Monday, 8 December 2014

The Infernal Lords XXVI: Leonard

See beyond the rationale,
Accept the fate that nothing is meant to be.
Be the least connected,
Stay true to the last original.

Apply layers to reality,
Things only you can see.
Add a beat to normality
To tap the core of insanity.

[ The Mundane And The Magic – Dark Tranquillity & Nell Sigland ]
Leonard by GothicNarcissusGrand Master Marquis Leonard is a former high-ranking Virtue long since turned into a powerful Fourth-Level Demon. He has got the power to bend the laws of both the Astral and Physical Planes at will, which is commonly known as Witchcraft. While many Demons can do so by casting spells of their own, most are only limited to their own elements, while Marquis Leonard’s influence can range to any known field. Thus, humankind cherishes him particularly: he is known as the Demon of Witchcraft and Sorcery and any Mortal willing to sell their souls to him will receive the gift of Magic, which is the power to influence the world around them at will. Marquis Leonard is summoned much more often than any other Goetic Demon due to the formidable powers he can give: Elemental Demons possess full control over their own elements, but they cannot bestow such powers to Mortals unless they directly possess them, while Marquis Leonard can. He can also give passive powers, with which Mortals can achieve a degree of control of the cosmic forces through a certain set of rituals, actions, combination of words, and catalysts such as symbols, seals, herbs, minerals or artefacts. Therefore, he is the main reference to those who wish to become witches or wizards and is often adored as an idol under many Pagan names.
He is often called upon together with his close associate, Marquise Naamah, the Mother of Divination. Along with her and other nightly Demons such as Princess Lilith, Duke Astaroth and Marquis Rosiel he roams the Earth as an Incubus to feed on the energies of sleeping Mortals, targeting in particular dreams of ambition. Thanks to his enormous powers, he is also a member of Duke Beelzebub’s Order of the Great Fly. He and Duke Xaphan share a sort of friendly rivalry, as Marquis Leonard likes shaping the world by bending nature’s laws with his powers while Duke Xaphan prefers studying and applying them to his technology. A particularly learned Demon, Marquis Leonard also shares a good comradeship with Countess Agares and often visits the Infernal Library, whose Magic section was almost entirely compiled by himself.

Leonard: development and symbolism

Credits:
Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design, styling: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair: Davide Marcuzzo
Additional resources: Amptone-stock (texture)

Oh, hey, the Infernal Lords are still progressing! I feel kind of bad for taking more than a year between the last work and this one, but 2014 has been quite contrived, both outside and inside photography, and the project had to wait.
First things first: I wanted a Demon of Magic and Witchcraft in my series. Provided that this project draws quite strictly from Jewish an Christian mythology, in my continuity witches and wizards call upon a Demon to receive their powers (and I don’t care if it is not Wiccanly accurate, that’s an entirely different mythology), so such a Demon was quite necessary. Despite Leonard not being from the Lesser Key of Solomon, I found him quite easily in Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnare Infernal as a nightly Demon who presides the Sabbath and bestows the gift of black magic to humans. I was a little puzzled by his name, as it is a real given name, but I also found a very inspirational illustration of him which cleared any doubts.
Leonard from the Dictionnaire Infernal.
Purged of the monstrous features, the whole idea of the pose, the staff (or, in my case, a wand) in his right hand and the beard to keep close to the goatish theme stuck. I came up pretty quickly with the idea of using a wand I purchased back in my teenish wiccan days and an as of then yet unused notebook with a fancy cover I found in Malta some eight years ago (you can also see it in The Narcissist Song, and it has now become my tarot journal). Also, a few years ago my mother sew me an amazing black and red cloak, which would perfectly fit the theme.
Much more troublesome was the casting of Leonard because I could not find someone who fit the “wizard” type. I had a few ideas which didn’t work out for several reasons, and then I met Davide, the lead singer of the progressive metal band SoulStorm, who fit perfectly. We initially scheduled a shooting in August, but even if we did it, I had to scrap all the photos I took because the light was pretty awful, too much even to try to fix it in Lightroom and Photoshop. At least, the experience with Decarabia has taught me something. Due to my summer break at my mother’s and other stuff, a new shooting had to wait until November, My original background for Leonard when I stopped at Davide’s place for an afternoon on my way back from Lucca. As I had done some paid work at the Comic convention, I spent much of November working on those photos and I could not find the time and concentration to work on Leonard until yesterday. The postproduction was smooth and quick, so here it is at last. On a side note, I had toyed with the background very long ago (at least as early as 2011); even though it didn’t fit the photo because it was too distracting, here you can see the original texture I had come up with.

The symbolism is pretty immediate: the wand, the grimoire and Solomon’s Seal projecting from the crystal represent witchcraft, as does the cloak. As I mentioned, I took most of the pose directly from the illustration in the Dictionnaire Infernal, but I decided to give it some sort of “fallen saint” theme to represent Leonard’s huge powers. I decided to make his seal (actually borrowed from Volac) into the halo because Leonard is quite dressed up and there wasn’t much skin for it; but most of it was covered by his head anyway, so I engraved it on the grimoire back cover too. I also decided not to give him wings because, on the one hand, he can just poof anywhere magically and, on the other, they would be redundant and clashing with the cloak. I chose liver as the main colour because I wanted some muted sepia-ish tones which would recall a dusty painting. I had some trouble choosing a song, but eventually The Mundane And The Magic by Dark Tranquillity featuring Nell Sigland stuck for pretty obvious reasons.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Grace

Grace by GothicNarcissusIf you find yourself in sorrow,
It won’t heal no way.
So don’t you worry ‘bout tomorrow –
It will kill today.
If you don’t mind, if you, if you don’t mind,
I’ll keep you strong, I’ll keep you strong, eh.
If you don’t mind, if you, if you don’t mind,
I’ll keep you strong.

I drown in your grace,
So let me in.
You heal and deface –
I’m wrapped in.

So don’t you care about confusion,
It will gently disappear.
If you find some disillusion,
I’ll softly whisper in your ear,
“If you don’t mind, if you, if you don’t mind,
I’ll keep you strong, I’ll keep you strong, eh.
If you don’t mind, if you, if you don’t mind,
I’ll bring you home.”

I drown in your grace,
So let me in.
You heal and deface –
I’m wrapped in.

[ Grace – Leandra ]

Back to surrealism with my Morphine series – again the Isomorphine half.
I bet you’re tired of reading it, but once again this is a months-old idea that I kicked myself into doing at long last. I really need some discipline when it comes to self-portraits, because I can’t go on writing down my ideas and waiting so long before developing them. Right, this time most of the stuff I needed was at my mother’s so I couldn’t shoot this photo in Trieste, but I’ve been here for almost two months now and waited until the last week before taking most of this photo – which really sucks on my part. The fact is, I like challenges (and realising this concept was indeed challenging), but tend to procrastinate facing them for as long as I can. See why I haven’t progressed with many of my long-term projects lately.
Anyways, the more surreal I get, the more layered my photos become. Both Mirrors of Decay needed blending a certain amount of photographs together, and so did Grace. After all, people don’t normally float upside-down in the woods like they do underwater, and they don’t usually breathe out soap bubbles; which means that I, my hair, the background and the bubbles are all separate photographs I merged together (I usually don’t reveal these tricks, but denying them would be pointless here).
The symbolism is a pretty direct rendition of the underlying metaphore in the lyrics. I took the idea of drowning in a brightly lit environment (representing “grace”) which is not truly liquid directly from the chorus: I wanted the drowning, but I also wanted it to be metaphorical. And I don’t have an underwater camera anyways. The biggest trick was to make my hair look as if it were really floating, which I downright stole from nDroae and was the primary reason I had to wait to be at my mother’s: I only have a shower in Trieste, not a bathtub. That was the first photo I shot. Since I needed to be there, I decided the background would be the Maria Pia pinewood in Alghero, and I also had my mother blow our brand new Hello Kitty soap bubbles in front of a black background rather than doing all by myself. And here is the final photograph.
But pretty much as always, thank you very much procrastination, for in hindsight the photo came in good time. This time not for purely artistic purposes, but because I actually have someone to dedicate this work and the accompaining song to. You know, as much as I try to be the bitchest of them all, the song is definitely in my character; it’s just been a while since I met someone in real need of psychological support and who’s truly worth the trouble actually no, they weren’t.
Oh, and also: the Hello Kitty soap bubbles are totally my mother’s fault, she bought them. I had a good laugh, but they are not referencing anyone or anything.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Miracle

Miracle by GothicNarcissusTalk to me, girl, tell me your lies.
Let your secrets hypnotise.
‘Cause the light will never shine on this heart of mine
And all the love we sacrificed.

