It feels great to finally bring the Oracle to life! She was one of the very first DreamWorld characters I thought of; I’ve been mentally planning her for over a year. Part of what held her up was finding the right objects to build her canopy, and then by the time I’d done that, it was winter. Even though California winters are pretty weak by most standards, I still didn’t want my model to have to lay half-submerged in water that was more freezing than it had to be. I make my models to odd and uncomfortable things, but I do try to make it as painless as possible for them.
Let’s see, should we cover the making-of first, or the meaning of the images? Things will probably make more sense if I explain the Oracle first, so let’s do that.
The real-life kernel of inspiration for the Oracle came from the idea of having precognitive dreams; ie, dreams about events which have not yet happened. Though this sounds quite mystical, I know quite a lot of people personally who have them on a semi-regular basis as well as having them myself. Modern science has no good explanation for how this happens, but I know from my own experiences that it does, and it cannot be explained by deja vu, coincidence, a self-fulfilling prophecy, etc. There are some very interesting papers written on the subject for anyone who cares to read them, but I’ll stick with talking about my own experiences as much as possible.
For me, I rarely note the dreams as precognitive when I’m having them, although this seems to be uncommon; the majority of people recognize them as precognitive when they wake up. Mine are almost always about very mundane things. It’s not anything I can control; it happens on its own. I’ll have dreams about working at a job before I have the job, before I’ve started looking or even considered that job as a career choice. And while there is some overlap with deja vu, they are completely different things. I experience deja vu like anyone else, but I never confuse it with the dreams. They feel quite different.
Seeing a precognitive dream come to life does start out feeling odd and familiar, in a similar way to deja vu, but as the seconds pass and more and more details match up exactly with how you remembered them from your dream, it transcends deja vu. It’s like you watched a home video of the event before the event occurred, and now you’re watching it play out in real time. The best evidence I have for the validity of the experience is that occasionally, I can remember enough of my dream to get a few seconds ahead of reality and know exactly what someone is going to say or do before they say or do it.
People will believe me or not, and while I’d rather people assume I’m telling the truth (since I am) I know there will be others who will refuse to believe no matter what I say. And that’s fine. That’s not the point of this post, or of these photos. I’m relating this to you to give you an understanding of how these images came to be, not to convince you of the validity of my weird dreams. Though I would encourage you to keep an open mind about the unexplained. At one point, every new idea was unexplained. Obviously, it helps my belief that it happens to me, and that I know numerous people whom it also happens to. If you feel so inclined, you might try asking people in your own group of friends and family if they’ve ever experienced something like this. Some studies show that over 50% of people have had at least one precognitive dream, so you might be surprised at what you find!
Back to the images. DreamWorld was a perfect place for the Oracle, who is in charge of distributing precognitive dreams. She lays half-submerged in the water to indicate the duality of her nature. She sees the future with one eye and the present with the other, she has a foot in each world, she is a bridge. Spanning the two worlds is a heavy burden, but one she is uniquely equipped to bear; this is her purpose. She lives off in the wild on her own with nature as her main companion. Pilgrims may make a journey to ask her to peer into the future for them, and the devout has erected a beautiful canopy around her. The canopy offers her a little shelter, helps other pilgrims to find her and is an extension the people’s love for her; a lovely tribute to honor her.
Obviously, the main prop for this shoot was going to be the canopy. I doodled different designs for it endlessly until I finally settled on this one. I knew I wanted dramatic fabric framing her, but the “chandelier” of glass ornaments was something I tinkered with a lot until it finally felt right. They feel like bubbles to me, rising up from the Oracle’s body; fragile, shatterable encapsulations of dreams.
