As a few friends and family know, Sourcelight- and wife/life-partner, Sharon Johnson and I have been collaborating for the past several months on developing our own fantasy series of themed art photography. Sharon’s diverse background – a BFA in sculpture, decades working in fashion retail, and designing and producing jewelry for her own business, Angel Creek Designs – leads her to create unique items that are sometimes hard to categorize. Wearable art, maybe? Or just art that looks like it could be worn (but usually isn’t)? Either way, her jewelry designs always tended to be one-off, one-of-a-kind works that could just as easily have been sold as displayable art as wearable jewelry. Unfortunately, the usual grind of daily life has tended to put designing for Angel Creek on hold too often over the past few years, so recently, Sharon has begun creating full fantasy costume looks for portraiture. In the beginning, it was assumed that my contribution would be simply documenting the final result in a photograph. As the process developed, however, we began to create visual stories that would require full production resources, including make-up, wardrobe, and set design.
It should also be noted that at this later stage of my photography career, I seem to be drifting inexorably away from “photo-realistic” quality and more toward a consciously pictorial style, more painterly and less representational. Having swapped my top-end Nikon-pro gear over the past two years for Fujifilm’s exquisite new digital X-series with all of Fuji’s old film stocks built in electronically has certainly helped with the transition. The gear is smaller, but just as powerful, and with its built-in film heritage, it feels like shooting film back in the day. Suddenly, photography is fun again and not just another job. We were more than ready for a new project that reflected our current personal (and technological) place in life and career.
Truth to tell, we’ve actually been edging toward this for awhile. Marcie Ganier, one of the first locals to model for us here at Sourcelight all the way back in 2009, was a trouper and became one of our favorite models, eventually doing five different sessions with us. The “Imagine” photo was actually based on her idea when she approached us about doing an “angel-wing” shot. Wanting to avoid what often becomes a predictable stereotype, we suggested doing it as a fantasy concept in which the subject isn’t actually an angel, but rather just imagines herself to be one. Marcie was immediately on-board, so we designed a costume and set, called in a MUA and produced these shots from that session. We were just getting started, but the path was set and we were hooked.
Not long after, good friend, fellow photographer, and occasional model himself, Patrick Lee, collaborated with us on a fantasy take of Atlas holding up the world.
Even the family got drafted into service resulting in the “Four Seasons” portrait taken at the Johnson family Thanksgiving get-together in 2011.
Still pretty haphazard though, so in 2018 we finally decided to get serious about having fun, bring in some genuinely committed models, and get a new concept done every month.
On two occasions, models scheduled for projects simply failed to show up. Sharon and I lost most of March (for the second year in a row, yikes!) with some kind of violent bronchial pneumonia. And, well… of course… Obama… (hey, if just mentioning his name as an all-purpose excuse for getting nothing done works for red-hued Congressmen, I’m willing to give it a try; the guilt is heavy when you find yourself procrastinating and don’t even know why).
So finally–in JUNE–with new buddy and always-reliable model Yao Yin in place, we made the do-it-or-die pledge to finally get the first project completed. We were looking to create the suggestion of a fairy queen, at one with the outdoors, clad in foliage and literally sprouting it from her person. As part of the ongoing effort to landscape the Sourcelight grounds as photography backdrops, we had carved a notch out of the sycamore berm two years ago to install a stone bench slab on poured concrete pillars.
We thought with a little help it could serve as a fairy queen’s private chamber.
Sharon and Yao spent an hour working on character make-up (why not? We’re DIYers at heart, and whenever we can’t find a specialist, we just add a new specialty).
And the final results of Conceptual Event #1 (or 2 or 3 or? depending on how you count): The Faerie Queen