Friday, 30 September 2011

Cold Comfort

Cold Comfort by *GothicNarcissusI feel what can only be described
As a chill through my every bone,
A gnawing at my sense of home,
An iridescent black and blue.

What you see isn't always what you have
And to hold dear is to never let go.

Yet I still feel well,
Cold comfort to the empty-hearted.
Bound and broken.
Cold comfort, for what was left unspoken
Will have me wishing you were here.

Keep home fires burning,
Spark a yearning for the confines of home.
Keep home fires burning,
Spark a yearning in you to find your way home.

Carried your brittle bones beyond these walls.
All colour bled from banner, hung at half-mast.
Future fire set in stone, ghosts of second past
Feed a licking, harrowing flame,
But you would not be scared away.

What you see isn't always what you have
And to hold dear is to never let go.

Rising up from underneath,
Undercurrent of fiery grief.
I'm cold to the touch.
Ghostly cold is your touch.
[ Cold Comfort - Autumn ]

Autumn, a Dutch metal band which was the first I had a photographic session with, are going to release their new studio album Cold Comfort on November 4th. The front cover and first single of the album were revealed and, as I love their music a lot, I immediately got inspired by both, in particular as I knew I was going to shoot in an abandoned factory. I kept the song in mind, ready to find the right idea that would relate to it.
I found out that, until some years ago, homeless people used to live inside the warehouse Raz and I were going to shoot in, and when they were forced to leave, they abandoned most of their belongings inside the building. While exploring it to look for new ideas, we found where they used to camp, which immediately reminded me of the front cover of the Autumn album. For some reasons, what immediately caught my attention was the flowery cup on the parapet of the stairs; I don’t know, I’m often drawn and somehow touched by such small details, so I decided I wanted to preserve it by taking a photo. Also, the spider webs illuminated by the windows on the back added a wonderful touch, so I set up the manual focus and decided to work with them too. I asked Raz to stay back in order to suggest a blurry human presence, and the image was complete.
This is how this photo, which is a bit unusual of me, was born.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Infernal Lords XVI: Nergal

I’m getting closer and I’m fully armed.
I’m about to hunt you down through
The big black hole right behind you
And I’m about to cut your wings away.

You don’t believe what all the signs say,
You don’t believe in judgment day,
But you won’t be leaving hear unharmed.

[ Murder – Within Temptation ]
Nergal by *GothicNarcissusMarquis Nergal is one of the Military Generals of Hell and therefore part of the Third Demonic Level. Naturally bellicose thanks to the influence the Planet he masters, he is the Supreme General of the Infernal Police and, even more notably, the Chief of the Secret Police, acting very effectively both in maintaining internal civil order and preventing infiltrations from outside of Hell. As the General of the regular Police, his role is mainly to prevent seditions from Lesser Demons against the Court and to make public life at least liveable, so that the Infernal Empire does not get weakened by internal struggles and mass murders from the most evil Demons. His much more delicate role as the Chief of the Secret Police consists of tracing potential spies and traitors, often under Archduke Beelzebub’s directives, organising patrols at the borders of Hell together with Marquis Leviathan and directing war trials against the Angels who are caught while trying to infiltrate themselves into Hell. As the former Second-in-Command of Dominions, another crucial role of his is receiving secret information from Prince Absinthion from Heaven and reporting it to Archduke Beelzebub and the other Generals to organise the Infernal Army’s schemes accordingly.
As an Astral Demon, beside Princess Lilith he’s the closest to his own nature, strongly in touch with the influence of Planet Mars and willing to spot his planetary symbol on the forehead nearly all the time. This makes his temper authoritarian, suspicious, devious, slightly misogynistic and very combative, much to the annoyance of the most blithe Demons. He’s particularly at odds with the ever-cheerful Marquise Decarabia, the mischievous Countess Jezebeth or such debauched Satans as Duke Astaroth, Duke ?????? and Count Asmodeus, beside being a major supporter of the silent ostracism towards the weird-natured Viscount Legion. His relationship with Queen Barbelo can be described as complicated, as he’s torn between secretly scorning her political and military power, deeming a woman incapable of leading an army and a man like him more suitable as the Demon of Wrath, but greatly admiring her fierce temper nonetheless. At times, his blunt nature clashes with the more diplomatic and scheming Duke Azazel, but both Generals hold each other in great respect. He also appreciates Archduke Beelzebub, being part of his Order of the Great Fly, the militarily skilled Marquis Leviathan and the powerful Count Furcifel, whom he lets join the border patrols. Despite his nature, though, Marquis Nergal can be a very polite Demon and an enjoyable companion… at least in the rare moments when the other Courtiers don’t have to keep some secret from the scarlet eyes of the law.

