions for this proposal have been about capturing light in some way, either low light or high. This was chosen deliberately in order to convey meaning. i.e. a sense of being complete for the Magdalen, moving through the darkness to death to everlasting light. I achieved this by standing behind the door and allowing the sun to filter through it at an angle I found pleasing. Demonstrating that acceptance (as determined by the light coming into the Church) finally allows the Magdalen the freedom to be who she is.


Bougeault suggests: (2010, 207 -219) ”If we are serious about activating Mary Magdalene’s wisdom within contemporary Christianity, the first step would be to increase her visibility within the liturgy.’‘ In symbolic and practical tradition, the word or narrative of the Passion is and has been told through the visual image also. So, a narrative interpretation of her as contemporary woman through the photograph would be a move in the right direction as it would help to further explain the role of the Magdalen then and the role of the female within the Church now. Subsequently, in depicting the Magdalen, a new realisation of the depth and breadth of women in the role of the Church could be better understood.

I have achieved this by carefully considering my locations and working through them to create a series of images allowing for the transitions of darkness to light through the symbolic. I have structured the images by taking advantage of low light techniques such as reinforcing pattern (the fence and the bricks on the staircase) to caustics (in the final image) and by chiaroscuro and key (in compositions 1d and 4a).

Religious Artefacts and Dress as Fashion:

As well as the iconographic imagery of Pedro Meyer’s constructs of religion, there is an increasing trend of fashion industry calling on religion to add interest to clothing. In Thom Browne’s ”AW14, Fashion vs Blasphemy” (see research folder for more information), it states: ”there are few topics as sacred as religion, but there has been an uproar recently at attempts of artistic interpretation with examples from Dolce and Gabbana and Browne in particular using extremes to create an aesthetic of religious iconography transferred into fashion iconography. The works of Alexander McQueen being no exception. There is an indication that fashion will overcome this extremism and present a more original concept of religion.

In portraying the Magdalen, not as a fashion icon but as existing within contemporary Christianity and subsequently in a conceptualisation of imagery, then fashion will play its part and because of that the women of today and the Church may well be in a better place to understanding her meaning.


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