Damsels in Distress: Shalott

Copied from the ever-helpful Wikipedia, this is the story of the Lady of Shalott, the inspiration for a day with Keith Cooper last summer:

According to legend, the Lady of Shalott was forbidden to look directly at reality or the outside world; instead she was doomed to view the world through a mirror, and weave what she saw into tapestry. Her despair was heightened when she saw loving couples entwined in the far distance, and she spent her days and nights aching for a return to normality. One day the Lady saw Sir Lancelot passing on his way in the reflection of the mirror, and dared to look out at Camelot, bringing about a curse. The lady escaped by boat during an autumn storm, inscribing ‘The Lady of Shalott’ on the prow. As she sailed towards Camelot and certain death, she sang a lament. Her frozen body was found shortly afterwards by the knights and ladies of Camelot, one of whom is Lancelot, who prayed to God to have mercy on her soul. The tapestry she wove during her imprisonment was found draped over the side of the boat.

Keith was inspired by paintings such as this one by Waterhouse (which happens to be adorning my nearest radiator by way of magnetism), and had wanted to do this shoot with Ivory Flame and I for a long time, so we arranged a date, boat hire and took a row up and down the river here in Oxford. I absolutely love the results. The colours, reflections and fabrics and range of emotions (there was laughter, tenderness, peacefulness and quite a bit of death), came out so well, I think, and I’m really proud of these.

Help me pick a favourite?! (As always, click and scroll through to see larger.)

Outtake alert:

Holly and I are planning to do our best to visit the current pre-Raphaelite exhibition in London before it finishes this weekend. Who thinks we should turn up to the Tate in our long, white dresses?
We will also be modelling together on Saturday the 9th of February at Eye For An Image Studio in Banbury, Oxfordshire. I think there may be some time available for anyone interested in working with an experienced and creative duo.

In which I bang at the door

Although I’ve been lucky enough to have been featured in photographic displays and art exhibtions, in and on photography and fine art coffee books, in calendars, on websites, billboards and promotional material, on a CD cover, in newspapers, magazines and commercial catalogues, I’d never managed to grace the front cover of a novel…

… Until now!!!

I’m very happy about this as you can probably imagine!

Holly of Jewelled Earth fame has only gone and done it again and come through on her mission to get me on a book cover – a first for her as a photographer too, so we’re both very pleased (I could hear Holly’s squeals of excitement via email!). Of her submission to an agent last year, two of her images of me were selected for two different novels, and both images were taken during one session in Oxford during which I flitted around, ran across a courtyard as though being chased, lay on the floor dreamily (or as though dead, depending on interpretation, and most amusingly to passersby) and posed tragically against the imposingly huge doors of the city’s much-celebrated architecture. The latter was evidently the chosen narrative!

We only have one of the covers available to see at the moment, ‘Gospa Od Sedam Brezuljaka’ by Jean Plaidy (Croatia), which seems to translate roughly to ‘Our Lady of the Seven Hills’. Image below:

The other cover is Les larmes des innocentes’ by Joachim S Valdez in France, and mainly involves my feet (yes, taken during my enthusiastic efforts at playing dead)..! Will show that one when I see it.

Wings & Rocks in the Land of Pirates!

Yet another blog entry today, and already a few more ready and waiting in the pipeline… don’t say I don’t spoil you..! 🙂

Today’s offering comes from a weekend trip to the stunningly beautiful West Cornwall I made at the end of June, working with Perry (of Imagesse photography). I am thrilled with some of these images. When Perry mentioned before the shoot that he would quite like some kind of ‘wing’ theme, but wasn’t sure how possible that would be, I immediately thought of Isis wings, which I’ve modelled in and danced with before (they’re an oriental dance prop), and ordered some of my own in time for the shoot. I chose some large silver translucent ones, which I thought would shimmer in the light and look delicate enough to let it through in certain conditions – I personally prefer them to other colours I’ve seen and used before, but you can get them in all different shades to suit your skin tone; traditionally you would match them to the colour of your costume. I love the permanent pleat structure on them, too, which can look a bit like the veins on a leaf (or, er, a wing). As a prop they can be difficult to work with in windy conditions, as they literally feel like they will take flight at times, so balancing in delicate poses isn’t as easy as it would otherwise be. They also reflect a lot of light (which I think is a good thing). I am so pleased with how these came out and think Perry caught some absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful scenes, some vivid colours and along with the reflections in the water, it was definitely worth the 5.5 hour train journey each way!