Look at all of the damage you have done in time.
You can see what a savage I’ve become, in my eyes.
If you look in my heart you will find –

No love, no light, no end in sight,
And I’m looking for a miracle,
And I’m looking for a miracle.
But I hope, I pray, and I will fight,
‘Cause I’m looking for a miracle,
‘Cause I’m looking for a miracle.

There’s a place I wanna go and a life I wanna know,
But you crucified my heart of gold.

But oh, look at all of the damage you have done in time.
If you offer salvation, I will run into your arms
And deep in my heart you will find –

No love, no light, no end in sight,
And I’m looking for a miracle,
And I’m looking for a miracle.
But I hope, I pray, and I will fight,
‘Cause I’m looking for a miracle,
‘Cause I’m looking for a miracle.

[ Miracle – Hurts ]

So, Hurt’s Exile has been out for over one year now and, if you don’t count Ohne Dich, which is based on a cover and single b-side, I haven’t taken any photos inspired by the album yet. Shame on me, really. The truth is, I have many ideas, but they’re ambitious and difficult to pull together. Miracle was definitely one of those.
To be honest, I’ve been working on this photo in a way or another for longer than I care to remember. I’m pretty positive I had the idea as soon as the single was out and started planning it ever since. I mean, the song has amazing lyrics and the videos, especially the original version (which was censored because… I don’t know, christians are morons?), are so inspiring my mind immediately started working. The original idea was me (because I totally see myself in the lyrics) with a golden halo holding my damaged, rotten heart with no love, no light and what else is there for everyone to see.
Putting it into an actual photo was another story. I started concretely working on the photo around January 2014, when I found the most difficult prop to come across: the heart. I tried to look for one on the internet, but as I only came across ugly-looking rubber ones, I started thinking I had to rip one out Once Upon A Time style. Then I found one while looking for unrelated props in Milan and when I pulled it out of my bag during a dinner to the disgust of my friends, I knew it looked realistic enough for the photo to work. I subsequently bought some golden paperboard to make a halo, but I left it gathering dust on my desk until a few weeks ago because I had never made a halo and was afraid I would suck at it. Which, you’d say, big deal, if I did it wrong I could just buy another paperboard and start over: and yes, but when I’m undertaking stuff for the first time I just get paralysed by fear of not being good enough, so I tend to give up. I finally forced myself to give it a shot early in August and, surprise surprise, I got it right at the first attempt, including sticking it to my hairpin so I could fix it on my head. Oh, and yes, it was fun to document the thing on Instagram to tease my followers.
I went on to shot the photo a couple of days later and it went smooth, even though I had to operate my camera with bloody hands. But due to urgent commissioned works and, especially, depression s-s-summertime, summertime sadness, I didn’t finish it until a couple of days ago. So wow, eight months to shoot a photo only because my head is a mess. On the other hand, though, the wait paid back because I acquired new postproduction skills and I am now able to give my photos the pictorial look this one in particular needed, so I don’t know if I could have made it perfect a few months ago.
On a side note, someday I’m going back to this song to shoot a photo especially inspired by ∆T∆TIK∆’s ’Miraculous’ Remix, which is a truly amazing and inspiring piece of music in its own right. For now, though, enjoy rotten-hearted Saint Narcissus.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Revenge

Revenge by GothicNarcissusI’ll hush.
May you ride the horse that throws you down.
All ash.
May justice pay the price of your crown.
Save me from myself.
Save me from myself.
Save me from myself.
Save me, please.

Why are you digging my bones?
It seems so predictable.
I cannot be on my own.
Under your manic control
I’m starving and begging to finally
Get a life. Leave me alone.

My dear, I’ve heard you
Banging your head against the wall.
Annoy me
Like you annoy the dark upon the arch.
Save me from myself.
Save me from myself.
Save me from myself.
Save me, please.

Why are you digging my bones?
It seems so predictable.
I cannot be on my own.
Under your manic control
I’m starving and begging to finally
Get a life. Leave me alone.

[ Revenge – Leandra ]

Here is a new photo from the Isomorphine half of my Morphine series.
This photo has the distinction of being the first and so far only one from this project which does not have a surreal theme. As surrealism just happens to be one of the recurring themes in the series, and not one of its aesthetic standpointes, I didn't have to necessarily include it if it didn't fit. This song is mostly emotive and written with abstract metaphores that apply to real life situations, rather than inside somebody's mind, so it didn't call for surrealism.
As always, I got most of the inspiration from the lyrics of the song: they are about a disfunctional relationship which is going to end soon, so I had to emphasise this sense of separateness. I also got further inspiration from the music of the song: Leandra is a masterful pianist and this is one of the songs in her second album which shows it the most, so I thought it was fair to have a piano in the photo. This standpoint helped me define the imagery, together with one of the lines that caught my attention the most, the “I heard you banging your head against the wall” part in the second verse, which I wanted to include somehow. Thus I potrayed the separation with one of the characters pursuing his own business in an attempt to feel free after he grew cold in the relationship, and the other standing in the background almost unnoticed, in despair and banging his head for the regret of having reached such a sour point in the relationship. The general mood of the song is bitter and resentful but rather calm, which is the same feeling I wanted to convey with my photo: the slow death of sentiments when two people slowly become strangers under the same roof.
The shooting of this photo was arranged very quickly: I found out my friend Eliseo had a classical-styled piano, so I quickly arranged to meet him and take the photo. The shooting was a bit difficult because the day was hot and wet and I had very little space to set the tripod and couldn't see what was going on through the lens. It took a few attempts, but at very last we did it. It also took me near a month to postproduce this photo because of my mild depression issues and lots of work to do, both translations and commissioned photos, but at last here we are.
Funny unimportant side note: I was actually playing Exodus by Evanescence because that’s the only thing I remember how to play on the piano.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Aquarius

Aquarius by GothicNarcissusNo need to apologise
For the gypsy Madonna:
Truth is not always kind.

[ Unrepentant Geraldines – Tori Amos ]

Sign of the Philosopher
Element: Air
Secondary element: Humidity
Planet: Uranus
Alignment: Light

A Light-aligned Air sign that embodies Humidity and everything that gives vitality to the atmosphere, it is derived from the constellation of the Water-Bearer. It is called the Sign of the Philosopher because it is most often ahead of its time and constantly thoughtful. Its ruling planet, Uranus, inspires renovation, even to the point of revolution or iconoclasm, and makes the Aquarius unconventional and free-spirited.

At long last, here is the third work from The Zodiacs. Once again, if you’re interested, you can go and read more details about it on The Gay Boy’s Guide to the Zodiac.
As a fellow air Sign, I have some sort of affinity for the archetypical Aquarius, which is probably why I came up quite easily with the concept for this work. Also, as one of the most human figures in the Zodiac, it was quite straight-forward by itself. Uriele, who’s one of my best friends, also happens to be the archetypical Aquarius, so I had the perfect model for the role, too.

As for the symbolism, first of all I immediately excluded any kind of “sexily pouring water on himself” kind of things because, while very alluring to a male gay audience, it’s definitely not what I am aiming for with this photo. I will never say out loud enough how much this project, while being expressed through artistic nudity, is meant to be very allegorical and not crossing into eroticism. Or at least, that would do for Scorpio, but not for such a cerebral sign as Aquarius.
Aquarius is an Air sign, so I decided to have the water in the ewer phase into vapour and pouring out as that to engulf the Aquarius within his own element, also in order to bridge the two elements together. As air is pretty much omnipresent, I decided I might as well shoot the photo indoors to make things quicker and easier for Uriele, as well as taking advantage of his bedroom’s wallpaper, whose pearly colour is quite fitting with the work. Initially I had a different idea about the pose, but while discussing it with Uriele we decided to have him kind of reaching out with the ewer to represent the connection with constant development, rather than having a “folded” pose which would be more suited to a conservative sign as Capricorn.
On the musical side, Tori Amos is Uriele’s Number 1 favourite singer, and her song Unrepentant Geraldines happens to perfectly embody the iconoclastic spirit of the Aquarius. I mean, it was totally meant to be. The postproduction took a while because I was never satisfied, but at last here we are. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Coloured

Coloured by GothicNarcissusRemember, do you?
Do you remember?
Do you remember
As you flew around the corner
On a flying carpet,
As I woke, I woke up
In this dreamless metabolic forest?
Do you remember?
Do you remember?

