Dóiteán Cailleach (“Firewitch”): Part Three of the Elemental Witch Series

 

This third installment of the Elemental Witch photo series has been a long, long time coming; it seems only fitting to finally publish on Samhain, a traditional Gaelic festival which marks the coming of “the darker half” of the year.  

This series is as much about the land and people of British Columbia as it is about nature and magic – beginning in the forests of Surrey with Woodwitch, then following the coastline of Vancouver with Stormwitch, the “elemental” aspect of the theme provides frames within which to explore diverse landscapes and characters. 

Originally I had planned to shoot the third installment in Osoyoos, not only for its arid desert landscape but also its history – Irish-born John Carmichael Haynes was an early European settler, local dignitary, and major landowner of the town – a familiar story in the history of Canadian colonization which also reflects model Caitlin’s Irish roots; but after a location-scouting trip to Kamloops this summer I found myself smitten with its similarly semi-arid landscape and opted to relocate the shoot for aesthetic and logistic reasons.

A lot of thought and planning went into this shoot and I’d like to thank everyone that helped to realize this vision, most of all Caitlin for her commitment to the project and enthusiasm for the character.

Rather than give everything away, I invite the reader to let me know what stories you find in these images. This series continues to generate a lot of discussion among viewers and we appreciate the feedback.

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Phae: Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares

Phae (from the series, "Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares")

For those of us whose lives are ruled by various creative preoccupations, whether they involve our own creativity or that of others, at the center of our enthusiasm is a genuine appreciation for that which inspires us.

You don’t have to be a musician to love music, but it’s unlikely that a music fan would ever profess love for any music to which they felt no personal connection. Music often expresses words and emotions much more eloquently than any of us ever could on our own and throughout history the universality of its expression has earned music a special place in the hearts of billions.

As a complex, multifaceted person with abiding interests in heavy music and animal welfare, Phae is a steadfast champion of both. While our shoot was primarily focused on the implementation of a wall-sized concert poster for our backdrop, her dog and snake also wagged and wriggled their way into the shoot to help evoke the many faces of Phae.

Ian, On-Location

Like Cheen, Ian needed bio photos for an upcoming music release but he wanted to incorporate imagery that evoked a deep, personal nostalgia for him. How would I convey that feeling to other viewers? With that question in mind, I followed Ian’s lead from location to location and listened as he relayed details about each site and its significance.

Though I was still considering different possibilities, the impression that had begun to emerge was of the sort of storytelling one often hears on old folk records. When we stopped for lunch after the shoot and an old Jim Croce song that both Ian and I recognized came on the radio, I envisioned grainy images in slightly muted colours, like the photos in my parents’ heavy old spiral-bound photo albums that I used to flip through when I was a kid; the resulting style isn’t timeless exactly – more like saving time in a bottle.

Cheen at the Park

 

Cheen wanted a portrait for her solo album that would encapsulate her impressions of Canada for friends and fans in Egypt. She chose the general location of the shoot (Burnaby’s Central Park) and I chose this particular setting next to the Lower Pond because of the array of fall colours still evident in the late-November background and the contrast between them and the subtle hints of snow suggested by her wardrobe.

Cheen has worked very hard to keep her multiple music projects active during her Canadian residency but despite her determination and focus in pursuit of those dreams, there is always a mischievous glint in her eye – like she could run off into the woods at any moment, to live with the squirrels – and this sense of levity is the intersection which all of her ambitions and motivations must cross en route to their destinations.