Friday, 4 August 2017

Pi

Pi by GothicNarcissusTemporary like a prism,
Being involved and being ignored.
But your broken glass charisma
Is my one and only source.

Circularly, you remember
Maybe you or me or both.
Sorry you, sorry me,
Proudly fail, resume indoors.

Distance closes our throat.
Be so sweet can’t replace.
Miles unconnectable,
Time is improvable.
Contradictions you say,
We’re so ignorable,
So your static, empty words
Just wish a syllable.

Our bodies are paralysing us,
Selling our souls otherwise.
Feed crippled mind and fertilise,
Selling our souls otherwise.
Our bodies are paralysing us,
Selling our souls otherwise.
Feed crippled mind and fertilise,
Selling our souls otherwise.

Free our horses, my pretender,
Don’t you let them go astray.
Colours flash, the only minded.
Colours… fade.

Distance closes our throat.
Be so sweet can’t replace.
Miles unconnectable,
Time is improvable.
Contradictions you say,
We’re so ignorable,
So your static, empty words
Just wish a syllable.

Our bodies are paralysing us,
Selling our souls otherwise.
Feed crippled mind and fertilise,
Selling our souls otherwise.

Step into pain circles,
Enter the whispering.
Wash out your construction,
Fragments of rain.

Our bodies are paralysing us,
Selling our souls otherwise.
Feed crippled mind and fertilise,
Selling our souls otherwise.

[ Pi – Leandra ]

Pi has always been a tricky one in my Morphine project: while I absolutely love this song, the lyrics are quite abstract and all over the place with their imagery. I could pinpoint the general theme – working out a difficult romantic relationship – but it didn’t give me much to work with visually.
The music, on the other hand, has always evoked me a dynamic image of a couple somewhere in-between a dance and a fight: something coreographic that could encompass both a feeling of separation and an attempt at reconciliation.
With so little in mind, I sort of shelved the song to the back of the project to focus on more approachable concepts… until this happened.

Basically, when I had my nice shooting with Knajfer Wintermere and his handsome real-life boyfriend Riccardo, I mostly allowed them the freedom to just act naturally in front of the camera and be the beautiful couple they are. At some point I attempted to set up another Morphine photo which didn’t really work out, got frustrated over that and just let them fool around a little on their own. When I focussed back, there they were: Riccardo is a very atletic boy and was doing splits for the fun of it with Knajfer. There was just something about the intensity of their gaze that hit me in the face with all the power of the piano riff in the second half of the song, and I instantly knew this was what I wanted Pi to look like in my project. There, out of the music itself.
The prism / icosahedron was a last-minute postproduction idea I had to give a further link to the song lyrics and because sketches surrealy overimposed on the photos are a recurring theme of sort in the project.

And so, that’s it: Knajfer and Riccardo basically pulled me over a potentially huge hitch in my project just by being an adorable couple. Which is precisely the reason why I’m saving so many photos for people who truly have feelings for each other: some things you cannot act, they have to come from the heart.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Surrender

Surrender by GothicNarcissusSurrender, surrender, oh.
Surrender, surrender, oh.
Surrender, surrender, oh.
Surrender, surrender, oh.
Give me that sweet
Surrender, surrender, oh.
Give me that sweet
Surrender, surrender, oh.
Give me that sweet
Surrender, surrender, oh.
Give me that sweet
Surrender, surrender, oh.
Give me that sweet
Surrender, surrender, oh.
I’ll be released, I’ll be released, oh!

