Saturday, 7 December 2013

Black Jesus

Black Jesus by GothicNarcissusBlack, black, black, black.
Black, black, black, black.
Black, black, black, black.

Jesus is the new black,
Jesus is the new black,
Jesus is the new black,
Jesus is the new black, ow!

I grew up in New York City,
Since I was born on Broadway, baby.
Moved downtown when I was just nineteen
To start a new life on the New York scene.
There’s no way I could be stopped,
Was taking my best shot,
I had a better plan.
There’s no way I could be stopped,
Was coming for your spot,
I met better men.

Amen on the runway,
Dressed in his best.
Amen fashion on the runway,
Work it, Black Jesus.
Amen on the runway,
Dressed in his best.
Amen fashion on the runway,
Work it, Black Jesus.

[ Black Jesus † Amen Fashion – Lady Gaga ]

I don’t really know how to consider this photo in relation to Amen Fashion – if it’s a sequel, a prequel, if they are related at all or go on their own, but here it is. Taking two separate photos for the Black Jesus and Amen Fashion halves of the title was my plan from the beginning, and I can say the two photos turned out two polar opposites: monochrome vs colour, indoors vs outdoors, dark vs light, long-pondered concept vs sudden gust of inspiration… maybe this is what well make them go along eventually.
There is a bit of an inside joke on this photo, because once I was out spotting a rather neglected beard, but was dressed quite well as usual. On a bus, a little girl was staring at me, then all of sudden asked her mother: “Mom, is that boy Jesus?”. I don’t know what kept me from replying: “No, sweetheart, I’m too well-dressed. I’d rather be the Antichrist.”, but that’s basically how I got the idea of a fashionable Black Jesus with a bramble brooch on the beret instead of the crown of thorns. And here we go: the brooch was the hardest thing to come by for the shooting, but at least it’s done now. I had a lot of fun both thinking and actually doing it because, for some reasons, I bloody enjoy twisting christian imagery. Maybe because it’s so morbid and perverted on its own and appeals to my murkiest side.

I really wish I could speed up this project, but for some reasons it turned out to be slower than I expected. I guess that’s because many songs are about couples, which are scarce to find (especially couples where both partners are photogenic), and a lot because I feel more committed to my other projects. Besides, I have most of Born This Way and the whole The Fame Monster mapped out, am working easily on Artpop, but most of The Fame songs just stay silent. I just have no chemistry with most of that album. So, I guess I will take one step at a time without trying to rush this project out. I don’t know, let’s see.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Aura

Aura by GothicNarcissusI killed my former and
Left her in the trunk on Highway Ten.
Put the knife under the hood;
If you find it, send it straight to Hollywood.

Aura-ah-ah,
Aura-ah-ah,
Aura-ah-ah,
Aura-ah-ah,
Aura-ah-ah,
Aura-ah-ah.

I’m not a wandering slave, I am a woman of choice.
My veil is protection for the gorgeousness of my face.
You want to pity me ‘cause was arranged one man to love,
But in the bedroom, the size of him’s more than enough.

Enigma pop star is fun, she wear burqa for fashion:
It’s not a statement as much as just a move of passion.
I may not walk on your street or shoot a gun on your soil.
I hear you screaming: is it because of pleasure or toil?

Dance.
Sex.
Art.
Pop.
Tech.

Do you wanna see me naked, lover?
Do you wanna peek underneath the cover?
Do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the aura,
Behind the aura?
Do you wanna touch me cosmic, lover?
Do you wanna peek underneath the cover?
Do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the aura,
Behind the aura, behind the curtain, behind the burqa?
Oh!

Artpop!

[ Aura – Lady Gaga ]

Here we go: Artpop has been around for a month now, and I couldn’t miss to draw some inspiration from it to go on with my Lady Gaga-inspired series. Despite my initial less-than-warm reaction to the album, with a few listens I started to get into it and discover the magic of most of its songs, with the result that I’m already full of ideas for related photos.
On the other hand, as I mentioned on Facebook, I’ve decided that whenever I feel too depressed I’m going to take some self-portrait to raise my mood. I started this week, and I decided to shoot Aura first.
Now, the problem with many of Artpop’s songs is they’re very specific about Gaga and leave little space for personalisation and re-interpretation. I can still relate to many of them, but not to the level I did Born This Way or The Fame Monster. Well, Aura is somewhere in-between too personal and relatable. Despite being written about a woman (well, about Gaga herself), I can still see myself in its lyrics. Let’s just say I know well the whole idea of hiding behind a mask (even a negative one as a burka) to protect myself. If we wanted to twist the key-line I used as a starting point for my photo, “my bitchness is protection for the gorgeousness of my heart”. So, here I am modelling for this photo.
Of course, given the feminine subtext of the song, I opted to go back to looking as androgynous as I haven’t in ages – the last time I wore sharp eyeliner must have been around 2011 – but I decided to keep my beard on because, well, I’m not a woman after all. And because I wanted to point out how songs written from a feminine point of view can apply to men as well.
On a side note, at first, I had thought of quoting some famous painting too, which I’m going to do in some other Artpop photos, but I eventually scrapped the idea and just turned Aura on full volume and let it inspire me there and then. I find the result very satisfying and I’m glad this is how I’m opening Gaga’s new era, photography-wise.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Taurus

Taurus by GothicNarcissusWhen you touch me, I die
Just a little inside.
I wonder if this could be love,
This could be love.

[ Venus – Lady Gaga ]

Sign of the Muse
Element: Earth
Secondary element: Soil
Planet: Venus
Alignment: Dark

A Dark-aligned Earth sign which represents the fertile Soil, it comes from the constellation of the Bull. It is called the Sign of the Muse because a Taurus often behaves like a blank canvas on which people project their own wishes and inspirations. Its ruling planet, Venus, makes is a sultry seducer in touch with its feminine side. Hedonistic and usually very physical, it is something of a serial collector: of food, of beautiful things, of beautiful people.

The second work for The Zodiacs is also the second sign of the Zodiac, Taurus. As for Gemini, I suggest that you go and read the entry on The Gay Boy’s Guide to the Zodiac for a much more insightful descritpion of the sign, and to see where I drew inspiration from to create the symbolism for this sign.
With this said, Taurus was one of the first ideas I had for this series, basically because it was the first entry I read on the blog. Indeed, it was Knajfer who sent me the link in the first place (after we had a conversation about the position of Lilith at our birth). So I could blame it on him for having the idea and I single-handed hired him for the project. Physically speaking he perfectly fits the modelesque-but-not-too-though Taurus bodyframe, his character totaly epitomises the Taurus boy, he is a very sexy person to be around and we could easily reach a wood-like park, so who better than him? That was an easy choice.

As for the symbolism, Taurus was another sign that presented me the challenge to give a visual rendition including a person (and not an animal) and no photoshop. Given I wanted to shoot it in the middle of a wood, at first I simply figured out I would find something to hang or lay in the background which, with the right perspective and amount of bokeh, could recall horns atop Knajfer’s head. Once we got to the location and started exploring it, were blessed to find a huge dead tree lying on the forest floor with those horn-like roots (and we also found it very quickly). The only catch was that it lied some five meters from a path with little bushy coverage in-between, but the funny thing is, despite several joggers and random people with dogs passing by, no one noticed us.
One thing I’d like to point out is the earring, which I crafted myself with seven pearls shaped as the Pleiades: it is a nod to the Taurus constellation, which features that amazing cluster.

