To give credit where it’s due, I have to say that I originally got the idea to shoot my grandmother for DreamWorld from Ashley Lebedev’s beautiful portrait of her grandmother. It immediately struck a chord with me, and I began brainstorming concepts for my grandmother right away.
My Gramma is a really cool lady. She’s led a fascinating life and has been a inspiration to me of being a strong, spiritual, independent, loving woman. She taught kindergarten for 30+ years (and is endlessly patient and cheerful, as you would expect), is well read and recently got her first Iphone. I have such fond memories growing up with her, and I am so glad to have her in my life! I wanted this photo to celebrate her, and all that she is to me… or at least all that I can cram into one photo 🙂
My grandfather tragically died quite suddenly of a heart attack when I was 17. He was the love of her life… and really, the love of everyone who he came into contact with. He was a truly remarkable man, and I will tell you more about him one day when I finally get the photo honoring his memory shot in a way that I’m satisfied with. But for now we can say that he was extraordinary, and everyone was shaken by his loss, most of all my grandmother. I can only imagine how incredibly difficult and painful that must have been.
But Gramma handled it with such grace and strength, I was deeply impressed, even at my young age. She delivered a celebratory and wonderful eulogy at his memorial which left everyone smiling through their tears. And since then, though we all miss him greatly, his memory has been kept alive in a spirit of appreciation and love.
After my grandfather’s death, Gramma became even more involved with her church and eventually became a deaconess! For many years she helped lead a support group for those who had lost loved ones, something she could draw on her own experiences of her path to healing and let others know that it was possible to get through, no matter how dark it looked at the time.
So when I sat down to figure out what I wanted her photo to be like, I tried to distill Gramma’s essence into a single image. I saw her as a gentle leader, always leading by example, indescribably warm and accepting, looking for the best in people, and of course someone who is quite spiritual as well. It seemed like a shepherdess would be the best way to portray all of these qualities. I especially wanted to play up her radiating light in a world that is often dark, so I began to think of ways I could show that as well. A crown of light, I eventually decided, would be just perfect.
So, now to build a crown of light. After Googling a lot, I discovered electroluminescent (EL) wire! It’s wire that comes in a wide range of sizes and colors and every bit of it glows. It’s not just a string of LEDs in a plastic tube, this stuff actually produces solid light all on its own with a handy little battery pack. Perfect! I ordered some and eagerly waited for it to arrive.
I wanted to give it a little bit of an art nouveau flavor, since that’s one of my favorite visual styles. I started building a light wire frame, enforcing it as I went.
After I had the frame fairly sturdy, I started adding in nouveau-like swirls with the EL wire. You can see one of my Mucha books under the crown for inspiration as I went along.
Ok! It was a little rough, but the general shape was there and it definitely glowed!
At that point I strung along some very small, light, and also battery-powered LEDs, which I would encase in a small flower. You can see one here covered with a flower while the rest are bare.
The finished crown! I knew I’d be doing some adjusting of it once I actually saw it on Gramma’s head, so I didn’t worry about making it 100% perfect right then, but the bones were all laid. Now there was the problem of finding a lamb….
Google again came to my rescue by connecting me with Terry from Task Farms. Terry is just a sweetheart of a man. He runs the farm just out of the pure pleasure of it and has lots of sheep and goats. None of the animals end up on anyone’s dinner plate, which made it an even more perfect place to shoot! I ended up getting several photos taken that day, but you’ll hear more about the farm in detail when I get the rest of the images worked up. As it happened, he had an adorable and very silly little lamb named Too Cute who was just perfect. Task Farms is out near Palmdale, which is a bit of a drive from here, so Katie, Brooke, Meredith (who wanted to take behind-the-scenes photos) and I all drove out together. I had Katie put on the costume Gramma would be wearing, chose a neutral location and let Katie be Gramma’s stand-in.
Once I had the photos of Too Cute, I set up a shoot with Gramma, which was delightful. She is a natural model, and I found out during this that she had been a live model for art classes while she was in college! What a fun fact to know about her 🙂
So what do these photos convey to me? They show my grandmother being the strong, gentle, and completely loving woman that she is. She is a ray of light in darkness, someone who always lifts you up, cares for you and supports you. She has been one of the most supportive people in my life when it comes to my art, always encouraging me and loving what I do… and I sincerely think it’s not just because she’s my grandmother and she has to like whatever I do, but because she genuinely believes in me and loves what I do.
So please meet my grandmother, Lucea, a truly wonderful and remarkable woman who I am so thankful to have in my life, and to have had the chance to photograph her!