So I’ve just done another shoot with my favourite photographer Sarah Keogh. She is so professional with such a great eye and is very good at what she does!! I had a lot of fun with her on this shoot and also with Nina Thompson at Kinky Curly Straight Hair Design who did my make-up and hair. Together we shot a stunning editorial with a story about a passionate love. Our protagonist is an old hollywood theatre doyenne and as the story begins, she finds herself in a majestic opera house preparing for her performance in a few hours. She is decked in pearls, lace, fur and diamonds. She is surrounded by luxury, but as she walks through the gilded rooms she is torn inside. She knows her husband is having an affair. We have the first shots of her alone around the beautiful, golden theatre. She is angst-ridden and upset. She doubts herself, questions their love, worries about the future of a marriage she thought would never end. She feels betrayed, confused, unsure and lifeless. Yet, she knows she has to put on a mask for the world in a few hours when she performs on stage for hundreds of people. She puts her bravest face on for the world, while beneath she’s far from together. She wants to tell him the truth about her feelings, but decides it might be best not to. We have a rich surrounding of opulence on the surface with deeper layers of a less-than-lavish sadness.
I liked the symbology of the props we used:
1. Pearls. Pearls symbolize Purity, Spiritual Transformation, Charity, Honesty, Wisdom and Integrity, all the best within us. The woman in our story has always been faithful to her husband. She’s honest, pure of heart and values her own integrity as well as the integrity of the relationship. But now that’s all been thrown into question. She needs to believe it hasn’t all been for nothing. Through all the anxiety, she clings on to what she’s always held dear and appeals to her greater wisdom to make sense of it all and guide her to make the best decision for her future.
2. Gold. As well as being associated with power, strength and wealth, Gold is associated with the wisdom of aging and fruition. The fiftieth wedding anniversary is golden. Our precious latter years are sometimes considered “golden years”. The height of a civilization is referred to as a “golden age”. In the same way, our protagonist feels a connection to gold as she she feels she has grown up beyond her years. Her life has catapulted her into the limelight very quickly and she is experiencing her golden years at a young age. Through this she has attained great power, wealth, strength and influence. However, she has had to sacrifice her youth and naivety. She’s learnt hard life lessons that have pushed her spiritually, emotionally and psychologically beyond the age of her peers. As a result she feels alone in the world, with the red velvet settees her only companions.
3. The Mirror. Reflecting surfaces as well as the natural reflective surface of the water plays an important role in the religious concepts of many people. It is believed that somebody who gazes at his own reflection will lose his soul in the process. Therefore Narcissus, who was in love with his own reflection, was doomed. This was because his soul was ‘captured’. In many customs, in order to bar the dead from staying on earth, people veiled the mirrors in the death chamber (especially true in the Victorian era). This was to ensure that the soul of the departed would not get trapped behind the glass and be prevented from passing to ‘the other side. The woman in our story gazes at her reflection and it is symbolic of her feeling scared and trapped in the situation she’s in. She feels she can never escape. At the same time, she wonders if she would in fact want to, as it is a means of validation of her existence. If she escaped, she might fall into nothingness and cease to exist.
4. The Star. For centuries, the symbol of the star has been used to reference divinity, intuition, the feminine, hope and guidance. Stars offer the unique ability to guide us through the night. They can also refer to one’s need to discover their own inner light. Stars exists above us as well as within us. They encourage us to reach beyond our own egos and trust in something much greater than ourselves. The woman in our story has a star around her neck, representing she has found her inner light and values her intuition to guide her in times of darkness. This is one such time, with the problem of an unfaithful spouse, and she puts her trust in her inner spirit to give her hope and guidance.
5. The Camera. The camera is symbolic of capturing truth. This is what our protagonist wants. She remembers back to good times of when her husband and her first met. She remembers the truth in the feelings she had and in the passion they had during that time, as well as the freedom she felt in it. She wants to capture that again.
6. Red. Red is the color of blood, rubies and strawberries. Next to orange at the end of the visible spectrum of light, red is commonly associated with danger, sacrifice, passion, fire, beauty, blood, anger. Red is a very ancient colour, spanning across all cultures. Red was associated with life, health, and victory. But, like many colors, it also had a negative association, with heat, destruction and evil. A prayer in ancient Egypt to god Isis said: “Oh Isis, protect me from all things evil and red.” A red dye called Kermes was made beginning in the Neolithic Period by drying and then crushing the bodies of the females of a tiny scale insect in the genus Kermes, primarily Kermes vermilio. The insects live on the sap of certain trees, especially the Kermes oak tree near the Mediterranean region. Kermes is also mentioned in the Bible. In the Book of Exodus, God instructs Moses to have the Israelites bring him an offering including cloth “of blue, and purple, and scarlet.” In ancient India, the rubia plant has been used to make dye. A piece of cotton dyed with rubia dated to the third millennium BC was found at an archaeological site at Mohenjo-daro. It has been used by Indian monks and hermits for centuries to dye their robes. In Ancient China, artisans were making red and black painted pottery as early as the Yangshao Culture period (5000-3000 BC). A red-painted wooden bowl was found at a Neolithic site in Yuyao, Zhejiang. Other red-painted ceremonial objects have been found at other sites dating to the Spring and Autumn Period (770-221 BC). In our story, there is of course the subtle thread of all the qualities of the colour red. The fiery relationship she and her husband share, the passionate love, the beauty of their connection. The healthy life they lived together victorious in their union. Now, the danger of his affair and its threat to destroy their life together. Her anger runs through her veins like blood. It’s a strong motif that runs through our whole story.
7. Hair. The end of this part of the story sees the silhouette of our protagonist onstage in the spotlight shining on her while she grips the mic. All eyes of the world are on her now. This is her side profile; indicative of the moment just before she turns to face the world, when she will put on her ‘game face’ and perform. Hair is very symbolic in many cultures. No other part of the body seems to hold such a variety of symbolic power as the hair. It is both part of our body, and therefore part of our individual identity, and yet at the same time it is changeable. Generally when it is loose it indicates we are relaxed and in our natural state (hence the saying “to let your hair down”). When we put our hair up, it is indicative of composure. Our protagonist needs to remain composed and pull herself together. She cannot brood and think anymore, for she has a duty to fulfill as a performer for her audience. Part of that performance will be to dance, to sing, to act and to be happy and positive. Her hair reflects her state of mind in this moment as she steps into her pseudo-reality.