University of Iowa Honors Theses

Thesis Title

I am who I am

Major Department

Art, Studio


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2018

Honors Major Advisor

Kee-Ho Yuen

Thesis Mentor

Lanning, Lynne D


For the honors project, I chose to do a narrative photographic project of a self-reflection on my identity. My research focuses on use lighting to convey emotional content. I explore the use of makeup, clothes, and props, to create emotional content.

I used myself as the model of this project since self-understanding was my topic. I believe many people live behind masks, trying to hide their true selves, including me. All the photos were taken indoor with a Sony camera. My initial exploration begins with the professional photo umbrella light. I set up the tripod and auto timer took these photos. I am satiated with the studio light. Then I move to use a projector as the light source. I connected the projector to a laptop so I could change the background. I tried different background including the solid colors, rainbow color, and more dramatic color to build different effects. To highlight the facial emotion, I also used a flashlight, mirror, and reflector, as the fill light. After setting up all the equipment, I begin to play with various photo props. I used sunglass, feather articles, fan, high heel, wine bottle, wig. To capture myself on different sides, firstly, I took the image with no makeup and used the studio lighting. Then put the natural look makeup and used the projector light, finally move to the dramatic drag queen look with the colorful background. It's the process of how an ordinary man becomes a crazy drag queen and the many faces of me.

Through this project I discovered myself. I am so afraid to become the real me because of all the pressure from family and society. So I use the artwork to express myself. I could do all the crazy stuff under the protection of being a crazy artist. From the photographic research, I learned how to use lighting more effectively to convert emotional content. The lighting, unexpectedly allowed me to project beautiful shadows that I found very allegorical. Shadows of my face symbolize the hidden me. I learned a lot about indoor light and I want to explore more outdoor lighting in the future.


self-reflection, makeup, lighting, photographic

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Copyright © 2018 Jinyang Cheng

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