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.

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