Wednesday, 26 October 2016

So, it’s been ten years…

My very first “photoshoot” ever… wasn’t very much of a photoshoot at all, to be honest. At least not at the beginning.
Basically, on an October afternoon, back in 2006, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to grab my compact camera and go out take some pictures of him to impress a girl. Who was a mutual friend, so why not taking some photos together, too? And since I would be all dolled up, I thought, why not striking a pose or two and look pretty all on my own? So I wore my then-favourite striped green sweater, some really questionable jeans and shoes, I put on some make up and off I went.
The initial results were a mixed bag: a handful of photos of him, some terrible, some almost decent, considering I barely knew what I was doing (except absolutely NO-BACKLIGHT); a few photos of the two of us, which were a good practice for placing the camera on whatever available surface; and a few selfies before it was cool.

A Prince In Green by GothicNarcissus
Seriously, it’s just a selfie.
And then, something happened.
Being very camera shy, my friend was okay with just a few pics; the rest of the afternoon we spend with me bossing him around to help me take some photos. Because as soon as I could put the camera on whatever windowsill or step I could find in front of interesting places, or tell my friend how exactly I wanted him to shoot me, more and more ideas kept coming up.
Having already seen my share of bloggish gothic imagery, I had discovered a few more serious artists, following whom I kept occasionally popping up and lurking around deviantArt; the thought of trying something of the sort had been growing in the back of my mind for quite some time and I don’t know, that afternoon I finally tried to do just that. With barely any idea of what I was doing (because come on, a striped sweater, messy hair and a line of kajal is definitely not gothic imagery), try I did.
Or maybe I wasn’t so clueless, after all. As I mentioned several times, my initial thought was to go into a more digital direction, which was all the rage back then; my postproducing tools consisting only of Ulead PhotoExpress, though, I was pretty aware I could not just cut myself out of a blank background and put me onto something different, so I had to work with some interesting environment to begin with. And the historic centre of Alghero happens to be a 16th Century walled town with plenty of nice spots to use, so I thought I could work something out even if it didn’t look like I was lying in some dimly lit underground temple or some cemetery at night time. Also, having zero control over the camera, which worked strictly in automatic mode and was mostly managed by my friend, meant that I couldn’t take extra dark photos to begin with, so… well, I had to try and make something out of it through my own expressivity.

Let Live, Let Go by GothicNarcissus
And then, I muted the colours to make it look more gooothic.
Even though the most I could manage was looking unconvincingly brooding, I can kind of say I came up with a moodboard on the spot and the shooting as a whole, outtakes included, has a sort of cohesive theme. Evanescence’s The Open Door had just recently come out and, well, to say I was obsessed with it would be an understatement. My obsession included the promotional pictures for the album, so I ended up posing in front of whatever ancient-looking door, window, gate, fence, balcony, architectural structure I thought was cool. And even though the poses were awkward, silly or downright second-hand (a few shots were an attempt to copy Amy Lee walking on the fountain in the My Immortal video, except I was walking on a well), I did try my best to look thoughtful, whimsical, lovelorn or dramatic. I really wanted to express something with those photos, be it just my admiration for some cool music without realising yet the full potential of actually working on a concept like that to create a true synesthesia between songs and the images.

Let Live, Let Go by GothicNarcissus
Dramatic pose and a fancy window. This is what got me here.
But yes, the embryo of what would become the cornerstones of my artistic endeavour were already there. I really do look back fondly at those photos, however naive and raw they are: had I not gone out that afternoon, maybe I would have tried anyway to express myself through photography, sooner or later, but it’s nice to see I had sensed what road suited me best from the beginning.
Eventually, a few of those photos made their way out of my computer: when I joined deviantArt exactly ten years ago, on October 26th, I found them expressive enough to share them with artistic purposes, and it all snowballed into… today, packing up to work three days of commissioned shootings at a cosplay convention. And yes, there is also one particular photo from that afternoon which I think really worked and I decided to “remake” as a sort of celebration. Here we go with the Evanescence-themed The Only One, 2006 and 2016:
The Only One by GothicNarcissus The Only One 2016 by GothicNarcissus

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Froot

Froot by GothicNarcissusI’ve seen seasons come and go
From winter sun to summer snow.
This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.
Nature ain’t a fruit machine,
She’s gotta keep her credits clean.
Good things come to those who wait
But I ain’t in a patient phase.

It’s summer time and I hang on a vine,
They’re gonna make me into sweet red wine.
Hanging around like a fruit on a tree,
Waiting to be picked. Come on, cut me free.

Come on, fill your cup up
Looking for some good luck,
Good luck, good luck to you.
Hanging like a fruit
Ready to be juiced,
Juiced, juiced.

