There are moments in life when you see or hear something so powerful it stays with you forever. I have a lot of those moments, and I keep a journal full of those things that inspire me or have had a profound effect on my life. This may sound silly, but one of the those things that just stuck in my brain was a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Actually I have pages of quotes from Buffy in my journal…Some of you might be laughing right now, and that’s okay. I think Joss Whedon is a genius, and though the premise of the show could be considered “campy” (the original movie definitely was), the writing for the television series was witty, emotional, and sometimes very eloquent. I could go on and on about the merits of BTVS, and maybe I will in a later post, but for now I’ll get back to why this quote in particular helped inspire “My Soul to Take.”
I saw the episode “Becoming Part 1″ when I myself was facing a decision that would change my life. I won’t go into detail about the episode itself and ruin it for anyone who has yet to experience the awesome that is Buffy, but at the very end of the episode the action plays in slow motion while in voice over the character Whistler says:
“Bottom line is, even if you see ‘em coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are.”
Change. It can be exciting or intimidating. Sometimes it is welcome and sought after… sometimes it hits you like a freight train in the night. One unavoidable truth is that the world is constantly changing around us. Ancient cultures used myth and legend to give a reason to events that were unexplainable at the time. The story of Persephone not only gives reason to the changing of the seasons, but touches on a deeper level the cycle of death and rebirth. As Persephone makes her decent to the underworld Winter takes its hold and the earth falls barren until she re-emerges in Spring and the earth begins to bloom anew. So “My Soul to Take”, a composite of two separate photographs, also holds two different meanings. There is the meaning on the surface, the literal depiction of Persephone’s decent into the underworld, and how it is symbolic of death. The title of the image coming from the common children’s prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. ” But it is also about the inevitable changes we all face, and that moment of reflection before you take a deep breath and move on. The moment you find out what you’re made of. The moment you find out who you are.
“Season Unending” was a test of patience for me, and a bit of a turning point in Phantasmagoria as a whole. The inspiration struck me back at the end of spring. I had a clear picture in my head of what I wanted, and knew I would have to wait for the leaves to start changing color to truly capture my vision. So I kept myself busy over the summer, though I will admit that I am a bit disappointed that I did not finish all of the “summer” concepts I had originally planned. When August finally came around, a lot started to happen all a once. I co-hosted a workshop with my good friend and fellow photographer Abe (the owner of Blind 7 Photography). The workshop was also my first video project, and I really hope to do more of those in the future. You can take a peek at the video here.Before I knew it, the leaves were changing color, the weather was beautiful… and I got sick, and stayed sick for almost 2 months. This shoot however was going to happen, noting was going to stop me.
At its heart “Season Unending” (and “My Soul to Take” which will get its own post) are inspired by the mythology of the goddess Persephone. My goal was to capture the emotion behind the mythology, the last golden glow of Autumn before Winter takes its hold. Persephone illuminated by a soft ray of light, surrounded by a riot of color, a beautiful moment before she makes her decent to the underworld. The words of Dylan Thomas came to mind when I was developing the concept for this image:
“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
The location for the shoot was simply breathtaking. I was out hiking in the woods behind Squire’s Castle in the Cleveland Metro Parks, and there they were, these powerful tree roots cutting through the hill like they wanted to pull the forest itself down into the ground below. When I think back I can still remember the chill that went through me at the sight, and the feeling of knowing I had found the perfect spot. In contrast to this powerful landscape, I decided to keep Danielle’s dress and make-up simple. The dress is actually 6 yards of off white fabric that I wrapped around her and pinned together on location. For make-up I used a white creme face paint around the eyes and down the sides of her face in a tribal “war-paint” inspired style. We started the shoot very close to sundown to capture the rich golden light, but that left us with a very short window to get the two shots I wanted. Usually I don’t have an assistant on shoots, but I am so thankful that Amber was there that day (and she did a lovely job curling Danielle’s hair. I’ll admit, as we were walking through the woods to the location I was a bit nervous that it wouldn’t happen. But once Danielle got into position surrounded by the towering Autumn forest, the roots rushing up out of the ground to meet her, all my worry melted away. She had become Persephone.
