This was the Secret Garden shoot that I managed to burn my throat and lungs while going deaf for a few minutes and if you muster up the time and courage to get through this very very long entry you will find out why.
I sent Amanda a message just after I had finished shooting The Queen Awakes. I asked her if she would grace my camera with her beautiful modelling skills. Amanda has been a friend of mine and one of the original models I worked with at the very beginning of my photographic journey. I asked Amanda If it was okay if we poured honey on her and she completely agreed without hesitation. I am always worried about when someone will think I am taking things too far or when my ideas will become just too uncomfortable.
Luckily Amanda has always been a brave beauty and I have put her through a lot for the sake of photography. This time we literately had her pinned onto the floral back drop choking on the fumes of the smoke emitters and yet she embodied her character "The Bee Keeper" perfectly without hesitation. Patience might just be her virtue and I am very glad!
The Bee Keeper was an idea that I had sifting through my head for awhile now. I would say ever since I saw Alexander McQueen's runway show that was all about Bee's. I loved the yellows,the golds, the honey comb shaped dresses and whilst I was becoming more and more obsessed with the show and the collection I had already been tapping into my insect curiosity. Shooting with live butterflies and beetles for previous fashion shoots I knew bee's would come next.
Even though I am quite nervous around bee's I still have this fascination with them. It is usually the big bumble bee's that I tend to find are the sweetest (and no pun intended). When I am cutting fresh flowers from the garden they are usually swarming around me but never intending to hurt or sting me. Just "buzzlingly" enjoying the pollen.
I started to brainstorm idea's and begin to think of the Bee Keeper as a queen only interested in her bee's just as the bumble bee is only interested in their flowers. I saw her as a tricky queen. If you approached her in a fairytale she would not tell you the way, she would only speak in riddles and tricks. Caring only for her dear bee's.
As with the majority of my shoots I am usually making the costuming, the dresses, the outfits the headpieces. With this shoot I used a vintage corset and re-created it with spray paint and hot glue. The skirt was created by my very talented mother as at the time it was made I was nowhere near talented enough to create the piece.
I wanted the corset to be adorned with gold jewels and sourced tiny little golden bee beads which worked beautifully for the shoot. Though you can't see them, to remain authentic I purchased a vile of real deceased bee's (all bee's died of natural causes). I placed the bee's into a small capsule and added that capsule to the corset. Almost as if they were The Bee Keeper's fallen soldiers kept close to her heart. It is difficult to see in the pictures however to me I know they are there and It makes the story and the character more real in my mind and in front of my eyes.
I was very excited for shooting day to finally arrive counting down the days and eagerly getting everything done. The set needed to be changed again. I added more yellow spray to the floral wall and decided to decorate and spray paint a wreath that I could use almost as a border. I loved the idea of classic paintings which I think we managed to emulate very closely in the first image 'The Bee Keeper'. Yellow is a happy colour and as the series is progressing and really becoming something that I have been pouring my soul into I feel as though the colours only become bolder and stronger.
I worked with the two amazing talented ladies Katie and Jillian. They are two of the most talented woman I know. Katie is an artist with the brush and Jillian is a sculptor with hair. I sent them my pinterest mood board and they both dived into their creative minds. Jillian had found a candle where the wax appeared to look like honey combs. I was so happy when she showed me because I had been looking for honey combs or something honey combed like to incorporate into the shoot but had no such luck. So when she pulled out the candle I really felt like Jillian was in my mind! I told both Jillian and Katie that I am pretty sure they are a part of my soul. They understand the idea of Secret Garden and are amazingly enthusiastic about the series.
So here we all were in my cold attic with the big floral wall shooting Amanda as our Bee Keeper. I was in utter awe at the scene before me and often think of how lucky I am to get to have a job and passion where I am able to see such magical worlds come to life before my eyes.
I decided that this series needed some coloured smoke. I have been using smoke emitters now since 2009 and am pretty familiar with them and their awful smell but today was like no other. I thought "hey lets set off two smoke bombs at once indoors". I checked to make sure that it wasn't too dangerous and the warning was to make sure there was good ventilation and watch out for staining. "Easy enough" I thought. I had seen my favorite photographer Tim Walker use them indoors so what could be the harm?
Well no one was injured to badly......but.... I have never choked on smoke emitters so much in my life. As I am writing this the back of my throat is still sore. The smoke filled the small attic room. We shot as much as we could within the short time frame that the smoke emitter allows. Then we found ourselves throwing the windows open and gasping for air. Poor Amanda's dress was pinned against the floral backdrop and she was stuck amongst the smoke. We managed to set her free and headed downstairs to let the smoke clear the attic room.
Like the troopers we are we headed back up and lit more smoke emitters. Five in total. I thought I would only be using 1, but like a crazy photographer I had to get that one fantastic shot so we continued on. We left the windows open so the smoke could move with the wind rather then sit in the attic. Shortly after the loudest fire alarm I have ever heard in a household went off. I had no clue our alarms were that loud. As I went to shimmy a towel at the smoke alarm the alarm's wailing cries were deafening to my ears. As I went back up to the attic I had to ask twice when spoken to.
However, every single moment of the Bee Keeper coming to life was worth it and the two smoke emitters worked out exactly how I wanted them to. Secret Garden seems to be becoming pretty dangerous to my health considering I am only walking up one flight of stairs to shoot it.
So to add to the wonder and excitement of the series I have some fantastic news. The series will be exhibited in it's own solo gallery show. Taking place during on of my cities busiest art crawls in Hamilton (Canada). I managed to check out the space the other night and it is a perfect little home for Secret Garden. We will be raising donations and selling prints for charity throughout the evening. I will have more information soon for those interested in stopping by and of course I will do a blog entry for that soon.
Credits: Photography,set,wardrobe by Daniela Majic, Model: Amanda Butko, Hair by Jillian Di Bernardo, Make-up by Katie Foster.