Living la dolce vita,
Life couldn’t get much sweeter.
Don’t you give me a reason
That it’s not the right season.
Babe, I love you a lot,
I’ll give you all I’ve got.
Yeah, you know that it’s true,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you
Like fruit, like fruit.

Baby, I am plump and ripe,
I’m pinker than shepherd’s delight,
Sweet like honeysuckle late at night.
Leave it too long, I’ll go rot
Like an apple you forgot.
Birds and worms will come for me,
The cycle of life is complete.

I’m your carnal flower, I’m your bloody rose.
Pick my petals off and make my heart explode.
I’m your deadly nightshade, I’m your cherry tree.
You’re my one true love, I’m your destiny.

Come on, fill your cup up
Looking for some good luck,
Good luck, good luck to you.
Autumn – I’ll be gone,
Birds will sing their mourning
Song, song.

Living la dolce vita,
Life couldn’t get much sweeter.
Don’t you give me a reason
That it’s not the right season.
Babe, I love you a lot,
I’ll give you all I’ve got.
Yeah, you know that it’s true,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you
Like fruit, like fruit.

Oh, my body is ready,
Yeah, it’s ready, yeah, it’s ready for your love.
Oh, my branches are heavy,
Yeah, they’re heavy, yeah, they’re heavy.

Living la dolce vita,
Life couldn’t get much sweeter.
Don’t you give me a reason
That it’s not the right season.
Babe, I love you a lot,
I’ll give you all I’ve got.
Yeah, you know that it’s true,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you
Like fruit.

[ Froot – Marina & The Diamonds ]

Alright, I really love Marina & The Diamonds: her lyrics might as well be pulled out of my head and they always give me a huge lot of inspiration. Froot, title track and first single off her third album, is no exception and I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a photo inspired by it pretty much since I first heard the song and seen the visuals associated with it. It took me a while to codify the final idea as you can see it – a rainbow-coloured halo made of fruit encircling my head – but I’m positive I already had by this time last year, as my first take included the fruit-halo laying on my fanned out, then-long hair. While not taking the photo before I had it cut short was one of the two or three regrets I had, in hindsight it was a true blessing because taking a self portrait with fruit lying on my hair would have been totally unpractical, as I found out when I came down to actually shoot the photo. Also, a nice Forties-inspired pompadour allowed me to experiment with make up to get a goth-yet-posh look which would complement the chromatic variety of the photo.
As this picture is very meaningful to me, I was pretty eager when I finally came down to shooting it, so I documented part of the process / kept teasing about it on my Instagram: first biting the apple which would be left to rot; then, assembling (most of) the halo, having my nails done and shooting; and finally, eating up the props with some delicious whipped cream by my favourite ice cream maker. If you pay attention to the dates, though, you will notice this photo was shot, like, months ago: why is that, you may wonder?
Well, first off, I had to wait for the apple to rot away, which took a few weeks. Then, as Marina put it, “nature ain’t a fruit machine”: despite globalisation, I couldn’t have all the fruit I needed at one time. Before I could get figs, strawberries, cherries and loquats would have run out; oranges are from a totally different season, no way I could have them and plums together; blueberries are grown in greenhouses so they’re out there pretty much all year long, but I wanted them to taste good, too, for my private afterparty and I’d rather have them in the right season. So, I resolved to get the bulk of the halo when most kinds of fruit were available, shoot the main photo and then fill it in as soon as I got the rest. Technically, it wasn’t particularly hard, as I chose a spot on my wooden floor, laid my camera on the clotheshorse to have it perfectly horizontal (as I did with Over You), so I kept the same focal distance and light direction for every shot until cherries, plums, pears and figs – the last addition – were available. The hardest part was reaching for the camera and clicking the button, which gave a nice contribution to my abs, and is the reason why I could have never pulled out this photo with long hair.
Now, in the YouTube audio file for the song, as well as on the album booklet, you can see that the fruit rainbow is a prominent part of Marina’s Froot Era aesthetics and she picked her own colour-coded sequence. I deliberately decided to create one of my own so that it would be a tribute rather than directly copy of hers, even though there is some overlapping with cherries, oranges, lemons and, especially blueberries. Cherries are kind of unavoidable, but I added strawberries too to give different shades of red; oranges and lemons, too, are the most immediate association with, well, orange and yellow, but I put loquats in-between to make the transition more gradual; as for blueberries… well, there is no other edible blue fruit that I can think of. As for purple, I deliberately avoided grapes because I’ve already used them recently, and I opted for plums instead, with figs providing the indigo shade in-between. I also preferred to keep apples out of the halo for other purposes, so I used limes for green; I though I would put a green fig as an intermediate shade between green and yellow, but I was lucky enough to get purple figs this early and “I ain’t in a patient phase”, so I ultimately decided that pear it is.
One final mention for the apple: I decided to go with a visual apple / heart motif to recall the lines from the second verse, and to add some more layers of personal depth to the image. And… well, that’s basically it: I worked hard on this photo and I’m really satisfied with how it turned out. I hope you enjoy it too and… all praise to our lady, Saint Marina the Evangelist, and her three Gospels: The Family Jewels, Electra Heart and Froot. Amen.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Venus In Gemini, Lilith In Libra

