Monday, 14 December 2015

Astaroth reloaded

Those of you who have followed The Infernal Lords from the beginning may have noticed that I have gone back and fixed many of them all though the duration of the project as soon as my postproduction skills allowed it. The most noticeable editing was that of Legion, with a complete remake of the spirits in the bottom, and the embellishment of Mammon’s wings. But I also changed the wings of Astarte, fixed the light on Barbelo, replaced Beelzebub’s pomegranate… yeah, there’s been a lot of rework, especially on the earlier entries of the series.
Yet, I’ve always been very adverse to the idea of re-shooting a published work altogether. True, I re-shot Decarabia and Leonard because the first takes were absolute failures, but I didn’t publish the photos until after I shot and postproduced the second take, so it doesn’t really count: there’s only one final version of both works. The furthest I’d gone was to discard Sandalphon from the series altogether and replace it with a brand new work, Naamah, which is again very different.
And now, in spite of it all, here I am with an all new updated version of Astaroth which is actually a re-shooting done six years later. I can never keep a resolution, can I?

Now, let’s be clear: I love the old version of Astaroth and it’s basically the one photo that got me here, that turned GothicNarcissus from a mere hobby into a very serious artistic outlet. This is why I’m not deleting it but merely moving it to the Evil In The World side-project as Young Duke Of Terror. But let’s also be honest: it’s a very naive work. It does have a spark and meaning, but it’s also very flawed. The light is off, the angle is awkward due to my use of a slight wide-angle, my hair was too short to convincingly do the messy high ponytail thing… and the make up is really overdone. Seriously, what the hell was I thinking with all that eyeliner and mascara?
Rose-coloured glasses aside, it’s not only below my current quality standard, but also that of the rest of the project. It’s sort of the odd work out, with a much closer cut on the face and a less portrait-ish feel overall. While Astaroth kick-started The Infernal Lords, what really defined the aesthetics for the series was the next work, Astarte; so the former has always felt a bit off compared to what came afterwards.
I didn’t really have a problem with that until I finalised my decision to cut my hair short. When I did, I wanted to have absolutely no regrets so I decided to try and re-shoot Astaroth, you know, just in case, without necessarily wanting to replace the old work; just to see what woud come out of it and where it would get me with postproduction. After I was done, that was it, the result really blew my mind.

Recreating a six-year-old self-portrait was a much more difficult task than I expected. It took me nearly two hours and some ninety takes to get what I wanted. I mean, recreating a photo is tough on its own, shooting a self-portrait without a remote control is difficult too, but try to do that while your cheap softbox tends to burn the lightbulbs in no time at all and is literally melting in its own heat. But deadline it was and I was adamant in trying to get the best Astaroth possible before I couldn’t anymore. I even went back to shooting after I downloaded the first bunch on my computer as none really satisfied me, and you know what they say, third time’s a charm.
As you can see, I tried to respect all my artistic choices from the original photo, from the pose to the general lighting set up, just upgraded to what I can do now. I also stayed true to the general styling, although I wore some less garrish clothes and I definitely updated the make up to something wearable. The only liberty I took was to keep on my full beard because let’s face it, it’s so much better than the goatee.
The postproduction was as tricky as the first time because blending wings in that damn pose is no piece of cake, but finally having a graphic tablet really helped the cause, especially in blending the wing behind the hair and making the feathers more… err, feathery on the edges. In the end, the result satisfied me beyond any expectations.

Now, the new version is just as much Astaroth as the old one was. No more, no less. Both works represent the character I had in mind and are equally meaningful to me. Contrary to many of my earliest photos, Young Duke Of Terror makes me smile affectionately and really warms my heart, it has that something special that will never fade away from my heart. On the other hand, the new Astaroth has the same spark but shows how much I’ve grown as a photographer and digital artist. It also has a personal meaning as it is the very last photo I shot with long hair, sort of a “full circle” or “I open at the close” thing. I have absolutely no regrets about the hair, but going back to my roots before such a big change gave it some sort of deeper meaning.
It has not been an easy decision but, considering how much The Infernal Lords mean to me, I think the series deserves a more constant overall quality, so the new version is from now on the official Astaroth from the project. But given how much the old version means to me on its own, it does not harm to have it as a companion piece.
And so, that’s it. Next thing, I’m going to write an overdue recap of my long-term projects so you can keep trac of them and know how (little) I’m progressing with The Infernal Lords. I must admit that each time I do something about it, then I go all over the place and start trying and arrange as much as I can from my place. Let’s see if I can keep momentum.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Lento Doloroso

Lento Doloroso by GothicNarcissus
[ Intro – Hurts ]

Okay, bear with me: back during the Happiness tour, before the gig proper started, Hurts used to play a two-minute-and-a-half intro which basically consistef of industrial-ish beats, a girl weeping and lots of strings: you can hear it, for instance, at the beginning of the Live In Berlin DVD on the deluxe edition of Happiness. As weird as it might sound, I found that two minute and a half intro very inspirational: I thought it would be cool to take a funeral-ish photo to go along with the song.
I didn’t have a very precise idea about it until a few weeks ago, when I decided to have my hair cut short: although I’ve fallen out of love with it, it’s still a big part of my life so, once I had it cut, it would be fitting to give it some funeral of sort. And here the idea for a sombre picture of me holding my severed briad in one hand and taking my hat off in mouring. I must say I’m quite pleased about how sad the photo turned out to be, fitting with the song, because to be honest I’m over the moon about my new look. Anyway, before you freak out I recommend that you read this post, in which I detailed the reasons for my choice.
There’s not much to say: it’s a quick introduction to my new look, like the song is a quick introduction for the gig: quite fitting, isn’t it?
Side note: calling a photo “Intro” seemed a bit silly, so I borrowed the tagline from the Happiness album.