Nergal: development and symbolism

Photo, concept, manipulation, styling, make up, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair: Raz Estacado
Additional resources: Amptone-stock (texture), SalsolaStock (wings)

Thanks to Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary, I found out that not only I like Angels and Demons, but also men in military outfits. There are several moments in which some of the characters get to wear a military hat and they all look particularly sexy in it. Thus, when I found out about Nergal, a Demon in charge of some important military duties in Hell, I got immediately fascinated by his figure and decided it could be nice to have him on board. As I once mentioned, the idea of Heaven and Hell being basically two opposite kingdoms with their own court and armies is what intrigues me the most about the Christian conception of supernatural, and Nergal was particularly fitting with this mundane vision. He’s based on a fiery god of destruction, death and war, adored in the Mesopotamian city of Cuth according to the Bible, and when assimilated into the monotheistic system, he was turned into a warrior Demon who, according to Colin De Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, is in charge of the “secret police” of Hell, as well as being an “honorary spy” of Beelzebub’s.
The Mesopotamic god Nergal, upon which the Demon is based.
The aesthetics for such a character were conceived quite easily and almost everything was already clear in my mind by early 2009, when I purchased a DDR Aeronautics hat for the purpose; I had already decided I would also use the handcuffs I already owned for, well, other recreational purposes. Other details would be a military jacket and some medals; the ones you can see in this photo are my grandfather’s, so original Soviet decorations (70th anniversary of the October Revolution, and 20th and 30th anniversaries of the end of World War Two).
As I really liked this Demon but I’ve never been, like, dying to shoot him, I took my time and waited patiently for the right model without rushing, elaborating even more symbolism meanwhile. This time, it was Raz who found me and proposed me a collaboration, which I accepted; looking at him I thought he would suit the role and we took the photo amidst a larger photoshoot. By the way, I had to provide the military jacket we needed,  so yes, it’s the same that I used several times in the past, albeit it suits him better than me.
One thing I’m particularly proud of in this work are small details, which I put a big deal of care in, most notably on the hat. I did the red gem with the Infernal emblem and the metallic Seal badge entirely in Photoshop, and then took advantage of the slight blur and noise and the sharp light in the photo to try and blend them correctly, making them look three-dimensional. Below you can see a detail of the photo with the hat (which, by the way, was originally grey with a blue border, quite interesting to turn black and red).
Nergal by *GothicNarcissus: detail
Nergal by GothicNarcissus – detail. Click to enlarge.
Besides the outfit, that represents the military side of Nergal, and the handcuffs, that underline his police duties, the rest of the symbolism is indirectly derived from the deity the Demon was based upon via his Greek counterpart: in Babylonian astrology, Nergal was associated with planet Mars, and he found a counterpart in Ares. Thus, I put the symbol of the planet on his forehead and gave him vulture wings, as vultures were Ares’ sacred animals. I also gave him bright red eyes, as I wanted many red details to stand out of a generally murky photo (thus the sharp, lateral light), and thought they’d be scarier and particularly fitting for Nergal.
On a side note, in this work I put the Seal (borrowed from Aim because it resembles an arrow) on a piece of clothing rather than on the model’s skin. Nergal does have his own Seal imprinted on his body and he has it reproduced on his hat as an identification for lower soldiers (as all military Higher Demons do). I decided to do so in order to try something new and because I had to replace the propeller of the original hat, which didn’t suit the fantasy theme.
The theme colour is asparagus, which is widely used in military clothes, and the theme song is Murder by Within Temptation, really fitting for the character.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Henrietta Savernake’s drama