On a side note, despite choosing a Lady Gaga song for this sign (the choice was quite obvious, given Venus is Taurus’ planet), this photo is not part of my Artpop Generation series. It’s just coincidence.
Also, I unfortunately doubt I’m going to progress with this series in the next few months because, as bad a bitch as I am, I can’t ask my models to pose naked outdoors in winter (I mean, I would, but no one’d comply). Knajfer and I were lucky enough to shoot in an all in all warm day, but I doubt this will happen in December, January or February. So just wish me luck in finding models for a couple of signs I can do indoors, or... well, see you next spring!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The Infernal Lords XXV: Murmur

Melodic stanzas symphonising their way
Through your weary head.

Leaning over your fourtieth masterpiece,
You must have loved the colour of these violins.

I wish you knew your music was to stay forever.

[ Travel – The Gathering ]
Murmur by GothicNarcissusCount Murmur is a Second-level Demon who was formerly the Second-in-Command of Cherubim. He is the Demon of Music and therefore, along with Count Kobal and Count Naberius, one of the three Demons of Art. While still in Heaven, he was assigned the duty to direct the Angels’ praise of Yahweh’s name through Music. Initially, Music was indeed supposed to only exist in Heaven and have no other purpose than to please Yahweh, but when Count Murmur was cast out of Heaven for following Emperor Lucifer in the Great Heavenly War, not only did he bring Music along to Hell, but in retaliation he taught the Mortals how to create instruments and play them, totally spoiling their holy dimension and making them mundane. When Duke Azazel realised the potential of inspiration as a trigger to have Mortals sell their souls to Hell, he and Count Murmur refined a plan to include the Arts in the Goetic Scheme, opening a way for Mortals to summon the three Demons of Arts and be granted their protection in exchange for their souls.
Although not quite as much as Count Kobal, Count Murmur, too, often takes care of Mortals even when not summoned. Contrary to his two friends and colleagues, though, when he does so he occasionally lets go of his unaware victims, especially when they’re particularly bright, leaving them to lead a normal and still inspired life. Nevertheless, if his protégés turn out to be unworthy of his gift, he’s quick to turn their life into a living hell.
Count Murmur’s Elemental power is Sound and he’s able to create both music and noise without any instrument; as his sound waves need Air to spread, though, his Element is subject to Duke Astaroth’s jurisdiction. Beside their elemental connection, another reason for the close bond between them is the Duke of Terror’s love for Music, which makes Count Murmur the perfect companion to loather time with. In addition to his Goetic duties, Count Murmur is also appointed the Conductor of the Infernal Orchestra, which makes him part of Emperor Lucifer’s close entourage and one of the main entertainer of the Court of Pandemonium.

Murmur: development and symbolism

Credits:
Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair, make up: Knajfer Wintermere
Styling: Knajfer Wintermere and GothicNarcissus
Assistant: Dani Foca
Additional resources: Princess-of-Shadows (texture), Thy-Darkest-Hour (wings), sxc.hu (wallpaper)

Apparently, in these last few weeks I’m finally up to shooting a bunch of photos whose ideas are now years old, both outside and inside the Infernal Lords project. Murmur is one of those. I recall he was the first Demon of the Arts I came across and he gave me the idea for summonable Art-related Demons, which also include Kobal and Naberius. A Demon with the power to teach music to mortals was just too fascinating to be left out. I also remember having the very idea you can see in the photo as early as summer 2010, which was also when I met Knajfer and decided he was the perfect fit for the role. What on earth kept me from doing it earlier, then? Honestly, I don’t know. There were some organisation issues to be handled with care, since my idea involved several persons at one time, but nothing really impossible to overcome. Perhaps, given the importance of music in my life, I just wanted to make sure this work turned out perfect, so I kept waiting until I felt ready. Surely, this paid off, as in three years I’ve become much better both as a photographer and digital artist, and Knajfer’s fashion sense has improved remarkably.
Modern depiction of Murmur as described in the Lesser Key Of Solomon.
An important thing to say, which influenced the aesthetics of this work quite heavily, is that when I started planning this work, I was just in the middle of my most gothic phase. I was going to do a music-related, gothic-looking Demon, so what was the trendiest musical instrument in the scene? Why, the violin, of course; you know, Vampire Lestat, Victoria Francés and all that stuff. Well, that was the first instrument I decided not to use, as I was fed up with it even then. The best thing I could think of for the subject was a harp, and I happened to have a friend, Dani, who used to play it and still owned one. With such a beautiful and important instrument in my image, I could have both an immediate yet not worn-out symbol and spectacular aesthetics in one single move – amazing!
That was perfect, except for several months I just couldn’t schedule a moment when all three of us could be there and do the shooting. I eventually shelved the idea for a while because I was not in a very Infernal Lord mood for most of 2012, then there was the 2013 hiatus until I finally decided to round everybody up and go for it without further delay.
The shooting went extremely smooth and I had the right photo after just a few attempts. Indeed, the hardest part was to find a way to set the black background in the room, so you can imagine how well everything went. I’d like to especially thank Dani for being so kind to lend me her harp for the photo and give us some advice about how to make Knajfer look like he was really playing (which he “did”, the vibrating string you can see is real). It wouldn’t have looked the same without it, ‘cause blending a stock photo would have been difficult and surely not as good-looking as the real one.

As for the rest, I took Murmur’s seal directly from The Lesser Key Of Solomon with no changes. Although it is an image with a rather wide chromatic range, especially if compared to the other works of the series, brown is the main colour because I wanted a frame which recalled the wood of the harp. Travel by The Gathering was my first, immediate choice for a theme song, because it has some of the most amazing lyrics about music I have ever read.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Over You

Over You by GothicNarcissusMy love is aching for you, my love.
My love is aching for you, my heart.
I’m crying,
I’m hurting.

My heart is aching for you, my love.
My head is aching for you, my heart.
I’m crying,
I’m hurting.

My heart is aching, my love.
I’m hurting,
I’m crying,
I’m hurting,
Hurting.
Crying over you.

[ Over You – The Gathering ]

Sometimes, you need to cuddle an idea until you really feel ready to let it go and develop into the real work. It’s not a conscious process, but deep within you feel something that keeps you from doing it, makes you forget about it for some time, and then, at the right moment, the inspiration comes back and you’re ready to shoot.
This is pretty much what happened to Over You. I can recall I had this very image in my mind as early as 2008, a diptych with the flock of birds flying against the stormy sky in one photo and me lying on the floor in the other, feeling all heartbroken and breathless. There’s something very mysterious about the song which gave me the inspiration: Anneke’s layered vocals, her heavy breathing, all the noises, the distortions that sound like when somebody is choking… it is a very evocative track which gave me a very distinct mental image.
Five years have passed, and for a reason or another I kept forgetting to shoot the flock until it was too late and the birds had already migrated for the winter. Okay, I didn’t even have a telephoto lens back then, so the result would have probably been unsatisfying for my standards, not to mention that with my old Canon 1000D the high ISO speed I wanted would have looked quite bad; let alone taking it with the compact camera I had when I got the idea. Also, I didn’t really have enough editing skills to get the right amount of sepia tones without making it all look too saturated or cheap. So, perhaps, something inside me “knew” I wasn’t technically ready for such an important photo and kept me waiting until this fall, when I knew I could do it.
I was heading back home in Alghero from an errand when I saw the birds, so I rushed to grab my camera, went back out and waited until I found a flock sitting atop an araucaria tree; when they flew, I captured the image and had half of the photo done. Once I was back in Trieste, I found a clever way to shoot a self perpendicularly from above: I just put the camera on my clotheshorse so the lens looked straight down, and fortunately my arm was long enough for me to directly trigger the timer with auto-focus and everything.
As for the symbolism, I wanted the two photos to represent the heterogeneous song by being two poalr opposites: the left photo points upwards, the right one downwards; the former is minimal and empty, the latter full and detailed; the birds contain more grey, the portrait more black; one is dynamic, the other perfectly still. The most satisfying part was seeing this work coming to life after all these years, unscratched by time, as emotional as I felt when I had the idea, perfectl resembling what I had imagined for so long. I realise I could have never done it so well in the past, so it is true, good things come to those who wait.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Infernal Lords XXIV: Naamah

Listen to the angels scream.
Round your body cages rost.
So warm the venom in your veins,
You are there?

