I've been dreaming of quite a few fantasy projects since I began to create fine art photographs and digital paintings, which was over five years ago now. But I have shied away from taking photos of people in the past, and have only recently ventured beyond my comfort zone to create portraits of others. I gained confidence by taking self-portraits, and practicing editing and adding my own distinct style to the final creations. In the last couple of months, I've worked with my daughters and some new friends and have made some breathtaking portraits and scenes. It was fun, confidence-boosting (to me and the models!), and inspiring. My intention isn't to offer my services to clients, but to branch out with my own creations and ideas into new territories and genres I have yearned to explore.
The tragic figure of Ophelia from Shakespeare's Hamlet has been the inspiration for many a beautiful painting and poem. In the play, she is a love interest for Hamlet, but after their relationship goes awry and then the death of her father, she goes mad. She then purportedly falls into a brook after the branch of a willow tree breaks and drops her into the water. Her heavy dress pulls her to the muddy bottom, and too distraught to save herself, she drowns among the flowers she was gathering. It is later clarified that she must have committed suicide. At her funeral, the Queen sprinkles blossoms upon Ophelia's grave, saying "Sweets to the sweet". Ophelia is an iconic character in classic literature, and dark though the subject matter may be, I was interested in a photographic portrayal of her as she's so vividly described. Finally I met the right model, and I gathered up the courage to ask her to pose for me, and she said yes! Incidentally, her name is also Sarah, and she's also a photographer, and we live just around the corner from one another! Sarah has gorgeous, long red hair, and I knew she would be the perfect Ophelia. Luckily, she's also cool with laying down in muddy water in a thick velvet dress while having debris thrown on top of her. Thanks, neighbour!
I wanted to pull off this shoot before autumn hit us here in Southwestern Ontario, and we picked literally the very last day it would have been possible to go in the water without it being freezing cold with a strong current. It seemed a fitting farewell to the summer weather. On the day of magic, I spent hours pulling apart wildflowers from around our property, and flowers sourced from a nearby country stand, so I'd have a bucketful of petals and blossoms to scatter about my Ophelia. I had my husband clip some long willow branches for us, and after packing up the costume, we went down to a nearby stream that flows into Lake Huron. It was less than an hour before sunset. The water was stagnant and still in the late summer heat, which was perfect because I didn't need all of my hard-earned tiny flowers floating downstream before I got to to hit the shutter button. Trooper and amazing model that she is, Sarah got into character, got into the water, and watched the sunset for a moment while I adjusted my camera settings. I snapped this one of her then, before we wet and tangled her clean and shiny tresses. Her hair was done to perfection by Sharon Lytle from InStyle Hair Studio in Kincardine, and it would have been a shame to ruin it without taking a photo first!
After Sarah submerged most of her body and head in the shallow water, I tossed flowers and willow branches all around her from the riverbank above. Of course, the first overflowing handful I threw landed all over her face, so I was glad I had advised her to close her eyes and mouth! Finally I jumped into the water with her, almost waist-deep, with my poor rubber boots on. They filled with water and made me very slow. We kept having to corral straying blossoms and branches, so it was good that my daughter was on dry land waiting to shower us with more fresh florals. It was difficult, to say the least... but I just snapped away, taking full advantage of what fading light was left, and trying to be as quick as possible so Sarah didn't have to stay long in her mud bath. When we emerged from the water, we were both covered in silt and sand, dead flowers, bits of twigs and leaves, and who knows? - maybe one or two of those little minnows I saw darting to and fro as we worked. Sarah's hair had tons of pieces of blue hydrangea woven throughout the strands, and despite just coming out of a veritable swamp, she looked beautiful. I am really appreciative of her for helping me achieve my artistic vision of Ophelia. I've taken the last few days to edit some of the best images, and I'm ecstatic with the results. I hope that Sarah is proud of them as well, and that you all love what we've accomplished together!
And now, without further adieu, here is the set "Ophelia", part of my ongoing fantasy portrait series. Enjoy, and please, leave your comments!
Sweets To The Sweet - Can you find two damselflies? A symbol of ascended souls and hope beyond this realm, and fitting for a 'damsel' in distress!
A Tragic Splendour