Then there was your cup of ideas.
I thought you were intended for advices,
For advices from wheresoever,
And I dropped my volition in dull judges
And you see what comes out
When we hypnotise our whatever,
Whatever it is meant to be.
(Whatever it is meant).

Your dream is not coloured,
I think you should get back in time.
Your dream is not coloured,
You’ve never ordered me to draw a line.
Your dream is not coloured,
I think you should get back in time.
Your dream is not coloured.
Your dream is not coloured,
I’ll get you neither a pillow nor a blanket.
Your dream is not coloured.

Then there was a light,
And what a monkey business,
Monkey busyness,
A monkey business
From wheresoever
I dropped my volition and doubting,
(What a monkey busyness)
And you see what comes out,
What comes out.
And you see what comes out,
What comes out,
When we...

Your dream is not coloured,
I think you should get back in time.
Your dream is not coloured,
You’ve never ordered me to draw a line.
Your dream is not coloured,
I’ll get you neither a pillow nor a blanket to define,
Your dream is not coloured,
So give me the finest paintbrush
Dived in sweeping shine,
The finest paintbrush
Dived in sweeping shine.

[ Coloured – Leandra ]

New Morphine work, this time from Metamorphine. For some reasons, when I first listened to the album, this song went relatively unnoticed; with more listens, it opened a whole new world of imagery and I came to really love it. Thus, the idea for this work is quite new compared to many other Metamorphine concepts, especially because back in 2008 I would have never imagined this kind of postproduction, as purchasing a graphic tablet was not even close to my plans; nor was getting a bj-doll, for that matter.
The main reason behind the somewhat child-like imagery in this photo is that the song itself sounds like a nursery rhyme of sort (a real, non-twisted one), including soothing rhythmic onomatopoeiae. This, combined with the prominent oneiric theme in the lyrics, made me think of a man-child drawing his dreams into reality. You might find certain similarities with Switchblade, and I honestly don’t know which idea came first. Both photos have butterflies and magic swirls of colour originating from something, which represent the inner world of the subject that overlaps with the “real world”. But I don’t think one harms the other, as they represent something completely different – love in one case, dreams and fantasy in the other. Another thing, which I realised just after finishing the work, is I basically used the same colours as Naberius’ “magical paint” for the dreamy stuff in here. I honestly didn’t think of that, it’s just how I visualised the image in my mind, so I guess those hues are planted somewhere in my subconscious as a visual manifestation of one’s inner world.
The theme of childhood, specifically a child in the body of an adult, is also prominent in the official video of the song, which includes Leandra playing with a doll: I paid homage to that by including Ludwig in the picture. I was undecided whether to set the photo in my own room to give a further nod to the video, or in a “dreamless metabolic forest” as in the lyrics, and I ultimately opted for the latter to give it a lighter feel (the song is quite light compared to many others in the record) and because the green of the trees would look amazingly rich with the Metamorphine colour filter I am using. And because the photo now represents me bringing dreams to the dreamless forest.
The idea is a few months old, but I shot it just last week because I was hoping to get some assistance with it. As I couldn’t find any, I resolved to do everything by myself, from going (by bus) to the intended location to setting up the camera with the timer on a tripod, keeping an eye on Ludwig so he wouldn’t fall and break, and so on. It took me several takes (and a lot of sweating, goddamn July) to get the right image, but the result exceeds my highest expectations and makes me especially proud. The postproduction was quite smooth as I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to get, so here we go, with a swarm of butterflies flying directly out of my head.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Funeral Bell

Funeral Bell by GothicNarcissusOh mother, I’m scared to die.
Where, where do my good deeds lie?
Oh father, I’m scared to live,
Takes more than I’ve got to give.
Oh sister, my voice is weak.
Oh brother, I long for sleep.
Oh hunger, I know you well,
My cruel friend is a funeral bell.

And it rings in the day and it rings in the evening.
Oh, I could pray but it won’t stop you leaving.
Shadow in black, you are grim from your reaping.
Oh, can’t you spare just a day for the weeping?

Oh lover, I know you’re there
And I’d follow you anywhere.
Oh, give me a hand to hold
So that I may face the cold.

‘Cause it rings in the day and it rings in the evening.
Oh, I could pray but it won’t stop you leaving.
Shadow in black, you are grim from your reaping.
Oh, can’t you spare just a day for the weeping?
Oh, can’t you spare just a day for the weeping?

[ Funeral Bell – Phildel ]

Twelfth and final work from The Disappearance Of The Girl.
First things first: I really admire Phildel for writing this song. It’s neither a glamourisation of suicide like many shallow, big-lipped popstars out there do, nor an overly dramatic romantisation of it like many goth bands do. It’s a genuine, intimate, realistic outlet for thoughts and feelings about it: the fear of dying, the fear of keeping on living, the reasons for choosing one. I can’t say I relate to that because I have never been seriously suicidal, but from where I stand it seems very deep and is totally heartwrecking.
For all those reasons, I decided to leave any drama out of the image and go fully allegorical with a quiet, static composition aking to figurative painting. Each element you see is a symbol: the cemetery represents the thoughts of death, the wall is the edge where you have to make a decision; the blindfold is the fear, while Luisa holding the marble plate, which I was saving for a rainy day, represent the final acceptance of both death, life and their connection to one another, namely the cypress and the Ouroboros surrounding it. On the one hand, I wish I could incude a bell as well, but maybe this is for the best, at it would have been a bit redundant and distracting.

So here we go, a full twelve-photo series shot in two afternoons and published all at once, which for me is quite a record. In hindsight, it’s a bit funny how I pulled out some of my most gothic-looking photos in ages from the ethereal music of a singer like Phildel. I’m really satisfied with this project as it really helped me develop a visual language unique for each work, ranging from fairytale-like to very dark, while retaining some sort of coherence among all the works. This will surely help me go forward with my other long-termi series, some of which I’m picking up right now. Thanks to everyone who supported and gave me feedback for these photos but, most importantly, to Luisa: without her, none of this would have been possible. Not with such an emotional depth, anyways. When you hold a project very dear, it is important to work with somebody who loves it just as much: this is another lesson I’ve learned from this series.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Dare

Dare by GothicNarcissusDare you, I need you…
Dare you, I need you…

Your presence preserves me.
Oh, unworthy, my racing mind
Slows its time.
When the faithful desert me,
When the fears that disturb me
Set their place, you are my only grace.

Dare, dare you slow now.
Right behind us both is a fearless doubt.
Ignore that waiting boat,
I need your heart more than I need your ghost.

When my home is defenceless,
The omens relentless, the trojan horse
Keeps it course,
Your kindness preserves me,
Oh, unearthly through this maze
You are my only grace.

Dare, dare you slow now.
Right behind us both is a fearless doubt.
Ignore that waiting boat,
I need your heart more than I need your ghost.

I see him in the mist on the River of Styx
Sailing to your side.
I see him in the mist, I see him,
I see him through your eyes.

Dare, dare you slow now.
Right behind us both is a fearless doubt.
Ignore that waiting boat,
I need your heart more than I need your ghost.

[ Dare – Phildel ]

Eleventh work from The Disappearance Of The Girl.
In many ways, this photo sort of mirrors Storm Song: both were born as photos to be digitally enhanced, both required me to be lucky enough to get the right weather, both have some dark imagery that conveys a much sweeter message. In this song, it’s a desperate plea for someone to defy death not to leave the singer alone: something that might seem quite abstract and difficult to put into image, except Phildel did some masterful metaphor work pulling in the myth of Charon and the River of Styx. I went for that concept hands down because it would have otherwise been impossible to come up with something as emotionally strong as the song. On other occasions I would have thought twice before settling for a single metaphor because that often denotes a very superficial reading of a song, but here I think the Charon metaphor, along with the mist, really enclose the full meaning of the lyrics.
As you can probably guess, the image is strongly manipulated, although it is still true to its original self: mist is statistically impossible to occur in such a windy city as Trieste, and the possibilities for a boat to appear in front of Piazza Unità d’Italia at the very moment we were shooting were non-existent, so I resigned to just dig up clouds from my personal stock and paint the boat from scratches with my tablet. As for the latter, one thing I put a lot of care into was to leave its direction ambiguous: is Charon rowing towards or away from the girl? Is the second figure looking at her or just sitting resigned to leave her behind? One thing is for certain: Luisa did an amazing job at portraying a sense of expectation and anxiety just with her body language, without even showing her face, which is what makes the photo even more than my digital enhancements.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Holes In Your Coffin

Holes In Your Coffin by GothicNarcissusNow your kindest remark does not move me.
Both your face and your heart do not suit me.
Holes in your coffin, fool.
And the girl that you had, she won’t save you,
And the face that you have will enslave you.
Holes in your coffins prove.