Are you ready to dream, my sweet boy?
Are you ready to dream, my sweet child?
Come with me and taste your flesh, boy.
Are you ready to sleep?

Do you wanna have a dream or two?

[ Lullaby – Leandra ]
Naamah by *GothicNarcissusFourth-Level Marquise Naamah is the sister of Princess Lilith, whom she followed during the Great Heavenly War, and was once a prominent member of the Archangels. She was gifted with the power of Precognition, which she developed into a very accurate, albeit not definitively exact, art. Her powers greatly surpass those of Marquise Anamelech, whose precognition is less precise and limited to ill news and bad happenings. After her Fall, Marquise Naamah worked hard to turn Divination into a separate branch of Magic, inventing several different methods to aid her Inner Eye to know the future, thus becoming the Demon of Divination.
Her powers have proved pivotal on several occasions, both during the War and afterwards: her predictions helped her sister, Princess Lilith, to retain her powers when she was deprived of her wings by Yahweh and sent over to the Eden to be Adam’s first wife, as well as convincing Emperor Lucifer to retreat just in time when the War was going to be lost, saving many Fallen Angels from their doom. When Duke Azazel set up the Goetic Deals scheme, she was one of the first Demons to join his ranks and agree to lend her powers to Mortals for a price: when summoned she can grant the gift of Precognition and teach any divination method to the Mortals who call upon her, in exchange for their soul.
Since her powers are purely mental, she needs to draw energy from other beings’ minds in order to keep them functional. Thus, as part of Princess Lilith’s fellowship, she flies to the Earth at night as a Succubus to prey on the Mortals’ nightmares. While her good friend Duke Astaroth, who often acts as an Incubus himself, indulges hunting with her to feed on Mortals’ sleep, she is the one reyw Nightmare Eater, who feeds off nefandous dreams. Beside the preys she goes hunting for, she also regularly feeds on the nightmares of those who summon her for her powers, as Precognition often comes during sleep at the price of vivid nightmares.
She has a good comradeship with fellow Incubus Marquis Rosiel as well as with Marquis Leonard, the Demon of Witchcraft, with whom she is often summoned when Mortals seek both gifts for themselves. Other good friends of hers are fellow former Archangels Duke Xaphan and Marquise Decarabia, whom she knew since before the Fall. Her sister, though, is her favourite mate when it comes to wrecking havoc on Earth, and the two ofter work together even against Heaven, such as when they seduced Great Angel Samael, leading him on the brink of his own downfall.

Naamah: development and symbolism

Credits:
Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair, make up: Arianna Clarimonde
Styling: Arianna Clarimonde and GothicNarcissus
Assistant: Deborah Luna
Additional resources: Amptone-Stock (texture), Thy-Darkest-Hour (wings), sxc.hu (wallpaper, dreamcatcher)

I can positively say that no Demon in my series was conceived, shot, postproduced and published as quickly as Naamah. The whole process didn’t take longer than a month, which is a record by the standards of my ages-long project.
Okay, I’ll be honest: Naamah was a last minute addition I included to replace Sandalphon. I mentioned in the development post how unsure I was about his inclusion since he wasn’t listed as a Demon in any source, what made me decide to go for him, and how difficult it had been to complete that work. Despite heavily retouching it even after its publication, I was never fully satisfied with the outcome, not to mention it really was a bit of a stretch to have him there in the first place.
While at first I justified it with the story I’m writing about my Demons, as I started refining some plot elements that became another argument against Sandalphon being an Infernal Lord at all. Thus, the idea of replacing him started tempting the Hell out of me, so to say.
The final decision was triggered by the combination of two events: while looking for totally unrelated things on Wikipedia, I ended up on Naamah’s entry and read a few details that had initially escaped my attention; meanwhile, Arianna Clarimonde, whom I would have loved to include in my project for quite some time, jokingly asked me which Demon was best suited to her.
Back then, the female Demons I wanted to do were all taken, which was why I didn’t ask Arianna to join the club; on the other hand, I had been repeatedly asked by my watches about Naamah and whether I would include her in the series, which I declined because I felt she was too similar to Lilith to be developed into a separate character. Well, the detail which had escaped my notice was that she was considered the Mother of Divination and often fed on sleeping mortals’s energies rather than simply preying on their sexual force. Gosh, there I had my Nightmare Eater, with the bonus of Divination. Thus, my reply to Arianna was, “If you were a fortune teller, which method would you use to predict the future? I’m asking, you know, ‘cause you’re going to be Naamah”. Boom, there we were.
A seance in the Twenties. Roar!
I’m positive Naamah would have taken even less time to be done if I hadn’t been cut off the world during summer holidays, but Arianna and I used that time to discuss the aesthetics. When thinking of a “psychic” Demon, the first thing that came across our minds was the photos above: since we both love the Roaring Twenties very much, that kind of look was our first choice, which influenced the make up and hairstyle. As for the outfit, it was Arianna who suggested to use her black kimono completed by some Art Déco-inspired jewellery. That made me decide to make an Art Déco background, which would have been nice to publish right after the Art Nouveau-inspired Decarabia.
Admittedly, this time I planned less stuff than usual and simply let the inspiration flow free, similarly to what happened when Arianna and I shot World Of Make-Believe. We just lighted something like five incense sticks to have some smoke (although it sickened me a bit, and had to be shot separately aftermaths due to the wind that kept blowing it away), and found the right idea for the pose there and then, which had me decide the editing details after I got back home. The part of the postproduction which took me longest was creating the crystal ball entirely on photoshop. My graphic designer friend Uriele helped me a lot with many useful tips about how to make it realistic, and my painter friend Katia gave me some advice about how to make a convincing refraction of the surroundings inside the ball. Of course, that is a reference to Naamah’s precognitive abilities, while the Dreamcatcher halo alludes to her nightmare-eating nature.
As Naamah is not listed in The Lesser Key Of Solomon, I had to borrow her a seal, choosing Balam’s because his looked like a stylised N. I retained the fandango colour from Sandalphon because it perfectly fit the photo, and kept Lullaby by Leandra as the theme song because that’s where I got the nightmare-eating idea in the first place. And honestly, since it is one of my favourite songs, I’m glad it is now associated with a work I like and I’m truly proud of.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Infernal Lords XXIII: Decarabia

Je sens comme une odeur de lis, mes muscles se retissent
Et j’attends la floraison.
Mais qu’a-t-il pu bien arriver entre septembre et mai?
J’en ai oubliÈ mon nom.

Je ne sortirai pas encore de la mousse,
Pas plus qu’une autre fleur de saison.

