I had the great pleasure recently of shooting with Lauren Cohan, the very talented actress many of you will know as Maggie from AMC’s The Walking Dead, which has its season finale this Sunday! She was also a special guest lead in this week’s episode of Law and Order: SVU.
I’d had a couple of concepts in mind to use with her, so let me back up a little and take you through the whole creation process.
I’ve been reading The Hero With A Thousand Faces, by my idol Joseph Campbell, in which he really delves into his concept of the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey, aka the Monomyth, is the story outline that all classic stories, folktales, myths, fairy tales and most popular movies of our day follow. I will let him describe the basic Hero’s Journey in his own words: “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix… it’s easier to find examples of stories which are not variations of the Hero’s Journey than those that are. And of course, the actual Journey he proposes is much more complex than that brief blurb could touch on; there is the Departure, Initiation, and Return, each of which have six or seven individual steps.
I’ve found the Hero’s Journey to be a fascinating concept ever since I first heard about it. And as Joseph Campbell wrote so heavily, and influentially, about dreams, myths and the importance of both in our modern lives, I knew his work would color much of what DreamWorld is becoming. Recently I decided I would like to do a sub-series in DreamWorld portraying each of the steps along the Hero’s Journey. It will be a challenge, and a long journey of its own, but I felt it would make an important contribution to DreamWorld.
As I’ve been reading The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell has been taking us through the Journey one step at a time, using examples from mythologies and religions all over the world. Crossing The First Threshold is the moment where the hero is given his first real challenge and he realizes there’s no going back (eg, taking the red pill). In illustrating this step, Campbell talks about a story where a thunderbolt in one’s belly is used as a metaphor for a person’s essence. It is their soul, their spiritual center, and it is what gives them the strength and intrinsic ability to overcome the challenges the Journey will throw at them. I loved that image, so I set about figuring out how to incorporate it into my photo.
While I puzzled out the thunderbolt, I decided to start working on two pieces of my Hero’s costume; a crown and an amulet. I made them both in a very similar easy, quick way, starting with some cardboard from a cereal box I had finished recently.
I had a large deer-head necklace that I’d been wanting to use for a while, and I thought it would make a beautiful center to the amulet. I doodled a complimentary shape on the cardboard, traced the shape onto a piece of paper, flipped it, and gave myself a very symmetrical base.
Next I started working on the crown, using the same doodle-trace-flip method to give myself as much symmetry as possible.
Once I had the basic shapes down, it came time to wrap them all in aluminum foil. I just smooshed it on, not worrying about making it smooth, since having a bit of texture was going to actually be good for my purposes.
The next step is one I remembered learning as a kid from a library book which taught you how to make your own toys and crafts; pirate coins in this case. Smear black paint on the whole surface, then rub most of it off with a paper towel. The paint will stick just in the cracks and crevasses, giving a much more authentic, aged, weathered look to the pieces.
I added a couple of hair combs to the crown to help it stay it Lauren’s hair. Then came the fun part; decorating them both!
I knew I wanted to use the deer necklace on he amulet so I twisted it on with a few wires, so I have the option of taking it off and using it somewhere else later (as I almost certainly will).
I dug into my bead stash and found a bag of purple and orange beads of various sizes and shapes which I thought would work really well. I began hot-gluing them on, which is not the way to do it if you wan something really solid and lasting. I did not. I wanted it to hold together long enough to shoot, then be easy to take apart and use the beads again somewhere else.
Done and done! Now on to my thunderbolt/soul piece. I do not recall the exact chain of thoughts that led me down this path, but something about the word ego and its similarity to egg made me want to give the soul an eggy, oval shape.
This one I started with a cardboard oval, cut from more of the same giving cereal box. I covered it with foil, then glued lot and lots of little scraps of lace (left over from my lace leaves) to give it a little dimensionality and wrapped the whole thing in plastic wrap.
I painted the outline with some soft purple paints, darkening the color gradually around the perimeter. And lastly, as a nod to the “thunderbolt” part of the story, I topped it off with a sparkly, snowflake-shaped ornament.
All that was left was the glue the egg onto a length of wide ribbon to make a belt of it, and there I was done!
The day of the shoot arrived, and Lauren was fantastic for everything; a trooper and such pleasure to shoot! I suspected that Lauren’s acting ability would lend itself well to my concepts for her, and she did not disappoint; she was wonderful 🙂
This time Calantha not only photobombed us, but she decided that my laying on the ground to get the angle I wanted was irresistible and she HAD to lay down with me.
I have another photo to work up still, but I’ll be posting those later. Editing just this one was tough enough; I put well over 50 hours into it. I’ll need a little break before I get to the rest! But for now, here is Lauren Cohen Crossing The First Threshold of the Hero’s Journey!