Venus In Gemini, Lilith In Libra by GothicNarcissusRule number one
Is that you gotta have fun,
But baby, when you’re done,
You gotta be the first to run.
Rule number two,
Just don’t get attached to
Somebody you could lose,
So le-let me tell you.

Rule number three,
Wear your heart on your cheek,
But never on your sleeve,
Unless you wanna taste defeat.
Rule number four,
Gotta be looking pure,
Kiss him goodbye at the door
And leave him wanting more, more.

This is how to be a heartbreaker.
Boys, they like a little danger.
We’ll get him falling for a stranger, a player
Singing, ‘I lo-lo-love you’.
How to be a heartbreaker.
Boys, they like the look of danger.
We’ll get him falling for a stranger, a player
Singing, ‘I lo-lo-love you –
At least I think I do!’

[ How To Be A Heartbreaker – Marina & The Diamonds ]

Funny story #1: a few years ago, while I was still in full goth mode, a friend of mine kept commenting that my photos were soooo gay, and I was ever soooo gay when I posed. Now, she’s a bit of a fag hag herself, so I never took that as a homophobic remark of sort; I think she mostly meant I really overdid the make up and frilly outfit things. But of course, insecure as I am, that comment took roots in my mind and I’ve sort of tried to tone the thing down ever since – and because I had no intentions of giving up the goth outfits back then, it ended up affecting the way I pose. Conversely, last year a very dear friend of mine told me that I was a bit stiff in my photos, as if I were afraid to express too much. This made me ponder deeply and I got to the conclusion that I was indeed holding back because, whenever I posed, I had this little voice in my head saying, “This is going to look too gay” and I listened to it too much.
Well, news flash, I am gay so hell, it is kind of bound to show in my photos somehow. Do I really need to hold back for whatever reason? Nope. If I like the idea I’m developing and the final result too, there’s no such thing as “too gay”. After all, I’m not hiding anything: I’m out and about, so what was I really trying to achieve? Meet the taste of one single person who’s not me. Well, I’m really trying hard to be more selective when it comes to constructive vs. pointless criticism: this photo, which I utterly love, is one more step down that route.
Funny story #2: this concept was born out of frustration after a boy has dramatically declared that he’s severely disappointed by my lack of interest in him, because apparently I don’t live up to the idealised, romantic, cuddly version of me he had made up in his head after a couple of chats. Well, honey, I’m sorry, I’m just not a romantic person: next time, try and get to know me better before you get a crush. That’s just the way I am. So, if we want to blame it on something, I’d point to my natal chart: I’ve got Venus in Gemini, which basically means I live relationships on a cerebral level with scarce emotional connections, and Lilith in Libra, which means that I pay much attention to the looks of potential sexual partner. Sorry, I’m shallow and heartless: if you don’t either look good or form a strong intellectual bond with me, there’s no game. And don’t expect me to go down the sweet-talk path anytime soon.
Now, I don’t really believe in astrology, I’d rather just toy around with it, but that much about me is very fitting. I wanted to vent out all that roll-eye-ness and this is how I did it.
Is the photo too pink? Am I a heartbreaker? W h a t e v e r , ‘cause I love it.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Angeldaemon

Coloured by GothicNarcissusI prefer to be an angel,
Angelflanger always,
Always on the run.
Capture souls and dreams and voices,
Noisy voices, rumours,
Rumours made undone.

Collect diseases, hungry virus,
Virus, spirals, branches,
Branches round the past.
But I am joking, I’m a demon,
Angeldaemon begging,
Begging you to trust.

Get up, my head, get up, my…
I’ve always seen your eyes open.
Get up, my mind, get up, my…
I’ve never heard you’ve spoken,
I’ve always seen you broken.

So progressive, so involving,
Sky’s emerging tumors,
Tumours, waves and stars.
Captured beings all exhausted,
Sky’s a virgin, phantoms,
Phantoms, all of us.

Collect diseases, hungry virus,
Virus, spirals, branches,
Branches round the past.
But I am joking, I’m a demon,
Angeldaemon begging,
Begging you to trust.