GothicNarcissus changes his look

I guess it’s sort of silly to write a blog entry explaining why I decided to have my hair cut short but, considering what a great part of my artistic image it’s been, I think it might not harm to provide a bit of insight about my decision.
To put it simple: I just fell out of love with my long hair in any way you could imagine. Lately it had become like one of those exhausted relationships that drag on out of sheer habit: you’re totally dissatisfied with it but you keep wallowing in it because changes scare the hell out of you and you’re afraid you might miss the old routine. That’s unhealthy because that way you miss any opportunities that might be waiting outside. How does that translate to having long hair?
Well, on a practical, everyday-life standpoint, mantainance was a bitch. I had to plan my time according to when I would be washing it because it took a godawful amont of time to dry properly, not to mention masks, henna and whatever it took to keep it healthy. Besides, Yahweh just had to be a dick and create the universe in a prime number of days, so I just couldn’t have fixed days with a regular amount of time in-between washes, I had to improvise every week when I would be doing all the routine. I’m trying to realise how many things are making my life more difficult to live, and being nervous to go out just because my hair is a mess and I don’t have time to wash it quickly surely doesn’t help. Besides, in the last months I’ve basically never worn my hair down except specifically for some photos. In everyday life, I’ve always kept it either tied up in a ponitail or collected in a chignon in public, or messily pinned up with a hairclip when at home. Also, let’s be honest – and girls will agree: hair accessories are impractical during sex, while hair down just keeps gettin in the way. All in all, I just wanted it out of the way as much as possible, so at some point I started wondering, what’s the point in keeping it long if it’s more of an annoyance than a thing to enjoy?
From an artistic point of view, I hate stagnation and like to experiment with my look. Unfortunately, when you’re a long-haired man, there’s only a handful of possible options to have your hair tied up, which gets particularly frustrating when you’re a period look enthusiast like I am. Most of the fancy hairdos are either strictly feminine or very impractical, or have subculture-specific connotations which I don’t feel mine. Now yes, I do give a big middle finger to gender conventions and all, but I am male, I identify as such and want to look the part. I wouldn’t go out – or pose – sporting a topknot, a curtain hair, a fingerwaved faux-bob, snoods, victory rolls, beehives or stuff like that. On the other hand, short hair gives me a wide range of possibilities to explore, from the Thirties waxed style to the Fourties pompadour to basically anything. Also, short hair allows me to play around with eye make up without looking like a goth stereotype or downright a girl. Aesthetically, for the kind of works I’m aiming for, a man-in-make-up look is more interesting and compelling than an androgynous one, especially because I already have ambiguous facial features.
Finally, and more importantly, I just feel the need to change. Lady Gaga says, “I am my hair” , which is very true to me. Until this morning, my hair felt like a big burden, something that kept getting tangled and slowing me down, and I frankly don’t want to be that anymore. Right now I’m in a very cheerful mood and I feel relieved and confident. This is definitely a change that I needed and it turned out to be much more positive than I expected.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Lullaby

Lullaby by GothicNarcissusListen to the angels’ scream.
‘Round your body cages rust.
So warm the venom in your veins,
You are there.

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

Do you wanna have a dream or two?
Do you wanna have a dream or two?
Do you wanna have a dream or two?
I don’t.
No, I don’t.

You will see the end of me
Taking your virginity.
So cute the worms inside your head.
Don’t be scared, don’t be scared.

Do you wanna have a dream or two?
Do you wanna have a dream or two?
Do you wanna have a dream or two?
I don’t.
No, I don’t, no!

Aah, aah… Aah, aah, aah, ooh…
No… have… eeh… ehh…
No… I have… wanna have… ooh… uuh…
…You’ll have a dream, you’ll have a dream…
…You’ll have, have a dream or…
…You wanna have a… a dream or two…

[ Lullaby – Leandra ]

Fun fact: I risked missing my train to shoot this photo, but boy, was it worth it!
I’m not entirely sure if the idea for this photo predates that for a whole Morphine project or not, but of one thing I’m sure: since the first time I pictured it in my head, I knew I wanted Knajfer Wintermere to pose with me for this one. Also, it was one of the first ideas I came up with in regards of graphical depictions of Leandra’s music.
Let’s just say the basic idea, though, because what you can see was sort of improvised on the spot while we were shooting. Most of the things I had originally planned are there: Knajfer looking frightened as in a waking nightmare with his brain bleeding out of his nose; black clothes; a dimly lit, grungy background; and then me putting said waking nightmare in his head. In my original idea, though, I was just supposed to stand behind him with my hands on his head, kind of squeezing the nightmare into his mind like some sort of Incubus or mythological creature.
Then, while we were shooting, it dawned on me: this song is literally a lullaby – a very twisted, unsettling one; also, there’s something creepily sexy about it. What if I actually leaned down and started whispering it into my victim’s ear those words in a creepy-slash-sexy way? Boom! I tried it, I stood up, I looked at the camera miniscreen and there it was, the very photo I wanted. A reminder that no matter how much I plan a photo, when sudden gusts of inspiration hit, I just grab and inject them into the blend.