Nothing less will
Do, do, do, do.
Do, do, do, do.

And the words on your grave, go to show for
The way you have behaved and I know, for
Holes in your coffin prove.
What you get for being just too playful,
What you get for being so distasteful:
Holes in your coffin, fool.

Nothing less will
Do, do, do, do.
Do, do, do, do.

If the, if the, if the –
If the word of the law doesn’t get you
And the guilt you ignore is gonna set you
Free, free, free,
If the cross on the door doesn’t scare you
And the beast of the moor’s gonna spare you,
Boy, come home to me.

[ Holes In Your Coffin – Phildel ]

Tenth work from The Disappearance Of The Girl.
If I’m not mistaken, discounting depictions of cemeterial art itself, the last time I had a photoshoot with somebody in a cemetery was in 2011. Well, Phildel brought me back to my gothic roots with this song (contrary to the others, this video is unofficial), which she herself called The Wolf’s sister. And damn it, it felt so amazing to take this photo. I still love shooting in cemeteries a lot, but I think the theme itself, cemetery for cemetery’s sake, is quite mouldy nowadays if you don’t give it a twist. Shooting somebody who’s just wallowing in a cemetery for no particular reason kind of bores me now, while, on the other hand, having a concept that did require us to be there, with somebody who’s having some business to do among the tombs, well, it was very refreshing and inspirational! This, together with the quite straight-forward imagery of the song, made it easy for me to conceive this work. I basically took the lyrics as they are and gave them a sociopathically literal twist: grab the cheater and nail him inside a coffin. He deserves that anyways.
Of course I’m just not happy with simple things, and with an easy song to decipher I decided to complicate myself with the actual realisation of the photo. I would not settle for a more generic, much easier to find tomb, the coffin had to be there. I will leave to your imagination how I put a coffin inside a mausoleum on public grounds, but while very difficult it was just as rewarding in the end.
The photo speaks for itself: Luisa is basically going away, smirking in satisfaction and throwing away her hammer after nailing the coffin and poking holes in it so the bastard can panic longer. Holes in your coffin, fool. But before you worry, no cheating boyfriend was harmed in the making of this photo, because both Luisa and I know better than being cheated on. Snap!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Switchblade

Switchblade by GothicNarcissusOh, your absence resounds like a siren,
But my presence brings no more than silence
For the times I’ve behaved like a switchblade,
For the blame when I should have just forgave…

Where do you go
When those darker wild eyes show?
If I lead you straight up to
The loneliest landscape you knew,
Boy, would you care
If you lost me there?

I was blessed with your good intention,
But your kindness gets no reflection.
All the words you hear without listening,
Oh, you waste them all on the missing.

Where do you go
When those darker wild eyes show?
If I lead you straight up to
The loneliest landscape you knew,
Boy, would you care
If you lost me there?

[ Switchblade – Phildel ]

Ninth work from The Disappearance Of The Girl.
Switchblade is another song I love very much but was very difficult to pull off. Like Union Stone, it’s a very abstract song about an equally elusive concept and its only concrete metaphore, the switchblade, works better in literary form than visually. It was quite a hard piece of work to do, so I decided to read between the lines looking for its more general meaning and to let the music itself guide me. For one thing, the song feels “sunny” to me, which was a start for the general mood of the picture. Then, the chorus makes me think of a multitude of butterflies suddenly released in a wide space, or something floating in the air, on which I decided to elaborate. Finally, I think the underlying theme of the song is basically loneliness caused by the mistakes of the speaker in a relationship. It sounds like some sort of apology, the desire to reach for the addressee of the song. So there we go, I had a loose idea to start from.
The first thing I decided was to use a rural location, a “lonely landscape”, to give an idea of solitude – and again, Luisa and I were very lucky that we could get a lift out of town. Then, of course, I included the eponymous switchblade but I tried to turn it into a visual metaphore as well: the blade is bloody, which symbolises emotional wounds, but the blood floats in the air like magical painting trying to call back the person who left. It is supposed to symbolise how the emotional wounds were mostly unintentional and born because of love anyways. In many ways, this parallels Storm Song, but since the song has a softer mood, I settled for a softer image as well. And of course the butterflies, because to me they are in the song, period!
I have to admit that for this work I put a greater emphasis on the visual side to make up for the rather elusive concept, and if anything I hope I at least managed to create a beautiful work to behold, especially while listening to the song. It’s a bit more about visuals and mood, but I still think it stays quite true to the song.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Wolf

The Wolf by GothicNarcissusAnd you once said, ‘I wish you dead, you sinner.’
I’ll never be more than a wolf at your door for dinner.
And if I see you ‘round like a ghost in my town, you liar,
I’ll leave with your head. Oh, I’ll leave you for dead, sire.

You were sharp as a knife to get me.
You were a wolf in the night to fetch me back.
The wishes I’ve made are too vicious to tell.
Everyone knows I am going to hell…

And if it’s true,
I’ll go there with you.

And you once said, ‘I wish you dead, you sinner.’
I’ll never be more than a wolf at your door for dinner.
And if I see you ‘round like a ghost in my town, you liar,
I’ll leave with your head. Oh, I’ll leave you for dead, sire.

I know my way through the night to your door.
You know, the blood that I’m owed is all yours.
The wishes I’ve made are too vicious to tell.
The devil, already he knows me so well.

And if it’s true,
I’ll go there with you.

And you once said, ‘I wish you dead, you sinner.’
I’ll never be more than a wolf at your door for dinner.
And if I see you ‘round like a ghost in my town, you liar,
I’ll leave with your head. Oh, I’ll leave you for dead, sire.

[ The Wolf – Phildel ]

Eighth work from The Disappearance Of The Girl.
One of the things I love the most about Phildel’s music is she’s not afraid to show her dark side. Many of her songs have some kind of underlying dark imagery even when they’re actually abou love (see Afraid Of The Dark or Switchblade), and even more so when they are about people who hurt her. This is the case of The Wolf which, you may guess, is about her stepfather and calls for some quite explicit dark imagery. Due to its irresistible groove and the fact that both Luisa and I are very invested in the theme of freedom from religious oppression, this is one of our favourite songs on the album and we wanted the photo to truly be special.
The idea came out quite easily: blood, the door, Luisa’s beautiful black lace shirt, dark make up and more blood. Shooting was smooth as well, as my bedroom’s door looks quite creepy on its own, the light is always very soft. All I had to do was basically get Luisa’s hands bloody, have her pose and wait for the perfect expression to fit the song, which came really quickly. The most difficult part of the whole shooting was really cleaning the blood stains off my door. As for the rest, the image speaks pretty much by itself, I hope!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Afraid Of The Dark

Afraid Of The Dark by GothicNarcissusHolding you close feels like a cut-throat:
Losing blood, the weakness of falling in love…

And I was never afraid of the dark
Until you.
Oh, the weapon you make of my heart…
And it’s true,
I was never afraid of the dark
Until you
Oh, the weapon you make of my heart…

Resisting your soul is walking a tightrope.
The distant sound of dangerous ground: wolves are calling.