Get up, my head, get up, my…
I’ve always seen your eyes open.
Get up, my mind, get up, my…
I’ve never heard you’ve spoken,
I’ve always seen you broken,
I just kill the ghosts you’ve woken.

[ Angeldaemon – Leandra ]

New work from my Morphine series, specifically from the Metamorphine part. Angeldaemon is one of the first Leandra songs with which I emotionally connected back in 2008 and it even poured into the very first photoshoot I did with a reflex exactly seven years ago. When I decided to do a cohesive visual rendition of both Leandra’s albums, this was one of the first ideas to come to my mind: my dearest BriarRose looking all sweet an innocent with a little nod to some kind of inner darkness, which I represented by surrounding her with black feathers, as if she had just hidden (but not completely) some black wings of sort. Compared to many other photos from this series, this one is quite simple and only has a touch of surrealism in the general concept: after all, Angeldaemon is basically a piano ballad with very little electronica, so I wanted to keep the corresponding photo as basic as I could. While the general idea was already clear in my mind, a few details came up when we were about to shoot: for instance, I only thought of a white-ish, abstract background but, while discussing the location with BriarRose, I realised a bed would work nicely. Also, I just wanted her to wear natural make up and something white, which turned specifically into the shirt with nothing else while we were tumbling through her wardrobe.
Side note here: I do really love working with BriarRose, but lately I’ve kind of been feel guilty when I’ve had her pose as a temptress / seductress / force of darkness of sort. Of course, she is very feminine and has a natural kind of sensuality, but I think it’s unfair and reductive that she gets so often typecast only as that: she can do so much more. Choosing her for this photo was immediate and instinctive on my part – she simply appeared in the image I visualised in my head – but now I realise that’s because I really know her and how sweet, cute a person she can really be off the set. Now, of course in the photo’s narrative that’s only a charade, but I’m glad I could show there’s so much more about BriarRose than a temptress, for a change.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Why

Why by GothicNarcissusThere was a time,
There was a place,
So tell me now,
Why’d you wake up with that look on your face?

Don’t you waste my time:
Let it go, let it go.
And don’t just stand in line:
If you wanna lead, you can lead.

Why?
If this is love, then why does it hurt so bad?
Why?
If this is over, then why do I want you back?
So tell me that it’s worth it, ‘cause I’m going crazy here.
I just can’t figure it out, I just can’t figure it out:
Why?
If this is love, then why does it hurt so bad?

There was a time, far away,
And I wanna try,
Try to take us,
Take us back to that place.

So don’t hold back for me:
Let it out, just let it out.
It’s you I wanna see,
So let it out and you can lead.

Why?
If this is love, then why does it hurt so bad?
Why?
If this is over, then why do I want you back?
So tell me that it’s worth it, ‘cause I’m going crazy here.
I just can’t figure it out, I just can’t figure it out:
Why?
If this is love, then why does it hurt so bad?

[ Why – Hurts ]

It’s interesting to note that, despite Why not being one of my favourite songs on Hurts’ Surrender, which usually means I have a harder time coming up with a concept, I got an idea of how to render it graphically quite quickly. It’s a song about a conflicted break up which, on the one hand, means it’s something I can’t quite relate to and, on the other, it lends itself to a million trivial back-to-back couple photos, which I really didn’t want to do in this case. Yet, here is one of the first photos from the Surrender part of the project.
The story goes like this: after last year’s Lucca Comics and Games, one of my friends couldn’t fit everything in her suitcase and asked if anyone needed that sequin-sleeved dress. Which I did, as a matter of fact: when you’re shooting, you never know when a spare outfit can turn out to be useful (especially if you’re listening compulsively to Róisín Murphy because, you know, sequins). So at one point I had this post-break up song and a girl’s dress, so I thought, how about the protagonist not arguing with the girl but with himself while thinking of her and holding a dress she forgot at his place? After all, the lyrics seem much more like an internal monologue of sort and a reflection about love in general, so a guy-by-himself kind of photo with something recalling a couple would be perfect. Also, I could easily do everything by myself without waiting who knows how long. I had a clear vision of the styling all along: I wanted to wear something light to contrast with the black dress and recall separation, but also have something dark to hint to not being quite over it yet. My light shirt with a black collar would do perfectly for the kind of symbolism I wanted to convey.
Side note: I was ready to shoot this photo since, like, January, but I got flu, which made me postpone my haircut, then I had sleeping troubles which made me wake up not looking (or feeling) my best, so I kept postponing it until I finally got my hair in place and a few good sleep nights in a row and started looking like a human again. And here it is at last.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

But they are different – oh wait.

