Tender Buttons Project: Breakslow

Angela Lian
3 min readMar 27, 2020

Upon first reading Gertrude Stein’s “Tender Buttons”, I was caught off guard by the interesting cadence and association of words with certain subjects. Therefore, I wanted to first choose two subjects that I was familiar with visually before diving into the complexity of the poetry. I chose Eggs and Milk because these are two subjects I’ve worked with visually in the past and have enjoyed photographing.

The challenge for me was to create a prompt for myself to work off of based on the two objects. My visual research led to paying close attention to the details of each food, which were both in the breakfast category. These are two foods we use in conjunction with others, such as milk with cereal and eggs with bacon, but rarely together. Also, the activity of breakfast itself is usually hurried, so my attentiveness was a change in pace. I decided this was what I was going to hone in on in conjunction with the poem.

Efficiency is the language of the 21st century. We often sacrifice quality for quantity in favor of the “more”: getting more done, finding more answers, getting more output.

Breakslow is a project that takes breakfast out of this context, which may often be seen as an activity that is fast, mundane, and insignificant. It brings the viewer into an alternate dimension where breakfast requires deep contemplation and is in slow motion, to the point that the materials are still raw. It attempts to induce a trance that follows the same seemingly lucid string of thoughts of Gertrude Stein in her poem, Tender Buttons.

My storyboarding focused on the pairing of close-up shots of milk and eggs with sections of the poem and then thinking about how kinetic typography and various effects in editing would enhance this interaction of imagery and poetry.

This helped me maintain my vision and achieve a trance-like video with repeating effects. I explored kinetic typography through this project and spent many hours continuing to learn about After Effects as well. The visual effects I chose to keep consistent include: slow-motion closeups of the subjects, fade-ins, masking, scrolling text, and the font PP Woodland in white and blue. These helped me achieve a trance-like visual of the mundane activity, breakfast.

I’m glad to have revisited a familiar subject in both a different medium and different context. It taught me that it’s okay to recycle ideas because there are endless possibilities for every idea. I look forward to the next time eggs and milk reappear in my creative process.