[ Fleur De Saison – Emilie Simon ]
Decarabia by *GothicNarcissusFormerly a member of the Archangels (the second-lowest Angelic Choir), Marquise Decarabia is now a Higher Demon of the Fourth Level. She was quick to join Emperor Lucifer’s followers because her light-hearted nature made it difficult for her to cope with the strict, oppressive rules of Heaven; now she is known as the Demon of Plants, as her powers allow her to master the Secondary Element Wood and, consequently, vegetables themselves. She has an extremely vast knowledge about their uses and proprieties and, as a Goetic Demon, she’s often conjured on the Earth by Mortals who want her to grant them her notions in exchange for their souls. As for her powers, not only can she influence the growth of existing plants, being able to create a full-grown tree out of a little seed in few seconds, but she can create them even out of herself, turning her body parts into wood, branches, leaves or flowers. She’s the one who first adorned the Garden of Pandemonium working under the direction of Duke ??????, who takes a particular liking to her and often hires her to decorate the Imperial Palace for banquets and celebrations.
She’s a very cheerful, nice and friendly person, to the point of looking (and probably being) slightly tipsy or high most of the time, which makes her very popular among fellow Courtiers – even the notoriously unfriendly ones such as Countess Agares and Viscount Legion – who cherish her presence also because she can make very good alcoholics and hallucinogens out of her plants. But she’s not always on the brighter side as she can be very mischievous, in particular with Mortals, often acting with her fellow Fourth-Level Demon and dear friend, Countess Jezebeth, much to the annoyance of the severe Marquis Nergal.
Beside being part of Duke Beelzebub’s Order of the Great Fly and having a strong bond with him due to her Element being a secondary form of his, she particularly enjoys Marquis Adramelech and Marquis Leviathan’s company, as their powers boost her own. The eccentric and bohemian Count Naberius has a particular liking to her and it’s almost needless to mention that notoriously alcohol and women loving Count Asmodeus greatly enjoys her company.

Decarabia: development and symbolism

Credits:
Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design, styling: GothicNarcissus
Model, make up: Deborah Luna
Dress: DamaInNero
Hair: Arianna Clarimonde
Additional resources: Amptone-Stock (texture), BiSnarkian (Art Nouveau frame), Sinag-Stocks (branches), Princess-Of-Shadows (texture), sxc.hu (wings)

Once upon a time, GothicNarcissus went to Milan. It was a rainy and gloomy January afternoon and he tried to shoot Decarabia, the Demon of Plants, with one of his favourite friends. He just had her pose with the brand new Art Nouveau dress his mother had sewn aptly for the shooting in front of a very dim and bad frontal light from the window hoping he could do all the magic in Photoshop later. Months passed, he kept working hard and fiercely on the photo, tried to add some ivy in postproduction, to correct the light, to blend the model with the wings and the background, but to no avail. For the first time since he started the project, he had to come to terms with the fact that he needed to shoot that Demon again.
And so, dearies, this is how my Infernal Lords project hit a standstill for months: I stubbornly refused to admit the photo wasn’t right no matter what I did to it – also because I did not want to waste Deborah’s excellent modelling – and, while I kept working on it, I did not even try to organise other Infernal Lords shootings. How very clever of me. Oh wait, this is also how I screwed up my university career.
Enough complaint, let’s get back to the work. Reading again The Lesser Key Of Solomon, I’ve found that Decarabia is more closely associated with birds and gemstones than plants, but I read on other sources that he (or, in our case, she) also giveth thee knowledge about herbs and their properties. I always wanted a plant-related Demon and I distinctly remember that, out of all of those I could pick a name from, that was the prettiest (because let’s say it, Decarabia is a Hell of a beautiful name!), and this is how I chose him. Which immediately became a her, ‘cause that name sounds totally feminine.
Fleur de Saison by Emilie Simon
Fleur De Saison by Emilie Simon.
Looking back, my first idea for this Demon would have never worked. I basically wanted to copy the front cover of Emilie Simon’s Fleur De Saison single with a model who was not even really photogenic – and I’m honestly still wondering how that ever crossed my mind. Fortunately, while I was busy not organising the shooting for months, I met Deborah and, like the road to Damascus, I realised that she was the one.
Of course, changing the model I had to reconsider the aesthetics and overall mood of the work. Working on the Demon of Plants made the symbolism quite immediate, so a great deal of the photo would rely on its looks. Given how classy and elegant Deborah is, I immediately decided I would make an Art Nouveau image with a flowery frame, a Mucha-inspired pose, a fancy dress and a lot of ivy. Initially I also wanted to keep the red berries motif as some sort of “crown” or Elizabethan neckpiece of sort. Even before I asked Deborah to model for the project I made the background, which turned out gorgeous, and the rest of the ideas followed soon. I also asked my mother to sew a custom-made, Art Nouveau-inspired dress for Deborah to wear during the shooting, which looked gorgeous too. Everything was ready, I only needed to go to Milan and do the shooting.
As I mentioned above, Deborah an I originally shot Decarabia back in January, the week end I did Azazel with Uriele. While the latter turned out perfect, there was no way on Earth Decarabia could look fine with that photo. Deborah was gorgeous and I truly felt sorry for wasting her work, but mine just wouldn’t do. The ivy I added digitally looked as fake as it could be, the branches and berries were even worse and the bad light was beyond digital correction. I eventually scrapped the idea of the branches with red berries altogether because the photo was rich enough in details but it still looked horrible, so I took a deep breath and admitted it: I had to shoot it again. In that moment it felt like a defeat. I still have the old version of Decarabia, but it won’t go out of my computer, where I will keep it as a monument to my fruitless stubbornness and a reminder that I must not settle down for the easiest solution, but fight to get the best results.
This time around, I bought a few branches of artificial ivy to have all the props there for a natural look and I waited for the sun to set to have a very soft sidelight. Arianna Clarimonde, with whom I had set a shooting for Naamah, helped with the hair and everything turned out gorgeous, way beyond my expectations. So, Decarabia is here at last.

Amy Lee in Evanescence’s Everybody’s Fool video.
Now a few funny things about this work. Deborah and I had the very same idea about the pose: we both thought of Amy Lee’s perfume campaign photo from the Everybody’s Fool video; she mentioned it right when I was about to send her the link, and that was a good laugh – even though, eventually, we did a slightly different thing. I also wanted this demon to have the wings of a Luna moth, and Deborah’s artistic name is indeed Luna, so that was a nice coincidence too. Also, Decarabia is traditionally represented as a pentagram with an eye. Thus, I tried to arrange the work so that the combination of the background, wings and model made up an approximate five-pointed star.
Modern depiction of Decarabia as described in the Lesser Key Of Solomon.
As I had already used Decarabia’s seal for Anamelech because it featured several crescents, I borrowed Marax’s because it looked like it had small berries in the design. Throughout the conception of this work, Végétal by Emilie Simon remained a strong influence, so I chose Fleur De Saison as the theme song. As for the colour, pale green was surely the best fit for the Demon of Plants.
Oh, and here is a nice backstage I seriously considered for the official photo at some point. I might really decide to release it as part of the Evil In The World series, someday.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Americano

Americano by GothicNarcissusI met a girl in east L.A,
In floral shorts as sweet as May.
She sang in eights and two barrio chords.
We fell in love, but not in court.

Aaah, America, Americano.
Aaah, America, Americano.

Mis canciones son de la revolución,
Mi corazón me duele por mi generación.
If you love me, we can marry on the west coast
On a wednesday, en el verano en agosto.

I don’t speak your, I don’t speak your
Language, oh no.
I don’t speak your, I won’t speak your
Jesus Cristo.

Aaah, America, Americano.
Aaah, America, Americano.

I will fight for, I have fought for how I love you.
I have cried for, I will die for how I care.
In the mountains, las campanas están sonando.
Todos los chicos y los chicos están besando.

I don’t speak your, I don’t speak your
Language, oh no.
I don’t speak your, I won’t speak your
Jesus Cristo.
I don’t speak your, I don’t speak your
Language, oh no.
I don’t speak your, I won’t speak your
Jesus Cristo.