[ Surrender – Hurts ]

Speaking of Hurts songs that are difficult to nail, Surrender (the title track of the third album) doesn’t give much to work with: it’s a one minute and eighteen second intro with basically three sentences in the lyrics – and they’re quite vague, too. But musically it’s a powerful song despite its simplified structure: the gospel-like choir is incredibly energetic and makes it quite emotional – even epic. I always thought of a picture with very dramatic light and a welcoming mood of sort as, despite the title, the lyrics are quite optimistic. And that’s pretty much what I got by having Knajfer and Riccardo posing in front of the setting sun.
I thought this scene could fit the idea I had, but again, it’s their expressions – something out of my control – that really give the photo its impact.  know it’s sort of weird of me to just go with the flow when shooting, especially when it comes to my long-term projects, but it’s a really nice way to keep the creativity flowing and ready for the more structured, difficult photos in the series.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Ecstasy

Ecstasy by GothicNarcissusFall back and touch the night
And reach for the blinding light.
‘Cause everybody says that we’re too young to see.
We know that we’re brave enough to be –

In the state of ecstasy,
In the place we’re meant to be.
In the state of ecstasy
There is only you and me.

Break through from the other side
And lead me to Paradise.
‘Cause nothing but love can take us away from here.
Ever time I close my eyes, we disappear –

In the state of ecstasy,
In the place we’re meant to be.
In the state of ecstasy
There is only you and me.

[ Ecstasy – Calvin Harris feat. Hurts ]

Now, technically Ecstasy and Under Control are Calvin Harris songs featuring Hurts, but I like them enough to include them into the Inspiration Hurts project nevertheless. Ecstasy, in particular, is a pretty little ballad with a romantic undertone which I wanted to shoot, given the occasion, with a real life couple.
This photo just happened: my dear friend Knajfer and his boyfriend Riccardo were just fooling around and being adorable, and they kissed behind the furry overcoat thing long enough I could snap a picture. Which happened to fit perfectly the song retroactively: it has its ecstatic, romantic mood, has the closed eyes thing from the lyrics, and the furry thing cutting away the actual kiss gives it that sense of intimacy and “only you and me”.
Yeah, this photo just happened and it turned out a really charming addition to the project, that’s it.

Monday, 17 July 2017

If You Follow

If You Follow by GothicNarcissusAs we met we didn’t know of yesterday,
Anything that wouldn’t paralyse your system.
Set a day I can break free,
Set a day on what you think I’m not existent.

Would you stay until the end?
We are growing older,
Every moment that I spend
Laying on your shoulder.
Would your fear contain the loss?
Would you ever regret?
I’ll forsake my second life
If you follow.

I apologise for what you’ve done to me,
And truly, I’m upset for giving up the distance.
Time collects its space to show me how to see
How deep in you I dwell – the deeper is my promise.

Would you stay until the end?
We are growing older,
Every moment that I spend
Laying on your shoulder.
Would your fear contain the loss?
Would you ever regret?
I’ll forsake my second life
If you follow.

Should I lose my mind instead?
Should I give you answers
If you forget to question fate?
We might be lonely dancers
Erasing any doubt,
And if your fear is stronger,
Disconnect the roots, find out
Where you belong.

[ If You Follow – Leandra ]

So, what do you do when you’ve got a bunch of long-term projects that have slowed down lately, a few photos from said projects with a romantic undertone and a real-life couple posing for you? You sqeeze the hell out of it! That’s how I ended up with two photos for my Inspiration Hurts project and another two for Morphine. Come on, you don’t let a good occasion go to waste.
Basically, I had a nice shooting with my dear friend, fellow photographer and insanely pretty, photogenic boy Knajfer Wintermere (of Lullaby fame), and his real-life, equally pretty and photogenic boyfriend Riccardo. Among the couple photos I had sketched out and wanted to take was If You Follow: the basic idea was having one of the two in a more static pose and the other inviting him in some way, pretty basic and sticking to the song.

My original idea had the two of them posing on the oppisite sides of the beam, one facing away and the other going all “follow me” on him. I even have a couple of takes like that, but during this shooting I allowed much freedom to Knajfer and Riccardo because I wanted them to act as themselves, and one of the later takes on the photo ended up as what you see, with the two of them engaging each other while still being on opposite sides of the beam. And that’s what caught my eye: my basic idea was still there, but there’s such an exchange of energy in the picture that it trumped the more static vision I had in mind. Also, I like that it’s a bit ambiguous who’s inviting whom and who’ll follow.

So here we are, with a new work from the Isomorphine part of the series. Coming next, one from the Metamorphine side. Enjoy!