My relationship with the majority of popstars may be called one of tolerance: I know they’re there, they live in their world following their rules; I take an interest every now and then, when they come up with something interesting, and just ignore them most of the time. I’m aware that, in most cases, they’re fifty shades of musical uselessness. We’ve got Rihanna, the incompetent who fucked the right guys. We’ve got Britney, another incompetent who was in the right place at the right time. We’ve got Madonna, who had interesting ideas and something to say back in the day, but has now just become an old hag clinging to her position and money and keeps blabbing the same old stuff to keep her audience content. After all, we know, a popstar’s main point is to make big money; if some good music comes out in the process, that’s a byproduct, most popstars just do the minimum to keep their audience at bay. If someone tries to focus on something more artsy regardless of sellings, the system pans them, like Lady Gaga on Artpop. And when someone tries to use their media power to fight for an important cause, like Beyoncé, here comes the press to throw them shade.
Well, all in all I accept this status quo. I don’t always share popstars’ musical ideas; I’m a bit bugged that they’re making big money while people out there like Susanne Sundfør or Eivør, who destroy them talent-wise, don’t even earn a tenth; and seeing some Taylor Swift winning a Best Pop Album Grammy against Florence Welch is hard to swallow. But I know their rules, it’s all about money, sellings and friends in higher places, so I let myself be surprised when some popstar comes up with something artistically good and ignore the rest.
So, if I can appreciate old once’s Madonna despite what she’s become and listen to a few Rihanna or Britney Spears songs, why do I take such umbrage at Lana del Rey?
The reason it’s simple: the other popstars don’t have unrealistic artistic pretences. They don’t hide their being a set up, their unrestrained use of autotune and lipsync, don’t lie about surgical retouching and wigs, don’t try to cover their fluff but, on the contrary, they parade it and make a point of it. Cut it short, unless they do posses an uncommon talent, they don’t pretend to be substantial and genuine goods. On the other hand we have Lana, who passes off as the different one, a better alternative to the empty pop culture; wait no, she’s even better than that, she’s the game changer come at last! She doesn’t focus on selling, but on her artistry. She doesn’t let producers do their tricks, she’s in charge of her music. It’s not that she sings out of tune, she’s just “a studio singer, not a live one”. She’s not full of herself, she’s the girl next door, a people’s singer. She had nothing done on her – how could she, she was poor like everyone, she didn’t have money to get lip surgery. She’s got ideas like no one else does and knows how to realise them!
Now, without all this farce I would have accepted Lana for what she is: just another popstar who can’t sing, with a few nice tunes to listen to every now and then, no more, no less. But no, she keeps on posing as the odd one out, the genuine one, the real thing, when she really is and acts just like all the others – well, even less qualified than many. This is why I enjoy panning her every misstep: I’m punishing her dishonesty. Really, I hold Britney Spears in much higher regard, for she can openly joke about her years and years of lipsync – at least she’s honest.

Well, now take all of this, apply it to politics and you’ll know why, among all Italian parties, I take such umbrage at the Movimento 5 Stelle and I’m so merciless when I criticise them. I know from the start what right-wing parties are like and what to expect of them.  I know that a big part of our main left-wing party is made up of former Catholic-democrats who didn’t know where to turn when their party sank, and what to expect of them. But the Movimento 5 Stelle is different, they say, it fights for the people! It’s the real deal, it doesn’t compromise, it just cares about getting things done without empty political maneuvers! It cares for the people, not for votes! When something’s socially relevant, they go all down the road and get the shit done.
Well, except if it’s something as pesky as civil unions for homosexuals, in which case they are fiercely clinging to some stupid political technicality to stall or sink the whole thing before they even have to vote against it. Which they will, because one very interesting thing is they have a strong leader who dictates their every move and if you diverge one tiny bit you’re immediately out, yet on the civil union subject he was like, “Well, let everyone vote following their conscience”. Excuse me, what’s this novelty? I think it’s clear: they would never risk alienating the Catholics or all those former Berlusconi voters who’ll need to find someone else to turn to at the next national elections: let’s face it, giving all tax-paying citizens the same rights is not worth risking losing so many votes.
So much for being different from the other parties.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

GothicNarcissus’ 10th year

Looking back I can say that 2006 has been a pivotal year in my life for so many reasons: one of them is I joined deviantART and started taking photos. Sure, the first “real” (as in aesthetically and conceptually challenging) photos I did in 2007, and it’s in 2009 that I bought my first reflex and started shooting other people, but those first naive selfies I took on October 9th and first published on October 28th 2006 planted the seed of what would become a very important part of my life.
A Prince In Green by GothicNarcissus The Only One by GothicNarcissus