Nausicaa, she thought sadly, would not come again. She had been born, had been contaminated and had died…
Queer, thought Henrietta, how things can seep into you without your knowing it…
She hadn
t been listening - not really listening - and yet knowledge of Doriss cheap, spiteful little mind had seeped into her mind and had, unconsciously, influenced her hands.
[ The Hollow, chapter 2 - Agatha Christie ]

I know so desperately well sculptress Henrietta Savernake’s drama - described so perfectly by Agatha Christie - when, after basing her Nausicaa on a random girl she met on the bus, she accidentally caught, beside the hollow eyes and expression she was looking for, also the pettiness and meaningless of her model, Doris Sanders, a dull, vulgarly talkative girl who kept pestering the poor artist with her useless problems about the wife of the man who gave her an expensive bracelet (although no, they didn’t do anything inappropriate, it was that woman who was paranoid).
All of the above is awfully true for me as well. I noticed am only able to photograph people when I love and keep them in high regard, or when I don’t know them at all. Once I get to know them and find out they’re nasty, empty, petty and useless, they have nothing more to give to my art. The very thought of shooting them becomes anything but attractive, and if I go on and do it, the photos come out empty, emotionless, artificial and banal.
(I can say, though, that I can consider a proof of my own professionality the fact that quite few people seem to notice this: once, when I did so, the fans and critics’ response was overwelming. Either they’re blind, or I’m good enough to hide it).

Friday, 16 September 2011

Where The Wild Roses Grow

They call me ‘The Wild Rose’,
But my name was Eliza Day.
Why they call me it I do not know,
For my name was Eliza Day.

From the first day I saw her I knew she was the one
As she stared in my eyes and smiled,
For her lips were the colour of the roses
That grew down the river, all bloody and wild.

When he knocked on my door and entered the room
My trembling subsided in his sure embrace.
He would be my first man, and with a careful hand
He wiped at the tears that ran down my face.

They call me ‘The Wild Rose’,
But my name was EliZa Day.
Why they call me it I do not know,
For my name was Eliza Day.

On the second day I brought her a flower.
She was more beautiful than any woman I’d seen.
I said: ‘Do you know where the wild roses grow,
So sweet and scarlet and free?’

On the second day he came with a single rose.
He said: ‘Give me your loss and your sorrow?’
I nodded my head, as I layed on the bed.
‘If I show you the roses will you follow?’

They call me ‘The Wild Rose’,
But my name was Eliza Day.
Why they call me it I do not know,
For my name was Eliza Day.

On the third day he took me to the river.
He showed me the roses and we kissed...
On The Third Day by... *GothicNarcissus Rose And A Kiss by *GothicNarcissus On The Last Day... *GothicNarcissus...And the last thing I heard was a muttered word
As he knelt above me with a rock in his fist.

A Muttered Word *GothicNarcissusOn the last day I took her where the wild roses grow
And she lay on the bank, the wind light as a thief.

A Rock In His Fist *GothicNarcissusAs I kissed her goodbye, I said, ‘All beauty must die’
And lent down and planted a rose between her teeth.

Where The Wild Roses Grow *GothicNarcissusThey call me ‘The Wild Rose’,
But my name was Eliza Day.
Why they call me it I do not know,
For my name was Eliza Day...

My Name Was Eliza Day *GothicNarcissus...My name was Eliza Day,
My name was Eliza Day...