And so, here we are, it’s Wednesday, December 2nd 2015. Tomorrow is the day. The funny thing is, I have another Inspiration Hurts and Morphine photos coming out after “the big deal”, but I’m scared to death of going on and then taking them. You too, be prepared, because they’re probably going to shock you – especially if you’ve been following me for some years now.
See you tomorrow, dearies.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Cupid

Cupid by GothicNarcissusSay a little prayer for me.
Cupid, shoot your arrows into me.
I feel lust like a sick disease
And my blood ignites when I hold you close to me.

And I’ll never let you go.
Cupid, I’ll never let you go.

Bring my lover to her knees,
Pierce her skin and make her fall in love with me,
’Cause I swear I’ll make you bleed
If you break my heart when I hold you close to me.

Cupid, I’ll never let you go.
Cupid, I’ll never let you go.

[ Cupid – Hurts ]

And here’s another couple-of-years-old idea that finally made it into a photo. I must say that working under approaching strict deadlines makes me extremely productive.
Cupid is one of my favourite tracks on Hurts’ Exile and was one of the first images I had in mind while listening to the album: a very posh photo (like the song is) with a present-day Cupid trying to shoot a victim who refuses to be hit by his arrow and struggles to redirect it to him out of spite. It fits well with the lyrics of the song as well as my non-existent inclination to fall in love, so the conceptual thinking was quick to sort out. Despite the action, I still wanted the photo to look somewhat static, perhaps because my first thought when it comes to Cupid is Canova’s Amor And Psyche, which is Neoclassical and thus not very dynamic. There’s really a lot going on behind the inspiration for this photo.
To give the photo a modern outlook, beside elegant outfits I thought it would be nice to have Cupid shooting with a gun instead of his canonical bow – and who cares if shooting arrows with guns is not ballistically correct, I can take an artistic license. Also, guns are glossy and would provide further visual ties to the glossy appearance I wanted the photo to have.
Knajfer Wintermere, one of my best friends, was my very first choice for the second model, but for one reason or another I never got to schedule a shooting with him until last week. The shooting was plagued by a huge delay (because of a train strike, my usual luck) and was particularly difficult, given I had to set up the camera, direct a model and myself too, so it took me several attempts to get it straight. We also tried some variations on the pose to improve the composition until this one finally made the trick. Out of all my Inspiration Hurts photos, this one was probably the most complicated. Which brings me to my usual thought: waiting even years before I get one of my ideas out is a good thing. For one, I have much more proficiency with interior lighting, which is essential when taking glossy fashion-like photographs; also, I’ve explored the genre more before shooting in the dark, so the overall effect came out to be exactly what I had in mind.

I’m really glad I got to shoot a photo for one of my long-term projects, and that same afternoon another followed suit, which you will see tomorrow. Meanwhile, enjoy Cupid!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Mesmerism and Earthly Temptation, aka “How come I shot so little in 2015”


So, the story goes like this: last year I was approached by a certain glamour and fetish (and alternative…ish) model who wanted to try something different, more artsy and conceptual, and my photography style met her needs. We spent a few months brainstorming and exchanging ideas, discarded a few that weren’t feasible on a non-existent budget, postponed the shooting due to distance, holidays, work, university and, admittedly, my being ill at the very last minute once, until finally, in January 2015, we arranged our TF* shooting. Out of our brainstorming sessions, we had four ideas that were feasible and together would take a day to prepare and do. No problem, I’m 100% in.
I’m not going into detail of things that slowed us down and how one of those ideas could not be done in the end, I’ll just say that another one required a less than flattering pose to be done. After I had already postproduced it (and asked some friends to shoot for me some props that the model didn’t have so I could put them there digitally), the photo was scrapped by the model because it looked awkward. Whatever, I wasn’t enthusiastic about it either. Out of the initial four ideas, only two made the final cut.

Now, the idea for Earthly Temptation was entirely mine: when I was in Prague I visited an art exhibition which featured Dalì on one floor and Mucha on the next, so my mind made a connection and I thought it would be nice to pay a tribute to Dali’s Grapes of Immortality in an Art Nouveau-looking piece. I had no specific ideas about the model so I contributed this idea for the shooting not to look like I didn’t care while she did all the thinking. The model agreed, saw the styling herself before we shot, saw several postproduction steps before I hand-drew the skulls on the grapes, until she suddenly decided the photo wasn’t okay to publish. After I spent an afternoon on those skulls with my tablet. The reason? “It wasn’t her style”, which a) was kind of the point of the whole shooting, b) she could have told me straightaway before we even shot, let alone I was done postproducing. Besides, given that she approached me and not the other way around, one would assume she knew what she was hopping into. Nevermind, I told myself, I’m saving it – the idea and the postproduction – for someone else who’s really into fine art photography and won’t object to Art Nouveau. It’s not a big deal.

