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 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 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!