[ Where The Wild Roses Grow - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds ]

Models: Briar Rose & Yue
Outfit, hair, make up: Briar Rose
It’s a shame I haven’t written about this miniseries yet. Ok, when I shot it I didn’t have this blog yet, and then I was rushing with the presentation of the Infernal Lords, but I should have found some time for it, as I love it deeply.
I’ve always had a sweet spot for Kylie Minogue, and her beautiful collaboration with Nick Cave, which includes an Ophelia-themed videoclip, has always been one of my favourites even before I started listening to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds last winter. No wonder I immediately conceived a series of photos inspired by their Murder Ballads album and, of course, I proposed the role of Eliza Day to my dear Briar Rose.
Initially, I was supposed to take one single photo for each song, but as always, when Briar Rose and I started discussing the idea, we kept bustin each other’s inspiration until we came up with a whole series of photos portraying the last part of the story until its climax. It was the first time I tried to portray the progression of a story through a series of photos and, although perhaps I’ve been a bit prolix, I’m satisfied with the result. Yue and Briar Rose have been great and played a crucial role in giving the dramatism I needed.
I must say I’ve also been very lucky, as that morning the light in the Parco del Valentino, in Turin, was simply amazing and looked dramatic and artificially planned even though it was completely natural, enhatching the general looks of the photos.

The Murder Ballads project is currently on hiatus, as I’m focusing on other photographic projects, but I already have an idea for the next song. I just have to talk with the models and arrange the meeting, once I’m done with the gift book for Hurts and shoot some new Infernal Lord.

Friday, 2 September 2011

What the Water inspired me

What The Water Gave Me by *GothicNarcissusTime, it took us
To where the water was.
what the water gave me,
And time goes quicker
Between the two of us.
Oh, my love, don’t
forsake me,
Take what the water gave me.

[ What The Water Gave Me - Florence + The Machine ]

The first and main reason why I considered trying to pose in the sea was The Water. As Huts’ music is a very strong, compelling source of inspiration for me lately, I just felt the urge to challenge myself and try this new experiment. While I was thinking of that photo - I had a clear vision of what I wanted, but had to wait for my mother, DamaInNero, to be back from Belarus to take the photo - I started to like the idea a lot, and I decided that I would take more photos. The release of Florence + The Machine’s new, amazing single came totally unexpected, but as the title, lyrics and mood were more than perfect for the main theme of the photoshoot, the inspiration came almost instantly. Also, Anathema’s new album Falling Deeper, a compilation of old songs completely rearranged into a new, dreamy, breathtaking orchestral shape, was leaked onto the internet the day before we scheduled the session. I only listened to a few random songs by Anathema before, but this album was an instant love, so intense that many different, watery ideas started sparkling in my mind.
They Die by *GothicNarcissus[ They Die - Anathema ]

The first part of the shoot was not as tough as I expected. First of all, once I got past the moment when I felt so awkward for being about to bath all clothed, I found myself particularly at my ease in the water (I’ve always loved the sea, plus I was dying to dive in, as that day was terribly hot). Everything came out naturally and smoothly, and both my mother and I had quite a lot of fun (in particularly when we had to change the location and I had to walk in the very popular corniche of Alghero fully clothed and wet). I tried to be as much expressive as I could when posing, since all the concepts needed to be emotionally intense, and somehow I finally got what I wanted despite not being usually particularly expressive. Perhaps it’s because I was very inspired and focused in what I was doing, as well as relaxed and amused (despite the fact that I started feeling a little cold quite soon). The second part was more difficult due to the fact that I actually had to go under the water in a very awkward position, which I have talked about in the previous post, but all in all I really enjoyed myself, and in the end, after all the photos were done, I even dared take off my shirt and go swimming with my jeans on under the bemused faces of other bathers! An interesting side note is that my make up survived both the underwater shots and my short swimming, which definitely proved in my eyes that Kiko and Mac are really fine brands.
It was not a long session, with quite few photos, but both the shooting and the resulting pictures were very intense, so it’s absolutely fine. All five photos are among my personal favourites, and I look forward to shooting in the sea again someday.
Sleep In Sanity by *GothicNarcissus
Fall deep, fall deep,
Fall deep, fall deep...
Falling deeper, falling deeper,
Falling deeper, falling deeper...

Sleep... sleeep...
It is not I who sleeps,
It is you who sleeps, you sleep.
Insane you sleep, I sleep in sanity.
[ Crestfallen & Sleep In Sanity - Anathema ]