Wonderland – ‘The Stars of Spring Will Carry You Home’
I have loved this photograph from the very first day I took it over 9 months ago in the summer of 2013. It is full of all the things that drive and inspire me in my work, theatre, human connection, colour, the landscape, and above all a certain unsaid English eccentricity.
It has been six years since I discovered the overgrown mouth of the abandoned path and first 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 such a personal scene.
Close Up cropped sections of picture
‘The Stars of Spring Will Carry You Home ’was created to further express nature’s role as Katie’s guardian. I deliberately positioned her encircled by branches in the womb of the woods, cloaked in the precious coat of protective petals given to her by the flowers. It was to emphasise a circle of completion and an acceptance of the bond between herself and the landscape. For me this portrait was really to convey a sense of knowing that time was running out and Katie’s self-awareness that she would soon be gone. It is her last look back at us, a private final moment of connection and understanding direct through the screen. I’ll always remember how intimate and quiet it was that day and how this picture now echoes all that nature has become for me in reality, it is 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
The photograph has since sat on my computer untouched for 9 months waiting for its moment in the closing sequence, unaware of the second meaning it would soon tragically adopt. Little did I know that 1 week after opening the shoot files and beginning work, that this piece would become far more emotional than I ever could have imagined. As I write these words tears are running down my cheek because this picture will now always stand for a life that was taken from the world far too young, without warning and has left so many of us stunned in its wake. On March 5th 2014 our dear friend John Paul 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. I simply 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 grief and somehow try to honour his memory.
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.
After the funeral I began editing and the picture slowly came to life. The light around Katie became more relevant and vital with each day that passed and in my minds eye it was 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 unrelated events can suddenly impact and resonate through something created from a completely different origin, but that is how the photograph evolved.
The coincidence of the picture’s narrative in the story 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’ partly taken from the title of an Epic45 song that for me will always represent love, and secondly for how I now see John and Katie – both heading on their paths home. 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. For me that unexpected light became the defining part of the image and the emotion I will always feel when I look back at the finished piece.
However, despite all of this rawness, I do not wish to end on a sad note because this photograph still brings me great warmth and happiness. 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 feel that radiating through the picture in the form of the hazy rainbow light flare in the leaves. During the funeral John’s father read 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)
So I take comfort in this, have learnt through personal experience 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 new part of me, so once again we will try to find some meaning in John’s loss, and continue to love him always.
John Paul Clarke
2nd June 1978 – 5th March 2014