I mentioned at the beginning of the post that this shoot was a turning point in Phantasmagoria. Soon my dark side will be coming out to play…
Well, I have been an extreme naughty and absent blogger. The good news though, I will have a lot to write about as I try to catch up! This summer has been a spectacular blur of work, creativity, and an amazing trip to Portland, Oregon. I have had some amazing shoots for Phantasmagoria, and Dark Divine is my most recent work from that series. The wings are hand drawn in Photoshop, and took about 6 hours to complete. Danielle is a rock star model, and was amazing to work with. Another highlight from this shoot, it was my first collaboration with the mind-blowing and talented Blind 7 Photography. We will be co-hosting a creative workshop August 31, and I am currently creating a dress out of metal for that shoot. Lots of excitement to look forward to, and I will try to get more posts up featuring some of my other summer 2013 creations! My complete works can be viewed here.
May 25th marked the one year anniversary of my blogging adventure. I know this post is a bit late, but I spent that weekend in Niagara Falls. There were two reasons for the trip: I had always wanted to photograph the falls lit up at night, and recently I celebrated my five year anniversary with my boyfriend Joe. This is important knowledge because this blog, my current work… none of it would have been possible without Joe (and not just because he has gifted me with most of my equipment). When Joe and I met, I was still in that emotional rocky place I mentioned in my last post, and his support and belief in me helped me to see beyond the mist. For those you you who are getting romantic ideas that this was accomplished through sweet tender moments and hugs, well… you’re wrong. Joe gives lectures that would make most tenure professors green with envy, he is not an enabler, and has no problem informing me when I’m acting like a crazy person. Oh, and we have the most ridiculous sort of fun when we are together So here’s to many more years of blogging, art, fun, and laughter to come, because beyond the mists the future is bright.
Many people have asked me “Why do you go by the name Lux Aeterna Imaging?” The answer to this question is both simple and complex and I will give it as best I can. Lux Aeterna is Latin for eternal light. At this point many of you may be thinking well photography in essence is the capturing of light, this is not why I chose this name, it goes much deeper than that. I have always had a passion for the arts: drawing and painting, photography, music and dance, and theater. When I was younger I played violin, took dance lessons, participated in both school and community musical theater as well as taking art classes, I was also very sick. This is the first time I am ever publicly talking about any of this, and it is not easy, but hopefully my story can help someone else.
When I was eight years old I was diagnosed with a rare and untreatable autoimmune disease, I wasn’t suppose to survive. While I didn’t stay at home feeling sorry for myself waiting for the disease to take me, I would be lying if I said it didn’t intrinsically change and form who I am as a person. I can tell you that I was determined to live, I stayed active in extracurricular activities, I was a competitive swimmer, and I applied to colleges like the rest of my friends. Outwardly I developed a rather morbid sense of humor, on the inside I was in turmoil. I struggled with sever depression, and at the age of 13 I developed an eating disorder. By the time I was 15 I had turned to self-mutilation as a way to deal with the emotional roller coaster my life was becoming. When my doctor informed me that I was in remission, a miracle since I never received any treatment for the disease, I was grateful for the second chance at life, and let me be clear that I never entertained suicidal thought, but by this point my destructive coping mechanisms were already deeply ingrained. At college I was majoring in both pre-veterinary biology and musical theater, and I was quite miserable. I love my parents, and am so thankful for everything they have done for me, but they pushed me into majoring in biology. Majoring in Art would have been a “waste of my brain”. Well half way through my second year of college the final straw broke, I dropped out of school, and I finally sought the help of a psychologist. I began both talk and art therapy, art saved my life. Expressing my emotions through drawing and painting gave me a positive coping mechanism, a healthy alternative to the destructive behavior I had practiced for so long. For me, art was the light at the end of the darkest tunnel in my life, it was the rope I held onto while I pulled myself up and out of the darkness for good. That is why I chose the name Lux Aeterna. I went back to college, switched my major to Fine Art with a concentration in painting, and I took my life back. I am now a happy and healthy adult with a positive outlook, a passion for learning and helping others, and an immense love of life. “The Dance of Forgotten Memories” is my tribute to my story and my art. Though my memories are not forgotten, I have pulled them up and turned them into something beautiful. I want to thank all of you for letting me share my story, and my art with you.