Then we had Mesmerism. Oh boy, Mesmerism. The prompt she gave me was, “I want to take a photo like this one of a certain photographer” – not much to go with, because even tributes must have subtlety. Okay, I thought, I can try and make this concept our own so it won’t look like plagiarism: we went on with preparing the outfit and props, which took nearly two hours, and we shot it at last. The basic idea, inspired by said photo, was much different from what you can see but, to give it some sense, I came up with the same background you can see in the final Mesmerism which, while being entirely digital, was but the tip of the editing-iceberg I had to do to that photo. The medical details looked awful so I had to liquefy the hell out of them, then I had to fix the fabric texture because it didn’t look good, then I had to shoot some dripping wax separately because the one we dripped on the fabric to replicate the original photo looked like seagull shit; blend everything to make it look realistic, add some fancy filters, and there it was, the final version of the photo. Side note: I had to come up with a concept and title retroactively because “We’ve got this idea but it has to mean something to be art”, but when I suggested Mesmerism and the lyrics to the model, she dismissed it because “It isn’t the concept I want my photo to represent” – which, as you can deduce, was non-existent to begin with, ‘cause “Let’s do a photo like that one” is not a concept.
The title wasn’t the only time I consulted with her during my work: at each step of the editing I sent her previews and screenshots, listened to her advice and asked if it was what she really wanted for the photo. Some photographers I talked to laughed at my face because the general practice is not to give a shit about what the models think and I was being too accommodating. Well, it took me three months to do everything, and only after that did she decide that “No, we can’t use this photo”. The reason? One very minor detail was off. And it was one of the three things that were there in the original photo, which she could have told me at the very beginning before I spent weeks fixing and editing everything else.
You know what the last straw was? When I told her there was no way I could edit it and have it still look even vaguely realistic, she just said, “If you’re not capable, why don’t you turn the photo to my photographer friend and see if he can do it?”.
Excuse me, bitch?
How about HELL TO THE NO. No one mess with my babies.
I swear I never felt more disrespected in my life. It was totally like I went there and asked her, “Honey, I really dislike your nose: do you mind if I shoot that of my smoking hot model friend and stick it to your face?”. I mean, can you even? Because I can’t even.

Now, that photo was mine and I could have published it anyway. But as you can guess, I had had it and I told her she could keep her idea and shoot it with any other photographer she wanted, I would keep my own work and use it otherwise – meaning the postproduction and the idea I added to save her input. Finally, I organised a shooting with my dearest, beloved, trustworthy BriarRose, and at long last the photos are done.

What’s interesting to know is, as meaningless as a bad experience with a pretentious person who can’t make up her mind might be, it affected me very deeply and is the primary reason why I’ve been so little productive this year (aside from paid assignments). At first I had this burden in my mind of editing those goddamn photos and I felt guilty about doing other stuff. Then, I felt really disheartened and started doubting myself and my work. When I talked about it with my psychologist, he looked at me and said, “Do you really need a minus habens’ approval to be at peace with your work?”. I laughed really hard and he was totally right, but I still couldn’t touch my camera for personal stuff unless it was photos I’d had in mind for years and felt were finally ready to come out. And yes, in the meantime I got plenty of positive feedback from people who commissioned and paid me for my work, but I just couldn’t shake off that one “failure”.
Despite being a retroactive title, Mesmerism and its lyrics came to really symbolise that particular phase of my artistic (and general) life I was going through, so I was twice as determined to do another take on those photos and make a job that would put the old one to shame. It was only a matter of schedule.
Well, looking at the unedited photos then and now, maybe (and I say, maybe) the problem was not me. A part of me even felt bad for putting the background to the new Mesmerism because it looked amazing even with an empty black backdrop. Conversely, the moment I saw the old one I really wanted to cry and tried (and, if you don’t mind, succeeded) to edit it into something amazing only because I didn’t want to waste the hard work that I put into setting it up. Spot the difference.

As painful and frustrating as this experience has been, it has taught me a lot of things.
a) Save your good ideas for people you know, love and trust.
b) If people can’t make up their mind, don’t invest your time and energy into thinking for them, especially if you’re not getting paid.
c) Make stricter release notes so you go on with your work over the model’s dead body.
d) Let them have a say only if they’re paying you for the service you’re providing – and even then they need you because you know how to get things done.
e) Disturbed ≠ deep, and if someone thinks so, run away and don’t look back.
f) If they treat other people like they’re doing them a favour in letting said people do them a favour, run even faster ‘cause they’re going to be like that with you too.
g) Always bring a back up light bulb for your softbox.
h) Always bring back up props because the more ambitious the model, the less likely they are to have everything on spot.
i) Don’t measure your talent on the ego and expectations of pretentious people and don’t let their judgement make you doubt yourself – you don’t care about their opinion anyway.
Now that Mesmerism is out, and with Earthly Temptation on its way I really feel relieved and confident. I swear I’ll try to pull myself together, make good of December and kick asses in 2016. And those who think I’m not good enough… well, are you good enough?

