Wonderland hits the world press, gets published, and is showcased as a giant installation on London’s Regent Street for the Queen’s Jubilee ! (what a month !)
I know I often start these diary entries by saying ‘I don’t know where to begin’, but this one, more than anything else I’ve written in my entire 4 years seems like the most impossible. I feel like a year has passed in the last 3 weeks, so much has happened; I’m just lost for words. During this time Wonderland has made it onto the front page of the one of the biggest news websites in the world The Mail Online, the front page of MSN’now’, the BBC World Service , the BBC television news, and been featured with an interview in the Huffington Post, resulting in over 3 million hits on my website, and an avalanche of emails. Following that, In the last few days Wonderland has been super-sized to billboard proportions as an installation for the Queens Jubilee celebrations on London’s prestigious Regent Street……. and also been featured in a global released book on creative portraiture! Really each one of these moments deserves a separate diary entry, but I’ve been so frantic I haven’t had time to write about it all until now – so once again apologies… this might be a long write up!
So before I go back to how all of this happened, the first thing I want to do is just share the finished installation pictures. I’ll be putting together a video about the installation over the next few days, and will share some behind the scenes photos at the end of this entry too. But to be honest I still feel a little detached, like it’s a dream, the last few days have been such a blur I just can’t connect that Wonderland has finally gone public …. and on such a grand scale.
( Montage of 3 windows from the Regent Street Installation)
The installation was showcased in the windows of the Karen Millen flagship store at 247 Regent Street in London for 2 weeks, from the 31st May – 14th June.
Side view of installation
Full main window run
First Window (The Queen’s Armada)
Second Window (The Storyteller)
Third Window (Gammelyn’s Daughter)
Then finally the King and Queen light boxes, which were amazing !
As well as my photography, Karen Millen released limited editions of two of my dress designs. One of which was the original design that I super-sized for the costume of the Lavender field Princess character.
My second dress design was an all over embroidered silk organza dress shown in the above picture. The installation also contains the original steel ships from ‘The Queen’s Armada’ which you can see behind the mannequin in the photo ;)
Original ‘Mail Online’ article
So I suppose I should begin at Heathrow airport on May 10th when all of this began. I’d just returned from China and was standing at the baggage reclaim in a jet-lagged haze, thumbing through the messages on my phone. As I scrolled through to my surprise I came across three from the UK newspaper the Daily Mail. They had found Wonderland on an art blog and wanted to do a feature for their global news website the Mail Online. So the moment I got home I sent them an email, and over the next few days they put together a piece about mums story and asked for a selection of pictures.
Throughout this time in my ignorance I never really appreciated just how big the Mail Online is, and later learnt it is actually one of the biggest news sites in the world. Sometimes the Internet can feel a little less exciting than a tangible piece of print, but I could not have been more wrong. After a few days the piece was ready and went live, I admit I was unprepared for the huge ‘Cancer’ headline staring back at me, but I suppose that is the reality of mums story no matter how hard I try to block it out.
It was a strange feeling sitting at home watching the comments come in from their readers, I was so nervous as this was the first time my work had been laid bare to an enormous audience who had no prior understanding of who I was, or the history of the project. I knew there would be the typical ” its all Photoshop” comments from the people who don’t understand its real, but nothing prepared me for the sudden flood of truly kind and beautiful messages. After a few moments the emails started pouring in, and my website began to crash. I remember looking at the number of facebook ‘likes’ the piece had received and feeling grateful when it reached 200, I never imagined in my wildest dreams it would escalate to over 225,000 and make their front page entering into their top 3 most popular articles on record ! I was dumbstruck, my website received over 2 million hits in the 2 days that followed resulting in it having to be moved to its own independent server to cope with the traffic. It was just indescribable for me, the reaction was overwhelming and with every hour that passed more messages were coming in from people who had lost members of their family, people wanting to buy the limited editions, and press and interview requests from the BBC news, MSN and the Huffington Post.
Wonderland enters The Mail Online’s top three most popular article on record with over 225,000 ‘likes’ from the readers.
The Mail Online started a domino effect that led to Wonderland being featured on the front page of MSN ‘now’, the arts section of the Huffington post and countless spin off blogs around the world. I think I sat in front of my laptop for 4 days solid trying to reply to everyone that wrote to me, but in the end it just became impossible. To say I was humbled by the whole thing was an understatement, I never imagined people would connect with the series in the way they did, and I cannot express how grateful I am for their support.
Front page of MSN ‘Now’
Huffington Post Arts interview
Wonderland was blogged by so many people there are too many to add here, but these were a selection of the most important – PetaPixel, Fstoppers, Trendland, and the extremely prestigious art framers ‘John Jones’ of London.