Aaah, America, Americano.
Aaah, America, Americano.
Aaah, America, Americano.
Aaah, America, Americano.

Don’t you try to catch me,
Don’t you try to catch me,
No, no, no, no.
I’m living on the edge of,
Living on the edge
Of the law, law, law, law.

[ Americano – Lady Gaga ]

I had this photo in my mind for one good year so far.
Americano was one of those songs which didn’t really catch my attention at first, but with which I fell in love after many listens – and I’ve listened to Born This Way countless times so far. And after falling in love with it, I got the right idea for a nice visual rendition.
I heard about Argentiera, a former mining village on the north-western coast of Sardinia, from my mother years ago, who did a trip there with a friend. She told me about this semi-abandoned village with mining wells, a lot of bare wood and abandoned machinery, and that it had this distinct frontier feel which would have made it the perfect set for some western movie – there was even a saloon-like bar. I kept this idea in the back of my mind aftermaths, until I truly gave Americano a chance, and bam!, there I was. I had never visited that place myself, but I knew it was the right one for shooting this photo, a western-inspired photo of me wearing a cowboy hat I bought some ten years ago during a school trip to Eurodisney.
In time, the village changed: the few residents tried to turn it into a more mainstream touristic place, so most of the old buildings were renovated, the sinkholes were closed, an old mining well building was all painted a horrible white and completely emptied of the original wooden pillars, so the feel was mostly spoiled. Yet, some parts survived as they were, and when mom and I went there at last, they looked exactly how I imagined them, perfect for the photo!
Beside the very unique location I chose for this set, which required a trip while I was at my mother’s for the summer break, another reason for the long wait was purchasing a graphic tablet. The song has a vibing, ironic feel I thought could be best represented with an ironic photo with a “scribbled over” effect done with the tablet. As usual, the wait paid out and the final effect is exactly what I wanted. Yay!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Gemini

Gemini by GothicNarcissusWhatever I feel for you,
You only seem to care about you.
Is there any chance you could see me, too?

[ I Love You – Woodkid ]

Sign of the Messenger
Element: Air
Secondary element: Wind
Planet: Mercury
Alignment: Light

The first work from my brand new project called The Zodiacs is my own star sign, Gemini.
A Light-aligned Air sign best represented by Wind, derived from the constellation of the Twin Brothers, Gemini is called the Sign of the Messenger because, due to its element and its ruling planet Mercury, perfectly embodies the bridge between worlds. Usually playful and outgoing, if not downright mischievous, it is prone to several mood switches because of its dual nature.

You can read a much more detailed description of my star sign on The Gay Boy’s Guide to the Zodiac, from which I drew inspiration for the whole project, but we can basically say that the main things on which I built the symbolism for this work are there.
First of all, the problem with representing Gemini is that, well, they are two. Since I want to keep this project as much “photography only” as I can (unlike the Infernal Lords in which the digital part is much more prominent), this was the first major obstacle I had to overcome – I did not want to place a photomanipulated “second me” somewhere there, and a mirror or any other reflecting surface was out of question due to its infinite banality. Digging deeper, I found that Gemini are the most communicative sign of the Zodiac (something I apparently seem to be often forgetting about), which of course includes all electronic devices. This is why I decided I would be holding a Macbook (Electricity is most often regarded as a secondary element of Air, too), which gave me the idea to put the “second twin” as a photo showing on screen.
Pollux and Castor were twin brothers, but somewhat opposite – Pollux was immortal while Castor wasn’t – thus Gemini has this kind of polar opposite thing in it: while one of the twins is contend, playful, light and extroverted, the other is somewhat murky, contemplative and introvert (showing the backside and in a “defensive” pose). Beside that, I aptly waited for a windy day with scattered cumulonimbus to give the connection with my element. And this is how the aesthetics and symbolism of the photo was born.

I was lucky enough to have my mother’s help for this work: she drove me out of town, then we went into the wild, and she helped me taking the photos under my direction after I set up all the stuff.
On a side note, this is my very first true nude as a model. I thought I would never pose fully naked because, despite what it might look like, I’m the shy twin and am very self-aware about my body. Yet, for one thing I already know it will be difficult to find all the models for this work, so I was in no position to shy around; for another, I must thank the Guide for pointing out that my extra-slender body frame is most often associated with Gemini, which was of much comfort and took me a step further towards accepting my body the way it is. In many ways this work was cathartic and I am very proud of what I have accomplished. It went very smooth, so I hope it will bring me luck and make the rest of the project go on just as naturally and easily.

The Zodiacs

Perhaps, with about five or six other projects still going on and not even close to be finished, I should have not embarked in the umpteenth long-term, difficult project. But as I said once, inspiration strikes in the most unexpected moments and forms, so here we go, once again.
This time, I got the idea reading The Gay Boy’s Guide to the Zodiac, an amazing and amusing blog which explains astrology from the perspective of a gay boy, specifically about how zodiacal signs work on gay boys. I had a lot of fun while reading it, and bam!, the idea struck: I’m going to make a series of works about the zodiacal signs.
Well, I admit that’s a very common and not so original subject, but while I was reading, I kept having images about how I could do my own zodiacal signs so, perhaps, I though, I might have my say too. The idea of seeing the zodiac from a gay boy’s perspective feels quite thrilling and has a lot of visual potential, so why not? And this is how I got back to reading the blog from the beginning and started noting down the most defining traits of each sign to try and elaborate a visual image out of each of them. The idea for The Zodiacs was quickly born.

I guess everybody knows how the Zodiac works, but here’s a small recap: there are twelve Signs based on the twelve constellations that the Sun crosses during its apparent journey along the ecliptic. When the Sun crosses one sign, all the people who are born in that period of time will have traits, character and often physical, linked to that sign. This traits are mostly derived from three things: the mythological background of the constellation, the element associated with the sign and its ruling planet.
The twelve Zodiacs are grouped in four elements, three for each: Fire, Earth, Air and Water. Each sign has its own secondary element, which helps further define its character along with its ruling planet.
The Moon and the other planets, too, cross the signs during their apparent journey around the Earth, their position at the time of one’s birth affects their characters too, as well as the Ascendant or “rising sign”, but since the Sun is considered the “planet” of the self, it is its position that defines most of the traits of one person.

With this said, I will shoot one themed photo for each of the twelve Zodiacs. The aesthetics will be closely related to the description of said sign and will include its dominant element as well as a handsome young man who embodies the main traits of each sign with his looks, pose and attitude. Oh, and each boy will be naked.
This is indeed my first long-term project including nudity. As you can probably reckon, this will mean it will be a long, difficult and slow project, since finding twelve boys who not only are preferably born under the sign they’ll be representing, but are willing to pose naked too will be a very challenging process. But I guess we all know by now I love challenges, so I’ll give it a try.

The first photo from this project will be published very soon. Meanwhile, here are some questions about the project you might ask me at some point:

• Why the nudes?
• It’s symbolic. Whereas the ascendant is meant to represent one’s projection to the outer world, the sun sign represents one’s inner personality, without masks or covering. The zodiacal sign is metaphorically “one’s naked self”, no more, no less. I have always had a very complicated relationship with nude photography and it took me long before I did my first nude shootings. I did them only because I had some concepts I could not represent otherwise, some images in which nudity was strictly functional to what I wanted to express. This project is quite like that: the concept requires the use of nudity.