Monday, 26 October 2015

Weight Of The World

Weight Of The World by GothicNarcissusI’ve got trouble on my mind.
I see the cracks in the open sky.
I feel the lightning illuminate the pain inside.
I don’t know what I will find deep inside.

I feel the weight of the world
Weighing on my mind.
I can’t carry the Earth,
I’m not strong enough.

I’ve got trouble on my mind,
I’ve got trouble on my…

With every joy that you display
A little piece of me just fades away.
And all around me, the fallen angels hit the ground
And I can’t catch them as they’re raining down.

I feel the weight of the world
Weighing on my mind,
I can’t carry the Earth,
I’m not strong enough.

I’ve got trouble on my mind,
I’ve got trouble on my mind.

Set me free, shed this off with me,
Don’t let me down, don’t let me go,
Don’t let me bare this weight alone.
Don’t let me down, don’t let me go.

I feel the weight of the world
Weighing on my mind.
I can’t carry the Earth,
I’m not strong enough.

Don’t let me down, don’t let me go,
I’ve got trouble on my mind.

[ Weight Of The World – Hurts ]

Fun fact: the embryo of this photo was conceived the moment I saw the tracklist for Huts’ new album, Surrender, months before I could even listen to the song itself. Weight Of The World called for my atlas Zara t-shirt and that was a fact that wasn’t gonna change, no matter what, because one thing into which I put a particular care in my Inspiration Hurts project is styling.
Once the album came out and I listened to the song, I was a bit conflicted about how to actually render it while also showing the t-shirt: at some point, I considered a cradled pose of sort to render the idea of an inner, emotional kind of burden, but that would have covered most of the details. Then, last week I took some quick self-portraits for a friend who needed a reference to draw a sculpture: trying to look like a statue holding up a portal made me think, let’s just do Atlas and keep things simple. The imagery is easily recognisable and the pose would just work perfectly with the original, fashion-oriented idea. I also came across that wooden globe last week, so my Atlas-inspired idea would work out perfectly. As a further reference to the lyrics, I thought of the falling angels as shooting stars, which was a good way to fill the background without distracting too much attention from the main subject.
Contrary to how long it usually takes me to take self-portraits, I got this one done pretty quickly. I don’t know: yesterday I just woke up, I felt pretty and I thought, let’s shoot the photo. So here we go, Inspiration Hurts is still going strong.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Swimming

Swimming by GothicNarcissusI was swimming across the sky,
Clouds and angels by my side,
Then I realised that I was lonely
And it wasn’t such a good thing.

I was flying in paradise,
In that ocean of dead lights.
I was looking for your smile in the wind,
But there was nobody there this morning.

I believe in your smile everyday,
But I know that you’re far from my way.
When I talk to the moon I can hear you:
In the dark I can see, I can feel your light.

[ Swimming – Emilie Simon ]

I remember distinctly I started listening to Emilie Simon right after moving out of the student dorm into a real flat, which was five years ago around this period. One of her songs that caught my attention first was Swimming, which is still one of my favourites today. It evoked the image you can see almost immediately when I heard it, so I can say I’ve been gestating this photo for exactly five years. Just like that, the very way you see it. A friend of mine, to whom I showed the photo earlier, asked me why it took me so long to do it, then. Well, I’ll be damned if I know.
The idea per se is quite simple: floating in a very still pond which reflects the sky and clouds to convey being swimming across the sky, with no shore in sight to give the idea of vastness and solitude. Fairly immediate. Why five years, then?
Well, I guess back then I was aware I wasn’t nearly artistically mature enough to pull out the photo as good as I needed it to be, especially the reflection. It took me some observation to learn how the light reflects or scatters in the water and which conditions are best for what I needed: grazing light or even shadows, shallow water with as little ripples as possible, a very low point of view so the water is more reflective than transparent to the lens and, of course, the right amount of clouds. In the meantime, I upgraded my equipment to include a full frame camera and a telephoto lens, which would give a great technical help to the photo. Now the problem was the right place and time: of course I needed the clouds, but it had to be in summer so I would not freeze to death. As for bodies of water with a clear view of the sky and shallow enough to make a good reflection, well, I had no idea where to look: I either kept coming across forest ponds, which reflected the green of the foliage instead of the sky, or places where the water was constantly moving and rippling, which didn’t reflect enough. At some point this year I even considered some lakes near Trieste, but I could not arrange to get transportation and assistance there, so I shelved the idea for some time.
As my dear friend ContessaNera put it, you go all “I need a location that doesn’t even exist in the computers of the Noah graphics”, then you find it in your own basement. In this case, while shooting a month or so ago, I found out that the coastline near Alghero hid some really nice tide pools which were shallow and enclosed enough to reflect the sky perfectly under the right conditions. All I had to do was wait for the right amount of clouds and go for it, except, as I noted while discussing Noisy Awareness, is easier said than done in such a sunny place as Alghero.
Well, yesterday was a very rainy day until it cleared late in the afternoon. As soon as I saw there were some leftover clouds, I grabbed my camera, my tripod, my mom and rushed to the nearest pool to set everything up. With some precious help from my mom, the shooting went smoothly and there it was, the photo I’ve been dreaming of for all these years.
In these five years, this song has become incredibly meaningful to me and so has the photo. I can say I’m exactly in this situation right now, floating on my own among unrealistic things with a strong sense of yearning, which helped me add a layer of depth to the image. I can say this photo has come in the due time, as my photos always do.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Noisy Awareness

Noisy Awareness by GothicNarcissusYour unconscious, scarred, little space
In time’s old horizons.
Unlocking swooning voracity,
You raise obsession in between.
Sometimes you wither enchantment
In intimate gardens.
Each step of reserved delusion
Fertilises your fantasy.

