Exhibiting at the Balenciaga Museum in Spain, to a theatre in Rome, and finally a taste of Wonderland in motion !!

To tell the truth, recently I have begun to the feel the pressure of how many people are waiting for the release of the new Wonderland pictures, and the length of time everything has been taking. The days and weeks have become a rushing river, pulling me along with its current, constantly changing direction with each new unexpected opportunity that appears from nowhere. Ever since the project began, I have never tried to approach any magazines or actively promote the series, yet still the coverage on social media and publications some days is almost overwhelming for me…… but one I am deeply grateful for. In the last 7 weeks, the facebook group has exploded to an unimaginable 131,000 followers (almost twice where it was), and every week more people are getting in touch from around the world about future possibilities for the series. Sometimes these approaches lead to something very special and that is really that what this diary entry is about. In the last month two wonderful deviations have led the project to be linked with Spain and Rome, both wildly different, yet at the same time oddly involving large scale projections. The first was for an international fashion and art installation at the prestigious Balenciaga Museum in Spain, and the second was a stunning live music show held at the Palladium theatre in Rome. I’m incredibly excited to share both of these with you, but above all I am so thrilled and relieved to finally present the first Wonderland teaser trailer for the behind the scenes footage Richard and I have been collaborating on.
So … here you go … I guess this may help explain a little about the chaos going on in the background whilst I’m desperately trying to work on the pictures !!

MODATIK, Encounters of Fashion and Visual Arts
Balenciaga Museum, Spain

So this was quite a moment for me on so many levels, which you can probably gather from the overexcited photograph of me photobombing my own giant projection in the pictures above 🙂
To cut a long story short, at the end of September I was contacted by the creators of MODATIK. They were in the process of curating a film for the their latest production piece ‘Fashion and Visual Arts Encounters,’ which was to be held at the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum in Northern Spain.
They approached me to be included as one of fifteen international contemporary artists to have my work screened as part of a large scale video installation, featuring the work of some of the leading fashion photographers in the world. Each photographer had been chosen for producing work that was considered to “Intertwine the Visual Arts and Fashion through Photography” and would have their selected photograph screened at 19ft wide on loop for the duration of the exhibition. I remember sitting dumbstruck reading the names of the other photographers to be included, hero’s of mine such as Eugenio Recuenco,  and other giants such as Jean Francois Lepage and Sean Janiak to name just a few. I just couldn’t comprehend how my name had ended up alongside these greats, it was utterly surreal. To be recognised in such a way was an honor that completely flawed me, whilst at the same time the ex-fashion designer inside me was already hopping and squealing simply at the mention of the name ‘Balenciaga’. It was a double whammy of shock and excitement … and so of course I immediately called Elbie … we had to go!

So on the 9th of October we flew to Bilbao in the north of Spain for a whirlwind little trip, and I think the timing couldn’t have been better. To tell the truth I was exhausted and so incredibly stressed about the new pictures. The night before we left I’d had a bit of a meltdown, my studio floor was covered in endless test prints where I had spent weeks agonising over the smallest colour levels and details in the new pictures. I’d backed myself into a corner where I had become obsessed with perfection and instead, the pictures I normally love were draining my life force and getting me down. I knew I desperately needed some space, and being forced to leave everything behind was panicking me, but without realising it at the time, It was exactly what I  needed….
The following afternoon we arrived in Spain, it was balmy and warm…. and I remember staring at the surfers and lovers on the beach feeling a little alienated, like I was separated from them by a huge pane of glass.  I closed my eyes every now and then as Elbie and I walked towards the sea, taking off our shoes, feeling the sand between our toes, as the rush of sea air filled my ears. We sat and watched the light sparkle on the water, and I realized how disconnected I had become from anything other than working, and moreover how I knew that it had to stop. It was a lesson to myself ……….it was wonderful to feel some release after tying myself in knots over the last few weeks, the horizon shimmered and I felt so glad we had come.
The next morning we arrived at the museum for the press day. It was quiet because the exhibit was not due to be opened to the public until the day after, but it gave us the chance to photograph the installation, I gave a short interview for a television crew, listened to the press conference and finally we got to run around the beautiful museum on our own – hence the silly posing pictures .  It was a truly surreal experience to watch the installation, photographers whose work I knew and loved so well, and then…. there in the middle of it all … was my ‘Ghost Swift’ looking back at me…. vivid, powerful and so, so beautiful projected at 19ft wide. I held my breath a little, tried to act cool in front of the press, but inside me a little voice was screaming ….. “Your work is in the Balenciaga Museum !!! …. The Balenciaga Museum…. THE BALCENCIAGA MUSEUM’ !!!!!”. Elbie and I gave each other a sideways glance, an understanding smile, said our goodbyes….. and the then rushed outside to photograph ourselves next to the museum sign like a couple of giddy fools. To say it was one ticked off the bucket list would be an understatement, it really was a proud day … one I still almost cant believe.

