Photo Diary: Cardboard Castle EP Launch and stepping out of my comfort zone

Below is an old post that I found in my drafts and thought was worth sharing. I think this is from 2014. It’s not so much of a diary as the title suggests, it’s more a ramble with some photos. I am okay with this. I mention the possibility of another post, and I might create that post. I do intend to go through my photoshoot archives and write about them, and so I will.


On October 11th, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Cardboard Castle’s debut EP Inspired by Bunnies, which I was lucky enough to design (the design diary for the EP can be found here). While I went there as a very proud friend, I also went in ‘official photographer’ capacity, which was a thought which both thrilled and terrified me; I am not a live music photographer. I am a whimsical, fine art photographer, oneirographer, cloud-walker, storyteller but I don’t identify myself as a live music photographer. It was a challenge and one which I was happy to take on but also left me with wriggly tummy feelings and worry that none of the photos would be good.

The reason you are only seeing this blog entry now is because it took me a while to buck up the courage to look at and edit the photos. I didn’t know how I wanted to edit them at first, or whether I would even be able to. I mostly work with natural light or warm-hued lights (not proper lights by any means but rather desk lamps and similar things) so whenever I’m confronted with colourful strobe lights I can feel my brain trying to creep down my neck and away so it doesn’t have to work out what to do with them. I have done live music before but I don’t tend to be entirely happy with the results, or I do it as a favour and only edit photos I am asked to edit. This time I wanted it to be different, I wanted to take these photos and wasn’t asked or expected to, which definitely helped, I think. I offered to take them because I’d already created their album artwork and some other random press images.

Now, these aren’t my best photos by any means but I did end up shooting another gig for them as well, which probably turned out better than this one (I may write a post about it, watch this space). I am still unsure how best to edit multicoloured lights but I think I did well with what I had, and I think they capture the story of the night quite well. See for yourself.

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Photography: Baby Meadows (Annoucement)

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Back in January, I had the absolute honour of taking the announcement photos for my friends’ pregnancy. I am so glad they chose to involve me and the photos still make me grin like a loon every time I look at them. The shoot itself wasn’t hugely planned, we agreed on where we would shoot, and I prepared a chalkboard. The chalkboard turned out to not be a chalkboard at all and instead was a block of wood painted black that once drawn on would never be the same again. I only had two so it was very nerve-wracking trying to get it right on the first try. I managed it, with my limited hand-lettering skills and I am so glad they liked it. I did my prep the night before and was practically fizzing with excitement.

The morning of the shoot came. It was cold, drizzly and, best of all, misty. I’ve long been shouting about my love of mist so I was incredibly excited to do my first photo shoot of the year in my favourite conditions.

To put the amount of mist into perspective, there is rich countryside behind that windmill, you can see for miles (it is on the top of a hill overlooking fields and wonder). We couldn’t see a thing. Driving up the winding roads was like being in a completely different, and completely deserted world. I loved it.

Brill Hill was where their proposal happened, and where they took their announcement photo for that – I thought it would be perfect to stage another incredibly important announcement there. There’s definitely something beautiful about tracking the seasons in sentimental locations.

We didn’t count on it being misty but I am so happy it was. It allowed the focus to be on them and not the location, with the location becoming more like a stage. I hope I can coerce them into going back there and let me shove my camera in their faces when it’s not misty, probably when the baby is born so that we can get some richly colourful family shots and really show off the beauty of the location.

It was a quick, damp shoot but I am so happy with the results. They’re simple and beautiful and I am totally and completely in love with them.

Photographic Aesthetic

There is something about viewing headlights through mist. Any lights, really. There is something about how beams of light are elongated and spread by fog which makes everything look that little bit more magical. And terrifying.

If you wear glasses, which I do, mist and fog is confusing. At first. It could just be that your glasses are fogged up or that there are smears on your lenses. Then when you take your glasses off it’s entirely possible that the mistiness could just be your poor eyesight. Light fog, I mean. Heavy fog falls like a blanket, and the heaviest fog spreads light in front like a wall. No more beams stretching ever forward, instead a block of light.

You hear talk of snow-blindness but you never hear about being fog-blind. If you’ve ever been behind the wheel of a car deep in dense fog during the night (with your headlights on) or during the day (without), you know what it means to be fog-blind.

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Fog is otherworldly. It transforms and shapes buildings, fields, trees, cars, lights into something other. There is no weather that changes the look and feel of a place so much as fog.

Mist and fog is my favourite weather to take photographs in (I may have mentioned this before) – it’s also one of the most tricky. But it is the kind of difficult that really pays off if/when you succeed.