You may enslave,
You may disgrace,
My will your fury may obtain.

In a rainy summer night
You’re making me nervous.
Through tomorrow, through my fights
You’re making me nervous.
In a wedding summer night
You’re taking the summer.
In a wedding summer night
You take me.

So wake up and forget the self
And you will fear nothing.
Cut anything out of your life
And you will fear nothing.
Be aware of risky transactions
And you will fear nothing.
So chase for abduction of duty
And you will fear nothing.
 

You may enslave,
You may disgrace,
My will your fury may obtain.

In a rainy summer night
You’re making me nervous.
Through tomorrow, through my fights
You’re making me nervous.
In a wedding summer night
You’re taking the summer.
In a wedding summer night
You take me.

[ Noisy Awareness – Leandra ]

The downside of battling depression (which I’m currently at open war with) is a drastic reduction in artistic productivity, which has been particularly noticeable in the past months. The silver lining is it gives you that kind of haunted look which makes photos like this one stand out. So, at long last here’s a new work from my Morphine series, specifically the Metamorphine half.
Noisy Awareness was the first song by Leandra I ever listened to back in 2008, and which made me fall in love with her music. While it already gave me a couple of bursts of inspiration even then, in time I came up with the mental image you can see above, closer to the story behind the song which Leandra wrote about a stalker. I’m pretty sure I already had this idea before 2013, when I decided to make a series out of Leandra’s two albums, so I included it directly into the poject, waiting for the right time to put it into action. The greatest difficulty, which delayed the photo until today, was the location I chose: I wanted the photo to be somewhat claustrophobic, so I decided the perfect place would be one of the alleys in the old town of Alghero. Heh, good luck finding a rainy summer afternoon to shoot it. Cloudy or rainy days, which would provide the diffuse light, are hard to come by in Sardinia during summer time, which I needed not to catch a pneumonia while shooting outdoors all wet. I also didn’t really have any suitable male friends left here to play the stalker which, while blurry in the background, was a pivotal part of the photo. Well, today it finally rained (cats and dogs, I would say) and I had a co-model to work with, Davide of Atelier Davis, whom I already shot earlier this summer. After a brief delay due to an unexpectedly sunny morning, the afternoon finally provided the right weather, so I set up the tripod and shot the photo.
Beside the obviously literal depiction of the lyrics, I’ve put some effort in the symbolism of this photo: firstly, the stalker is only a blurry shadow in the background to increase the feel of unease. Secondly, the main character in the photo is soaked in the rain while the stalker is safe under the umbrella to put the stalker in a less exposed place and convey a sense of vulnerability for the victim.
While I have no idea when I’ll be able to work some more on this project, I’ll leave you with the wonderful sketch I did yesterday night to show Davide what my idea was. Feel free to roll on the floor laughing your butts off!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Mary Jane Holland

Mary Jane Holland by GothicNarcissusLady of the ‘dam
Won’t be a slave to the blonde
Or the culture of the popular.
She won’t, she won’t.
Sing at you, I’ll
Fly under radar tonight,
Make deals with every devil in sight.
I will, I will.

‘Cause I love-love, ‘cause I love-love
You better than, you better than
My darkest sin:
Russian hookers and cheap gin.

I think that I could be fine
If I could be Mary Jane Holland tonight.
I think we’d have a good time
If you’d meet me, Mary Jane, in Holland tonight.

Mary Jane Holland,
Whoo-hoo!
(Puff in, puff out!)
Oh, Mary, oh-uh, Jane, ah, Holland,
Whoo-hoo!

I don’t like to boast
But our truffles are the most
Mad magical in Amsterdam.
She won’t, she won’t.
So if you have fear,
Apollo, sit on my lyre and
Play ‘em like a piano, man.
I will, I will.

‘Cause I love-love, ‘cause I love-love
You better than, you better than
My darkest sin:
Russian hookers and cheap gin.

I think that I could be fine
If I could be Mary Jane Holland tonight.
I think we’d have a good time
If you’d meet me, Mary Jane, in Holland tonight.

Mary Jane Holland,
Whoo-hoo!
(Puff in, puff out!)
Oh, Mary, oh-uh, Jane, ah, Holland,
Whoo-hoo!

I know that mom and dad think I’m a mess,
But it’s alright because I am rich as piss.
When I ignite the flame and put you in my mouth
The grass heats up my insides and my brunette starts to sprout.

Introducing, ladies and gentlemen,
Mary Jane Holland!

