• Photographer
    ivan forde
  • Prize
    1st Place / Fine Art/Collage
  • Company/Studios
  • Date of Photograph
  • Technical Info
    digital minipulation/collage

This series of photographs titled 'transformation' is based on the mental process Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost puts readers through. The poem places readers against the unblemished background of the perfect world, thereby allowing them to see the distortions and flaws in comprehention they themselves bring to the story. I provide a more through description of the photographs below in the deeper perspective box. I created the images through minipulating the faces and cutting the eyes and ears a part in photoshop. so its a mixture of collage and minipulation through blending.


In Paradise Lost, the blind Milton makes us behold our imperfections against the unblemished background of the unfallen world. The poem offers a vision of a reality unavailable to readers who live in an imperfect world in want of its ideal. Some of the ideals we are set against are Innocence, Heroism, clarity of mind, Nuptial Love, and Faith in God. While we experience the vision along side Milton, the model he offers is unrecognizable to us because of our fallen state. We try to reach an understanding of the actions of the characters but again and again we get a sense of how limited our perceptions are. Through poetical structures, Milton forces us to feel, dramatically, our unavailability to Paradise. Just as Satan, who while in Paradise still experiences the same psychological torments he felt in hell, readers bring their own corruptions and expectations into the perfect world that produce the sense of their distance from perfection. The primary focus of my essay is the reader’s tendency to “distort” the vision Milton offers of the unfallen world. The distortions we produce tell us about ourselves and reveal just how far we are from the ideal Milton offers. Through his authorial instructions, Milton offers corrective lenses to the distortions we tend to produce – giving us glimpses to an accurate perception of an action or a scene. Readers supply Milton’s corrective perspective of local narrative moments to others they come across as they progress onward. At the debates in Pandemonium in Book II, we take Milton’s evaluations of the devils’ as rhetoricians lavishly presenting falseness as truth, and supply this perspective to when Satan speaks to Eve in Book IX. Through what Wolfgang Iser calls Anticipation and Retrospection, we link multiple narrative moments together in order to break the illusions (distortions) we tend to build when we take local narrative moments at face value. As we perform the action of linking narrative moments together – seeing it as a whole in relation to the Fall – we see our own mental actions as we engage in the strenuous process of analytical interpretation the text requires. It is an analysis of ourselves and not the characters because an understanding of their actions exists beyond our fallen apprehension. Stanly Fish defines the reader that Paradise Lost creates as one who becomes the detachedly involved observer of his/her own mental process. It is this division or “split” the reader experiences that I explore in the photographic component of my project titled “Transformation.” I use the photographs as visual aid in efforts to understand the process of anticipation and retrospection the poem puts the reader through. The motif of the three-headed figure in the portraits – specifically the first photograph titled The Reader – represents the reader constantly looking back and forth between past, present, and future narrative moments linking them together as the text requires. The central image of the ear suggests the importance of rhetoric in that it can be used to present falseness as truth thereby causing listeners to produce distortions surrounding the poem’s subject. Similar to when we are lured by the false rhetoric of the Devils in hell, Satan presents false rhetoric to Eve, causing her to distort the true meaning of the fruit from obedience to power, and vanity. The photographic series also visualizes two essential narrative structures that created the fallen reader’s disposition: The Fall of the Rebel Angels followed by The Fall of Man. The poem opens with the fall of the rebel angels, and it is also where readers begin the journey in understanding their intellectual and moral selves reflected by their responses to the characters. Using cutouts of eyes and ears to represent this narrative moment, I was able to understand what the fall meant for the satanic rebels. Satanic vision, and by extension their rhetoric, fell into fragments. The devils no longer experience reality in relation to God – who represents the “whole” as he is the center of all. At a glance, God sees reality not in fragments but as a whole finite unit. Satan experiences the physical world of the poem in fragments as he falls from Heaven, then travels through Hell, flies across Chaos, and onto Eden. Along Satan’s journey his thoughts are in fragments as well as he reacts to what he sees and contradicts most of his earlier conclusions. The Fall of Man follows the same structure of meaning except it is directed toward the reader’s experience. Before the fall, man existed in direct relation to God. The portrait of the distorted figure depicts Man as intellectually and morally in fragments from his former perfect self. Adam falls into imperfect convoluted fragments from the wholeness of God and the perfect world he placed him in. This is the narrative moment the photograph captures that Milton suggests produces our responses to the action of the characters. It also visually represents what the fallen state of mind looks like – a constant flow of fragments in discord with each other creating glimpses of the whole. The forth photograph in the series titled Internal Conflict makes us understand what the internal consequences of the Fall were in the emotions the faces display; anger, war, conflict, subjugation, and apathy. The following image – titled The Fruit – where the character is holding an apple suggests the sense of guilt readers feel as they interact with the text. We feel guilty because the text makes us see that the responses we produce only serve to make the Fall occur again. In the scene where we see Adam looking at Eve lying naked beside him, we expect sexual desire to ensue. However our expectation of Adam’s desire is modified when Milton tells us that Adam reacted innocently “in delight” at her embrace. Our expectation reflects the desire we normally experience when looking from our fallen vantage point. Adam and Eve in the perfect world are innocent of this kind of luscious looking. It is only after the Fall (where Satan deceives Eve into desiring the fruit) that desire becomes apart of Adam’s reality as he looks at Eve and is stimulated to take part in sexual intercourse. It is the reader’s duty to keep watch and correct his/her mistakes in order to prevent the Fall from reoccurring. The sixth photograph depicts the mid-point of Satan’s journey toward Adam and Eve’s moral destruction. Satan stands in a lonely place somewhere on the bare outside of the universe – in between worlds as he searches among the innumerable stars to locate Paradise. Readers look along with Satan as they follow him on his journey, but rather than looking to locating the physical Paradise, we look inward in efforts to locate a Paradise within. As the fiend approaches Eden we establish what Paradise or the ideal means to us by the degree of our reaction to Satan’s threat. This act of looking inward is represented by the figure holding the magnified lens. Subsequently, the multiple eyes on the face in the seventh image also suggest the reader’s constant search. However, it more directly speaks to readers’ Erratic Eyes as they connect narrative moments in efforts to see the poem not in its parts but as a whole in relation to the Fall. Only God, with his optical superiority, is able to do this and again we feel limited in our perceptive acts. The formation of the eyes going downward suggest a tear to represent how dramatic the response to the reality of our perceptual limitations can be. The final photograph in the series titled Through Glass, directly speaks to Fish’s definition of readers of Paradise Lost. The text makes us see ourselves through the darkened glass of our fallen perspective. Through glass, we see our distorted reflection in the split between observing our mental process while participating in the action of analysis, and the actions of the characters. Milton cleverly exposes our most innate human flaws to us, and our reactions to our imperfections cause us to make corrections where we see fit. Unlike Satan who suffers an eternal fall, aware of his imperfections while helpless to correct them in order to find peace, readers by the grace of God are not eternally fixed in their sin. We can correct our sins and instruct ourselves not to commit the same mistakes again. Readers experience a transformation as they mend the imperfections they see latent in themselves, thereby finding what Gabriel at the end of the poem promises Adam; “a Paradise within thee happier far.”

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