It’s trickier still when wearing glasses, as are generally cold conditions. When your face is behind the camera, your breath fogs up your glasses and you end up having to wipe them every five minutes. It’s worth it. Creating magic is always worth it.

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Even when it’s not foggy, I try to bring a little bit of the aesthetic into my photographs (even the selfies and random snaps I post to my personal instagram – my current filter style is Gingham with extra fade, and other tweaks which depend on the photo). Often my photography has a slightly faded feel, I take that inspiration from the misty conditions I love to shoot in.

There’s just something about it, it’s hard to put my finger on why exactly. But it doesn’t quite look real, even though it is. It’s almost like a half-real thing. It fades sometimes as quickly as it appears and you never know how long it will stay.

It suits me though, and my whimsy. Hopefully this year will bring me more mist and more art, and more magic. We will have to wait and see.

Inspiration from Daily Prompt: Aesthetic

What you Lose when you Steal from Smaller Artists

Pluviophile

Definition 02: Pluviophile by Elou Carroll

Yesterday, I discovered that one of my images had gone viral (semi-viral? However viral over 200,000 shares is, anyway). Great, right? I can’t really think of any artist who wouldn’t adore that much exposure. Except that it’s not exposure when your project stamp is cropped out and there is no mention of you anywhere. This sort of thing happens all the time, all you have to do is search ‘art theft’ on tumblr and there are countless cases. When you upload your content to the internet, it’s bound to happen to you at least once; people see an image on Google and assume they can use it for whatever. It’s a fact of life in this new age where anything that wants to be anything is shared digitally. I’ve had my images pop up on little Russian websites, which Google translate can’t make any sense of, but this is the first time that an image has exploded.

Lo and behold, one of my tumblr blogs and my website.

Lo and behold, one of my tumblr blogs and my website.

The admin of the page in question were adamant that they didn’t crop or edit the image in any way and posted it as they found it because they liked it (their catalogue of badly cropped, low quality images suggests otherwise). They work with hundreds of artists and care deeply about treating them fairly, and wouldn’t do anything to harm an artist’s reputation. Even if this were true, a reverse image search using the version they uploaded yields my original uploads as the first results (thanks, Google!).

It’s not hard to trace an image source. Their lack of research shows a gross lack of respect, and you see it everywhere. Art is not treated as something with value but it should be.

After I turned into a giant green rage monster, they eventually agreed to put a credit in the caption (though, I had to jump through hoops to prove it was mine), getting them to include a URL was incredibly difficult and they’re still using my real name, rather than the name I use for my artistic endeavours: Elou.

Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased that so many people enjoy the image but so much is lost when an image is stolen and edited. It damages artists when large pages, with giant like counts, take images and don’t give due credit. My 1,400~ likes is nothing compared to their 600,000+. But big pages don’t care about little ones.

Always wake a sleeping photographer

Always wake a sleeping photographer

Big pages don’t care that this image was taken almost exactly a year ago, at around 7:30 in the morning, in the Dartmoor countryside. They don’t care that my model and partner in crime had a dilemma on her hands when she noticed how perfect the weather was that morning. Nor that the skirt she was wearing once belonged to her mother (I think), and that the wellington boots still belong to her Oma (who has incredible taste in brightly coloured shoes). They don’t care that beneath that outfit was another outfit, to make it easy for us to shoot an entirely different set of images afterwards. Or that we spent at least an hour in the mist and the rain, trying to get the perfect images, even though we weren’t entirely sure what we were after. Or that it is incredibly hard to shoot in the mist and the rain, through a viewfinder, when your breath is steaming up your glasses every other moment. They don’t care that my model, who is one of my favourite people in the universe, took this opportunity to walk around barefoot in the rain for a while because she loves the way it feels; and that we were on holiday, and decided to fill that holiday with creativity.

The second look, more images will appear in a blog entry soon - I hope!

The second look, more images will appear in a blog entry soon – I hope!

They don’t care about the hours of shooting, choosing and editing time; the styling time; the time it took to craft the original blog post and distribute the image via several kinds of social media. They don’t care about the photos which followed, or the photos I have yet to edit. They don’t care that people might want to see more, they don’t care that people might not realise there are more. Why would they? They have their booming stats.

I’m not the first person this has happened to, and I won’t be the last. I had it easy, as far as I’m aware no money was made off my image. The version they posted was not of a high enough quality for them to really do anything with it, I’ve seen countless cases of art being printed onto t-shirts and bags without the artists say so.

The moral of the story is: check your sources. If you run a high profile page, posting random images from the internet damages art. Art and artists deserve more respect than that.