And I was never afraid of the dark,
No, I was never afraid until you.
Oh, the weapon you make of my heart…
And it’s true,
I was never afraid of the dark,
No, I was never afraid until you.
Oh, the weapon you make of my heart…

Love is believing…
Love is believing…

And I was never afraid of the dark,
No, I was never afraid until you.
Oh, the weapon you make of my heart…
And it’s true,
I was never afraid of the dark,
No, I was never afraid until you.
Oh, the weapon you make of my heart…
The weapon you make of my heart…

[ Afraid Of The Dark – Phildel ]

Seventh work from The Disappearance Of The Girl.
I often mentioned I have some difficulties when it comes to putting my favourite songs into images, and Afraid Of The Dark is definitely my favourite Phildel song. Weirdly enough, this time it wasn’t nearly as difficult as usual because I got the idea you can see from the very first time I heard it: it just emerged from the music and lyrics and there it was, ready to be shot. When Luisa and I first started discussing the idea of doing the project together, the then faceless figures simply became us.
The reason why I feel so connected with this song is I think it’s the best metaphorical representation of how falling in love feels to a sentimentally guarded person: dark, dangerous, disempowering, possibly deadly. I see so much of myself, how I feel and what I fear in these lyrics, which is one of the reasons why I decided I wanted to be in the photo myself: it’s my song, really. But despite identifying with the protagonist of the lyrics, for some reason I immediately pictured myself as the addressee of the song, the “dark” – maybe because I was too scared to picture myself in such a vulnerable way. I’d really rather be the seducer rather than the seduced one.
Of course, this work is 100% allegorical and based on the metaphors in the lyrics: I represent the dark and love, tempting a reluctant person who is falling in love, which is represented by the cut-throat and the tight heart pendant. Similarly to The Disappearance Of The Girl, the dark is engulfing the protagonist leaving her no choice. Which means that no, I am not addressing in any way, let alone romanticising, the subject of domestic violence against women or abusive relationships. Everything is purely symbolical. The styling is also functional to this concept, which is why I went back to my gothic look with black nail polish and heavy eye shadow, while Luisa is all in white and has a natural make up.
While the photo itself was quite easy to shoot thanks to Luisa’s amazing interpretation, the postproduction was a bit difficult because I wanted the image to be perfect and just as powerful as the original song. There had to be a lot of engulfing black but I didn’t want it to look empty, so I had to pull off a good texturisation. I opted for a thin veil of smoke to enhance the idea of engulfing, as well as the perceived dangerousness of love. I also let my figure blend with the background because I am not supposed to be a real person, just a personification. I’m extremely satisfied with the results and the chemistry Luisa and I showed, which is something I could have never done without someone who’s been one of my best friends for so many years now! I really recommend that you listen to the song while looking at the photo, and hope you feel the same emotion as I do.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Union Stone

Union Stone by GothicNarcissusYou know, even stones change shape in time,
Willingly they compromise.
And the sacrifice is mine
For your eyes,
‘Cause the feeling you bring home
Is comfort in the coldest stone.
Like a wish I go, I go
To be yours, oh…

Remember the way to the old town,
So-oh, oh, oh.
Clear as the call from the fair ground,
So-oh, oh, oh.
Oh, rip my lace to your shape now.
So-oh, oh, oh.
I’ll ask you for more of what you’ve found,
So-oh, oh, oh.

And the union is carved
From stone that is not to be halved.
And the imprints of the blood
Call this love.
And I join you in your walls,
We realise our own faults,
And as hearts we go, we go,
Humbled, oh…

Oh, remember the way to the old town,
So-oh, oh, oh.
Clear as the call from the fair ground,
So-oh, oh, oh.
Oh, rip my lace to your shape now.
So-oh, oh, oh.
I’ll ask you for more of what you’ve found,
So-oh, oh, oh.

[ Union Stone – Phildel ]

Sixth work from The Disappearance Of The Girl.
Union Stone was another of those elusive songs. It is a really beautiful portrayal of mutual love and being in a relationship (which per se isn’t of much help to me), but told in a very metaphorical, abstract way. The only concrete symbolism is the stone, which isn’t visually striking when it comes to representing love. So yeah, I basically had to try to clutch at straws for a long time before I could figure it out. And truth be told, I did mainly because a friend of mine offered to give Luisa and me a lift to the Rocca of Monfalcone, an old limestone fortress in Monfalcone, not far from Trieste.
Once I had a possible location, I decided to go for an equally metaphorical representation of the subject putting three of the key words into the image: the eponymous stone, the walls from the second verse and the sacrifice from the first. I basically portray Luisa in the act of sacrificing her security and pride, represented by the fortress, by raising a stone from its walls towards the viewer as an offering, allowing them into her emotional sphere. Thus, the solemn expression and very static, symmetrical composition. Although I feared it might seem pulled up by the hair, I think it fits the mood of the song which, while being quite gentle, has a solemn touch to it.
Despite the photo looking quite simple, it actually required a bunch of postproduction due to the many ugly antennae standing atop the fortress and a couple of touristic signs that ruined the view. Yeah, I cheated, but there was no way for me to avoid them altogether without screwing the geometry of the photo, so it had to be done. Sorry purists, there’s no place for that stuff in my idealised world.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Beside You

Beside You by GothicNarcissusEven if you were upside-down,
I would be beside you.
And your world were a strange thing found,
I would be beside you.
In my symbolised world I’m a beautiful girl.
In my house on the hill there is room for you still.

When there’s nothing but dark and sound,
I will be beside you.
When there’s nothing but the long way ‘round,
I will be beside you.
In my simplified world, we’re a boy and a girl.
In my house on the hill there is room for you still.

I’ll be everywhere you go,
You go, you go.
(I’ll be everywhere you go…)
I’ll be everywhere you go,
You go, you go.
In my symbolised world I’m a beautiful girl.
In my house on the hill there is room for you still.

When there’s nothing but roaring sound,
I will be beside you.
When there’s nothing but the long drop down,
I will be beside you.
When your fears are a swarm in the hive of your mind,
When the tears of your love and your loss are entwined...

(I’ll be everywhere you go…)
I’ll be everywhere you go,
You go, you go.
(I’ll be everywhere you go…)
I’ll be everywhere you go,
You go, you go.
In my symbolised world I’m a beautiful girl.
In my house on the hill there is room for you still.

I’ll be everywhere you go,
You go, you go.
I’ll be everywhere you go,
You go, you go.

[ Beside You – Phildel ]

Fifth work from The Disappearance Of The Girl.
Beside You was one of the first concepts I came up with. Not only is the music video visually striking, but the lyrics are also so surreal they are actually quite intuitive to put into an image. Ever since I shot with Luisa on the Scala dei Giganti in Trieste, people have kept telling me they were reminded of Escher’s work, Relativity. So I said, Escher it is: it fits perfectly with the upside-down theme, and I also recently watched the movie Upside Down, which was visually inspiring even though the storytelling was a bit of a let down. Besides, it was only fitting that Luisa and I come full circle and shoot there together again. The only thing I had to do was a quick inspection of the location to be 100% sure my idea was feasible, and… yes, it was!
While planning the photo, I decided to give two major nods to the music video, which are the poppies in Luisa’s hair and the butterfly. The latter is also meant to be a messenger symbolising the closeness even in such a surreal situation: no matter the circumstances, she will find a way to let him know she’s beside him, even if as frail as a butterfly. Also, I think it visually represents the delicacy of the melody and arrangement of the song, as does the bright sunlight.
To tell the truth, this was the most challenging work of the series. Not only because, while I was shooting, I had to visualise the upside-down background in my head, be in it and shoot the photo with Luisa accordingly both in terms of light and perspective, but also because the postproduction was massive. As a perfectionist, among the takes I had with Luisa I picked the one with a gust of wind that ruffles her hair which, while being more difficult to blend, was the best one because it would underline the motion of the butterfly. My graphic tablet helped a lot with the process. And of course, I had to pull out the same trick I used for Inverted Mirrors Of Decay and Sad Cypress for my own hair. This photo was the reason why I waited not to be busy at all before working on this series, as well as the last one to be finished, but the final result exceeded my highest expectations! It’s particularly rewarding because it allowed me to apply a lot of knowledge I’ve gained through experience, during my whole growth as a photographer. Until some time ago, I would have thought of such an idea as unfaisable, but there it is, directly from my mind.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Moonsea

Moonsea by GothicNarcissusI called it, I called it, I called it the moon scene,
It is a cruel dream:
At the end of my day your gravity reaches
Such a long way.
Here in the moon scene
It is a cruel dream.
Don’t share the past, if you won’t share your heart
All that we share is the view of these stars.

There are diamonds on the floor you can’t take back.
There’s an eyelash on the board, does she wear black?
I called it, I called it, I called it…
All the violence that I swore you could have back.
There’s red varnish on the door, I don’t wear that.

I called it, I called it, I called it the moon scene,
It is a cruel dream.
From up so high, I can hardly decide
If you’re waving hello or waving goodbye.
Here in the moon scene
It is a cruel dream.
Don’t share the past, if you won’t share your heart
All that we share is the view of these stars.

