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.

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