Friday, 14 July 2017

Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope by GothicNarcissusThere was only ever you and me
And there was only ever history
Holding us back, holding us back.
But that night, we stared in wonder,
Wide-eyed but scared to wander.
The landslide fell silent all around.

And it was the same scene from a kaleidoscope dream.
You got me spinning. No, no,
You didn’t wake me from my kaleidoscope dream.
You got me spinning in your love,
Spinning in your love.

Do you remember when we used to see
White flamingos gliding on the breeze
And there was only ever you and me?
In this neon jungle, you fed my hunger and
That night we stared in wonder:
The black sky turned technicolor
And your eyes surprised me when you smiled.

And it was the same scene from a kaleidoscope dream.
You got me spinning. No, no,
You didn’t wake me from my kaleidoscope dream.
You got me spinning in your love
And you hypnotise me like no other,
Mesmerise my mind with colour, so
Let the night bring us together again.

[ Kaleidoscope – Hurts ]

Unpopular opinion: I don’t exactly like this song. Hurts have an impressive musical catalogue with emtional, inspiring songs and this one… is okay, I guess, but it falls a bit flat. I find it generic compared to other Hurts tunes both in terms of music and lyrics. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t give me much in terms of visual ideas other than “there’s gonna be a couple”: if I included it in the poject at all was because I’m obsessive-compulsive and having a song out would bother me to no end.

Now, fun fact: there’s a lot of material I’ve gathered throughout the years which I’m saving for shooting with real-life couples rather than me and a friend, or two friends, or two random pretty people who’re willing to roll with it. Part of the reasons why I’ve slowed down considerably on many long-term project is just that: the photo needs that kind of genuine emotion to work. That’s what makes the difference between a pretty picture and one that really tells a story.
This approach paid out big time on Kaleidoscope and it’s pretty much what got me out of the tight spot it would have put me in once I was done with the rest of the series (eh, someday) and I had to deal with it. The fact I pulled it off now and in a satisfying way is pure luck and all thanks to my dear friend Knajfer Wintermere and his real-life boyfriend Riccardo.

So, when we organised the shooting, I dusted off a few ideas from my “Ho!Yay photos kept for better times” file (yes, that’s its actual name) to have a basic outline, but left many details, such as the location choice, to Knajfer and Riccardo, who are locals and know better than me where to go in Milan. The park they chose happened to have this sort of… err, porch thing, which happened to be painted with that geometric motive in bright colours. Mmh, I thought, I have a couple, I have something that sort of recalls a kaleidoscope or, more generally, the colour / neon / brightness theme in the lyrics, might as well see if I can cross this photo off the list here and now.
During the shooting, I gave Knajfer and Riccardo some directions for what I had in mind on certain photos but I generally left them free to be their cute selves in front of the lens. Here I just let them come up with the pose without any interference whatsoever (other than building a nice geometry with the bacground) and it ended up matching the mood of the song perfectly. All on their own merits, they cleared me the greatest spanner in the Inspiration Hurts works.
On a side note, the colours from the murals turned out particularly bright against the dark wood background, and that added a really nice touch to the photo. That, combined with Knajfer and Riccardo’s emotional intensity, really did the trick. Hurray, love did really save the day this time!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone by GothicNarcissusIn fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
Juliet is on her knees:
She shoots to kill and aims to please, oh.

And you can see it in her eyes,
It’s not something that she likes,
But she can’t stand being alone.
So you thank her for her charm
And you take her in your arms,
But she just won’t let you go.

She said her daddy was an alcoholic
And her mother was an animal.
Now she’s living like a rolling stone,
She said that the law will never take her alive
If they take her home.

In Belarus she was a vespertine,
She danced the go-go for the bourgeoisie.
Now she’s here and she is on her knees, oh.

And she won’t apologise
For the cheating and the lies,
But she can’t stand being this way.
And you can see it in her eyes,
She would kill them if they try
To send her back to her grave.

She said her daddy was an alcoholic
And her mother was an animal.
Now she’s living like a rolling stone,
She said that the law will never take her alive
If they take her home.