I have already written a couple of posts (like this one and this one) explaining how I went from collecting random images from all around the web to following artist on deviantART, then attempting to emulate them and eventually finding my own way. I think – and I hope! – that I have evolved into my own thing rather than being someone else’s copycat, but for a reason or another I still owe them all big time: they probably don’t even know who I am, let alone what they’ve done for me, but they helped me grow either by planting some interesting ideas in my head, making me discover a certain kind of aesthetics, or simply luring me to deviantART and making me interested in creating art in the first place. This is why I have decided to do a little project with a double aim: to celebrate my tenth anniversary and to express my gratitude to my unwitting masters. Therefore, once a month this year I will be publishing a photo which pays homage to one of those artists who influenced me back then. It’s going to be quite a challenge, for what I’ll try to do is to borrow some recurring themes or motives from the works they used to do ten years ago, but give them my own twist, with my own style and ideas and, of course, the experience I have gained in the past ten years.
As an artist, my endeavour is to constantly look forward, grow and get better. But solid buildings need solid foundations, so I think it’s important to just stop for a moment, sometimes, look back and pay respect to the things that forged our artistic identity.
Of course, a big and special thanks also goes to those who have followed and supported me all through these years, both from the beginning and joining me in the meantime: your enthusiasm has kept me motivated and your feedback has helped me get better and challenge my comfort zone to deliver something that would surprise you. I don’t know if I would have made it to my tenth year without you.

Monday, 25 January 2016

The Infernal Lords XXVIII: Rosiel

We thought love could change our names
And free us from our earthly chains.

Oh, we wanted to believe in it,
To believe in it,
But they couldn’t.
We wanted to believe that love
Could lift us to the skies and above,
But they wouldn’t
Follow.

[ Darlings – Susanne Sundfør ]
Rosiel by GothicNarcissusMarquis Rosiel is a former Dominion who rebelled against Yahweh. Realising immediately the immense power of persuasion of two of Heaven’s greatest taboos, Love and Erotic Pleasure, since before the Great Heavenly War he took an active role in recruiting new Angels to Emperor Lucifer’s cause, working closely with Count Asmodeus and Princess Lilith. While his two comrades focussed respectively on Lust and sexual instincts, he was more keen on the pleasures of sheer seduction, as well as showing more or less directly to fellow Angels how Love could be a mutual and unstoppable force, different from the one-sided worship Yahweh demanded of them. Among those he turned against God are Marquis Andrealphus and Duke Xaphan, whose love for Marquise Anamelech and Queen Barbelo respectively he encouraged, and his former Chief, Prince Absinthion.
After his Fall, he took such pride in being accused of tainting the Love of God that he styled himself the Demon of Tainted Love, making it to the Fourth Level; and indeed he can manipulate other beings’ feelings, most notably the Mortals’, and direct their affection at his will, towards mundane things and consuming affairs. He’s often spotted in the Sublunar World and his white wings and youthful, innocent appearance gave rise to many human legends such as the winged God of Love, Cupid.
His powers work to a much lesser extent on the other Demons, but he occasionally enjoys creating ephemeral tension between the Courtiers, much to the amusement of his great friend, Countess Jezebeth, who can gossip about that. Despite the tricks he plays, he’s a beloved figure at Court as many of the Fallen Angels he helped turn still hold him in great regard; he’s especially close to Marquise Anamelech and Marquise Andrealphus, being himself an Astral Demon, who controls the influence of Uranus. Along with Marquis Leonard, Marquise Naamah and, occasionally, Duke Astaroth, he’s also part of Princess Lilith’s retinue of Incubi and Succubi, nightly Demons who fly to Earth to feed off the energies of unaware sleeping Mortals.

Rosiel: development and symbolysm

Credits:
Photo, concept, manipulation, frame design, styling, background stock photos: GothicNarcissus
Model, hair: Edoardo Marreu
Additional resources: Myruso (wallpaper)

Oh boy, Rosiel. Everyone familiar with Kaori Yuki’s work (and their sisters too) know this name: the infamous Inorganic Angel whose insanity and obsessive love for his twin sister Alexiel set in motion most of the events in Angel Sanctuary. A most charming psychopath, but also a tragic figure with a tormented background, he is definitely one of my favourite characters from the manga, if not the favourite character. Oh, and I ship the Hell out of Rosiel x Katan.