There are diamonds on the floor you can’t take back.
There’s an eyelash on the board, does she wear black?
I called it, I called it, I called it…
All the violence that I swore you could have back,
There’s red varnish on the door, I don’t wear that.
I called it, I called it, I called it…

And I’ll be in the back of your mind,
I’ll be at the front of the line,
And I’ll be in the back of your mind,
I’ll be at the front of the line,
Waiting for you…

[ Moonsea – Phildel ]

Fourth work from The Disappearance Of The Girl.
Moonsea… Gosh, that was a tough one! This is actually one of my very favourite songs from the album, so I found it a bit surprising it was so hard to figure out visually. The only thing I had very clear from the beginning was the styling: Luisa’s beautiful white dress and the Moon headpiece, which was customarily done by Cunene for my friend Deborah Luna, that I indeed borrowed about one year before shooting, as soon as Luisa and I started discussing the project. I also had a general idea for the pose and light, as well as to use a black background, but I still felt the overall image wouldn’t do justice to the beautiful song: how to capture that aethereal, mystical beauty and give it a moon-like feel? So I kept listening it hoping to get a really good hint.
The real problem was, I did have an idea, but I wanted it to be as little digital as possible, which is of course impossible for a song whose key metaphore is a lunar landscape. If anything, at least I wanted it to be made chiefly of resources of mine, so at some point, when I visited Capo Testa with my mother last summer, I even took a few stock photos of the white rocks there. Unfortunately, the light we had that day turned out to be too sharp for my needs, so I had to scrap them.
When I came to the actual postproduction, the first thing I thought was obviously texturising the background with the stars I shot last august, which improved the situation (at least there was a visual connection with the “diamonds” in the lyrics) but still wasn’t quite god enough. Eventually, I resigned and decided that who cares, the portrait was still mine. So I resolved to, err, borrow a few Apollo shots (sorry, NASA!) and go digital. That’s it, I really couldn’t do otherwise. Also, working on Translunaria earlier this year helped me find the key to a good “lunar” blend: luminescent dust, that’s the trick!
Always due to my deep love for this song, I did a lot of takes asking Luisa to move her arms and try to call/wave hello or goodbye from afar to her “Earthling” addressee, but I had such high expectations for this photo I was never satisfied despite her great work. Finally, when I hit play on the song to give the “mood” for the shooting, I had the idea: I asked Luisa to sing along. The trick worked for a photo inspired by another song I love (which is still unreleased and unpostproduced because I have some kind of “sacred awe” for it), and did wonders on this one too: singing along makes you focus on the lyrics, and they bring along the mood. So here we are, and at last I’m very, very satisfied and proud with this work: despite deviating a bit from the proper photography genre, I can see the song in it, which was the main goal anyways.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Mistakes

Mistakes by GothicNarcissusIt’s too much to discuss sober.
I know just why you think,
That you need an anaesthetised mouth to
Say all those bladed things.

Need you like I need a headache,
Need you like I need my mistakes, right here.
Need you like I need a downpour,
I don’t need you but I need so much more, right here.

It’s too much to discuss lovers,
I know how much you’ve lied.
It’s too much to discuss numbers,
I know how much I’ve let slide.

Need you like I need a headache,
Need you like I need my mistakes, right here.
Need you like I need a downpour,
I don’t need you but I need so much more, right here.

Time is always, harder on the quiet days,
Brings back up that old sacrifice:
You’ve cost me more than I ever knew before,
And looking back I cannot deny.

Need you like I need a headache,
Need you like I need my mistakes.
Need you like I need a downpour,
I don’t need you but I need so much more.

[ Mistakes – Phildel ]

Third work from The Disappearance Of The Girl.
Differently from Storm Song, Mistakes was a more dificult song to decipher: most of the symbolism in it is abstract and doesn’t really give much hints about how to render it visually. This is why I decided to pay hommage and get inspired by the music video and use a tangle of thread to represent the concept. Only, I decided to use a red woolen thread because the bright colour would stand out more in the photo and give a stronger visual idea of the “dangerousness” of the “mistakes” (as well as not to copy the video too much). Once I decided this basic visual, the rest came out by itself: Luisa trying to reach out from her tangle of mistakes to the viewer (who in my idea is also the addressee of the lyrics). Beside, again, not to copy the video, the reason why I decided to create a tangle of threads all around Luisa rather than on herself was I wanted to visually get as close as possible to the melody of the song: I think the association of the thread with strings can provide a synaesthetic link to the dynamic pizzicato violins.

This photo was particularly fun to take because I had to tangle the whool to any place I could find in my room: furniture, nails, the handle and hinges of the door, even shoes! I kind of regret I didn’t take a backstage picture because at that point my room looked really absurd. Meanwhile, Luisa was very patient to wait in her corner for me to be satisfied with the pattern. She immediately did a great job at posing and the only reason I did multpile takes on the photo was to vary the perspective in order to get the best “design” from the threads. I’m very happy with this photo because the very short depth of field I used blurred many details giving the image the softer, painting-like feel I wanted it to have.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Storm Song

Storm Song by GothicNarcissusI’ll send a storm to capture your heart and bring you home.
Oh, carried on the breeze, you’ll never find me gone.
Oh, faster than the post train, burning like a slow flame on,
I’ll send a storm to capture your heart and bring you home.

Even though the landscape stretches like a hard day,
Even though the old man says I have a fool’s plan,
Oh, despite the distance, you will see my footprints,
I will raise my flagpole, I will turn these tables ‘round.

I’ll send a storm to capture your heart and bring you home.
Oh, carried on the breeze, you’ll never find me gone.
Oh, faster than the post train, burning like a slow flame on,
I’ll send a storm to capture your heart and bring you home.

Though I’ve said the worse things, and I can’t reverse things,
Secrets of the floor lay gambled in the doorway.
Oh, I’ve made the mistakes and I have learnt the hard way,
Even though you leave me crying like a banshee, ooh…

I’ll send a storm to capture your heart and bring you home.
Oh, carried on the breeze, you’ll never find me gone.
Oh, faster than the post train, burning like a slow flame on,
I’ll send a storm to capture your heart and bring you home.

[ Storm Song – Phildel ]

As I promised, here is the second work from The Disappearance Of The Girl. As I’m going to follow the tracklist, it is inspired by the second track of Phidel’s album.
Compared to other photos from this series, working on Storm Song was quite easier from a brainstorming and conceptual viewpoint: the most prominent metaphor, the storm, is quite visual and provided me with a perfect standpoint to develop my own rendition. The idea of Luisa summoning a storm like in the chorus of the song was quite powerful to begin with, and Trieste, a seaside city, provides with interesting locations for this kind of images. The rest was sheer luck: the weather changed into murky and very windy, which on the one hand gave me the perfect light and background conditions, and on the other gave the photo a certain dynamism and realism with Luisa’s hair blowing in the wind (although we had to tie most of it because the wind was very strong, as you can see by the charm in her bracelet blowing too).
I did a bit of digital enhancement to the concept by having some clouds gathering around Luisa’s hands to strengthen the idea of her conjuring the storm rather than being in the middle of it, and I linked the image further to Phidel’s visuals by adding the same windrose you can see in the video, also to “point” the storm to the right direction and look for the person in the lyrics (it is actually accurate in my photo: that’s really west, which I signed with the O for “ovest”, in Italian, because it would look a bit too similar to the N and E otherwise).
All in all, once the weather conditions I needed were met, this was a rather easy photo to pull off, but just as satisfying as the more complex ones from the series. It has a generally darker mood than the previous one as the song itself is more energetic and, again, I wanted to stay true to its sound and mood.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Disappearance Of The Girl

The Disappearance Of The Girl by GothicNarcissusI don’t know where I’ve been,
And it’s been such a long time
Since I really saw the difference
Between you and I…
And I don’t know where I stand,
Faced with a cruel world.
I’d say everything points to
The disappearance of the girl…

Ooh, yeah-hey, yeah-hey,
If I, if I could persuade you…
Hey, yeah-hey, yeah-hey,
You know, you know he betrays you,
Hey, yeah-hey, yeah-hey,
As much, as much as he saves you.
Yeah-hey, yeah-hey.

I need you to see
There’s not much innocence
In the imposed darkness
Of imposed silence.
I need you to see
The good in everything,
For the only thing that saves you
Is your economy of blessings.

Ooh, yeah-hey, yeah-hey,
If I, if I could persuade you…
Hey, yeah-hey, yeah-hey,
You know, you know he betrays you,
Hey, yeah-hey, yeah-hey,
As much, as much as he saves you.
Yeah-hey, yeah-hey.