[ Rolling Stone – Hurts ]

Rolling Stone is easily one of my favourite songs out of Hurts’s latest album, Surrender. The lyrics are a bit too melodramatic, but it’s a very emotional song which painted a vivid image in my head since the first few times I listened to it. Also, it was released as a promotional single and I found the accompaining artwork very inspiring. I decided to take some cues from it, such as the red dress, and who could possibly look better in red than my dearest BriarRose? Also, I wanted a gun in it to give a connection to the whole “my way or burst” theme of the lyrics, and she happened to have one for her Misato Katsuragi cosplay. In short, taking this photo was only a matter of when, rather than how.
To be honest, though, my original idea was more reminescent of the single artwork than you can see: I thought of having BriarRose hold the gun to her chest (not pointed to it, just lying there as a reminder she has control and a way out), glance sideways, and I thought I woul crop the photo below her chin or slightly above the lips to keep the focus on the chest. The problem is, I find it difficult to exclude the models’ faces because I feel like I’m de-humanising them, turning them into mere props for my shooting. Which, in a way, is sort of what I already do, since I have them play a part in a story I want to tell rather than be themselves, but that still makes me a bit uncomfortable. Besides, BriarRose is just so expressive that cropping off her face is a waste of her talent.
Anyway, after I tried some different croppings of my original idea which were kind of good too, BriarRose asked me to shoot a few simple portraits because she liked the look. One of her poses proved so effective that we both agreed to re-shoot it with the gun and keep it as the actual Rolling Stone. Indeed, having her firmly engage the viewer with her gaze, and ready to shoot in the dark if necessary, made the photo all more dramatic and achieved a far better result: the more contemplative side view, with or withoout the close crop, made for more of a victim of circumstances, while the frontal pose puts the character in charge of her own destiny in spite of everything, like the lyrics suggest. Well, that’s why I love working with BriarRose: our creative synergy always brings something fresh to the mix.
Also, one of the “simple” portraits I took turned out so amazing I decided to publish it too, because it fits another, non-Hurts-related idea I wanted to develop. You’ll be seeing it on my Facebook and deviantArt tomorrow!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

So, it’s been ten years…

My very first “photoshoot” ever… wasn’t very much of a photoshoot at all, to be honest. At least not at the beginning.
Basically, on an October afternoon, back in 2006, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to grab my compact camera and go out take some pictures of him to impress a girl. Who was a mutual friend, so why not taking some photos together, too? And since I would be all dolled up, I thought, why not striking a pose or two and look pretty all on my own? So I wore my then-favourite striped green sweater, some really questionable jeans and shoes, I put on some make up and off I went.
The initial results were a mixed bag: a handful of photos of him, some terrible, some almost decent, considering I barely knew what I was doing (except absolutely NO-BACKLIGHT); a few photos of the two of us, which were a good practice for placing the camera on whatever available surface; and a few selfies before it was cool.

A Prince In Green by GothicNarcissus
Seriously, it’s just a selfie.
And then, something happened.
Being very camera shy, my friend was okay with just a few pics; the rest of the afternoon we spend with me bossing him around to help me take some photos. Because as soon as I could put the camera on whatever windowsill or step I could find in front of interesting places, or tell my friend how exactly I wanted him to shoot me, more and more ideas kept coming up.
Having already seen my share of bloggish gothic imagery, I had discovered a few more serious artists, following whom I kept occasionally popping up and lurking around deviantArt; the thought of trying something of the sort had been growing in the back of my mind for quite some time and I don’t know, that afternoon I finally tried to do just that. With barely any idea of what I was doing (because come on, a striped sweater, messy hair and a line of kajal is definitely not gothic imagery), try I did.
Or maybe I wasn’t so clueless, after all. As I mentioned several times, my initial thought was to go into a more digital direction, which was all the rage back then; my postproducing tools consisting only of Ulead PhotoExpress, though, I was pretty aware I could not just cut myself out of a blank background and put me onto something different, so I had to work with some interesting environment to begin with. And the historic centre of Alghero happens to be a 16th Century walled town with plenty of nice spots to use, so I thought I could work something out even if it didn’t look like I was lying in some dimly lit underground temple or some cemetery at night time. Also, having zero control over the camera, which worked strictly in automatic mode and was mostly managed by my friend, meant that I couldn’t take extra dark photos to begin with, so… well, I had to try and make something out of it through my own expressivity.