Definition #08: squall

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It is not always weather that storms. It is not always the beating, crashing, cataclysmic battering of the sea which causes the swells to drum their irregular chorus against the shore. The gulls had been quiet when it happened, when the spark descended and the Orarian was irresistibly coaxed by firm ground and cityscapes but they felt it. They felt the ripple of it. And they did not want her to leave. The colony looks after its own and she is owned by the sea. It rises in squall and calls her back, grasps the tenuous hooks of civilisation and pulls. They release with a faint click and are lost. Her dress feathers in the wind and she is the storm.


This image took two weeks. I shouldn’t choose favourites but I do and so far this is it. So much love and work went into this image. There is power there. I challenged myself and the challenge was a success. The Orarian has returned and will return again. Perhaps one of my favourite shoots, I will never get enough of it.

I decided to be playful with the word here. And I am in love.

See this on tumblr, facebook, flickrinstagram, pinterest (better quality)

 

Definition #06: maumet

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Deep in the bowels of the odditorium, where little antiquarians scarcely travel and where the thrummings and shakings are more resonant, there sits an old thing—waiting in the dark beneath webs of spiders who have long since decided that such dark and unfavourable places are not for inhabiting. The head, which has sat on the same tilt for much too long, straightens and cracks branch across a slender neck and down. Her varnish is chipping. She remembers, with some small flicker of spite, a time when antiquities—those inclined to walk, live, talk, feel, follow—would flock to the deep places and lay dust motes at her feet. Perhaps, with the shuddering mass of the odditorium moving beneath them, they would come again.


This was going to contain a different face but then, looking through my archives, I found this. Never released. Never edited. But perfect. As if it had been waiting for me to catch up, complete the idea and release it into the wild. This photo was taken a few years ago, on holiday with my favourite team. Dress.Simple worked her magic (and will be releasing more from this shoot shortly) and there, in front of us, stood something not quite real. Almost perfect but with something off.

See this on tumblr, facebook, flickrinstagram, pinterest (better quality)

Definition #05: odditorium

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It is said that those who live in glass cases are more attuned to the turning of the world, so fine are their walls that almost everything that can crawls in. When the Alpha stirs the glass stirs with her. The panes shudder and fissures spiderweb their surface, the assorted paraphernalia jumps in response. A scattering of tarot shifts underfoot as she—a small thing, a trinket of a being, a denizen of small antiquities—moves to sit, to wait away the small shiverings and stammerings of the odditorium. The Moon slips forward, trembling in its way, and the others follow suit. Death. The Star. The Wheel of Fortune. Justice. She will try to puzzle it out—the meaning and the movements of the cards, there not by chance but by sheer force of will—but for now she watches the clefts travel through the glass unhindered as water on sand.


 

This is a little contraction. A new photo, created using one old photo and several new photos containing lots of old things, most older than me. The little Ava has been waiting since 2012 to find a home in a photograph, moving from folder to folder, idea to idea. She has finally settled into Definition and has found a home among the oddments and the old things.

It was a challenge but a pleasant one. Some of the items tucked away on this shelf are favourites of mine. Some are things which barely ever come out. This image was part play, part story, part remembrance.

See this on tumblr, facebook, flickrinstagram, pinterest (better quality)

Definition #04: thalassophilous

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She feels it too. The spark. It courses through the waves and tickles the sand beneath her toes. The Orarian is often found gazing across the sea, watching it tap Morse code on the shore, responding only with the pads of her feet and the touch of her fingertips. The water fragments her image, rippling her out and in and out and in. The beach is deserted save for the gulls. She has not seen another human for weeks, keeping counsel with the birds and the fish and the crabs which scuttle between rock and sea. But then there is the spark and she feels a small tug of civilisation, faint but insistent. Like a fishing line. Like a hook.


It was cold, overcast, perfectly British. The clouds were in full force. You will have seen a similar image before, a small tease to this one. The image came first. Sort of. I’d seen the word in passing, not thinking to note it down but it attached itself to the back of my mind anyway. This shoot was a favour. Sort of. The partner in crime wanted to be in this dress, on this beach. I wanted something striking, something unlike most of my body of work so far. We both obliged each other. I knew the sea wanted to be in Definition, I just had to work out how.

 See this on tumblr, facebook, flickrinstagram, pinterest 

The Mime Order Blog Tour: If I were a voyant…

On this the 4th stop on The Mime Order’s UK blog tour, as I’ve already posted a review I decided to get creative.