Are you still waiting
For the real thing to save you?
‘Cause it isn’t there
And you know that he doesn’t even care
About you.

Ooh, yeah-hey, yeah-hey,
If I, if I could persuade you…
Hey, yeah-hey, yeah-hey,
You know, you know he betrays you,
Hey, yeah-hey, yeah-hey,
As much, much as he saves you.
Yeah-hey, yeah-hey.

[ The Disappearance Of The Girl – Phildel ]

So, here is the first work from the new series, inspired by the title track of the album, which was also the first photo Luisa and I shot. As dark as Phildel’s music can be at times be, one of its fundamental qualities is a certain frailty, delicacy and etherealness, which I tried to capture in the work that “introduces” the project.
Despite the song being about a very dark subject, namely Phildel’s segregation at the hands of her stepfather, it still feels very bright, almost mystical to me. While in the accompanying video she represented the “disappearance” as drowning, I tried a more metaphorical approach by making Luisa fade into light, as if she were being engulfed by bright white fabric in a ritual sacrifice. I can feel some kind of acceptance in the song, which is why I gave the photo a kind of ecstatic ascension to a higher level of conscience aesthetic, like a Rapture of sort.

The hardest thing about this photo was getting the fabric to look right: I wanted it to look both recognizable and unreal at the same time, as well as dynamic enough to be engulfing Luisa while being very bright. There you can see my curtains, a couple of bedsheets and some spare white tulle I had. Also, I needed all that white not to distract the attention from the model. The light entirely comes from the window behind, so I had to work hard with the exposition to get the photo right. Luisa did a grat work at portraying the kind of ecstatic disappearance I had in mind, so the result is exactly what I wanted for the photo.

The Disappearance Of The Girl: presentation

Among the several music albums released last year, one of the most beautiful and inspirational was hands down The Disappearance Of The Girl by Phildel. Her music has got everything I love and find inspirational: delicate melodies, elegant arrangements, emotional depth and lots of symbolism in the lyrics. As ambitious as she is, Phildel also released a video for almost each of the songs in the album, adding some beautiful visuals to ther music.
The story behind her creativity and the reason why her music is so pristine, personal and intertwined with images is quite shocking: when her parents divorced, her mother remarried to an abusive religious fundamentalist who banned music altogether from the household, deeming it an unholy waste of time. Phildel, who was eight at the time, grew up isolated from contemporary music and forced to practice in secrecy at school during break. As music was such a huge emotional output for her, she started “visualising” melodies in her head in order to keep up her creativity, until she ran away from home and started a new life. Finally free, before she released her debut vocal album, her instrumental music made it to several advertisements on TV and on the net, including the Apple iPad 3 commercial.
Given all the circumstances, it’s no wonder hes music proved to be this inspirational not only to me, but also to my dear friend Luisa, who introduced me to Phildel’s music in the first place. She’s an artistically very sensitive soul, so was deeply touched by these songs, just as I was. And since I always love working with her when it comes to photography, we decided to take some pictures inspired by the album together.
We started talking about this project last year, but due to her job and my studies, as well as living very far from each other, we could not arrange anything concrete for a long time. Meanwhile, I kept brainstorming and gathering ideas for the photos, as the thought of making a whole series about this album really fascinated me. At long last, we arranged to meet this year in early May and set things in motion. 

From an aesthetic and technical viewpoint, this project is primarly photographic. Nevertheless, due to the delicacy and specificity of the symbols in the lyrics, it also requires some digital touches every now and then. I wouldn’t call any work a downright photomanipulation, though, as I’ve worked on actual photographs to a much greater degree than, say, the Infernal Lords. All the digital art is strictly aimed to enhach qualities already in the photos or, occasionally, give them a mystical or surreal twist to fit the overall mood and symbolism of the songs, rather than producing a brand new image out of thin air. So yeah, I’d still call all the works photographs despite some of them requiring some very laborious editing.
While being a huge fan and knowing the songs very well, Luisa is the perfect model for this series also due to her delicate, Pre-Raphaellite-like features, which naturally recall the kind of mystical imagery I wanted to allude to.

Now, if you’re afraid you’re going to face another long-term, slowly proceeding, never finishing series of mine, with a photo popping up once in a blue moon, don’t be. Due to the aforementioned constraints, this time we had to do it quickly. I brainstormed ideas for all the photos on time before Luisa came to visit me, we planned all the styling and make up beforehand, and finally we shot all twelve photos within two afternoons on consecutive days. It was quite a tour de force: we took advantage of every second we had to shoot, as the weather was constantly and rapidly changing so we had to fit certain photos which needed a particular mood and light into those narrow windows of time, or else we could not have a second chance. Also, differently from my usual method, I really did a lot of takes to be sure each photo was technically perfect, as all twelve had to make the final cut and be published. It was quite tyring, but very rewarding nevertheless.
Unfortunately, I could not bring myself to postproducing the photos until just recently due to previous commissioned jobs I had to work on, as well as exams and other business at university. As I mentioned above, I knew from the start that the postproduction would be a massive process here, so I rather waited to have my head clear of other business and be able to fully commit to this series. It is a very important work to me, so I just wanted it to be perfect, even if it took more time to complete it. So far, both Luisa and I are extremely satisfied with the results, so I can say it was worth the wait. I will be publishing one photo per day and I hope you’ll be enjoying them as well.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Illusions

Illusions by *GothicNarcissusDecode the half forgotten memories
Reverberating distantly.
Some have moments that they can’t subdue,
Some take part in the electric blue.

Look away, look away...

He watched the lines and the curvature
And traced her silhouette.
She stayed the moment with a glimpse and a frown.
She took the fates by surprise.
She was the model for the end of days.

Some have moments that they can’t subdue,
Some take part in the electric blue.

Look away, look away...
Look away, look away...

These are the days now,
This season will change us.
Be someone, trust no one,
Vicious circle, never ending.
These are the days now,
This season will change us.
This breakdown, disruption,
Ease the pain now, please start ending.

Disarrayed and renewed,
And everything’s electric blue.
Polarised and dismayed,
When everything else is just untrue.

Disarrayed and renewed,
And everything’s electric blue.
Polarised and dismayed,
When everything else is just untrue.

And everything’s electric blue,
Everything else is just untrue.

Everything is electric blue,
Everything is untrue.

[ Illusions – Theatre of Tragedy ]

For some reasons not even I can quite understand, in my mind there is some sort of bond between Hollow, Frozen and Illusions, which are three songs on Theatre of Tragedy’s majestic album, Forever Is The World. So, I decided to do matching works about those songs with assembled photographs, because they kept giving me lots of images but none of them did represent the song as a whole. The idea is to make up images looking like a glossy magazine editorial with fashion portraits and a waterolour-looking title.
To be honest, I could have shot this one any time in the past months – indeed, I shot the ceiling of the top left photo like ages ago aptly for this project. But I absolutely wanted BriarRose to be in it and I needed Milan Central Station as the location, which isn’t exactly the best of matches because she hates that station and admittedly it’s not the best of places for a woman to wear fancy clothes in. The wait paid off, though, because meanwhile she sew herself this amazing dress for a Hunger Games cosplay, which was perfect for the photos. The funny thing is, I wanted it but it was her who suggested we could use it for this shooting in the first place. Yay for sibling telepathy!
Another good reason for waiting is the song is not very straight-forward when it comes to its meaning and, out of the three, it gave me the hardest time to figure out what to do. When I went to Norway in April I had the chance to have a long nice talk with Nell Sigland and discuss pretty much all the Theatre of Tragedy songs which she contributed writing, including this one. This helped me refine the general idea and confirm which parts I wanted to develop visually. I decided to cover the lines of the lyrics I feel were most emotional or visually striking: the silhouette (which is why I needed this particular location: those huge windows!), looking away (Nell’s voice gives me shivers on those lines) and, of course, the electric blue, which was also a working title for the song at some point. I also had quite some luck, because while I had planned all along to construct a geometrical composition with each photo pointing to the next, there was no way I could possibly have BriarRose look exactly at the central point of the next photo, but amazingly, she did.
The next and final work from this series will be Frozen, and it will have to wait until God knows when because I will need to find myself in a certain place with, ah ah ah, snow. Which would be easier done than said if I lived in some fancy Northern country, but alas, Italy is what we get. We won’t be talking about it before next winter anyways.
Meanwhile, enjoy Illusions, possibly while listening to the related song meanwhile!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Narcissist Song

The Narcissist Song by GothicNarcissusHello again, it’s me
Whispering noises in your ear.
I’m the voice you can’t ignore,
I’m the born that you don’t want to hear,
I’m the choice that you regret,
The army that you led.
I’m the branch within your eye,
I’m the stalker, I’m the spy.