I think that I could be fine
If I could be Mary Jane Holland tonight.
I think we’d have a good time
If you’d meet me, Mary Jane, in Holland tonight.

Mary Jane Holland,
Whoo-hoo!
(Puff in, puff out!)
Oh, Mary, oh-uh, Jane, ah, Holland,
Whoo-hoo!

[ Mary Jane Holland – Lady Gaga ]

You know, guys, I don’t do drugs, not even weed. I believe anyone’s free to do them and have an opinion on the matter – I’m not expressing judgement or anything – it’s just not my cup of tea; therefore, I’d rather not to address the matter at all in my art, since it is something I have little to no experience of and am not very interested in knowing better.
So you guess it, the perspective of rendering visually a song about weed for my Artpop Generation project, which I felt compelled to do because it’s my second favourite from the album, posed a serious challenge to me… for about ten minutes or so, I guess.
I actually came up with this concept pretty much as soon as I heard the song the first time: as I don’t do drugs, the best equivalent I could find in my own life was music. I’m basically high on music all the time: I’m seriously addicted to it (to the point of not answering the phone when I’m listening to something I particularly like), I trip while listening, it makes me more social, it can calm my nerves or give me juice for an evening out… We can say that, metaphorically speaking, music is my weed. There we go with the concept: headphones as my own spin on the subject and smoke to keep a connection with Gaga’s original idea.
Truth be told, I could have shot this photo anytime in the past year and a half as all I needed was to set the black background, do my hair, trim my beard and set up the tripod. I didn’t until today at first because I’m lazy and then ‘cause I’ve been experiencing a severe inspirational block in the past few months. I hope this gets me back on track at last.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The Infernal Lords XXVII: Furcifel

He’s holding for the moment of the fall,
Stolen knowledge by minds unformed.
Regulate the demolition of
Annexe for the differing thoughts.
Discarded sparks left years ago
Evoked a language much more austere.
Reverberating with figments,
He left a trace of translucence.

Can you see the storm getting closer now?
Tell me how it feels being out there.

[ Storm – Theatre of Tragedy ]
Furcifel by GothicNarcissusCount Furcifel, known among the Mortals as Furfur, is a former powerful Throne who was part of Duke Astaroth’s closest entourage before the latter’s Fall, but kept serving undercover as Great Angel Zaphkiel’s Second-in-Command after the Great Heavenly War. He was the namesake of his former Choir as the wielder of the Thunder, the instrument of Yahweh’s justice, with which Count Furcifel reminded mankind of God’s authority. He was busted during the turmoil following the Babel Tower incident, arriving in Hell at the same time as Countess Agares. He kept however full control over his Element and became the Demon of Storms and Lightning, a power he is always eager to unleash against the Angels whenever he gets the occasion. While not officially a military himself, his energetic, vibrant personality and great force make him a suitable companion for Marquis Nergal’s patrols at the border of Hell, during which Count Furcifel can vent his powers and escape the frustrating boredom of life at Court. Always eager to create mischief, he flies to Earth quite often to conjure devastating thunderstorms; the Mortals’ sightings of him over the centuries resulted in the stereotypical image of horned and dragon-winged Demons.
As his Element combines those of Duke Astaroth, Queen Barbelo and Marquis Leviathan, he maintains good comradeship with all three, especially the Queen, who in turn appreciates his fierce temper, and the Duke of Terror, whom he can often shake from his apathy for a flight to Eart. He also gets along with the Chief of his Level, Duke Xaphan, who often asks for his help to test his latest inventions. The two of them were the ones who inspired mankind how to exploit the power of Electricity to sustain their technology, accelerating exponentially their progress and their emancipation from Yahweh’s grasp.

Furcifel: development and symbolism

Credits:
Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design, styling, background stock photos: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair: Francisco De Rosa
Additional resources: Amptone-stock (texture), Thy-Darkest-Hour (wings), UniversalKinase (thunderbolt) sxc.hu (horns)

Here we go with a new Infernal Lord, Furcifel, the Demon of Storms.
First things first: in traditional sources, such as Colin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, this Demon is referred to as Furfur. Why did I decide to change his name to Furcifel (something I’ve never done to any other Demon)? Well, it’s a purely aesthetic choice: Furfur is awfully similar to the Italian word for dandruff, which is a bit disgusting; some scholars suppose the etymology for his name comes from a corruption of the Latin word “furcifer”, which means “rogue” and sounds much more fitting for such a badass Demon, especially if you stylise it as “Furcifel” to recall other angelic names.
So, provided that I wanted to include a Demon of Storms into my series, why did I go for one with such a troublesome name, instead of just choosing another? Well, just look at his picture from the Dictionnaire Infernal: where else have you seen such an amazing-looking traditional rendition of a Demon? It’s beautiful! As soon as I found out about him, he instantly climbed my favourite Demons list, so he had to be in my series!
Furfur from the Dictionnaire Infernal
Furfur from the Dictionnaire Infernal.
Such a beautiful depiction deserved a tribute, which is why I decided to basically just turn him into a fallen angel but retain the dragon wings and deer horns. The latter got bonus points because they visually recall the lightning motif and fit the Demon of Thunderstorms perfectly. Also, when I wrote down his biography I could easily justify this by having him being spotted often by mankind and generating the myth of dragon-winged, horned Demons in the first place. Speaking of which, I didn’t even have to make up too many things, as the Dictionnaire Infernal already says he’s an Earl (a Count) and commands all sorts of thunderstorms, and other sources list him as a fallen Throne (the name “Throne” comes from the same root as “thunder”, which is his element).
The rest of the symbolism was quite easy to pull off: a thunderbolt in his hand and a stormy background (which I shot and blended already a couple of years ago) would demonstrate his powers perfectly. I came up with the styling quite easily too, opting for a leather jacket to give him even more badassery.