If you’ve read The Bone Season, there is absolutely no way you’ve not thought, if only in passing, about what kind of a voyant you may have been were you thrust head-first into its pages. My own thoughts on the matter have been fleeting, first used as a gag for a video review on my somewhat defunct (but hopefully one day revivable) youtube channel, but as the publication date of hotly anticipated book #2, I decided it was high time I considered it seriously—and photographically.

My choice was to between two obvious options (three, if there were a type of voyant whose numa were twin lens reflex cameras, or box cameras, or any cameras): firstly, bibliomancy. I work in books, I spend most of my life reading books, I design them, I devour them. It would be all too easy for books to be my numa and I thought that might be too obvious a choice to make.

Secondly, cleidomancy (which you may have guessed if you saw a certain question and answer on twitter). Though obvious to almost everyone who knows me in person, you, dear reader, may be wondering why I made this choice and rightly so.

You who read this blog probably haven’t seen my wrists or the box which sits on one of the shelves in my room, waiting for a time when I have my own walls on which I can hang beautiful display frames. You would not have seen the equally beautiful leather-bound notebook I still have not dared to use for fear of ruining it. You might, if you follow one of my tumblr accounts, have noticed my obsession with a certain key-wielding series of video games. You will definitely have noticed my usernames on almost every social media platform ever and perhaps the other URL which brings you to this website.

I am obsessed with keys. I collect them, skeleton keys mostly (currently living in the aforementioned box). I love to imagine the doors they once opened and the rooms into which those doors led, and then the people who walked through those rooms; born, grown, lived, died. It makes sense, then, that if I were to commune with the spirits of the dead I would use one or more of my collection.

The key featured in these images, newly-probably-not-quite-coined bookography (expect more, I like it), is the first I ever purchased and the key that provided the shape for the tattoo on my right wrist. I remember vividly the day that I bought it, the smell of the shop (appropriately situated in Oxford), the long walk to another which sold masks after, the walk back to college and the impending A Level exam. It is my favourite.

So there you have it.

If I were a voyant, I would be a cleidomancer. A smoky-purple aura’d soothsayer, who has a penchant for top hats and deep purple–burgundy colours.

Hop along to Curiosity Killed the Bookworm tomorrow for your next stop! But before you go…

Competition time!

Enquiring minds would like to know what type of voyant you would be and why, in return I will endeavour, with the help of my camera and my partner in crime, to turn two lucky entrants into their voyant selves! Easy peasy!

How to enter

Leave a comment below with your chosen voyant type and why – do be creative! And remember to leave your name and twitter handle (or email) so that I can contact you!

What you win

A photoshoot with myself and Dress.Simple (at a time and date discussed with you by email later) in which we will transport you, using magic, into the world created by the brilliant Samantha Shannon.

Terms and conditions

  1. To enter you must be over 18 or have written permission of a parent or guardian (who will accompany you to the shoot should you win).
  2. You must be able to get to London or Oxford for the resulting photoshoot.
  3. You must be willing to have your image displayed online (via this website and my facebook photography page) and used by Bloomsbury* should they see fit.
  4. All entries need to be in by midnight (GMT) on 18th February 2015.
  5. Winners will be announced within a week of the closing date on this blog, twitter and facebook.
  6. If you do not respond within 48 hours of the initial winners announcement, another winner will be chosen.

Judging

There will be two winners, one chosen by me and the other chosen by a mystery judge, who will be announced 1st February in another Mime Order-related blog post. We will be picking our favourites so make ‘em good!

 If you want to buy The Mime Order it is available on the Bloomsbury website, Waterstones, Amazon and all good retailers! Happy reading!


 *Please note: this competition is not run by nor affiliated with Bloomsbury beyond being a stop on the blog tour, and will only run if more than 5 entries are received

Definition #03: afflatus

afflatus

The rain is a message passed from country to city, stopping only when it has been properly delivered, accepted on the other end like an old friend. When it ends, he feels it: the spark in the pit of his stomach, which flickers like light through to his fingers. The pen quivers, spectral figures, formless, scratchy and illustrated spill out onto the air and move through it with a two dimensional certainty. As if the air were paper, it accepts them, pulls them close, lets them travel. He does not know why the air should be his canvas, nor why his creations should move, undisturbed by wind or breath or weather, but he knows that it has to happen, now, on this street and outwards. 


One cold London afternoon, I made a trade. A face for a book for a face in a single image; this one. The image came first, the word later as it sometimes does. It took all of about half an hour to shoot both author images for the (extremely talented) face in question and the face in question for Definition. Another that was only vaguely planned in my head, and fully planned later, and defiant until finally it was finished.

 See this on tumblr, facebook, flickrinstagram, pinterest