behind the scenes

advent of plenitude

Recently I watched the 1927 silent film, Metropolis. I had never seen it before, and I was absolutely blown away by not only the set designs and costumes but also by the topics the film touched on. Absolutely groundbreaking during the time it was made, and it really is a pivotal, important film. During the garden scene at the beginning of the film, you witness young upper-class people prancing around in gaudy outfits, laughing and having a wonderful time. One such outfit really caught my eye—it looked to be a Marie Antoinette-inspired skirt. I immediately had a vision of a character wearing a similar skirt, completely covered in flowers...and knew I had to construct it.

Famous garden scene screen capture from Metropolis, direct inspiration for Advent of Plenitude.

Famous garden scene screen capture from Metropolis, direct inspiration for Advent of Plenitude.

The day I got the call about my mother’s passing, I had spent time up in a wisteria tree, shooting images of a friend posing down below me. The smell of the blossoms was heavenly, sweet and soft. After shooting images of her, I couldn’t help but hang out in the upper branches of the tree for a bit, drinking in the scent of the beautiful lavender flower clusters that so closely resembled grapes. I remember feeling happy and content in those moments...less than an hour from receiving a life-changing phone call.

Wisteria is now branded into my memories as a direct link to my mother. And it feels fitting—she had such an extraordinary green thumb, and our home was never short on magnificent hanging baskets brimming with flowers and greenery. For this reason, I decided the skirt would be made up of hundreds of wisteria. That was the original decision I made...however, I soon realized that wouldn’t work so well.

I knew the wisteria would be blooming around mid May, when she passed, and so I planned the shoot for a weekend in mid May. However, during the first week of May, I noticed wisteria blooming everywhere—so early. I admit I got a bit panicky, worrying that they’d be long gone by the time the shoot came around. Knowing I’d need a ridiculous amount of them, each time I went driving, I kept my eyes open for bountiful wisteria vines. Most of which were in someone’s yard or in one case: hanging over a massive sign at a main, traffic-congested intersection.

I took a small sample of wisteria and tried freezing it, knowing it likely wouldn’t work, but being curious as to the outcome. Sure enough, as soon as I took the frozen stem out of the freezer, the delicate buds dropped off one by one. I realized that even with the stems fresh, the buds were incredibly delicate and even a bit sparse. The amount of wisteria stems that would be needed to cover an entire giant skirt was basically out of the question, once I dwelt on it. I also hoped for lilacs, which were in full bloom already in early May as well. Their succulent scent and full clusters seemed perfect. But by the time the weekend of the shoot rolled around, the lilacs I’d found were all browning and dying off. So, instead, I decided to gather up loads of light-purple rhododendrons and darker purple wildflowers that were growing readily off the side of a local freeway... I didn’t want to completely abandon the wisteria, so I decided I’d still harvest plenty of that and then sprinkle it onto certain areas of the outfit.

I commissioned my friend Matt to make the base of the skirt. I told him of my vision for the shoot, and he and I set about trying to figure out the logistics of how to make a base for such an enormous and what would be very heavy skirt. Finally, he had the brilliant idea of using a wicker basket! I went out to a local thrift shop and picked up a basket that was absolutely perfect, along with a light purple sheet to use for the flowers. I supplied Matt with an old belt of mine and the basket, and he went to work creating the base. As per usual, he blew my mind with the finished product—not only was it completely stable and capable of holding plenty of weight, he’d made it adjustable with PVC pipes in the back.

Skirt base, constructed by my friend Matt Castiglione.

Skirt base, constructed by my friend Matt Castiglione.

The weekend of the shoot arrived, and Cassie, who’d come up to my place for the weekend for all of our chaotic shooting, was happy and willing to help with working on this magnificent skirt which we knew would basically need to be assembled and shot all on the same day, lest the flower wilt. She took to work sewing the sheet to the wicker basket, looping it through over and over again so that it wouldn’t tear under the weight it would eventually hold.

Cassie finishing up sewing the sheet on to the skirt base.

Cassie finishing up sewing the sheet on to the skirt base.

Cassie and I decided to get up early on Sunday morning, the day we would be shooting, and go out and scavenge wildflowers first thing. I’d originally hoped to harvest flowers the day before, giving more time to put together the skirt, but after consideration, I realized that fresh flowers, even in water, would begin wilting in that time.