Let Live, Let Go by GothicNarcissus
And then, I muted the colours to make it look more gooothic.
Even though the most I could manage was looking unconvincingly brooding, I can kind of say I came up with a moodboard on the spot and the shooting as a whole, outtakes included, has a sort of cohesive theme. Evanescence’s The Open Door had just recently come out and, well, to say I was obsessed with it would be an understatement. My obsession included the promotional pictures for the album, so I ended up posing in front of whatever ancient-looking door, window, gate, fence, balcony, architectural structure I thought was cool. And even though the poses were awkward, silly or downright second-hand (a few shots were an attempt to copy Amy Lee walking on the fountain in the My Immortal video, except I was walking on a well), I did try my best to look thoughtful, whimsical, lovelorn or dramatic. I really wanted to express something with those photos, be it just my admiration for some cool music without realising yet the full potential of actually working on a concept like that to create a true synesthesia between songs and the images.

Let Live, Let Go by GothicNarcissus
Dramatic pose and a fancy window. This is what got me here.
But yes, the embryo of what would become the cornerstones of my artistic endeavour were already there. I really do look back fondly at those photos, however naive and raw they are: had I not gone out that afternoon, maybe I would have tried anyway to express myself through photography, sooner or later, but it’s nice to see I had sensed what road suited me best from the beginning.
Eventually, a few of those photos made their way out of my computer: when I joined deviantArt exactly ten years ago, on October 26th, I found them expressive enough to share them with artistic purposes, and it all snowballed into… today, packing up to work three days of commissioned shootings at a cosplay convention. And yes, there is also one particular photo from that afternoon which I think really worked and I decided to “remake” as a sort of celebration. Here we go with the Evanescence-themed The Only One, 2006 and 2016:
The Only One by GothicNarcissus The Only One 2016 by GothicNarcissus

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Froot

Froot by GothicNarcissusI’ve seen seasons come and go
From winter sun to summer snow.
This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.
Nature ain’t a fruit machine,
She’s gotta keep her credits clean.
Good things come to those who wait
But I ain’t in a patient phase.

It’s summer time and I hang on a vine,
They’re gonna make me into sweet red wine.
Hanging around like a fruit on a tree,
Waiting to be picked. Come on, cut me free.

Come on, fill your cup up
Looking for some good luck,
Good luck, good luck to you.
Hanging like a fruit
Ready to be juiced,
Juiced, juiced.

Living la dolce vita,
Life couldn’t get much sweeter.
Don’t you give me a reason
That it’s not the right season.
Babe, I love you a lot,
I’ll give you all I’ve got.
Yeah, you know that it’s true,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you
Like fruit, like fruit.

Baby, I am plump and ripe,
I’m pinker than shepherd’s delight,
Sweet like honeysuckle late at night.
Leave it too long, I’ll go rot
Like an apple you forgot.
Birds and worms will come for me,
The cycle of life is complete.

I’m your carnal flower, I’m your bloody rose.
Pick my petals off and make my heart explode.
I’m your deadly nightshade, I’m your cherry tree.
You’re my one true love, I’m your destiny.

Come on, fill your cup up
Looking for some good luck,
Good luck, good luck to you.
Autumn – I’ll be gone,
Birds will sing their mourning
Song, song.

Living la dolce vita,
Life couldn’t get much sweeter.
Don’t you give me a reason
That it’s not the right season.
Babe, I love you a lot,
I’ll give you all I’ve got.
Yeah, you know that it’s true,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you
Like fruit, like fruit.

Oh, my body is ready,
Yeah, it’s ready, yeah, it’s ready for your love.
Oh, my branches are heavy,
Yeah, they’re heavy, yeah, they’re heavy.