‘Wonderland – The Final Scenes Teaser
By Richard Wakefield of FX Media

Next, I find myself taking a breath and pausing before trying to introduce this next piece, because I have already just written about something that meant so much to me, ….and now here I am, doing the same thing again. Really I could write pages about this short piece of film,  but for once I think it is more powerful if I say less, and simply insist you play it full screen and have your sound on full volume for it.
This is the first ever preview of the behind the scenes film footage that Richard Wakefield (FX MEDIA) and I have been collaborating on. Everything has been shot and edited entirely by Richard, in the same way I produce and make all the photographs myself.  Since this idea began, I have found myself thinking back to the first time Richard wrote to me suggesting he should film the creation of my pictures professionally, and how I had always really wanted to explore the idea, but never felt comfortable with it. Inwardly I knew I could only ever feel satisfied with footage that would echo the emotion of the pictures I produced, and the chances of finding that in a stranger was basically impossible in my mind.  However I was wrong …. and the first time I watched the rough cut of our first shoot together I cried because it was exactly that … a moving echo of my pictures.. Ever since then everything changed, and we decided to spend the summer documenting each one of the final pictures. Over this time our plans evolved and we have now settled on two formats to present the films. As each new picture is released, there will be an accompanying 5 minute video of the shoot showing how everything came together set to music, but as well as these short films, we have decided to also make our own documentary about the project. This will include a full interview with me about the series,  it will revisit the locations in the pictures , show the costumes in detail, as well as me making the props +  bonus footage from the shoots. Its a challenge, but one that feels like a really special way to end the series for all the amazing people who have supported it and followed the progress over the last 4 years . So this has been unexpected, and wonderful and is a whole new dimension to the project … one which I feel incredibly excited about. … so hit play and enjoy 🙂 !

** Special thanks to Diego Buongiorno for the use of his track ‘Children of The Wolf’

MY HEART IS A FOREST – Live music show in Rome
Written and created by Diego Buongiorno

Finally, I now have to introduce you to the musical equivalent of Wonderland, and my dear friend Diego Buongiorno, who I have the utmost respect for in so many ways. I think the thing about Diego is that he has felt a little bit like my personal parallel for the past few years that I have known him. Diego believes in everything I believe in ….  the power and beauty of nature, the lost magic so many of us believed in as children, passion, art and above all channeling this through our own personal mediums. Mine is my photography, Diego’s is his music.  For almost exactly the same amount of time it has taken for me to produce Wonderland, Diego has been creating a unique and entirely personal album called ‘The Bush’ . Like me, he has worked relentlessly  7 days a week attempting to climb a mountain in order to produce an album that goes beyond the music and extends into art and storytelling as well. To explain it better I am just going to share the official description here, and this is the official website for the project if you would like to explore it further. It is entirely self funded, and created by Diego, he has fought to make his dream come true, and I really admire him for doing it against all odds.

“The Bush” is a concept album of 25 tracks, an original fable in which every track is part of a story that celebrates Innocence, Courage and Imagination: a multi-faceted musical project. Written, arranged and produced by Diego Buongiorno, featuring international artists of the highest level, from Jo Hamilton to The Irrepressibles, from Amiina to Högni Egilsson of Gus Gus, from Little Red Lung to Dorian Wood, from Eivør to Sabina Sciubba of Brazilian Girls, to Author & Punisher and Tanya Tagaq, Clare and the Reasons and Craig Walker of Archive. A list put together over four years of work, meetings and numerous recording sessions in Rome, London, Berlin, Paris, Nunavut, San Diego, Los Angeles, the Faroe Islands, Knoxville, and Dublin. And the list could go on, including visual artists, designers and photographers involved for a work that isn’t just a music album.

So, my link with Diego goes back a few years with our first collaboration being my picture ‘The Distant Pull of Remembrance’  being used as the cover of his single ‘The Northern Lights’.  Our second collaboration was Diego allowing me to use his new single ‘Children Of The Wolf’ as the soundtrack to the Wonderland film teaser (which you just saw) . And finally as you can see from the photos below, I’m thrilled to say that not only did Diego finish the album, he went on to create a stunning live show version entitled ‘My Heart Is A Forest’ presented at the Palladium theatre in Rome earlier this month. This time he used elements from our Wonderland footage mixed with other works to create a new experimental piece projected above the orchestra during the live performance of his track ‘Children of The Wolf’

The live show presentation including our Wonderland footage !!!!!

For me this has been an extraordinary diary entry to write, I guess its because its about my photographs coming to life and changing into new and unexplored mediums I could not have predicted. The characters are being brought to life by Richards films, they are being set to music by Diego, they have been displayed on enormous screens in two different European cities in one month ….. and once again I’m siting here staring at my lap top trying to take it all in.
Its a strange and wonderful feeling …. the idea that even though I think I know where the project is going, it is sometimes like it has a life and energy of its own ….. and maybe  this is the best way I can celebrate the person it is all dedicated to. It will be 5 years since I lost mum on November the 9th, some days it feels like yesterday, other days I feel like it happened to someone else, and maybe I’ll see her again…….. somehow. This journey continues to sweep me up and set me back down in the strangest of places …. its hard work, but I equally can’t live without it. I’m so grateful for all of it and to the people who support what I do, I truly mean it …. thank you … for everything …… some days I just can’t say it enough  x