Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Decarabia: development and symbolism

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.

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