• What about astrology? Do you believe in that?
• This is a thing I really want to clear out. Most people who know me know I am in-between agnosticism and atheism and I am a huge astronomy lover. If I don’t believe in any given god and am so much into the scientific side of the study of the sky, fat chance I can even believe in astrology, right? Well, not quite that.
For one thing, my mother is very interested in astrology, so I grew up being quite interested in it too. I don’t say I strictly believe in daily horoscopes and such things, but that does not mean I don’t like playing with the idea of natal charts and how people reflect the traits of their signs. The thing is, astronomers are very quick to dismiss astrology as nonsense on the basis that planets have virtually no influence whatsoever on Earth, that astrology lacks any scientific foundations and so on. On the other hand, astrologers have never made any claim about astrology being scientific in any way and consider it more of an art. An interpretative art. It’s not like they believe that planets emit some kind of energy that affects mankind differently according to which starry background they stand in front of: it’s more like watching the apparent position of the planets against the zodiacal portion of the sky and interpreting it to try and divine mundane things. It won’t surely give you an answer about what’s going to happen next, but it might give you the caution or the confidence you need to undertake things on a given day. As for natal charts, it’s not like astrologers tell you who you are going to be, how you are going to behave, what you’re gonna do in life and stuff. Zodiacal signs are simply archetypes, they map out people’s possible worths and flaws, which allows them to work on themselves to become better. There’s nothing scientific in it, but it’s still very fascinating. And honestly, I know very few people who do not fit their own sign (and casually most of those either fit their ascendant until you get to know them better, or have some group of planets that heavily influence the main sign). So, honestly, astronomers can give up their fight and let astrologers alone, one does no harm the other.

• What about Ophiuchus, the thirteenth Zodiac?
• Bullshit. There are only twelve zodiacal signs, period. Basically, this is the thing: in modern astronomy, the term “constellation” does not define the “pattern” that stars make up, but rather an area of the sky that’s assigned to said constellation in order to easily catalogue deep sky objects. Of course, this includes a much larger area surrounding what “we” call the actual constellation. This new official definition of “constellation” is not older than the 1920’s, while the division of the sky was made in 1930 and was largely arbitrary. It so happened that an area of sky in which the ecliptic lies, and which is very close to the Scorpio asterism, was assigned to Ophiuchus rather than Scorpio: this is how all of sudden there were thirteen zodiacal constellations. It was arbitrary, it could have been Scorpio instead. And as you can see here, the area that lies between Scorpio (bottom right) and Sagittarius (bottom left) does not even contain the asterism of the Ophiuchus. So, given that, a) the Sun doesn’t even enter the “constellation” of Ophiuchus as traditionally defined, b) as stated above, astrology is a totally different thing than astronomy and it has been so for the last five or four centuries, c) the whole symbology linked to the number twelve is millennia old and rooted back to the Babylonians, and d) the thirteen zodiacal constellation claim derives from a mere agreement rather than any scientific observation, there’s no point in introducing a thirteenth zodiacal sign in astrology. Is it?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Once

Once by GothicNarcissusHere we are, a careful distance.
Here’s my heart, what’s left of it.
In this town, I used to listen,
Once, once, yeah...

I had hope, blind faith,
Had as much as you could take.

I’m only gonna let you kill me
Once, once, once, yeah.
Once, once, once, yeah.
Once, once, once, yeah.
I’m only gonna let you kill me once.

Ashes burn the morning after.
Only know I’m here to stay.
I was so, I let you see me;
That was dumb, but that’s OK.
Tripping down to your place.
What is love anyway?

I’m only gonna let you kill me
Once, once, once, yeah.
Once, once, once, yeah.
Once, once, once, yeah.
I’m only gonna let you kill me once.

Who or whatever you do,
Don’t let anyone hurt you.
Touch them where it hurts
And watch them leave.

[ Once – Hurts ]

Once is a song by Diana Vickers which hurts covered during the Happiness era. I don’t even know if they released it officially, but despite the original being as dull as it can be, the cover version is so beautiful and inspirational I absolutely wanted it to be part of the series.
When thinking of a visual rendition, I decided to do a fashion-oriented photo, but set it in a domestic location, so it would retain the posh imagery I associate with Hurts music without losing genuineness. The idea was rather sketchy and undefined, and the final image came out a bit unexpected, if compared to the other photos of this project.
It basically represents a moning-after kind of situation in which one of the partners is leaving the other one – but really, who’s leaving and who’s being left? Who’s going to regret the decision and who’s going to turn away towards the light and future the minute the other has left? Thus, the messy bed and the head facing backwards, to the darkness, while the rest of the body is already facing forward to the light. And the black and white and medaillon to give it a glossy magazine kind of feel.
It’s a rather simple, but I do hope it tells its story quite well.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Apologize

Apologize by *GothicNarcissusI’m holding on your rope,
Got me ten feet off the ground.
I’m hearing what you say,
But I just can’t make a sound.
You tell me that you need me,
Then you go and cut me down – but wait,
You tell me that you’re sorry;
Didn’t think I’d turn around and say –

That it’s too late to apologize,
It’s too late…
I said it’s too late to apologize,
It’s too late to love me.

I’d take another chance,
Take a fall, take a shot for you.
I need you like a heart needs a beat,
It’s nothing new, yeah, yeah!
I loved you with a fire red,
Now it’s turning blue, and you say
“Sorry” like an angel, heaven let me think was you,
But I’m afraid –

It’s too late to apologize,
It’s too late.
I said it’s too late to apologize,
It’s too late, too late.

It’s too late to apologize,
It’s too late.
I said it’s too late to apologize,
It’s too late to lie.

I’m holding on your rope,
Got me ten feet off the ground.

[ Apologize – Within Temptation ]

Lately I’m in the mood for some experiments that stretch beyond mere photography (in a different direcion than photomanipulationsm though). In particular, I’m totally in love with the digital watercolour technique that gave me the idea for the realisation of Hollow, and although I had only seen it applied to writings, I though I could try to make something different out of it, like, for instance, a frame for a photo.
Watercolour is not exactly a new medium for me, but I’m quite unexperienced about the real one. When I was a child I loved drawing. I would literally spend all my free time bent on paper sheets (well, at least when I was not playing with Lego, of course) and although I preferred felt-tips, I would occasionally use also crayons and watercolour. Unfortunately, secondary education was effective in eradicating that part of my creative self, so right now I just can’t hold a pencil anymore, let alone a brush. Nevertheless, this digital watercolour technique can be easily applied with just a mouse or touchpad (it does not even require a tablet), so I’m experimenting a lot with it to make up for my lost manual ability.
This work did barley start as an attempt. I mean, I knew exactly what I wanted to get in the end, but I was not sure I could. Eventually, I did it. Differently from Hollow, I did not want it to look like a photo printed on a glossy magazine page with a watercolour-like title, but rather like a printed photo framed in an actual sheet of watercolour paper with a circular hole in the middle and then scanned. Had I done it with real stuff rather than digitally, I would have painted on the paper with watercolours, then cut out a circle in the middle, pasted the resulting frame on the photo and then drawn the bribed wire with a blue gel pen: this is what this work is supposed to look like.
Of course, there is a specific secret to get a realistic-looking watercolour on photoshop, but I’m going to keep it to myself because... well, I’d spoil the magic otherwise. I just added a watercolour paper texture atop it to make it look even more realistic, which I hope I succeded. As for the photo itself, although I put the usual care in the shooting, including the styling and so on, I shot it to fit the frame rather than the other way round. And yes, that's a true McQueen scarf.
About the concept, I’m totally in love with Within Temptation’s version of this song, even more than OneRepublic’s: I find it very emotional and inspiring, thus when I decided I’d do a visual rendition, I wanted something very special. This experient did fit it, so I decided to complete it and publish it. I have another frame of this kind (related to another Within Temptation cover), but although it’s ready, I still have to take a nice foto to fit.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Hollow

Hollow by *GothicNarcissusWaking, falling stars from substratum.
Who holds the key to break the old bonds?
Stare into space
Until you cannot see your face.

