150cm x 150cm (View large here)
I have loved this photograph from the day I took it 9 months ago in the summer of 2013, it is full of all the things that drive and inspire me with my work …..theatre, human connection, colour, the landscape, and above all a certain unsaid English eccentricity. It has been six years since I first discovered the overgrown mouth of the abandoned path, and stumbled into its hidden tunnel of fallen leaves and twisted vines. It felt like entering the pages of a forgotten storybook, where the trees grew gnarled and stunted, knotting their branches together overhead, weighed down with their cloaks of wild ivy. It was a timeless place, one that has inspired me many times over the years and felt like the perfect setting for this next scene………..
Returning to the story, and following on from the ‘Secret Locked in The Roots of A Kingdom’ this portrait was really about further expressing nature’s role as Katie’s guardian,with the branches encircling and outstretched towards her, and the precious coat – a gift from the flowers to protect Katie during her final days in Wonderland.. The scene was really to portray a sense of knowing that time was running out, and Katie’s own self-awareness that she would soon be gone. I suppose I intended it as her last look back at us, like a brief private moment of connection and understanding through the screen. As strange as her appearance is, this final fusion of her body and nature together was to emphasise her completion and acceptance of the bond between herself and the landscape, and where it would eventually lead her. To me I see strength in her eyes, and as we all stood wrapped in the womb of the woods that day it felt intimate, quiet, and echoed all that nature has become for me in reality, …. my comfort …… protection, and the place I am truly myself.
Costume and Wig were made and designed by me, to see the full photographs of the pieces, please visit my previous blog entry here
Elbie Van Eeeden working on Katie’s make-up
The wig had to be wired to the branches above for support
Since then this picture has sat on my computer untouched for 9 months waiting for its moment in the closing sequence, unaware of the second meaning it would soon sadly adopt. Little did I know that 1 week after opening the shoot files and beginning work, that this piece would become far deeper, sadder, and more emotional than I ever could have imagined. As I write these words tears are running down my face, because this will now always be for a life that was taken from this world far too young, without warning, and has left so many of us stunned in its wake. On March 5th our dear friend John Clarke tragically died in a motorbike accident, he was only 35. My husband had seen him just 2 weeks before, when John had talked of moving out of London to the countryside to be nearer to us with his girlfriend Samira. His life had changed so much in the last year, he had found love, happiness and purpose within himself, and I cannot begin to explain the extent of his warmth and kindness as a human being; in short everyone loved John. So once again throwing myself into work and pouring everything I have into the pixels before me became the only way I could make sense of things and somehow try to honour his memory
As the picture came to life, the light around Katie became more relevant and vital with each day that passed, and in my minds eye it became how I imagined John. Everything I had mentioned before about a sense of journey, looking back and making a final connection, suddenly gained new meaning, worth and weight. It is the strangest thing how events can suddenly impact and resonate through something created from a different origin, ……but this is how the photograph evolved.
For a few brief moments we were visited by a beautiful sun burst, this is the only behind the scenes picture we managed to snap at the time.
FX Media filming the process
** (Update March 27. The picture was made ‘Photo OF The Day’ by Italian Vogue)
The coincidence of the picture’s original narrative still takes my breath away, and for that reason I feel I can dedicate it to John’s memory in the most genuine and heart felt way. I have named it ‘The Stars Of Spring Will Carry You Home’ . Part of the title I took from an Epic45 song that for me will always represent love, and secondly for both John and Katie they were now set on their path home, returning to where they came from. It is about strength, and the merging of flesh with nature….. completing the circle of energy I feel we are all a part of. As I have said many times I believe we do not end, and that our vibrations simply ripple and grow, becoming all things. On the day of the shoot for a few brief moments we were visited by a sunburst that sent shattered stars of light across the path and haloed Katie’s form. It was brief and beautiful, like Johns life and I still remember how I had softly greeted it under my breath as my mother. This is why I will always shoot in the landscape because of the gifts it brings us; ……. that unexpected light became the defining part of the image and the glue that now holds the emotion of the piece together.
But despite all of this, I do not wish to end on a sad note because this photograph still brings me great warmth and happiness, and even a little laugh when I remember the chaos of us wiring the wig to the tree branches to support the weight on Katie’s head. It was a simple, happy shoot with all my favourite people around me, and I love it dearly. John will always be remembered for his infectious laugh and warmth, and I see that radiating through in the form of the hazy light flare rainbow in the leaves.. During the funeral John’s father read aloud one of John’s favourite quotes and these beautiful words somehow seem to sum up everything I feel and can hope for when I think about what has happened ……
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.”
(Australian Aboriginal proverb)
I take comfort in this, and all I have learnt through personal experience is that we must try to love and live for each day with no regrets. I am grateful for every day I have been able to work as an artist and truly feel alive in what I do. If I hadn’t lost mum I may have never taken this path, and discovered this part of me. So John, wherever you are tonight, I just wanted to say thank you…… you are so loved……. fly free dear friend xx
John Paul Clarke
2nd June 1978 – 5th March 2014