Sunday morning arrived, and, Cassie and I, in all our glory (by which I mean pajamas, fresh-out-of-bed styling, and half-asleep demeanors) basically rolled ourselves into my car and shoved off to get flowers, around 8am. I knew of only three local spots where wisteria was growing, two of which were very public areas. One public spot was at the entrance to a residential area, but the wisteria hung nice and low, and the flowers were a lovely shade of lavender, so we knew we needed to go there. We parked in the neighborhood, scissors and trashbags in hand. Like pajama ninjas in broad daylight, we not-so-stealthily made our way over to the abundant wisteria, delicately clipping flowers that were easy to access, taking care not to damage the vines. The way in which we collected the flowers was quite actually good for the vines, which sorely needed pruning. So it all worked out!

So much glue. So much.

So much glue. So much.

Fifty gluesticks, seventeen spiders, and two hours later, and voila. Le flower skirt monstrosity.

Fifty gluesticks, seventeen spiders, and two hours later, and voila. Le flower skirt monstrosity.

We returned back to my house with wisteria, rhododendrons in droves, and some of the aforementioned darker wildflowers which we’d gathered, in our pajamas, off the side of the freeway... We took to work hot-gluing the flowers to the skirt and spent a solid one and a half hours or so working on it. Eventually Cassie departed to tend to her hair and makeup, which she did a phenomenal job on, might I add! My friend Alli soon arrived and helped us load up the hefty flower skirt into the back of her car, and she also assisted in pinning the pretty sheer purple fabric that made up Cassie’s top for the shoot. I haphazardly pinned wisteria into Cassie’s hair, and we took off to the shoot location, not five minutes from my house.

Alli pinning the top to Cassie while Cassie looks like an adorable paper doll.

Alli pinning the top to Cassie while Cassie looks like an adorable paper doll.

Carrying the skirt from the car to the location was a two-person effort, so Alli and I tag-teamed it while Cassie brought up the rear. Once I’d scouted the exact location for Cassie to stand, she delicately stepped into the skirt, and then we adjusted the belt to her and repinned the top as needed. I also wanted feathers to be floating in the air, so Alli took to work tearing open a down pillow and spraying feathers everywhere while I shot.

I was feeling a bit disappointed in the lighting until the sun very briefly dipped down into a window between leaves and branch, casting a beautiful golden glow into the wood. I quickly relocated Cassie to accommodate the lighting and was able to snag a few shots before thirty seconds passed, and the moment was gone. But I had gotten my shot. It was a whirlwind of a shoot filled with a lot of laughter, and though the skirt only lasted for one day, I do feel that our efforts were not in vain.

The following is a beautiful behind-the-scenes video that both Cassie and I shot, solely edited by Cassie. Have a look!

Germination

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Cassie graciously created a stunning short behind-the-scenes video of the shoot! Check it out here:

The process for this dreamscapes shot was much less involved than my previous shots, which I found to be like a breath of fresh air. Cassie had told me of a particular tree with exposed roots that made for stellar shots, and I knew this was the location I needed for Germination. The only trouble being that it just so happens to be located in Portland. So I decided to consolidate and drive down for the weekend along with my good pal Austin.

Austin, Cassie, and I shacked up in a simple hotel Friday evening, not ten minutes away from the tree location for the following morning’s shoot with Meredith. I’d picked up some gold fabric, gold acrylic paint, and borrowed an insanely long blonde wig for the shoot. Prior to heading to Portland, Austin helped me out during my jam-packed week by scavenging ivy and spray-painting it gold for me, which we also brought along to Portland.

Austin with the golden ivy. Photo by Cassie.

Austin with the golden ivy. Photo by Cassie.

The following morning, we headed to the nearby location, driving through windy roads lined with scads of lush green trees covered in moss and ivy. There’s nothing I love quite so much as the Pacific Northwest. The landscape here is beyond breathtaking—I’ve spent the majority of my life living in this area, and I’ve never grown tired of it.

Walking through the forest to the location. Photo by Austin.

Walking through the forest to the location. Photo by Austin.

It was a brisk morning out but not at all unbearable, thankfully. The roots of the tree were closer to vertical than lying flat as I'd imagined, so Meredith had to very uncomfortably prop herself up and support her weight by defying gravity a bit... At the end of the shoot, she couldn't feel her right leg at all, having the circulation cut off so long... I tried to make up for it by rubbing her leg a bit and getting the blood circulating. I swear, the things I put my models through. They're all champions. They really, really are.

