Friday, 28 June 2013

You Crawled Out Of The Sea

                         Photos of Rosalind taken by Flo. Photos of Flo taken by Rosalind.

One of the greatest joys in formulating ideas for photography is the research. I’m someone who becomes rather puppyish at the prospect of spending an afternoon with a free mind, a stack of books and a pad of paper for note taking. It’s a time to wander through the reaches of others’ imaginations, whether in their words or images. Vague concepts can be clarified and expanded, or new ones thought up.
I'm lucky enough to live in a house where there are two things guaranteed for creativity. The first is, no matter what the shoot, theme or activity, there’ll be texts available to inspire. The second is that there will also be ample costumes to fulfill the brief. Between the books and the dressing up box, we cover all options.
Both resources were called upon in planning a seaside shoot with Flo last autumn. As our emails pinged back and forth, I reached for the shelves. There I found several books previously enjoyed aged eight. As we discussed the paradoxes of the sea: the suggestions of vulnerability or potency, safety or danger, serenity or storm, I was flicking through the Barefoot Book of Goddesses. There, I was re-acquainted with Japanese deity Benzai-Ten who lived with a dragon husband in the depths of Lake Biwa; the “first lady of the Welsh islands and sea” Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere in English mythology); and the mermaid Queen Nyai Loro Kidul from Java. Although all four elements could be found, the most frequent association among these goddesses was water. It brings with it associations arcing from birth to destruction. Gwenhyfar allegedly sang the ‘marswygafen’ (death song of “giving back to the sea mother”) as her dead husband Arthur was returned to the waves, while Nyai Loro Kidul required offerings to appease her tempers and taste for “men wearing green bathing trunks.”
Many of these goddesses were powerful, clever, sensuous, giving. Often their stories were full of strength. Their narratives reflect the ways in which cultures and communities have tried to make sense of the world. ‘Goddess’ is now a misconstrued word calling to mind the domestic goddess of the kitchen, Grecian goddess dresses made from cheap fabric, the faux-spiritual implications of “releasing your inner goddess”. All associations diminish the meaning.
Flo and I wanted to pay homage to the original intensity of these myths. We began with outlines of characters, our proposed shoot also informed by another Barefoot collection: Stories from the Sea. We talked about folk tales from the original and appropriately tragic Little Mermaid through to The Selkie Wife (a seal who metamorphosed into a woman but could not undo the change when her sealskin was hidden). I then assembled velvets, silks, long dresses, translucent fabrics and enough ballgowns to adorn a small group of debutantes.
But we felt less like women of the water and more like very cold girls as we rose at 6am for the morning light. November seas are unforgiving, welsh wind bitter. But as our minds warmed up (even if our bodies didn't follow suit) we braved the grey water and blue waves. We challenged the rising chill, thought of those sirens and selkies and waded on. Then we made faces and jumped about, shrieking - once the camera had been lowered and the sky, breeze and bloody freezing sea could be acknowledged. 

All clothes secondhand or vintage, sourced from my dressing-up box - including 50s ruched, turquoise swimming costume worn under chiffon dress and tattered 30s satin wedding dress, dyed pink. These were originally posted at the end of last year on our joint photography blog Renard et Rose, with the shoot here and an explanation here. If you click on the landscape photos you can see them larger. It felt appropriate to re-post them on the eve of our next shoot taking place tomorrow. More of Flo's photography can be seen on her flickr.


AVY said...

Gorgeous, I love Greek mythology.


Marta said...

The pictures are very beautiful!


Mary M. said...

I love the concept of this shooting so much, it's such a joy for the eye! The dresses are magnificent!

Have an amazing weekend,
Mary x

Helen Le Caplain said...

What an amazing themed shoot! Love the prep work that goes into each post - v artistic :)

Gorgeous dresses btw.

Return to My Blogg said...

I think that Nyi Roro Kidul more than Grekk Mythology

The pics are cool!

Melanie said...

