This photograph was taken in Toronto, in October 2015. It's part of my main selection for The Orientalist, and the first one I show in this page. I had just found out I had trips scheduled to Brazil and Europe later in the year, and I decided to create images that were related to the sea, to travel, and have them connected across three continents.
The theme for this was wanderings and wanderers, and the call of the open waters. In my original sketch of the first photograph of this mini-collection, I thought of having the main character be delivered to the shore, at night, by another character.
Visually, I was inspired by mythology, by transversing the river Styx into uncharted territories. I wanted the character to have a lantern, which would be a recurring element in the series.
I went scouting for a location at the beaches around Lake Ontario. It was a cold sunny morning and I found myself alone with sand underneath my feet, looking at the Sun's position in the sky and amazed by the solitude of the place, and thinking how easy it is to forget that there are many different worlds in just one city, all existing in parallel when we are not paying attention.
I then thought these photos by the water should be individual shots, connecting wanderers of different lands by their thoughts and their zest for travel.
I then contacted Romanian dance Miruna Soiu, who I had seen performing Turkish Roma and gypsy Balkan dances with the band Nomadica. I had done this video of her performance and was impressed by her energy and presence and thought she would be perfect for this scene.
My thinking also evolved regarding the lighting and general mood of the photograph. I realized having a shot at sunset would not only be more dramatic visually, but it would add layers of symbolic elements to the story. An arrival, the night approaching, a sense of mystery.
In order to achieve that vision, I decided to experiment with some lighting techniques and equipment I hadn't tried before. I don't usually discuss technical elements here, but in this case it is interesting because this experiment expanded my palette of tools as an artist, and served as testing grounds for the strategy for the photographs to be done in Europe. I used the Profoto B1 strobe and a small flash inside the lantern in order to light properly both the dramatic skies and the model, since the use of natural light in this case would be much more difficult. The images above show the light I was able to create and how the scene would look with available light.
With these technical concerns addressed, it was time to arrange the logistics of the shoot. I borrowed a boat from my friend and artist Christine Walker and her husband Stefano DiCarlo. It was a fairly modern boat, made of fiber glass, but I liked its shape, size and colour and I knew I could have the more antique look done in Photoshop later.
For our surprise, the weather on the day of the shoot was challenging: 70Km/h winds and 3 degrees. That meant we had to shoot quickly, but it also provided a dramatic element we usually don't have at Lake Ontario: nice waves, making it look like the sea.
I was really pleased with Miruna's expression and interpretation of the scene. She added character and depth to the image which went beyond what I envisioned. After seeing the images, Miruna told me that her inspiration for this scene was the recent death of a friend at the Black Sea. I was very humbled when she said she would like to dedicate that photo we created to her friend. It added another layer of depth and meaning to the image, and I started wondering about personal meanings of images, about our inspiration as artists and the possible meanings for the people who would eventually see it on the web, in a book, at a gallery, or on a print at their homes.
Sometimes the artworks themselves are wanderers, finding new meaning in the eyes of those who they touch. Maybe that is what this is all about.