Adding finishing touches to Meredith prior to shooting. Photo by Cassie.

Adding finishing touches to Meredith prior to shooting. Photo by Cassie.

I had Meredith curl into position while I figured out the shot, and then I quickly went to work wrapping her in the gold fabric and painting her on the spot. Cassie assisted while I prepped the shot, painting Mer's face. The wig in the image is borrowed from a colleague who graciously loaned it to me. I was concerned when I pulled it out of the bag, seeing how tangled and matted it was, but Austin helped to detangle it, and once it was on Mer and positioned properly, it photographed beautifully! After piecing apart the wig to my liking and weighting parts of it down with small pebbles, I had Austin hand me the gold ivy, which I quickly entwined around Meredith. I hopped down from the roots, clambered onto the ladder Meredith had brought along, and there was the shot. The very first frame I snapped, I knew I had it. It looked just exactly as I'd imagined and as I'd sketched it. The colors, her expression and pose, the roots of the tree. I felt both excitement and relief as I quickly snapped the shots before calling it good. Short and sweet, to say the least.

Balancing on a ladder while capturing the shot. Photo by Cassie.

Balancing on a ladder while capturing the shot. Photo by Cassie.

With this image, I wanted to continue the substory of The Forest’s Secret within dreamscapes, illustrating the evolution of the guardian alongside the egg. The gold is indicative of the germination of both the seed and its guardian. She gently clutches the egg of the forest, protecting it in the deep roots of this shadowy tree, hidden away in safety during such a vulnerable period. This is the second image in a three-part series within dreamscapes.

Model: Meredith Adelaide
Assistant, videographer, and bts photographer: Cassie Meder
Assistant: Austin Tott Photography
MUA & photography: Kindra Nikole Photography

The Forest's Secret

The Forest's Secret

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Closeup of makeup and details.

Closeup of makeup and details.

The day I conceived of this particular character for dreamscapes, I was mindlessly doodling in a notepad. I drew a cluster of spheres and decided to draw hair on those spheres, and then a head attached to the hair, and a neck, and suddenly I’d sketched out an unusually tall forest nymph adorned with a massive skirt made of ferns, a lavish headdress made of moss balls, and a corset made entirely of bark. And so it began.

A concept, for me, always begins with mentally mapping out all of the steps it will take from conception to actualization before the image will come to fruition. Logistics can prove to be quite tricky, depending on how complex an idea is. I knew one of the most challenging pieces of this equation would be the headdress. At first it was going to be large moss-covered balls that would be entwined in the model’s hair, but as I began my mental-mapping process, I realized I wanted something different—something more. I imagined a headpiece that would curl up from the model’s head, completely covered in pinecones. At that point, I began collecting pinecones each day when I’d go out walking with Ziggy, my dog. I also recruited my good friend Austin to help with collection, as I knew he frequented areas with differing pinecones from the ones I’d been collecting.

Soon after, I began researching for the corset. I knew I wanted it to be made of bark, but I also needed it to be functional and flattering. I’ve always loved the bark on birch trees—peeling the bark off is oddly satisfying, and I knew of some birch trees nearby that were shedding quite nicely. I collected a large pile of the paper-thin bark, and then ordered a simple white corset off of eBay. Logistically speaking, I was hoping that hot glue would do the trick, and it ended up working out very well, which was a relief. I was concerned that because the bark was so thin, it might rumple under the heat. There was a small amount of rumpling, but I found that if I smoothed the hot glue out underneath the bark as I pressed it onto the fabric, the wrinkles were minimal, at best. As soon as the corset arrived in the mail, I put it on my dress form and slowly began gluing bark pieces on, over the course of a few days. The patchiness was troublesome, as it looked a bit cobbled together, but then I decided I’d simply fill in some of the “seams” with moss, closer to the date of the shoot.

Corset completed, prior to moss and ivy detailing, and Ziggy eating dinner in the background.

Corset completed, prior to moss and ivy detailing, and Ziggy eating dinner in the background.

Meanwhile, I was in close correspondence with Meredith, the beautiful model pictured in the image. She had contacted me on Facebook with a very touching story, and it sounded as though she and I were kindred spirits, of a sort. I was thrilled by her enthusiasm, and although she is based in Portland, she was more than happy to travel up to create with me. It is quite likely that Mer will be a frequently used model for this series, so expect to see more of her lovely face.

