I sit starring at my folder entitled Secret Garden and I can't even believe how many images have been shot for the series, or how far the series has come. It's even crazier to think that the series almost didn't continue after the Ice Queen. I'm so glad that I decided to continue on because I have learned so much about myself throughout this process.
Six concepts and twenty images later I finally arrived at the "Garden Story Weaver". This concept was one I wanted to try for a very long time. In 2010 I was attending college. I would frequent the gallery every few days as new work from different art students would be featured. I remember seeing a dress made with fabric that looked like book pages. It was so surreal to me and I knew then and there that I needed to take this new inspiration and hold it in my head for a future shoot. Five years later and I began the planning stages to make a dress out of book pages. I started with extensive (and I mean very extensive) research looking up paper dresses and designs. I found so many incredible dresses made from books pages, newspapers, and paper origami.
Research is such a huge aspect of the garden. I think we all kind of start off with an idea in our head then we think "Okay how am I going to make this". It's always so helpful for me to watch other making of videos and read DIY blogs. For the same reason I also like to share how I have created things and my process. I want to show people how I come to my conclusions with my shoots. Maybe it will help them create something amazing in the future. Some days I wish there were more artists showing their process because I think the tiniest detail or tip can really get ones imagination going. Sharing knowledge is a powerful thing. I think it can really make the world go-round and it would really help the industry as a whole if we were more open and encouraging one another.
So, here I was with the book page dress idea stuck in my head. I started to make my pinterest mood board for the 'Garden story weaver' and I started to think about the things I already had which could help me achieve my book page dress. I had an old hoop I purchased in 2009 (which I have already used for several shoots and will reuse again and again) and I had some books that I purchased from a second hand book shop. I decided I would fan the pages to make the dress look like ruffles. Then once done I would decorate the page skirt with flowers and pedals. Interesting enough the book with the prettiest pages was actually Hannibal. I chuckled to myself as I ripped pages out of Hannibal. Such an ominous undertone. I thought about making the entire top portion out of book pages as well but in the end I chose to go with an Alice in Wonderland inspired dress my mum made in 2008.
I got this whole Alice vibe whilst making the skirt. I thought it was best to continue with that idea as the backdrop I already knew was going to be blue and Vanessa to me always looked like a little Alice. All of the ideas really began to come together.
The magnifying glass was an easy process. I purchased a plain black one and found some little vintage metal pieces. Glued them together and hand painted each piece. I didn't want any ordinary looking glass for my little garden Alice. It had to be something that looked as if it belonged within the garden world.
New to the set were these fantastic twisty hedges that I purchased at a garden shop. The interesting thing about the hedges is that I was originally going to make hedges out of scratch. I actually attempted to make box hedges last summer but unfortunately everything I was trying just was not working out. Sometimes we have to make the tough decisions. I knew it was going to be way too hard for me to conceive the hedges at this time. It might be something I try again in the future but with Secret Garden being shot each month things do become demanding. I had a choice to buy artificial ones or to continue painfully trying to make something that might not look right for the set.
I thought to myself " This is my series, this series doesn't have any rules". That made my decision. I think sometimes we try so hard to say that we are one way and we don't want to break the mold or the character but how will we ever learn more if we don't step out of that box once in a while. Yes I make 90% of what goes into the series but there are just some things that I won't be able to do.
I added the brand new hedges into the set and I loved what I was seeing. They will make an appearance within the garden a few more times so I know I got my moneys worth.
Good friend of mine Lee Anne came out to do make-up for the shoot and Adria for hair. It was so much fun getting to work with Lee again. She has helped me with so many of my shoots and we are always on the same page. Vanessa stepped in to model. I photographed Vanessa the first time when she was only fourteen. She is now a sixteen year old lady all grown up. I knew that I needed her in the series from day one. Her beautiful big blue eyes reminded me of a dolly. This concept was perfect for her. I can honestly say that this Secret Garden shoot's final images resembled exactly what I Imagined in my head. It is an intense feeling to watch your imagination literately playing out in front of your very eyes.
It was my very first time shooting with the beautiful Petzval art lens. I was very honored to have been contacted by the lovely people at Lomography (http://www.lomography.com/magazine/lomoamigos) a little while after 'Secret Garden' began to go viral. Who could say no to trying out this lens? About a week after the initial e-mail the lens came in the post. I examined the beautiful gold lens and couldn't wait to try it out for the very first time during the 'SG' shoot. I was given the 85mm /f1.2. The third image in "Garden Book Weaver III" is shot with the Petzval lens.
I knew with the 85mm that I wanted the shot to be an up close image of Vanessa's face. So I shot several beautiful contenders for the final Secret Garden image. I am going to be doing an entire blog post on what it was like experiencing this lens with some of my outtakes. The lens itself is really fascinating in appearance. Everyone I showed it to tended to have this impressed look on their faces. The beautiful blur that it creates is just so unreal. I think a lens like this really works for a project like Secret Garden or anything fantasy or whimsical. I would have liked to have the chance to shoot with it a few more times but alas all good things must come to an end and I will be sending the lens back this week. I am sure another lucky photographer will have the chance to experience it's magic. Maybe just maybe I'll pick one up for myself to keep in the future.
To end this blog post off I wanted to mention a few more little tid bits. I am officially now half way through the series. I only have seven more planned concepts for the Garden. Sounds like not many but I know that it's going to take at least another year to create. It is of course very possible that a new concept could be dreamed up as I have already added 3 more to the series that were initially not planned. Everything now will become much more intense as the next seven will be explosive in colour and concept and to be honest I don't even know how I am going to make some of the concepts come to life. I know that it won't be without a ton of work and planning.
At this point now I will be taking the month of May off from the Garden and will resume creating for the next concept this June. I am approaching spring which is a big time working season for me. I have some client shoots as well as a June gallery to plan for. Some exciting news is that I will also be heading to Europe this May. I will be in Croatia, Italy, Switzerland, France, and Germany. I have some shoots lined up while I am out there to keep my photographic eye and creativity fueled. Information about the gallery show will be out very soon. :)
Some of the next Secret Garden concepts are going to surpass anything I ever dreamed to create and I can't wait to jump in head first.