Gabriella Persson is a talented and passionate photographer, and we were very lucky to enlist her services to back up my own amateur photography skills and create some artwork for our flyers. So, we headed to the Britannia pub in Richmond, where the staff are incredibly patient, for a photoshoot in their rooftop ‘Birdcage’ with our very co-operative models Jo (who’s also one of the participating artists – talk about multi-talented!) and Becca.
Admittedly, the idea behind the shoot is very literal, bird masks, cages, a coupla fine ‘birds’ ensconced inside the cage. Crack out a few tunes and you’ve got a single entendre more obvious than a giant panda in Tescos. However, we wanted the imagery to be wistful, yearning, our models to be haunted yet hopeful, fragile beings contemplating a tangible and spiritual world beyond their sphere of knowledge, much like we are trying to do with this exhibition – to learn, grow and liberate ourselves through the ideas embedded in the artwork.
The bird mask in the shoot was pretty self explanatory, but choosing to use my Venetian plague mask (similar to the one Heath Ledger wore in The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus) was for slightly more involved reasons. Plague masks, although an eerie and unnerving symbol of a notorious disease have a strangely hopeful history. After they died, plague victims’ houses – still riddled wth the disease and avoided like, well, y’know – were set upon by brave looters, who when caught would be sentenced to hang by the neck. One despairing judge, noticing that the robbers rarely seemed to catch the dreaded bug said he would grant their freedom if they could reveal the secret to their wellbeing. The robbers revealed that they used a herbal concoction which they would breath through to keep the bubonic cooties at bay. So, they were granted their freedom and doctors had protection when they visited patients. The creepy masks, which become an enduring icon of widespread death and disease, were created to hold the sachets near the Doctors noses and thus, the plague mask ties in with the dichotomy of imprisonment and freedom that we are investigating in our show. Plus it looks wicked cool.
I can’t thank the staff at the Britannia enough for their patience, considering how many punters we probably scared off; thinking that they had walked into some Kubrickian cult of bird-watching Mormons whilst searching for a lovely Sunday lunch.
Once Jo got the mask on I started to notice something that I had suspected all along…
Anyways, once we started snapping we got some fantastic shots and the girls weren’t afraid to get a bit experimental with their posing.
A huge thankyou to Gabby, Becca and Jo for a great day and some gorgeous photos. Caged Bird Sings flyers and mailouts coming soon. (White dress and long gold dress by Cos)