I knew that the skirt would need to be made the weekend of the shoot, so I settled on purchasing a simple white hoop skirt and worrying about the logistics later.

I realized that the concept I had envisioned for the headdress was very much shaped like a cornucopia, so I made a trip to Goodwill, and lo and behold, a cornucopia the perfect size for someone’s head was sitting on a shelf for three dollars! Honestly, it’s pretty amazing the sorts of things you can find at thrift stores. I decided to have the front of the headdress covered in larger pinecones, and then the tip covered in smaller ones (a cone gradient?). Austin and I speculated about the technicalities involved in attaching pinecones to it—at first I thought hot glue, this magical liquid, could certainly do the trick, but we realized that due to the shape of the pinecones, it likely wouldn’t hold up well, and they would possibly fall off. Austin offered to instead hand sew the pinecones to the cornucopia… Let’s just say that that became an incredibly daunting task for him, but in the end, it came together beautifully, and I can’t thank him enough for his patience in helping out with it.

As the character’s outfit began to really flesh itself out within my skull, I realized that the white of the birch bark and the green of the skirt would be nicely balanced if the headdress were mostly white. I picked up some white spray paint and Austin and I spent an evening outside his house, painting all of the various cones we’d gathered. Well…technically we tried painting them inside my house (as I don’t have a yard…), and though it worked, we decided gassing ourselves was probably not in our best interest. I amuse myself at how impatient I can be with my ideas at times—I get so eager to start executing them and making them a reality that I do things like spray-painting in the kitchen. I *know* how idiotic that was… It all worked out in the end, anyhow!

Meredith and I gluing on the very first ferns to the skirt.

Meredith and I gluing on the very first ferns to the skirt.

The weekend of the shoot arrived, and the afternoon prior to the day of the shoot, Meredith, Austin, and I all went to my woods and gathered a boatload of ferns and a huge blanket of moss, taking care to snip leaves from many different ferns, so as not to diminish the area. We loaded up four sacks full of the stuff, confident it would be enough for the skirt... That evening, Meredith and I began gluing the ferns onto the hoop skirt, starting from the bottom and working our way up, layering as we went. I wanted to leave an open V in the front, where I’d later be gluing fresh moss, to create the illusion of an opening in the skirt. Austin diligently continued sewing on pinecones to the cornucopia headpiece…contraption. About 2/3 of the way up the skirt, we ran out of ferns. I resolved to go out to the forest on my own, first thing the next morning, while Mer was having her makeup done, to gather up the last bit of ferns to finish the skirt. Meanwhile, I began gluing moss to the seams of the corset. Austin finished up the headdress, which looked spectacular (even better than I’d originally imagined it might), and then we added on moss for detailing and to break up the white.

Finally, the day of the shoot was upon us. I’d been hoping for nothing short of a miracle in terms of the weather, as my vision involved brilliant rays of light shooting over the model’s shoulders from behind, enveloping her in a soft cocoon of light. However, Mother Nature saw fit to bestow me with rain. Lots of it. With Meredith having traveled up for the weekend from Portland, we simply had to make do. I’d scouted a location just a few minutes down the street from where I live—an area I’d been eyeing for the past year at least. A small patch of forest overrun by ivy, licking up the trees and covering the forest bed with green vines and leaves. When we arrived, the rain had made everything shiny and saturated with color—it was even more beautiful than I’d imagined, and I knew immediately that even without the light I’d hoped for, the shot would come out.

Lauren braiding Meredith's hair while Austin sports the headdress.

Lauren braiding Meredith's hair while Austin sports the headdress.

Affixing the headdress was damn near impossible. We ended up using twine to tie it under Meredith’s chin, and then stuffed the back end of the cornucopia with socks of mine for stability and support. While Lauren, the makeup artist, worked on Meredith’s makeup, I was frantically glueing the last ferns to the skirt. I realized that transporting the skirt would not be an easy task, as folding it was no longer an option. I feared that many of the ferns would fall off in the process… We ended up delicately laying it in the back of my hatchback—some ferns were lost, but not too many, thankfully. Meredith got into the car with the headdress on, and the weight of it was so uncomfortable that she found herself propping the headdress onto the headrest while I drove, to release pressure.