When I got off the train in Penzance, I was immediately greeted by pirates. Someone had joked to me previously ‘watch out for the pirates’ but, bizarrely enough, there was well and truly an official ‘pirate day’ celebration, or something going on that weekend. (That’s as much as I could get out of the cute little girl who befriended me as soon as I arrived in the hostel with Perry; she even followed me in to the bathroom, showing me her eye patch and pirate dress, which she was concerned wasn’t a real pirate dress, but which we agreed looked pretty all the same… so I had to give her a task to do, asking her to take my bottle of water to my bag in the reception area, to distract her so I could pee in private. SO cute!). The entire area of Cornwall seemed hungover from the night before, and there was mess everywhere as though a bomb had dropped, and people gallavanting around in costume. Quite a contrast from the serene, natural scenes Perry and I were shooting at!!

Anyway… With thanks to Perry, here are some of the results from a drive around different parts of West Cornwall, from beaches, to rock formations, to stone circles:

P.S. I nearly forgot to thank my ‘support group’, without which I would perhaps not have made it down to the beach in those first shots at all!!!!! In order to get down there, we had to climb/scramble down a very steep rock face. This was nothing for Perry, who does mountain climbing in his spare time (but who admitted the route was more precarious than he’d remembered from visiting the area when he was younger), but for me (in my Diesel flip-flops, as brilliant as they are), it was a little panic-inducing. There were some people climbing up and down the narrow bit who took it upon themselves to pass my bag down to Perry then direct my feet into specific places so I could get down. I said to Perry afterwards that I should just have waited a minute or two longer and they probably would have passed me down between them like a sack of helpless spuds… Hahaha. (I am adding the ‘Damsel in Distress’ tag to this post, I think.) Nothing like a bit of early morning fear to get a good set of photographs. Since then (bearing in mind my backpacking trip later this year), I have purchased some more suitable footwear… All good practise, eh? 🙂

I have, since this shoot, worked with Perry again in another stunning location (to be blogged soon I’m sure!), and hopefully there’ll be a third shoot together sometime in the future!

Queen Vashti (AKA ‘Why wear normal clothes when you can wear Aladdin trousers?’)

The link to this video was sent to me a couple of days ago. It’s a recording of a dance performance I took part in a few weeks ago at a theatre in Oxford. My improvised solo is last, but watch it all the way through! Sadly, the quality doesn’t allow for some of the more intricate movements (smaller shimmies layered over other movements, etc) to be particularly visible, but you get the general gist of the prancing.

The track is called ‘Vashti’ and is a bit of a feminist feast – Queen Vashti features in the book of Esther in the Bible and is most noted for her refusal to appear at the King’s banquet (other interpretations say she refused to dance for the drunken king’s entertainment there), choosing instead to host her own party for the women on the same day. She was subsequently banished, and lost her status as queen (she was succeeded by Esther, who was presumably more obedient).

Pre-Raphaelite Goodness

The following shots were taken by Keith Cooper at a location (half an hour away from my house in Oxfordshire) which manages to combine the romantic 15th Century ruins of a manor house, a river and woodland – perfect for Keith’s interest in pre-Raphaelite and historical styles. I’ve got two more shoots already booked in with him, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we come up with next!

‘Swan Song’, ‘To the Distant Beloved’ and ‘Winter Journey’

I worked recently with Patrick Allen, photographer and classical recording engineer/producer with Opera Omnia Productions on two CD covers. The two CDs Patrick needed images for are Schubert’s Schwanengesang/Beethovern’s An die ferne Geliebte and Schubert’s Winterreise. The theme was 19th-century romance; unrequited or unnattainable love. I love modelling for historical themes – the emotion, costumes and history of it all. I made sure to think wistful, yearning, formal, damsel-ian, lace-filled thoughts as I pondered upon my fine gentleman lover who may or may not have had a trusty steed.

Below are some shots from the day (some of which involved Patrick standing on his roof while I appeared unattainably through the window…and me standing unattainably on a ladder amongst the blossom of a beautiful cherry tree), followed by four draft mock-ups of potential CD covers which Patrick has very kindly allowed me to show already.

Glastonbury: Ice and Ivy

Last week I drove for hours on treacherous ice and snow to get to Glastonbury for a shoot with Ed Melville. Much of the journey was in first or second gear and there were times, during the way back, at which I thought I might never get home!! BUT it was worth the trip and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Ed wanted some Christmassy images with a ‘pagan’, natural theme, amongst other things. He’d gathered ivy and holly, and I fashioned myself a headdress.

We then went a little bit mediaeval/pre-Raphaelite. I’m really struggling to decide which to upload to my portfolio, so any help here onwards would be appreciated!!

Red and musical, featuring a Nordic lyre (which I could not resist twinging constantly, poor Ed):

Also, I now have these. I’m so sorry I’m bombarding readers of my blog with belly-dance pictures, but I’m having such a blast doing them…

Hope everyone had a wonderous, splendiferous Christmas. HAPPY NEW YEAR and love to all!