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 clich├ęd, 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.