My first idea was to develop project based on a song lyric “Time” by song writer, musician, and singer Rossie O’Sullivan, who I work with from January this year.
Due to Rossie sickness I had to postpone this idea until further notice. As I was prepared for any situation I created ideas for plan B and C.
My second choice was project based on work of many artists and different medias to start with Renaissance paintings. As I mentioned alrady in my previous blog I am a big admire of fine art and several names of painters form various time I found inspired for particle this idea. I did deep research on Giotto, Leonardo Da Vici, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Vermeer not to mention a few big photography names like Victorian Julia Margaret Cameron and more contemporary photographer Julia Hetta, Ellen McDermott, Desiree Dolron. I also find very useful research on few other artists like: early Renaissance artist Agnolo Bronzino, French painter Elisabeth Sonrel, and my two very favourite painters and illustrators: Margaret Tarrant and Adolphe-William Bouguereau.
This project focused only on portraits of young Mary- Mother of God. I chose very young model for this idea- 9 years old Marisa. I think she was a perfect and she played her role with big devotion.
I collected and summarized not only the work of above mentioned artists: painters and photographers, but also biblical stories, Christians’ believes, prayers and song collected from common people and their humble faith. I used also for inspiration others illustrations, pictures, and paintings I found on Internet sometimes by unknown artists.
Examples of inspirational images I researched on Internet.
I divided my project on two parts as I wanted to create two different types of images. The first part was to recreate the style, colours, lighting of old masterpieces and the second one was to create little stories and place the character in different locations surrendered by symbolic objects of holly cult like white lilies which symbolise purity, innocent and in Christianity they are symbol of the Virgin Mary’s purity and her role of Queen of the Angels. The other symbols are: white doves and Crown [Gold the most common]. Quoting the: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2014/12/virgin-mary-art “THE final canto of Dante’s “Paradiso” opens with euphoric praise not for the Son or the Father or even the Spirit, but the Mother:
Virgin mother, daughter of your son
Humbler and higher than any other creature…
You are she who so ennobled human nature
That nature’s very maker did not disdain
To himself be made by you.
The lines are an apt expression of the manifold contradictions embodied in the Christian mythology of Mary. “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea…Western art abounds with paintings and sculptures of the Virgin; indeed, until the 18th century, she was the single most frequently depicted female figure. But it is unusual to see so many together, organised not around a style or a period but the simple idea of Mary herself. She is an idea that changes markedly over the centuries. Her myriad titles give some indication of this: Virgin of Virgins, Holy Mother of God, Queen of all Saints, Queen of Mercy, Queen of Peace. A list on a wall of the exhibit goes on. But even as Mary’s representations shift to emphasise different facets of her role in Christian history, her essential qualities remain the same: faithfulness, devotion, humility, purity.”
Developing the project
I shoot the photos in my own studio, which is currently under reconstruction and development. I used two Bowens 500R heads with softbox and beauty dish. I prepared (partly created by me) a costume for the girl based on my research from the net and by watching films like: Mary of Nazareth, Mary, Mother of Jesus, Mary, and Jesus of Nazareth.
All the images were taken on grey backdrop. For some images advanced postproduction was required.
Photos selection and final choices
It is always the most difficult task for me to select the images and make the final choices. After a thorough selection I decided to edit these images. What I was looking for it was the facial expression, the posture, the composition, the lighting and then my vision how I am going to use all of this while I will create the whole scene during editing.
I chose 4 photos at the biginning and I tried to work on them. Three of the photos I took with using strobes and for the last one I used ambient light from my bedroom’s window. The bacground looks a bit messy on this perticular image, because it supposed to be a trial shoot only but it ended up being one of my final choices.
The editing took long time to achieve the result. I started in Adobe Lightroom then continue in Photoshop and Nik Collection. On some of the images I was mostly focusing on the girl face as I wanted to show something “heavenly” in her eyes, something innocent and pure and I think I achieved this look – Mary completely embedded in prayer with her eyes pointing to the sky. Mary has also halo around her head like on most of the religious paintings.
The photo with doves was very difficult to edit as I needed to replace the background and create a scene in Jerusalem temple. I combined a few images to do it. The second and the third image was taken at an old cemetery in London and the white doves I photographed from my room windows as they often land there. I created in Photoshop rays of the sun on the top right corner to warm up a bit the image. She holds white dove and the another dove is near her feet.
Portrait of Mary as a girl carrying bread. I decided to do only basic editing on this image and keep as a portrait. The bread has symbolic meaning. It is a bread for those who hungry and poor and it shows Mary generous nature. There is another meaning hidden in this photo. Jesus- future son of Mary in some Christian believes gives himself in the Eucharist as spiritual nourishment, When the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.
The image with Mary praying with her eyes gazing down in humble pose, was quite difficult for me to edit as I wasn’t sure how I would like to present it. I changed a few times the idea. At the end, I left as a portrait.
I experimented also with text and sepia colour to give more vintage look like from old prayer cards.
I also would like to continue to experiment with this image and try alternative processes like for example: cyanotype process. I may use natural sun or place under UV tubes.
I found this project very creative and educational especially if it’s come to fine art and painters’ knowledge. I did a lot of research before I approached the photo session. I read books, magazines, I watched videos and listened interview with or about famous painters and photographers. Sacral art is very inspiring and almost every artist, especially in the past went through a period when they devoted their attention and time to produce memorable religious pieces.
I prepared myself the costume for a model and found many props in my house and charity shops, which were useful for this project.
I believe I only opened the doors to bigger idea and as I mentioned before this was prestart for my FMP. This project will continue and I hope to develop it in wider contest.
If it comes to the editing process it was time consuming and it required precision. I spent many hours on postproduction not always with successful outcome but I was determinate to achieve the effect I wanted. Some of this image were more difficult to edit due to photos combination.
There are 3 more images I would like to edit for this project but I am going to leave it for now as it is and I may back to it later as a new project or continuation of current one.