I turn away.
I turn, but never get back.
Trying hard to be someone,
In return you end up hollow.
Like a sinking ship I float,
A stormy sunny day, I turn away.

I’ve come to realize this is gone tomorrow.
Brittle and frail, we will fall down.
All that we are is a means to an end,
It doesn’t matter what you do.
Give me your hand and open up your eyes,
And burn away, release yourself.

I turn away.
I turn, but never get back.
Trying hard to be someone,
In return you end up hollow.
Like a sinking ship I float,
A stormy sunny day, I turn away.

I will not follow you
Across the silver sky of summer.
And like someone from tomorrow
I sense innocence.
In my dreaming
I wasn’t sleeping.

I turn away.
I turn, but never get back.
Trying hard to be someone,
In return you end up hollow.
Like a sinking ship I float,
A stormy sunny day, I turn away.

[ Hollow – Theatre of Tragedy ]

I have never quite understood why, but for some reasons Hollow, Frozen and Illusions by Theatre of Tragedy, all of which are found on their last album Forever Is The World, are intrinsically connected with one another in my mind. And beside that, I love them very much: they’re beautiful, emotional and inspiring. While single verses from them have inspired me since 2009 (even at the same time, as in Frozen, Hollow Illusions), I never quite had the idea for an image that could represent them as a whole. I did not want to “waste” them on “unworthy” photos, so to speak, thus I preferred waiting for a very strong concept to form in my head.
Finally, last January, I learned from my friend Uriele a nice digital technique to turn writings into watercolour-like graphics. At first I just put it aside until, while wandering the centre of Milan one morning with Theatre of Tragedy in my ears, I got carried away with one of my usual reveries and the idea for a Hollow-inspired picture struck: what if I tried to combine some photos on an empty white background, like they were to be published on a glossy fashion magazine page, and insert such a title in-between them? It could turn out to be a cool idea if I planned it carefully.
I decided straightaway what the photos themselves would look like (as that was part of my daydream) getting inspiration from the keywords in the lyrics, then I headed to the nearby Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to check if everything was in place and if it was possible for me to put a model the way I wanted – which was definitely the case. The choice of the location was not random: ever since I shot Machinery Of The Stars, in my ming that place is strongly connected to Theatre of Tragedy and represents specifically the “silver sky of summer” mentioned in the lyrics. The floor also has stars (that’s one thing I had to check) and in the afternoon the Galleria gets a beautiful light that would fit the mood of the song perfectly. Uriele, who’s an amazing model, also happened to have clothes that fit my idea, so everything was in place. Once I got home, I did some experiments with the digital watercolour technique and the result turned out very pretty. For some reasons, I’ve always associated Hollow with sepia, so that became the main colour of the title and the dominant hue of the photos in the postproduction. All the pieces were in place, my idea could really work.
Truth be told, I didn’t set the plan in motion until last weekend because I’m a lazy ass, but given the murky weather I found pretty much each other time I was in Milan earlier this year, that sunny afternoon was the best choice to get the right mood. I regarded the photos as actual fashion shots: my “story” could be perfectly told through a portrait, another photo showing some detail of the outfit and some view of the architecture from the location of the shooting. The result exceeded my highest expectations.
I’m planning to develop Frozen and Illusions the same way I did Hollow, although it’s going to take some time because I don’t have an exact idea about the latter yet, while the former is perfectly mapped out but will have to wait till winter for – err – obvious reasons. In the meantime, I did other experiments with the watercolour technique which became another project I will publish tomorrow or the day after. But now, I really hope you’ll enjoy Hollow, perhaps while listening to the beautiful song that inspired it in the first place.

Monday, 20 May 2013

I just opened Pandora's box

This morning I had a totally unexpected travel back in time while browsing my external hard drive for a photo of a friend of mine. Beside some dreadful old photos of a short-haired, 16-year-old me, I came across a folder called “Gothic Sanctuary” and, quite oblivious of what on Earth it could be, I double-clicked it. Gosh, did I open Pandora’s box: that folder contained a lot of old pics I collected back in 2006. Photographs, photomanipulations, digital paintings… all sort of things as dark and gothic as they could be. Back then it was the time when the web was slowly letting go of goths and emos were taking over, but the lines were still kinda blurred and you could find a huge lot of stuff of that kind. I was between 16 and 17 and thought those pictures were the coolest things on Earth. And that’s pretty much where my journey as an artist began.
The beautiful pearl-skinned lady in the forest.
Truth be told, at first I was nothing more than a collector. I used to play on a fantasy medieval-themed online GdR which first got me introduced to the gothic imagery. It was the second half of the 2000’s, basically the golden age of “modern” goth subculture, so just imagine: Queen of the Damned was still all the rage, Van Helsing was totally a thing, Evanescence still had a cult following who eagerly awaited Fallen’s follow-up and such bands as Within Temptation were starting to truly rise to prominence, while third-generation female-fronted bands like Delain were blossoming. That GdR, which was very big at the time, was literally full of dark-haired, pale, tormented girl-characters and elegant, murky, silent boy-characters, so it was a full immersion of gothy stuff and I was growing hungry for more. At first, it was just all about googling around, finding blogs and sharing the photos with my friends through MSN Messenger. Looking at them now, I find most of them terribly clichéd, poorly executed and even a bit ridiculous, but Goth (pun intended), were they amazing back then. Some of them, though, were totally on the next level and it was looking for them that I finally discovered deviantART, whose members had a much more serious approach to the imagery. I was so impressed that I wanted to do something like that too. Such artists as Bionic7, Princess-Of-Shadows, Blackeri, Wishmistress, Enyala, Parlami and BellZ kept producing amazing images and I was totally bewitched by their work. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to do stuff like theirs. I wanted to produce very dark, desaturated, white-skinned, candle-lit, heavily textured, fantastic, tormented works that goth teen blogs would love as much as I did. I wanted heavy make up, layered hair, fancy clothes, dark fairies with dragonfly wings, plumed fallen angels, bleeding mascara. That’s all I wanted to be as an artist.
The beautiful princess with ebony curls The tragic heroine hidden in her underground wonderland
I think what saved me back in the day was my lack of Photoshop. Now that I actually know what photography is, I treasure it as a valuable item but I realise, if I’d had it back then, it would have been my undoing. As I only had lousy softwares like Ulead Photoexpress , I couldn’t just put the camera on my desk, take a random photo of myself and then do all the magic in postproduction. My shortcomings forced me to do the bigger work in pre-production, putting an extra dose of care into the location choice, light, outfit and concept. Everything had to look at least decent from the very beginning, for whatever intervention I could do afterwards was extremely limited. At first I sort of settled to doing that while waiting for “someday” when I’d have the expertise and better tools to do the oh-so-cool stuff, but just after a few months I enjoyed what I was doing so much that I decided I would go on as a photographer rather than a digital artist, I would keep shooting on location rather than using stocks and natural colours suited my work without too much monochrome filters.
The dark fairy
Truth be told, as technically lousy and last-decade as they seem now, those images still make my heart quiver with nostalgia and smile softly. I’m miles away from what I though I’d be back then, I haven’t even really got close to that, but at least I stayed true to myself rather than turning into someone else’s copycat. I’m satisfied with what I’ve accomplished so far and eager to grow and accomplish even more. I’m glad that I’ve been through that phase and also that I’ve found that folder this morning: that’s the foundation of who I am and I will carry that world in my heart and at the very core of my work all my life. Sometimes you just need to remember where you come from to look more clearly to the future.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Beginnning And The End

The Beginning And The End by GothicNarcissusInside this cold heart is a dream
That’s locked in a box that I keep
Buried a hundred miles deep,
Deep in my soul, in a place that’s surrounded
By aeons of silence.