Meredith wearing the completed headdress on our way to the location--due to its weight, she was resting by balancing it on the headrest. The ferns creeping into the front of the car are the massive skirt that we somehow managed to fit in my backseat.

Meredith wearing the completed headdress on our way to the location--due to its weight, she was resting by balancing it on the headrest. The ferns creeping into the front of the car are the massive skirt that we somehow managed to fit in my backseat.

We parked just about a block down the street from the location, and, in the pouring rain, carried the massive skirt, stool, ladder, tripod, and other various necessities down the street to the location. There was a fair amount of gawking, to say the least. It was pouring down rain the entire time, of course.

Finally at the location, we had to guide Meredith into the skirt, having her step into it from above. I had her stand on a small stool once in place for the image, to create the illusion of her being just a bit taller. The headdress had a habit of sliding around on her head, so for many of the shots, Austin had to help hold it in place.

It was freezing, and wet, and there was my concept, standing before me, amid the lush greenery, a far-off whimsical look in her eyes. As I was shooting, I knew that this was just the beginning of something very big for me. The elation I felt at seeing this character come to life was quite honestly indescribable. This unnamed character I created is the protector of this forest’s most precious possession, the pinecone in her arms. Meredith gently cradled the forest’s “egg,” and though my fingers had gone numb some time earlier, I was ultra focused as I snapped one shot after another.

Austin helping adjust the headdress.

Austin helping adjust the headdress.

Calling it magical is, I’m sure, a tired thing to say, but it was nothing short of that. I cannot wait to see where dreamscapes will take me, and I cannot wait to share it with everyone.

Me capturing the magic while Austin supports the weight of the headdress.

Me capturing the magic while Austin supports the weight of the headdress.


Model: Meredith Adelaide
MUA: LC Hair and Makeup
Assistant: Austin Tott | Photography

Aegis

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The idea for this character stemmed from an old concept I shot with Cassie over a year ago, where I placed her in the freezing cold in a slipdress wearing a candle crown. I had been wanting to make my own, original candle crown for quite some time, and the notion of candle pauldrons had also floated into my brain. So, I decided, for my first attempt at a handmade costume piece for dreamscapes, that I would create those as a sort of precursor to more elaborate future costumes and shoots—both of which I am currently creating and planning. The glass ball in her hands with the candles inside was inspired by a photo created by Oprisco (http://www.flickr.com/photos/oprisco/).

I knew I’d need a base to work from for the candle crown, so I bought a cheap tiara at the local costume shop and about fifty dollars’ worth of candles. My friend Matt came over the first night I worked on it to help me out, and since we weren’t able to obtain the mini blowtorch for melting the candles down rapidly, we had to use candle flame instead, which ended up being incredibly time consuming. Matt and I worked together to place all of the candles onto the tiara and melt them to the metal. I put Dark Crystal on the TV and we worked diligently for the entire movie before he had to head home. I spent another three or so hours the next day, melting drips upon drips upon drips to create the final result. The pauldrons were another story entirely. Since I was utilizing a dress form which certainly had different proportions than the model, I had to make do with melting them onto wax paper on the form… I would later melt more drips directly on to the model’s shoulders and arms to properly place the pauldrons.

About halfway through the process of creating the crown.

About halfway through the process of creating the crown.

This was the first shoot that I worked with a model who is signed with a company, namely Seattle Models Guild. Typically I’ve shot mostly with Cassie or friends of mine when I’m not taking self-portraits, but for dreamscapes, I knew I wanted very specific looks for each image created, and that I needed to start branching out. With the knowledge that Cassie will be moving to the east side of the country in a few months *sniffle*, I knew I needed to start working with new models and broadening my horizons further. Alexandra immediately caught my eye and was incredibly patient during the shooting process. Her mother came along on the day of the shoot and was very enthusiastic and supportive, which helped allay my awkward social discomfort that usually sets in whenever I work with new people. This was also my first time in more than a year to work with a makeup artist, and it was my first time meeting Lauren (https://www.facebook.com/lchairandmakeup), the MUA, in person as well. Lots of firsts and nervousness during this shoot for me…

Lauren styling Alexandra for the shoot.

Lauren styling Alexandra for the shoot.