So that was the first half of the excitement. The next stage was my installation with Karen Millen. As some of you know I had previously been a fashion designer for the last 10 years, and this part of my life was spent as the senior designer for the Far East occasionwear with the brand. Since leaving I had been periodically having meetings with them in regards to them becoming a co-sponsor of myself and the possibility of producing some kind of collaboration for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It was pure coincidence this happened in the middle of all the new press, and so fueled by all the excitement it was decided to put Wonderland on display at a monumental scale in their London flagship store on Regent Street. The next 2 weeks became a whirlwind of visits to my printers, and constant emails about the logistics of the producing the billboard versions. I have never seen the photos printed so big and to be honest was a little nervous at pushing them to such enormous proportions, but after seeing the test print strips I had no choice but to wait for the day of the installation to see the final results.
Test strips at the printers.
The night the display was going to be installed, I arrived at the store with a selection of Wonderland props, and my husband Matt, Elbie and assistant Steve. I knew it would be a long night, but I never expected to be leaving at 5am with the dawn! The shop had been closed but was buzzing with activity as their visual merchandise team were taking down the mannequins, moving the display plinths and clearing a large space for us to prepare the boards. I was full of anticipation, nerves and excitement, none of it had felt real until this point. Suddenly the reality of Wonderland being featured on one of the grandest shopping streets in the world during the Queen’s Jubilee began to hit home. When the moment finally arrived to lay out the prints, I was so glad Elbie was there with me. Despite seeing the test strips, this would be my first chance to see the billboards, and there was no going back. I opened the tube and held my breath, the first picture was the enormous lightbox film of ‘The White Queen’ and it was utterly magnificent. Elbie and I squealed and whooped with delight and relief. I was speechless, and just kept standing with my hand over my mouth. All the details were crystal clear, and the whole image was ten times more powerful for being so huge…. and so this is how things progressed. With each new print to be unraveled, my excitement built and adrenalin rushed through my veins. The sudden warmth of relief seeped across my body, and my joy at seeing the pictures looking so beautiful was such a prolific moment.
Anyway, I will be putting together a little film of our night in the shop for you to see the chaos first hand, but until then here are some behind the scenes pictures. My absolute favourite has to be the one of Elbie rolling around with delight next to the giant White Queen picture. I was so happy she was there, we have been in this together since the beginning and worked so hard, it really felt like it was finally time to release some pressure and enjoy what we had created :)
The first night was exhausting, and when I left at the dawn, the lightboxes had to be delayed for the next evening. So after a few hours sleep I packed my equipment and traveled back to London for the final stages. The lightboxes took longer than planned, so Instead I spent most of the night on the street outside with my camera taking pictures of the windows. It was the strangest experience, after all the chaos of the night before, this was finally some time for me on my own to reflect on what lay before me. As I stood in the darkness I watched people pass, almost every one of them stopped and looked. It was a busy Friday just after midnight, and the streets were full of people returning home from dinners or going out to clubs. One drunk man refused to believe The Storyteller was real, and started arguing with his friend about how “it was impossible to make a hat out of real bluebells, and how can you have a chair made of books like that?’ . Others took photos on their phones, or ran between the windows shouting back at their friends about which one was their favourite. I sat down on a street bench and watched them, it was the first time I had seen people in real life reacting to Wonderland first hand, if I hadn’t been so tired I probably would have cried with happiness, but my body felt like a dried out shell after days of anticipation, nerves and excitement. So instead I just took it all in, a little bit numb, and little bit in disbelief …. but mostly hoping mum could see it – it finally felt like things were really beginning to change on a far bigger scale than I ever could have wished for, if I’m honest it was one of the proudest moments of my life………
Finally (sorry for such a long entry) the other exciting news is my work has been featured in the new global released book ‘Creative Portrait Photography’ by the lovely Natalie Dybisz – aka the amazing photographer Miss Aniela . The book is Natalie’s second release which not only features beautiful imagery, it also takes you through many of her processes and approaches to creative portraiture, giving the reader both technical advice, and guidance with developing their own signature style. Within the book Natalie has chosen to dedicate a chapter to showcasing 5 artists from around the world who she feels are at the forefront of creating exciting and diverse work in this field. I was honored to be featured amongst Brooke Shaden , Alex Stoddard , Peter Kemp and Susannah Benjamin . My section features some of my self portraiture, as well as some early Wonderland shots. It talks about my journey into photography, and the type of development I put into producing my scenes. The book is ridiculously good value for all the rich content, and a really vibrant book to get you inspired! You can also watch an in depth interview with Natalie about the book here
(As a small side note to anyone looking to buy prints from me, the Wonderland pictures in the book have reproduced a little desaturated to the true print quality)
OK ……. so that is finally it ! Im up to date with all the news, and will share a video of the installation next week. I just can’t begin to explain what this month has been like, and I have so many people to thank, and so many to apologise to because I haven’t been able to reply to all of your kind messages individually. Please know I have read every single one and been so deeply touched, and am so very grateful for everyone’s incredible support, it has been overwhelming and completely humbling for me… I truly, truly mean it x