Creating this image pushed me straight out of my comfort zone and although much was still true to my style and the themes I like to work with, much took me outside of my style. When I started processing this image I felt somewhat stuck and frustrated… then I let go and it started falling into place.
I created this image recently at an event hosted by a local photography group at an abandoned zoo. I was unable to make the event from the beginning, but decided to still go through and catch the tail end. It being an early afternoon event, I knew lighting would not be ideal for me, but I was hoping to find a way to make it work. Either way, I wanted to connect with a few other artists from the local community and to see an old school friend I have not seen in years that was also attending.
I had never been to this location, so was not really sure what to expect. When I arrived I realised that the abandoned zoo was not quite suited for the image I had in mind to create as much of the area was covered in graffiti. I scouted around for a bit and found an old stairway leading up to the zoo that had a beautiful view of the mountains in the background through the trees. I really liked the effect and thought it would suite well with the image I had planned. I just hoped that the light would drop enough for me to shoot in the flat light I love to work with.
The image I had in my head was somewhat angry and fierce – usually not emotions I focus on or care to share through my work. However, it has been a rough few weeks recently with much sadness, betrayal, lies and disillusionment, that I felt the need to process my emotions through an image. Emotions so strong that for a few seconds I was driven so close to the edge that I had a small glimpse of what could drive somebody to commit murder. Not a pleasant feeling at all…
I came to the event prepared with the prop I had intended to use, which was a small sword/large dagger and some wardrobe options. When I saw the steps I knew I had what I needed to create the image… but the lighting was not ideal.
A number of people at the event wanted to know how I photograph my self-portraits and asked if they could watch some of my process. I was quite happy to demo for them, even though it was somewhat intimidating creating while a bunch of very experiences and way more knowledgeable photographs looked on. Usually I work alone, or sometimes with just a friend assisting, so this was certainly a very different and somewhat nerve-wracking experience for me.
While I was setting up and preparing a few test shots, a character dressed in a kilt and carrying a beautiful Celtic drum and sword appeared. Everybody at the event joked that he was late as many were just preparing to head home. “A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” – was his response. In my case that certainly was true! I asked him if he would pose for a few images with me – which he graciously did. He also very kindly offered his sword and drum to me to use as props for my image.
Admittedly though I botched some of the images I took of my new friend and I together. I had my camera set up for self-portraits and did not properly re-test before proceeding. I have included two here for you to see as he made such a wonderful character in his outfit. Unfortunately these were just not sharp enough for me to use in my final image, but luckily with some sneaky compositing I was still able to piece an image together using his sword and drum.
Once I had the image composed correctly, I got stuck big time with the processing… The lighting was just too bright and did not work well with my usual colour treatments and style. Ordinarily I would have preferred to wait another hour before shooting, but circumstances were what they were and I very much wanted to produce an image that would honour the day and event. So after a number of failed attempts I ended up with some options I liked. After discussing them with a friend I realised the final touches it needed and created an image that feels a bit different to me, but is still able to tell my story.
Through the kindness of a stranger, I was able to create an image that felt to me rose above my anger. It felt more noble… Thank you dear Druid for your kindness and for arriving precisely when you meant to.