Originally, I set out on the internet, searching for clear, iridescent Christmas ornaments. Surely, I thought, somewhere on the endless internet, I will find exactly what I want! I did not. Everything I saw was wrong in some way. And I looked for MONTHS, both around the holidays and not. Then I thought I’d buy clear, round ornaments and paint them with iridescent paint; because that has to exist, doesn’t it? It turns out that it used to, but the one and only maker I could find for such a pain no longer made it. After many frustrating months of almost finding what I wanted, I changed my plans. I would buy clear Christmas ornaments, with tops that came off easily from the craft store (which I bought just after Christmas when they were all about half price!), fill them with iridescent Easter grass and give them the lightest kiss of silver and gold spray paint.
I added multiple very light layers of gold and silver spray paint after first spritzing all the balls with plain water. The water acts as a barrier, so even if you go totally crazy with the spray paint, the ball itself won’t pick up much paint. Pat it dry and repeat as desired.
Ok, bubbles are ready to hang, better get the canopy ready! I started with a fabric canopy meant to go over a bed, which I purchased for about $5 on Ebay.
The nice thing about buying the canopy like this was that it was already designed to be hung and had a nice big ring at the top. In this case, I just put a clotheshanger through it and hung it in front of the closet, which was the only place remotely tall/deep enough to make it workable for me.
I started by draping layers of lavender organza on the inside of the plain, boring, white canopy. This organza was especially lovely, with pink undertones and a shimmery surface. It was also inexpensive which made like like it even more!
Next I started hanging the finished balls, along with some long strings of little iridescent balls, which also came from the Christmas decoration section of the craft store (and I think were also on sale). The canopy came with its own very sturdy circular frame for the fabric to hang from, and I added a second, smaller inner ring made from plastic corset boning. It was pretty filmsy but I tied it securely enough to the outer ring that it held up. It added another dimension for all the hanging things to fall from and drape over.
Done! After months and months of research and work and about $40 worth of supplies, it was done. It was a weird, fragile mess, but it was done. It was at this point that I texted Geoff a cell phone photo of the finished canopy and he said that it looked like “a serial killer Christmas tree.” I had no idea what that meant. He clarified that he didn’t mean, as I first thought, that it looked like a Christmas tree which belonged to a serial killer, but a Christmas tree which was itself a serial killer. Ah. Yes, of course. I’m going to keep teasing him about that for a long time :)
A few days later and I was shooting with Dedeker Winston on a bright, early morning. We made out way to a location where I knew there was usually a stream; I’d scouted it recently and decided it would work for this shoot. I needed a very specific location for this shot; the water couldn’t be too deep or too shallow, it had to be green and pretty, ideally, shaded from the sun, and most importantly, it needed to have something in it which I could hang the canopy from, and in the correct position for the composition for the image. I’m really quite surprised that we found it as easily as we did! That Reiki comes in handy.
I gave Dedeker two vintage nightgowns to slip on, a nude one with a sheer purple one over top, a few more balls which were attached to elastic straps around her hands and she bravely sunk half her body into the water. I gave her a minute to adjust to the cold, she got her model face on and we went to work.
I tried to work very quickly since I knew this was not at all comfortable for Dedeker, but I also wanted to be thorough and make sure that we had gotten everything, especially since it was uncomfortable. Our location happened to be quite near a well-traveled path in the woods and even though it was early and a weekday, people kept coming along and exclaiming over what we were doing. I gave my card to the first couple of people, before Dedeker was in the water, but after that I just smiled at them, kept working and told them we were doing a photo shoot. People will accept that as the explanation for almost anything they come across.
Not too long after I’d made her dunk in the cold water, I released Dedeker from her watery prison with a successful shoot under our belts! I knew the images would be wonderful; I’d gotten everything I wanted. I gave Dedeker a pile of towels, she dried off and we untied the canopy. I’d carried it to our location in a large black garbage bag and I carried it out the same way; much heavier now with the weight of water, leaves and muck in it. I knew that the canopy was not something that I would save as a whole piece; there was no way to suitably clean it from the mud and water. I let it dry in the yard, cut the fabric off it, cut all the ornaments free and I’ll reuse them in other ways.
Now that you’ve heard all about how these images came to be, let’s have the finished photos! Detail shots, as always, are under the main images. Thank you, Dedeker, for being such a trooper!