And my mum has told me never to go out,
And the daughter should have never screamed and shouted.
And the grave you dig me never will be found.
Take the best from me – never strike it down.

Please, write a book about yourself:
You’ve deserved the attention.
The dramas you live through
Are those to be mentioned.
Threw everything in flames.
The world’s on fire
To suffocate my name,
Identities I want to hire.

And my mum has told me never to go out,
And the daughter should have never screamed and shouted.
And the grave you dig me never will be found.
Take the best from me – never strike it down.

[ The Narcissist Song – Leandra ]

Here we go again with the Morphine series, Isomorphine part. I have to admit that thematically it is very close to the two Mirrors Of Decay, as all three works feature me as the model and mirrors. In the case of The Narcissist Song, though, there are other reasons: the mirror is meant to represent the idea of narcissism and I decided to model myself because… well, with such a title this song has to be mine. There is also a certain degree of surrealism as the reflection is different from the “real” world: this choice was made because I wanted to represent the subtle creepiness of the melody, creating a somewhat disquieting image. Also, the two figures act differently: the “real” me is more insecure, with the diary (the “book about yourself”) closed to keep the secrets, while the reflection looks more cocky and holds the open diary to represent narcissism and the deserved attention. Finally, the lit candle represents a sort of homage to the self. My original concept included the addition of some painted daffodils in my hair, but I eventually scrapped the idea because the photo was already very rich in details.
The concept for this work was born the first time I listened to the song: the mirror in the corridor of my house in Trieste with the two lamps on both sides fit perfectly the idea, so it was quite immediate. On a side note, I shot the photo before the Easter break with the help of my mother, DamaInNero, who had come to Trieste for a short visit. We shot the photo in about five minutes right before going to the airport to fly back at her place for the holidays, so I wasn’t even sure the outcome would be good. Fortunately it is and after postproducing it I’m totally in love with this photo!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A Fine Day To Exit

Temporary Peace by GothicNarcissusDeep inside the silence, staring out upon the sea.
The waves are washing over half forgotten memory.
Deep within the moment, laughter floats upon the breeze,
Rising and falling, dying down within me.

And I swear I never knew, I never knew how it could be.
And all this time, all I had inside was what I couldn’t see.
I swear I never knew, I never knew how it couldn’t be.
All the waves are washing over all that hurts inside of me.

Beyond this beautiful horizon lies a dream for you and I.
This tranquil scene is still unbroken by the rumours in the sky.
There’s a storm closing in, voices crying on the wind.
The serenade is growing colder, breaks my soul that tries to sing.
There’s so many, many thoughts when I try to go to sleep,
But with you I start to feel a sort of temporary peace.
There’s a drift in and out, drift in and out,
Drift in and out, drift in and out,
Drift in and out, drift in and out,
Drift in and out, drift in and out,
Drift in and out, drift in and out,
Drift…

[ Temporary Peace – Anathema ]

A Fine Day To Exit by GothicNarcissus
This is how I spent my Valentine’s Day: out at the beach taking photos with my mom.
I needed some time before I got back at editing these pictures because it was a strangely emotional day. We went there to pay a visit to the tomb of our cat Murka and then went for a walk looking for some photographic ideas (and dropping both our lens caps in the sand, yay). I don’t really know how these two photos came out, but in some ways they were very cathartic. I was already in a gloomy Anathema mood after shooting The Lost Child and the sound of the waves, the wind and the murky sky amplified it. Plus, visiting my cat’s tomb felt a bit strange: it was the first time I got the feeling there was actually someone buried there, that if I dug I could still find her body there. I understood what they mean when they say tombs are made for the living, to give them a faint connection to the dead and make them feel closer.
I’m still missing Murka badly and I was that afternoon, too, but there was some sort of cold comfort in thinking we have a special place to remember her by. And after all, I was still there with my mom doing one of the things we love the most – photography – and we have countless memories of Murka to share and warm our heart with. It felt refreshing after a whole week of apathy: I’m not very good at connecting with my feelings and photography is one of the few things that helps me do so, especially when people I love are involved. Perhaps that’s the reason why it felt so liberating to hand my camera to my mom and have her picture my feelings while I was humming the song. That moment didn’t felt lonely or painful because we put our feelings into the photos and let go a bit of the hurt.
This is why, after editing the photos, I decided to wait a couple more days and publish them today, which is my mom’s birthday: it’s beautiful to have someone always to count on, to know we can always comfort each other not only with words, but just by sharing these moments.
I love you, mom.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Internal Landscapes

Internal Landscapes by GothicNarcissus‘And I felt myself going. I was in a great deal of pain. It was a very frightening experience, but I began to slip, to just sort of feel myself going. And I remember trying to hold on, I’ll be ok, I’ll be ok, and it got to the point where I just couldn’t, and everything began to just become very quiet. And I can remember with every ounce of strength I had I wanted to say goodbye to my wife. It was important to me. And I did, I remember just turning my head, looking at her and saying, ‘I’m gonna die. Goodbye Joan.’ And I did.
It was then that I experienced what we call a near-death experience. For me there was nothing near about it. It was there. It was a total immersion in light, brightness, warmth, peace, security. I did not have an out-of-body experience, I did not see my body or anyone about me, I just immediately went into this beautiful bright light. It’s difficult to describe. Matter of fact, it’s impossible to describe. Verbally, it cannot be expressed. It’s something which becomes you and you become it. I could say that I was peace, I was love, I was the brightness. It was part of me.’

Goodbye, my friend.
Love will never end.
And I feel like you
And I breathe all truth.

Love is the lifebreath inside of me.
Love is the true light inside of me.
And I know you somehow,
As I hold you in my heart,
(Senses following me)
In my heart.
(Senses following me)

There’s a fire in the sky
And I know it’s you.
(Senses following me,
Senses following me.)
There’s a light that’s so bright
And I know it’s you,
(Senses following me)
I know it’s you.
(Senses following me)

And I dream like you
(Senses following me,
Senses following me.)
And I believe in truth.
(Senses following me,
Senses following me.)
For I was always there
And I will always be there.

‘And it’s just so beautiful. It was eternity. It’s like I was always there, and I will always be there… that my existence on earth was just a very brief instant. I could say that I was peace, I was love, I was the brightness. It was part of me.’

[ Internal Landscapes – Anathema ]

I have a weird relationship with Internal Landscapes. I know it’s an important song for both Danny and Vincent Cavanagh, the latter spoke very fondly of it during the interview I gave him in 2012 and said they considered it to be the title track of the album, they’re enthusiastic about the near-death experience monologue, but I never got fully into it. I mean, yes, it’s a nice song and everything, but up until some time ago, I couldn’t relate to it at all. It just left me cold. Then, one evening, it happened: I was listening to it and suddenly realised just how deeply emotional it is, I got shivers all over and knew exactly what to do with it. (Interesting, it was the 50th time I was listening to the whole album – which means it was also the 50th time I listened to this song, as it is the least played on Weather Systems).
I once mentioned each of my project has an odd one out among the bunch – in this case, The Storm Before The Calm, which was split into two works. Well, here we get two odd ones out, as I decided to take a different approach while making Internal Landscapes: a diptych with a portrait and a landscape like the other works, but mingled. So I did a portrait with a faint overimpressed landscape, and a landscape with a faint portrait in it. I thought this was the best way to represente the oneness of all, the spiritual connection between the individuals and the whole world around them. (No wonder it took me a while to figure out such a concept, given it is as far away as it could be from my beliefs – or lack thereof).
I don’t exactly know why I chose Uriele to model for this photo: while I was having that fateful 50th listen and the song “spoke to me”, it pointed him itself. Like, I saw him in my head and knew he had to be, end of the story. And yeah, he did a great modelling job and showed the exact feeling I needed with very little direction (it felt kinda stupid to say aloud, “You must be reaching for the very spirit of the world around and the love that pervades everything”, so I keep it vague).

And here we go. After this photo, although there are only two left, the Weather Systems project is going to take an indefinite hiatus, the reasons of which I will explain in an upcoming post about how my long-term projects are doing. Meanwhile  may not be the love, or the brightness, but I hope I could convey those feelings through my work.