I would like to also thank Trinity Art for nominating me for two blog awards, it means a lot to me
I don’t post all of my work to my blog, and I am still about 3 images behind in my Phantasmagoria series. If you would like to see more please visit Lux Aeterna Imaging on Facebook.
The last weekend in April I took a trip to the Allegheny Mountains. I really just needed a get away, to clear my head, and connect with nature and all of her wonders. There were wonders in plenty that day; a rainbow rising out of the mist of the Kinzua Dam, hidden waterfalls, sunlight valleys, and the view from the Kinzua Bridge. Out of all those things it was this sunset that truly stole my heard. The way the colors blazed across the sky, perfectly reflected in the waters of the river, it was breathtaking. This was also the first time I literally bleed to get a shot. I am not always the picture of coordination and grace, and I was so busy staring at the sky when I climbed over the guard rail I didn’t lift my leg high enough to clear it. So I stood, not wanting to miss a moment of the suns decent, the whole while my foot was throbbing and bleeding. It was worth it. This was one of those moments, a precious memory, that I will treasure forever. And in case you are worried, immediately after I returned to my car to clean and bandage my wound. For those of you interested in the technical side of this image, it is a double exposure composited in post production, in order to preserved the rich colors of sky and still allow the foreground detail to be visible.
Before I begin my retelling of how “An Enchanted Twilight” came to be I have other news to share. First, it was brought to my attention yesterday that the location where both “Whisper” and “An Enchanted Twilight” were shot was ravaged by the chemical pesticide Rodeo. What was a blanket of lush green grass and beautiful golden flowers just one month ago is now brown and dead. Most alarming is that this was done in the location of a nest of Great Horned Owls and a known habitat for Bald Eagles. This news left me deeply saddened, and disgusted. You can read the full article here. I also have other, more pleasant news. I have entered 4 pieces into the Grand Prix de la Découverte an international fine art photography juried competition. Included in my submission was “Timekeeper”, “An Enchanted Twilight” and two other pieces I have not written about yet, but can be viewed here. I will not find out if I made it into the final round of judging until mid July, but I will share the results with you once I know them. And now on to the story behind “An Enchanted Twilight”.
When I think back on how this image first came to be I am reminded of a quote by Bob Ross “There are no mistakes, just happy accidents.” I will not lie to you by saying I went out in the woods that day with a picture for “An Enchanted Twilight” firmly in my head, knowing how I would shoot it. There was no planning involved, and it was a most happy accident. Jeni and I had already shot at many locations in the Metroparks that day, the very same day I shot “Whisper”, and the sun was beginning its slow decent to the horizon. There was one last location we wanted to check out before we called it a day. Jeni was walking well ahead of me, she was much more familiar with this area, and the last location was her idea. Now those who know me well, know that I am easily distracted. As we were walking down the riverbed this one tree caught my eye, its root system a beautiful weave leading my eye to the water. I had to have a picture of it! So there I am, taking picture after picture of what I am sure is the “coolest” tree I have ever seen and Jeni just kept on walking. That is when it happened, the wind picked up, the veil Jeni was still holding in her hand began to dance drawing my attention away from the tree as a shiver went down my spine. Now I was taking picture after picture of Jeni walking away from me the veil trailing behind like a ghost on the wind. It was completely unplanned perfection and I knew in my soul that I had been allowed by the fates to capture something truly special that day.
“The heart whispers so listen closely” ~ The Land Before Time
When I first decided that I wanted to rename this series, I don’t think even I realized how big my vision truly was. Originally I had chosen the name Candyland, but that name never felt right. It matched up well with the first shoot, but it didn’t fit where I wanted to go, the places I wanted to create. The name Phantasmagoria first came to me as I was waking up one morning. You know that hazy place where you are caught struggling between dreams and reality. As the sunlight softly filtered through my window, I just knew, I wanted to create something full of magic and wonder like those first waking moments when your dreams still feel so real. “Whisper” is my visual portrayal of that moment of half-waking/half-dreaming, the moment Phantasmagoria was truly born.
