behind the scenes

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.