All of this happened quite early in the development of the series, but the longest part was, as usual, casting the right model. Given the elegance of the deer figure in the drawing, I wanted someone slender, with delicate facial features to portray Furcifel. At first, I asked an acquaintance of mine if she was interested in posing dressed up as a male, to which she agreed. I didn’t bring up the subject again for what I think might have been a couple of years because I never had the chance to organise a meeting, and when I finally did she had changed her mind. This troubled me a bit because I was quite specific in my mind about Furcifel’s general body frame, but then, last summer, I came across Francisco in the best way I’ve been coming across people lately: insulting Lana del Rey.
The thing is, lately I’ve become much more socially awkward than I’ve ever been and I have quite a hard time handling interpersonal relations, especially with people I don’t know. I have spent a few months kind of staring at Francisco from afar while the idea of him being a perfect cast call for Furcifel kept growing in the back of my mind. As I eventually told him, what made him perfect for the role was not only his body frame and delicate features, but especially his melancholic-looking eyes, which would add some nostalgia for Heaven and thus extra depth to the character. Also, there is a huge shortage of blondes in the Court. I found him so perfect for the role that I was too scared of a refusal and could not bring myself to propose him the role. Seriously, we made friends on Facebook on June, started talking sporadically in August and I could only find the guts to ask him to pose in December, riding the wave of enthusiasm I got from Leonard.
Even though we scheduled a shooting in February, he decided to pull off almost last minute, but since we had found out we get along very well we decided to meet anyway and I took the chance to basically force him to pose. Although, in my defence, I have to say he got almost more enthusiastic than I was when the final deadline was decided. It took me forever to postproduce the photo because in the past weeks I’ve been on minimum inspiration and I’ve got tons of older works to do, but at last, here it is.
I always say that, in hindsight, waiting even years to shoot my Demons is always a good thing because I get more proficient in what I do and I can pull off certain editing effects better. This is especially true in this case as, on the one hand, I now have a softbox which was extremely useful, given how I had to direct the light according to the bolt he would be holding in his hand. And there was no way on Earth, Heaven or Hell I could have given the right highlights and shadows to the horns to make them look tridimensional a few years ago, let alone blend the horn into the skin like I’ve done now. Seriously, I’m very, very satisfied with how I edited this picture.
Furcifel by GothicNarcissus – detail. Click to enlarge.
Now, the final details: yellow is the theme colour I chose because, on the one hand, I was seriously running out of colours, on the other it didn’t fit any other Demon, and finally because it’s often associated with lightnings and electricity, especially in children’s drawings (but you can also look at Pokémon, for that matter: many Electric Types are yellow). On the other hand, choosing the song was a piece of cake: I hope that Storm, by my favourite band Theatre of Tragedy, doesn’t really need much explanation. No, okay, it does, ‘cause beside the title, the lyrics are just perfect for the work.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Белое: a two-minded project with BriarRose

My dearies, let me introduce to you my brand new project, on which I worked together with my dearest friend, BriarRose.
Белое (“beloe”, which means “white” in Russian) is a series of photographs inspired by the two albums of the same name by Russian electro-folk band Theodor Bastard. In order to understand what this project is about, I have to say a few things about their music: in 2008 they released Белое: Ловля Злых Зверей (“beloe: lovlya slykh zverei”, which means “white: the capture of the wicked beasts”), and shortly after Белое: Предчувствия И Сны (“beloe: predchuvstviya i sny”, “white: premonitions and dreams”), which consists of alternate versions of seven songs from ЛЗЗ, often completely different and always with alternate titles.
Such a project was very inspirational and gave me the idea of developing a similar one: giving two different renditions of the same concept, inspired by each song. And what best way to do so than to work with someone who’s both a talented model and photographer? So I proposed the idea to BriarRose, she accepted, and here we are with fifteen photos: seven shot by her and featuring me as the model, seven the other way ‘round, and one bonus picture inspired by the only song on Предчувствия И Сны which does not have a counterpart on Ловля Злых Зверей.

Both stylistically and conceptually, there are some similarities but each one of us followed our own ideas and working process, so the two halves of the series have a distinct flavour while still being recognizable as related, due to the use of the same location and light conditions. BriarRose developed the ideas on Ловля Злых Зверей, which is the most ethnic-sounding of the two albums and thus fit her style best, while I worked on Предчувствия И Сны, which is more electronic and psychedelic-oriented. You can see a preview of the series on BriarRose’s Facebook page, while I will be posting the whole series day by day as I always do. We both really hope you enjoy this series, because working on it was very rewarding and we are proud of it!