Updated: Mar 13, 2019
“I had entered into a marriage
In the summer of my twenty-first year
And the bells rang for our wedding
Only now do I remember it clear….”
Introducing the first character of the Taiga series: The Rake. For the character of the Rake, I worked to incorporate some of his backstory into the costume and look of the character. The description of “creepy man who lives in a forest” while offering some kind of vibe wasn’t specific enough to build a whole costume from scratch. I based the original designs of the costumes in the Edwardian sort of era and draw inspiration from the late 19th century in general throughout my work. I have used the long jackets with the tailored waist and full skirt look from my “Hamlet” series again in this series as a reference and stylistic choice. It’s a conscious attempt to develop my own style and signature as well as me playing around with details on a silhouette I already know I love.
So for the Rake I imagined that he began in the “real world” - a reality parallel to late 1800’s American/English society. He was a dandy, a charming, hedonistic sociopath with no self control, which lead eventually to his marriage and the death of his children described in the song. He then retreats to the Taiga where he now dwells. Despite the harshness of the wilderness he is an independantly powerful and dangerous creature. My idea of the Taiga is that anyone who enters and chooses to dwell there starts to become part of it, that it slowly and subtly lays claim to anyone who dares to dwell in it. Since the Rake has been there for years, he has plant growth creeping its way into his clothing and wears the skull of a deer he killed with his own hands. He lives in a partly collapsed shelter, where he sits alone in his “throne” surveying the surrounding woods.
For this shoot I knew I wanted my friend Charli Summers to model as he is an amazing model and comfortable with some acting as well. I made the clothes to his measurements, and planned the shoot for November thinking the late fall would have a beautiful color palette of brown dying leaves as the backdrop.
Of course Mother Nature never cooperates and we had an incredibly cold and snowy late fall. When we arrived to pick up Charli in Turners Falls, the ground was covered in snow and the woods location we had in mind, another half an hour drive to southern Vermont proved even snowier. I had a few days to adjust to this news and so I had brought along some things I hoped would add to the more “wintery” vibe of the shoot, specifically white powder which I sifted over Charli to make it seem like he was partially buried in the snowy landscape we set him in.
We ended up having a team of 5 people working that day, scouting the location, helping drag clothes, props, camera equipment as well as a 5 foot throne into the woods! Thanks to Allie for being so good with dreading hair that she was able to make the wig we used look amazing super last minute, and Zach for discovering this super cool abandoned building partially collapsed in the woods, and my dad for helping me drag a 5 ½ foot throne I found on craigslist into the middle of the woods.
Once we had set up everything including the throne balanced precariously on a snowy hill, Charli, with his layers of frills, burned upholstery jacket and glued-on nails had to sit there while we balanced the wig and headdress on his head and handed him a huge vintage musket. It was amazing to see the results all come together, a character I had dreamed up 5 years before finally brought to life.
What an exciting moment! As I tried not to fall down the hill taking these photos I was so excited to see the images bringing to life the story I had been trying to tell.