Living la dolce vita,
Life couldn’t get much sweeter.
Don’t you give me a reason
That it’s not the right season.
Babe, I love you a lot,
I’ll give you all I’ve got.
Yeah, you know that it’s true,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you,
I’ve been saving all my summers for you
Like fruit.

[ Froot – Marina & The Diamonds ]

Alright, I really love Marina & The Diamonds: her lyrics might as well be pulled out of my head and they always give me a huge lot of inspiration. Froot, title track and first single off her third album, is no exception and I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a photo inspired by it pretty much since I first heard the song and seen the visuals associated with it. It took me a while to codify the final idea as you can see it – a rainbow-coloured halo made of fruit encircling my head – but I’m positive I already had by this time last year, as my first take included the fruit-halo laying on my fanned out, then-long hair. While not taking the photo before I had it cut short was one of the two or three regrets I had, in hindsight it was a true blessing because taking a self portrait with fruit lying on my hair would have been totally unpractical, as I found out when I came down to actually shoot the photo. Also, a nice Forties-inspired pompadour allowed me to experiment with make up to get a goth-yet-posh look which would complement the chromatic variety of the photo.
As this picture is very meaningful to me, I was pretty eager when I finally came down to shooting it, so I documented part of the process / kept teasing about it on my Instagram: first biting the apple which would be left to rot; then, assembling (most of) the halo, having my nails done and shooting; and finally, eating up the props with some delicious whipped cream by my favourite ice cream maker. If you pay attention to the dates, though, you will notice this photo was shot, like, months ago: why is that, you may wonder?
Well, first off, I had to wait for the apple to rot away, which took a few weeks. Then, as Marina put it, “nature ain’t a fruit machine”: despite globalisation, I couldn’t have all the fruit I needed at one time. Before I could get figs, strawberries, cherries and loquats would have run out; oranges are from a totally different season, no way I could have them and plums together; blueberries are grown in greenhouses so they’re out there pretty much all year long, but I wanted them to taste good, too, for my private afterparty and I’d rather have them in the right season. So, I resolved to get the bulk of the halo when most kinds of fruit were available, shoot the main photo and then fill it in as soon as I got the rest. Technically, it wasn’t particularly hard, as I chose a spot on my wooden floor, laid my camera on the clotheshorse to have it perfectly horizontal (as I did with Over You), so I kept the same focal distance and light direction for every shot until cherries, plums, pears and figs – the last addition – were available. The hardest part was reaching for the camera and clicking the button, which gave a nice contribution to my abs, and is the reason why I could have never pulled out this photo with long hair.
Now, in the YouTube audio file for the song, as well as on the album booklet, you can see that the fruit rainbow is a prominent part of Marina’s Froot Era aesthetics and she picked her own colour-coded sequence. I deliberately decided to create one of my own so that it would be a tribute rather than directly copy of hers, even though there is some overlapping with cherries, oranges, lemons and, especially blueberries. Cherries are kind of unavoidable, but I added strawberries too to give different shades of red; oranges and lemons, too, are the most immediate association with, well, orange and yellow, but I put loquats in-between to make the transition more gradual; as for blueberries… well, there is no other edible blue fruit that I can think of. As for purple, I deliberately avoided grapes because I’ve already used them recently, and I opted for plums instead, with figs providing the indigo shade in-between. I also preferred to keep apples out of the halo for other purposes, so I used limes for green; I though I would put a green fig as an intermediate shade between green and yellow, but I was lucky enough to get purple figs this early and “I ain’t in a patient phase”, so I ultimately decided that pear it is.
One final mention for the apple: I decided to go with a visual apple / heart motif to recall the lines from the second verse, and to add some more layers of personal depth to the image. And… well, that’s basically it: I worked hard on this photo and I’m really satisfied with how it turned out. I hope you enjoy it too and… all praise to our lady, Saint Marina the Evangelist, and her three Gospels: The Family Jewels, Electra Heart and Froot. Amen.