And somewhere inside is the key
To everything I want to feel,
But the dark summer dawns of my memory
Are locked in a place that can never be.

Can someone please show me the way?
Can someone please help me?
‘Cause I cannot see and the silence is raging.
Silence is raging, ooh!

Silence, silence, fade into silence.
Silence, silence, fade into silence.
Memory, memory, inside is the key to a
Memory, memory, inside is the key to a memory.

[ The Beginning And The End – Anathema ]

This song was the introduction for Weather Systems, as it was released before the album itself as a preview of its general sound. Ever since the first time I heard it, I immediately related to it and realised it’s one of that songs that seem to have been written especially for me. I find a lot of myself in its lyrics, they do really describe a period of my life I’ve been through recently, so I was eager to give it a visual rendition. Damn, it mentions a key to inner feelings and I constantly wear a key necklace which reminds me to keep my feelings as clear as possible.
I already mentioned how this was a weird and slightly frustrating afternoon. Interestingly enough, this was the photo that shook it up and brought us the right creative mood from which eventually These Woods Breathe Evil sprung, which is very fitting with the lyrics. Taking the self-portrait was not too much of a big deal as I had BriarRose and Nytrogen’s help (in particular for the shadow on my eyes), while for the companion photo I opted for shot of the sun through the branches of the trees. Although it was actually sunset, it had a very warm light which reminded me of a beginning, something like an awakening like a deep slumber much like that of the wintery trees. To get the best effect, I was particularly careful to set the focus on the foremost branches in order to give the whole photo a neat, sharp look – yep, that’s the secret about it.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

These Woods Breathe Evil

These Woods Breathe Evil I by *GothicNarcissusI grasp the soil from this tomb
And cover my face, this face of a murderer.

Serpents betrayed me.
They crawled in my head and betrayed me.
The old woods, they misled me,
Cut my face and misled me.

The owls are not what they seem.
They made me do it,
Am I a ghost amongst them?
But this blood is real, that stains my hands.

Tortured by these voices
Like flies around me.
They chased me here
And you invited me in...

These woods breathe evil!
Rust on the ground and the arches of fire.
These woods breathe evil!
Here in the circle of eerie winds,
Towards the black heart of magnetic north.

Black lodge and red rooms of insanity.
Here I reached the point of no return
With my hands around you.
They chased me here,

To this hotel of ghosts,
And they showed me this room,
This doom with a view,
And you invited me in...
These Woods Breathe Evil II by *GothicNarcissusTortured by these voices
Like flies around me.
They chased me here
And you invited me in...

These woods breathe evil!
Rust on the ground and the arches of fire.
These woods breathe evil!
Here in the circle of eerie winds.

These woods...
They led me back here,
To your buried body...

[ These Woods Breathe Evil – Swallow The Sun ]

Kind of back to my roots, am I not? Very murky, gothic imagery, but (I hope, at least) with the polished, magazine-like look I’m constantly striving to achieve lately.
These two photos were the result of a very weird, up-and-down afternoon that met an old stray idea I had about a year ago while I was discovering Swallow The Sun’s music and going through a very gory phase, which I noted down on my “Stray ideas” text file saving it for a better moment.
As usual, I’ve been looking forward to a photoshoot in the woods around Trieste since ages, but I don’t have a car, nor a driving license: as I had to depend on someone with a car, my plans ended up screwed up each time BriarRose came to visit me. Actually, we were supposed to be shooting another very important photo for one of my projects, but despite our best efforts it just didn’t work out. The light, the place, the pose... well, nothing turned out like I had figured it out, so I gave up and focussed on other stuff. I was starting to feel very frustrated when finally I got a self-portrait right, which set me in the right mood for further shooting and exploring this concept.
There is a sort of romance or seduction going on in the songs, but it ends very bad: that was my standpoint. A deadly romance would suggest vampires, but they are so last decade (just joking, but I’m quite done with them for now), so I decided to keep it all human and, if possible, even more morbid. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what happened, let’s just say I put a lot of blood in it to suggest that it’s not just a quick, little bite on the girl’s neck.
Things went better than I expected: the light was perfect for what I had in mind, the forest bokehed into a disturbing, twirling texture and both Nitrogen and BriarRose did an amazingly good acting job. Which (I’ve notice now) got me another Daily Deviation on deviantART, for which I’m very grateful.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Unspoken

Unspoken by GothicNarcissusThings will never change
And our hearts will always separate.
Forget about you, I’ll forget about you.
The things we never say
Are better often left alone.
Forget about you, I’ll forget about this time.

But it’s the same old situation,
We made it through this far, ooh.
We watched the rockets kiss the sky,
I saw the flames burn out in your eyes.

Nothing that I do
Will ever be enough for you,
Whatever I do, whatever I do.
Take me as I am,
I’ll never be the other man.
Forget about you, I’ll forget about this time.

So won’t you save this conversation
And find a better time, ooh, ooh?
Don’t you ever understand
That if it hurts I’ll do whatever I can?

And if it’s set in motion,
I’ll watch it all pass by
And leave the rest unspoken:
I’ll never change my mind.

I’ll leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken,
Leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken now.
I’ll leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken,
Leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken now.

I’ll leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken,
Leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken now.
I’ll leave it unspoken, leave it unspoken,
Leave it unspoken, we’ll fly away tonight.

So just let me go, I won’t change my mind:
I’d rather be lonely than be by your side.
And nothing you say can save us this time:
I’d rather be lonely.

[ Unspoken – Hurts ]

Unspoken is one of my favourite songs on Happiness, in particular its live version (which can be found on the Live In Berlin DVD). Nevertheless, it was one of the last songs from the album that inspired me with a possible visual rendition. The theme of this song is breaking up, pretty much the same as Blood, Tears & Gold, but Unspoken is different in that it doesn’t have a visually immediate title and has a very subtle approach to the theme. Rather than a very heartbreaking story, it tells how a relationship can simply die off, regardless of what one might try to say and do. No drama, no blood, no shouting: just leave some things unspoken because you know they won’t do any good and walk away. To some extent, this is even more heartwrecking.
The idea to represent such an emotional situation with two chronologically ordered images in a diptych was quite immediate, as was the black and white, grainy appearance. The rest of the image, like the location and the specific weather conditions, came quite easily: the Molo Audace in Trieste is a rather romantic place, but it gets melancholic with gloomy weather. Also, on a cloudy day the that light is also less dramatic and the sea very bright, which gives the scene a somewhat more peaceful ambiance. Indeed I wanted the drama to come from the models’ pose and acting.
This choice was quite simple, too: I wanted BriarRose in it because this song is very meaningful for her, and I wanted to be in it because I like how well we work together in this kind of photos. The combination of the very specific location, weather conditions and models forced me to postpone the shooting for several months until now. Finally, beside the three right conditions, I also had the assistance of Nytrogen Frostrhyme, which was extremely helpful given my lack of a remote control. I could set my camera on a tripod with the right angle and stuff, but the timing could prove to be very tricky give the distances from the shooting to the modelling points, and the second photo would be nearly ipossible anyway. Things went smooth and I’m very satisfied with the photo. I hope you like it as well.