Lauren and I had discussed the makeup ideas prior to shooting, and we’d decided on ghostly pale lips and complexion with smoky eyes. She took it to the next level by contouring with a charcoal eyeshadow, and the effect was hauntingly gorgeous. While the makeup wasn’t able to display its full glory in the dimly lit forest where I shot the image, it still added a great deal to the eerie mood I was hoping for. Once her makeup was done, Lauren did a quick messy up-do on Alexandra, and we then ever so gently set the candle crown in place and pinned it until it was relatively immovable… It weighed a great deal, so I knew I didn’t want to burden Alex with it for too terribly long. She had to very carefully climb into the car so as not to damage the crown, but she was able to fit just barely…

We drove to my nearby forest, and since I hadn’t scouted beforehand, we simply walked through the trails for about ten minutes until I found the perfect location for what I was looking for. A bed of ferns lay at the base of the giant pine tree, and I had Alex positioned on top of the ferns and directly in front of the tree. It was incredibly chilly out, so we had her bundled up until the absolute last moment prior to setting the final details (melting the wax onto her shoulders) and finally, lighting the pauldrons and the crown. All of us were fairly nervous about lighting the crown, as it sat dangerously close to her hair, so it was imperative that she be perfectly still—which she was. I had set up my camera, and I quickly lit the crown, pauldrons, and candles in the bowl and ran over to my camera and began frantically shooting.

Since the pose I was going for was static and I simply needed her to open and close her eyes and softly change her expressions, the shooting process did not take too long. A very slight breeze was blowing in the wood, and one of the flames managed to melt the uppermost candle, sending wax cascading down Alex’s forehead…right onto her eyelid. She very quickly informed us of the predicament, all while enduring the pain of the hot wax and remaining perfectly stagnant in her pose.

After the wax scare, we decided to only light a few of the candles for the round of shooting that would involve smoke bombs. I felt absolutely terrible for the painful experience, particularly since we’d only just met! Sometimes I really wonder how I must appear to people who first meet and work with me--pretty bizarre and slightly insane, I’m sure.

Me melting and rapidly cooling the wax pauldrons onto Alex.

Me melting and rapidly cooling the wax pauldrons onto Alex.

Alexandra holding steady while we light multiple smoke bombs all around her face. I swear I don't torture my models...

Alexandra holding steady while we light multiple smoke bombs all around her face. I swear I don't torture my models...

We also were interrupted entirely by a woman on horseback who asked us to move off of the trail and into the brush so as not to frighten her horse. I let her know we could move but that I really needed my tripod to remain where it was. We all moved into the brush, save for Alex, who sat stationary on the ferns. After a minute or two, the woman informed us that the horse was now too scared to pass, so perhaps we should come back out onto the trail… Which we did. *Finally* the horse moved on by, and the woman remarked on the scene we’d set up. I fully intend to start scouting more remote locations for these elaborate shoots. And this is also the last dreamscapes shoot I will be doing where I won’t have scouted beforehand. I want to produce each image with greater and greater care, and push my limits as far as I am able.

I was thrilled with the shots I got that day, and Lauren and I celebrated by getting some delicious miso soup and shake onigiri from a local Japanese restaurant. Very much looking forward to the next shoot, where Lauren and I will work together again.

Source: aegis

The Crystal Paladin & The Last of Her Fading Power

{Talking about the first character for Dreamscapes, my reason behind this project, sources of inspiration, and Cassie being the toughest tough that ever toughed.}

{Talking about the first character for Dreamscapes, my reason behind this project, sources of inspiration, and Cassie being the toughest tough that ever toughed.}

It’s hard to know where to begin with something like this. I’m not even sure there *is* an actual beginning, but if there were one, this would be it. So, we’ll start here. This is the start of a photographic journey with an indeterminate ending point. It is largely inspired by the astounding Kirsty Mitchell, who is at the tail end of her Wonderland project, as well as countless other inspirations such as Zemotion (her Motherland Chronicles blows my mind), J.R.R. Tolkien, Jim Henson, Brian Froud, Hayao Miyazaki, Labyrinth, Legend, Dark Crystal, Alice In Wonderland, countless books my mother gave me, and of course nature. I’ve been grappling with ways to cope with the loss of my mother, and I saw that Kirsty’s journey has guided and led her through her own coping with losing her mother, and so I thought that I would begin a new project. Something that challenges me and pushes me to my absolute limit. A project where I utilize all the tools at my disposal, and perhaps some not at my disposal. Where I combine all of my knowledge, inspiration, and skill into one massive production. I’ve long been into crafting and have dabbled in cosplay, and so I will use what I’ve learned in those areas to my advantage.