Rosiel from Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary.
The story of how a character with the same name ended up in my project is pretty simple: Kaori herself mentioned in the side notes of her manga that she found out there was a Fallen Angel called Rosier in the popular lore. And there he was indeed, mentioned in A Dictionary Of Angels by Gustav Davidson, who cites Sebastien Michaelis’ Admirable History of the Possession and Conversion of a Penitent Woman as the source. His description is pretty specific: he is a former Dominion, resides in Hell and is the Demon Patron of tainted love and seduction. Whoa: so much information about a Demon was not to be overlooked. Besides, as Marina Diamandis says, “L.O.V.E., E.V.O.L. – love is evil”, there needed to be a Demon of Love. I also really love the name – and here we’ve got a side note: the R and L sounds are the same in Japanese, so in thr manga Rosier and Rosiel are phonetically and graphically the same word. It is interesting to note that the official lore says that Fallen Angels often change their name from -el to -er after their Fall, so technically both are viable anyway. I ultimately decided to go with the latter to keep it consistent with others from my series (like Furcifel, Azazel or Mephistophel), but mostly because I was fond of Kaori Yuki’s character and I wanted to pay a tribute to him.
The similarities end here, though: I have such a degree of respect for this character and its importance in the Angel Sanctuary plot that from the very beginning I decided to do a completely different rendition more closely based on the original lore. No electric wires, no flowy perwinkle hair, no insanity – just the Demon of Tainted Love and an Incubus (the female version of the Succubus). And also the Demon in charge of the power of Uranus because I like lame puns.
An early concept draft of Rosiel.
Now, according to the file information, the concept sketch above is dated 19th March 2011: that’s at least just how old the idea for this Demon is. Back then I was discussing it with a fellow Angel Sanctuary’s Rosiel fan and dear friend of mine, with whom we decided to do the shooting: that’s the actual sketch I did on Windows Live Messenger to show him the pose I had in mind. Most of the styling and the actual concept came up that night, including leather trouses and posing bare-chested with red ribbons, which simbolise love and sexual tension – also a nod to Japanese folklore that depicts love as a red thread binding the little fingers of two lovers.
It seemed a rather easy photo to take considering the casting went so smoothly, except the shooting kept being postponed over and over. Because there was no time, because there was no place, because my firend’s hair wasn’t long enough or the colour wasn’t right, because he was busy, because he didn’t feel like doing it, and on and on we went. I even mentioned in my 2013 FAQs on deviantART that the work on the series had slowed down because I needed to pressure a couple of friends into organising the shootings, but 2014 went by with me asking without any sign that the thing would be done and then there came 2015, my most artistically frustrating year to date, in which I was generally little productive.
Now, I tried to write to my friend a few times hoping an Infernal Lord would shake me from my block, but both he and I are difficult people who often need some alone time, which resulted in a general lack of communication all through the year. Either we didn’t go further than pleasentry and he disappeared before I could bring up the subject, or he didn’t reply at all even on unrelated matters, stalling the work completely. I grew more and more frustrated with the situation until, after the Mesmerism debacle, I decided that I was having no more shit from anyone at all so screw him, it was high time for a recast. All things considered I didn’t even bother telling him, but after five years I doubt he’ll notice or care anyway: I did more than a fair share of attempts to shoot with him, if he did care he might as well have brought up the subject himself at least once.
As usual, I came across Edoardo through social media rather than modelling platforms. I had the thought he would fit the role ever since, but he was blonde at the time: that would have made him too similar to Furcifel and clashed a bit with the colour scheme, so I wasn’t really sure and didn’t ask him immediately. Then last month he went brown and I had no more doubts: I wrote to him, he immediately liked the project and the idea, we scheduled a day for the shooting and everything was done in, like, fifteen minutes, fine and dandy. Despite his worrying that he wouldn’t do a good job due to lack of modelling experience, after I styled and directed him he got so much into the character that he immediately managed to get the languid, relaxed pose and the alluring, mischievous expression we needed. At long last, Rosiel was done, he was fabulous and I have absolutely no regrets about the recast.
Not being in The Lesser Key Of Solomon, Rosiel lacks a seal of his own. I chose one version the Seal of Beleth because it has heart-shaped motives in it. Seriously, that’s it. Also, I initially planned to blend it behind one of the red ribbons, but while I was editing I changed my mind because I wanted those hearts to freaking show – that and I loved the challenge of blending it onto the shoulder.
The theme colour, perwinkle, is a direct tribute to Kaori Yuki, as it is the colour of her Rosiel’s hair in most official illustrations. My friend and I had originally agreed to use a PJ Harvey song but what can I say, last year Susanne Sundfør came out with her masterpiece, Ten Love Songs, from which I chose Darlings (after a tough fight with Slowly) to best represent the idea I had for this Demon.

So here we are, twenty-eight down and two to go. Lucifer is going to be the very last work from the series and meanwhile I’m trying to settle things to recast the last of the Seven Satans. The approaching end of the Infernal Lords series honestly scares me, but I already have a new magnum opus in the cards afterwards, so I hope that will push me to complete it. Let’s see how things turn out next month.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Feather

Dust my feathers.
I’m shaking on the floor, but I want to fly.
Hoping that it will get better, yeah.
The television teases paradise.

Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather.

Words taste bitter;
Frozen every time I see a pair of eyes.
Momma, can I sleep forever?
Wake me when the birds light up the sky.

Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather,
Be free.

Now I’m flying and everything feels so free.
Take me higher, take me.
Now I’m flying and with these broken wings
Take me higher, be free.

Dust my feathers.
I’m praying on my knees ‘cause I want to fly.
Daddy, can you change the weather, yeah?
Show me when the raindrops turn to life.

Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather.
Get up, get up, get up, feather,
Be free.

Now I’m flying and everything feels so free.
Take me higher, take me.
Now I’m flying and with these broken wings
Take me higher, be free.

[ Feather – Meg Myers ]

I really don’t like discussing it because I don’t want to sound like I’m fishing for pity or attention, but I have depression and anxiety problems. Not as in a hyperbole for feeling blue or worried, but in a serious, therapy-needing way. Not only am I finding it difficult to have social interactions or even doing everyday activities like grocery shopping, cooking or studying, but last year I reached the point when it affected my artistic production as well, which had always been my catharsis and the place I found my strength in. One single, silly incident with a pretentious ass totally threw me off track and froze me on my feet, and no amount of positive feedback I was receiving on actually paid works from commissioners seemed to wipe away the feeling I was a total failure and people were only being condescending with me. It sucks, trust me. Now, I know this is a long, difficult path and it will take much more than a few therapy sessions and a haircut to recover fully, but I’m trying to get myself together and stay as positive as I can. At least, I’m getting back one of the things that bring me most joy and at which I’m decent, namely photography. You have no idea how better I feel after I’ve shot, or while I’m editing the photos, and after I closed the Mesmerism drama for good (the model wrote me to publish one of the photos and I politely told her I have no use for her and she could just fuck off) I’ve started to feel the inspiration flowing back.

This is the context in which I’ve been listening to Meg Myers’ beautiful song, Feather. It’s a sad, sad song, but there’s something hopeful about it which resonates with me. I don’t know if Meg intended for it to be about battling depression, but I see a lot of myself in it. Such lines as “I’m shaking on the floor but I want to fly”, “Hoping that it will get better”, “I’m frozen every time I see a pair of eyes” or “Momma, can I sleep forever?” perfectly describe how I feel many, many times. I’ve grown so attached to this song than there it was, the first image of the series, perfectly pictured in my mind. The more I listened to it, the more every verse spoke to me and gave me images, until I opened the notepad on my computer and wrote down every idea I had. This is how the concept for this series came to be.

As you can probably see, I broke down the song verse by verse and depicted each one with a photo or a composition. Both on deviantART and Facebook I wrote which part applies to each image making a slow progression from lying helpless on the ground to getting up, to letting go of grief and numbness (the black veil) and dancing in the wind. To emphasise the progressive change, I timed each photo to have a slightly different light in it, so we go from mostly blue hues to having some golden light, to a predominance of warmer tones, as if the sun were slowly rising and brightening the scene. The red shirt provides a visual thread that unites the images, as does the white frame, which allowed me to assemble some images as in a magazine.
The necklace I wear was handcrafted a few years ago by my friend Karina Novak especially for me. She often asked me why I never wore it in my photos and I told her I was saving it for something special. Well, that something special has finally come, and given the title and the metaphor in the song it fit perfectly with these photos.

Here is a little side note: before I told the Minus Habens off, she accused me of wasting her precious work as the “art director” of our shooting. Well, darling, let me explain a couple of thing about art direction: it does not mean you just tell me “I want to copy a certain photo” and leave it up to me, it means what I did here. While I shot most of the landscapes and non-portrait details, my portraits were taken by my mother, DamaInNero, under my close direction. I had a very precise idea about what I wanted the photos to look like so not only did I choose the location and the styling, but I told my mom from which angle to shoot, how close to get, on which details to focus, where to stand so the light grazed the scene the way I wanted, what I did and did not want in the background, beside having a definite idea of which poses I needed. She only adjusted the details that were out of my control (such as suggesting me to change the pose a bit so it would look better, wouldn’t make nasty shadows or cover elements in the background) but I didn’t leave it up to her to develop a vague input I gave her. It was a very satisfying experience for both of us and the final result was exactly what I had pictured in my head.

As for me, after spending some awful months at the first and second photos, I think I am currently at photo III with my life. I don’t quite have the strength I need to fly yet, but at least I’m trying to react. I hope I haven’t saddened you (I talked about all of this just to let you understand how personal and significative these images are to me) and I really want to thank each and every one of you, who support my work and give me motivation to keep up the one thing that makes me feel stronger and good with myself. Thank you all, truly.