There is something so wonderful about wearing a gown in water - although I always imagine doing it in summer, spring at the very least. You two brave women! But for a good cause, an homage to true goddesses. You are both inspirations, although I especially love the photo of that mid leap.

The Foolish Aesthete said...

These are absolutely beautiful photographs of you and Flo. (Your creative collaborations seem to spawn inspired imagery.) The Selkie myths immediately came to mind, perhaps planted by the photo of Flo's red locks whipping as she clutches what looks like ruffled sea weed around her. I love your airborne photo as well, like a blue flamingo speeding down the runway.

Water holds very special meaning to me and my culture, considering the number of islands in our archipelago changes depending on the tide! But we are constantly reminded of the fruits of the sea and its terrible power too. I was glad to learn of the other deities you described from other cultures. Your mention of the Arthurian legends reminded me that I played the Lady of the Lake back in Elementary school, wielding Excalibur while pretending to be afloat! You and Flo look a lot more convincing as creatures of the water, considering the audience also had to imagine the lake in my case. -- J xxx

Katie said...

Gorgeous shoot- the colours are stunning. I love the myth of Undine too
I did a shoot like this in the sea with a schoolfriend when I was a teenager growing up in Cyprus- I'll have to try and find the pictures!

Willow said...

Mythology, children's stories and folk tales are always my favourite source of inspiration and the possibilities are endless.
You're both so gorgeous and those images are stunning. I especially love the 3rd, 5th and 6th. I loved how Flo's face is lined up with the statue behind her in the 7th photo, too.

Realised I've missed a few of your posts, off to go read them now!

popcosmo said...

What an amazing amount of thought and planning went into this and I totally appreciate your imagination and creativity. And willingness to do what it took to capture the essence of what you wanted in your shots, which you did quite beautifully! I have to say my favorite shot, which I find is mesmerizing and quite stunning, is of you in the green dress on the steps. Gorgeous with your hair blowing about. It's as if someone just called your name and you whipped your head around... lovely.
xo ~kim

Sacramento Amate said...

Wonderful photographs of two beautiful women with rich minds and wings to fly.

Emalina said...

Thank you for reminding me of this beautiful photoshoot, which has stayed with me ever since I saw it on your Renard et Rose blog. You are clearly kindred spirits who take much inspiration from eachother. These are breathtakingly lovely images (and clothes) and I can't wait to see the results of the latest collaboration together!

Izzy DM said...

I loved your post; it really complemented the pictures. First one of you leaping, so great. That's advanced modeling, that is! Being able to remain serene in flight; I've never achieved it, always make a goofy, jumping face. And I loved your friend's equally regal poses. Kindred spirits indeed! I'm looking forward to seeing the post on your next collaboration.


Joie de Style said...

This location is so gorgeous! Your blog is fabulous.


Ariane Lasalle said...

Nice pics lots of courage to brave november's waves!
Nice writingif i put myself together one day i could write angelic melodies in my mother tongue - french
But for now i will enjoy your angelic features and intriguing body language

Regards dear Roz


You and Flo are both divine. I love the seaside photo shoot, the effort, and the inspiration from Gwenhyfar. Hats off to you two to bare the cold climate and nail a fantastic result. :)

his_girl_friday said...

These are gorgeous, gorgeous photos.

Vix said...

Breathtaking and lovely! I admire your bravery, I'm cold just looking at you! x

OrigamiGirl said...

What a lovely post Ros! It has to be one of my favourites in a while. I love mythology so just learning a little bit more about that is always interesting. You've given me a few more stories to look up. And I have to give you serious props for the cold water! I went swimming in outdoor rivers three times in the last week (three different rivers!) and even in June/July the waters were fairly bitter!
You managed to produce some beautiful photos and look utterly serene when I know you must have been shaking!

Thank you for your kind message about the wedding. I did indeed get married last week and have put the preview wedding photos up on my blog if you care to see. We got married at a ruined abbey so I think you'll like!

Ester Durães said...

wow such a lovely concept and photos! I have to confess my favourites are the first and second one, so eye-catching!
Ester from Drawing Dreaming