Once Phantasmagoria started to really take form in my head, I knew what I wanted for the next shot, I wanted to shoot in a field of flowers… but I had a problem. It was early April in Cleveland, and winter hand lingered longer than usual. I had a few days off work so I got in my car determined to find the perfect spot. This trip took me all the way to the Pennsylvania border and back, and I found some truly wonderful locations, but no flowers. April 18th arrived, and I had plans to spend the day with Jeni. It was her birthday, and she was recovering from back surgery, so I wasn’t sure if she would be up to doing a shoot, but I had this overwhelming need to free some of the ideas in my head. Jeni was more than willing to get out of her house for a while (Thank you Jeni!), so we started discussing possible locations while I did her makeup. To counteract with the first shoot “Sweet Dreams”, I kept her makeup soft and natural and we decided on a simple black dress. It didn’t take very long to get her ready and off we went to Stinchcomb Memorial.
Back in December I had attended the Winter Solstice Sunrise Gathering at Stinchcomb Memorial. Remembering that the view from the overlook was breathtaking, I was hoping to be inspired. When we arrived I could still feel the magic hanging in the air. It was a beautiful windy day, so I gave Jeni a simple piece of white tulle as her only prop, picked up my camera and said a prayer. Jeni began to play with the tulle with what I can only describe as a child like glee. The way it danced in the wind was mesmerizing, but I am going to wait and talk more about that in a future post. When we took a break I looked over the edge of the overlook, and saw it! Blankets of yellow covering the forest floor, illuminated by the late afternoon sun filtering through the trees. I felt like I was transported back to that moment, caught back in my dream. We made our way down to the base of the overlook and began walking through the forest surrounded by these patches of yellow flowers. Jeni laid down in the flowers. Once she covered herself with the tulle, she took on this otherworldly quality. That is when I heard it, my heart whispered “This is your moment.”
If you don’t want to wait for my next blog post to see more of Phantasmagoria, visit me on Facebook!
I didn’t become an artist for fame and fortune. I fell in love with art because it gives me the opportunity to breathe life in to my fantasies and turn my imagination into something tangible. Art is dreams made flesh. Sunday marked the first official shoot of the Candyland project. My initial plan was to do this shoot outside, but alas the weather was not cooperative. It is because of times like this that I have learned to always have a plan b. So the shoot was moved inside and I went back out yesterday to take photos of the sky to use as the background.
The first image is titled “Sweet Dreams”, and that is where I am off to now. In my excitement to get this shoot off the ground I have been burning the candle at both ends. So I apologize for this being a short post, but I promise there will be more to come.
Stop by my creative headquarters on Facebook to see more of my work, and my daily ramblings.
Update April 9, 2013: After much consideration, I have decided to rename the Candyland project. I felt the name was limiting the actual concept. I was receiving a lot of feed back from people assuming that this project would be a recreation of the board game Candy land. So I reflected about the real story I am hoping to tell, to capture the essence of the worlds and characters I began imagining as a child, and to show how as we grow and have new experiences it affects the very nature of self. The name Candyland leaves one assuming that this will be full of light-hearted images, bright colors, and of course candy. Well, my mind and imagination is not always a light-hearted place. So I have decided on a new name for the project, Phantasmagoria, and I am quite happy with it.
There is nothing like the wonder and innocence of seeing the world though the eyes of a child. I grew up an only child, and I remember creating elaborate make-believe worlds of magic and fantasy. I loved to read, and then recreate those tales through games of dress up and pretend. Since I often played my board games alone, they ended up evolving into something so much more. Candy Land was one of my favorites. Who wouldn’t want to wake up in a colorful sugar-coated dream land, explore the peppermint forest, swim in a chocolate swamp, or spend an afternoon with King Candy in his Candy Castle.
For a while now I have wanted to create a project that would allow me to revisit the places I created in my childhood imagination. Candyland will not just be a one day photo shoot, it will be an adventure. I am currently working on hand building props, planning costumes, and finding locations. My hope it to publish the images in my first art book. Last night was the first “test shoot” with my friend and model Katie Simeone. So without further ado…