I’m starting this series as a way of escaping, yes. But I’m also beginning this so that I can grow. After my 365 ended, I felt both utterly free and completely lost. I’ve learned about myself that I require structure. And through this project, I’m creating it. I am going to pour more time and energy into creating elaborate scenes than I have for any of my previous photos. I will take more time in scouting a location, studying the light, and setting up my shots. I’m very excited to see where this all takes me, and through it I am able to escape reality into my own little space, or as my mother always called it, La-La Land. The title “dreamscapes” came very naturally to me, as my mother often encouraged me to dream. She decorated my teenage bedroom in blues and silvers with stars and moons, and hung the wooden letters spelling “dream” above my bed. She gave me a sterling necklace with “dream” engraved in it.

Not long after the idea for this series came to mind, Cassie came to me with the idea of something inspired by The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and more specifically, the Snow Queen in that story. She had recently acquired some dreadlocks from Armored Girl and had spoken to Elemental Child about using one of their beautiful crystal crowns for a shoot. Although I knew the idea for this shoot wouldn’t involve anything handmade, I also knew that she and I could create a wonderful story with the images, and so I decided to open the series with The Crystal Paladin. I also allowed myself to deviate from what will be the rest of this series because Cassie is truly one of my closest friends, and she and I have suffered endlessly for our art, so it seemed quite fitting to have her as the opening act.

Cass came up to my area for a weekend for us to shoot. We made a trip to Goodwill and scored a gorgeous art book from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the movie. We were both pretty pleased with our luck—the book was sticking out from the shelf in a way that we couldn’t possibly have missed it. We pored over the images that night for further inspiration.

Closeup of makeup and the crystal crown.

Closeup of makeup and the crystal crown.

The day came for shooting, and Cass awoke feeling extremely ill. I rushed out to the grocery store and brought back medicine for her, telling her that we could always postpone the shoot. But by then she had already finished most of her makeup and hair, and she, being the trooper that she is, insisted that we at least give it a shot. So we drove out to the mountains, with Ziggy, my wonderful dog, keeping us company. The two hour drive went quickly, and we finally reached a point in the mountains where the snow was dense enough for what I had in mind. By then Cass was mostly delirious from her flu and all of the cold medicine, and I felt incredibly doubtful about putting her in nothing more than a slipdress and having her pose in the snow AS the snow was falling…

I hopped out of the car and ran into the woods to find a good location. The trees were so burdened with snow that every few seconds a mini avalanche would cascade down from the boughs and land on or very nearby to me. I found a hollowed out log that I knew would work perfectly for the first shot, and shortly after I noticed two trees, conjoined, creating the perfect little cradle in which she could sit. I ran back to the car, grabbed her, and hoisted her into the tree hollow, where she performed beautifully, despite the snow, her flu, and the mini avalanches… We lit a few smoke bombs and I knew we had the shot. I wanted the paladin to appear mystical and defeated but still vaguely menacing. The smoke leaking from the wand was the draining of the last of her power.

I have always enjoyed misunderstood villains, or villains who initially seem nothing but cruel until you are shown another perspective. This was my intention with the paladin in the final image. Frail, sickly, alone, and dying--sapped of all of her power. Since Cass was indeed sick, it made this mood I was aiming for even more believable. We put a sheet down for her to sit on, but the slip dress quickly became drenched as snow piled into her lap and slowly melted… I set up the shot as quickly as I could, and shot fewer images than I usually ever shoot, but I was ecstatic with what I’d captured. We got her back to the car with the heat blasting, and I tossed on a gaudy prom dress to shoot a self-portrait (after which I became thoroughly drenched from snowfall).

Cassie being actually ill helped immensely with the portrayal of the paladin's fall and ultimate demise.

Cassie being actually ill helped immensely with the portrayal of the paladin's fall and ultimate demise.

During the course of this shoot, I somehow managed to drop the wand the paladin is holding in the first shot, and despite searching high and low in all of the areas I’d been, I couldn’t find it. Which was pretty upsetting, considering it was Cassie’s xmas gift to me… But I’m glad I was at least able to utilize it in one photo.

Anyway, this blog is lengthy enough, so I’ll wrap it up here. Cassie was tougher than I’ve ever seen her for this, and I can’t thank her enough. I’m very pleased with the opening images to this series, and I can’t wait to continue to unfold the story further.