The One at Lucy Maud’s House or Day in the Life – Part 1

“Sunday Aug. 6, 1911
Royal Hotel, Princess St.
Edinburgh, Scotland

…..Abbotsford is most interesting and crowded with relics. I should have loved to dream over them in solitude. But that might not be. The rooms were filled by a chattering crowd, harangued by a glib guide. I wondered if Scott would have liked this – to see his home overrun by a horde of curious sight seers. I am sure I would not.”

After reading this excerpt from “The Selected Journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery”, I wondered if Maud would have minded the take over of her house for my photo shoot. If she was looking down on us, I hope she saw how happy we were to be there.

In my journal I wrote, “The experience far and away exceeded the success of the images.” Here is a lesson to all: DO NOT look at your images so soon after the event. Especially if you’re so incredibly exhausted from the ordeal. To all you ladies, DO NOT look at your images so soon after, especially if you’re PMS’ing. I hated everything about them! I hated the dress I spent a grueling amount of time on. I couldn’t decide if they were more like a photographer taking behind the scene photos on a movie set, or what! I couldn’t put my finger on it. What it was about them that rubbed me the wrong way? I looked over them again the next day, pleased that they were growing on me. So much so, I started the editing process finding the perfect formula for split toning a soft sepia effect.

At Casual Tuesday’s, Rob described them as, “A Day in the Life”. He liked the direction I was going and didn’t think there was anything wrong with the behind-the-scenes look. This is why some of us girls call this day, Photographers Anonymous. It’s nice to have someone else put your thoughts into words. In the “thrill of the moment”, to use one of Maud’s phrases, none of this occurred to me. I was trying to create the same style of portraits as in previous studio shoots. Only, I wasn’t in the studio. I was in a historic house with artifacts all about me, in my costume, trying to be an Edwardian woman. I physically became part of this historical environment feeling as though I completely belonged there. In that sense, I hoped to have captured lost moments in time.

I’ve only had an assistant once for The Anachronist Project. Even though they were very helpful, over the years, I’ve preferred to do things on my own. On this shoot, however, I was told on no uncertain terms that I must have an assistant. A wise move. Long before the shoot, I asked my friend Joanne, who said once before she wanted to learn more about using studio lights etc. As my hair was being styled, Joanne laid out and hung up all my costumes with shoes neatly lined up (it occurred to me, a portable/collapsible garment wrack would have come in handy), carried all the camera equipment to the second floor landing, and would have steamed my skirts, had the hand held steamer been working. Because I was still very excited and flustered, she was my eyes behind the camera. Although I composed each scene, she would press the button on the remote.  I took my time making sure I felt right in the image. I should say, correct in the way I stood, looked, made sure my hair didn’t deflate. Together we’d review them discussing other options. Best of all, Joanne offered to drive there and back again. When all was said and done, I was an over cooked noodle exhausted from the days leading up to this.

Weeks before the shoot Kai and I talked about a more relaxed hairstyle for being in the house. As a single 36 year-old  woman of that time, I would not be permitted to wear my hair in a braid or halfway up because I was an old maid. Such an horrid term for a lady who can’t or in my case, does not want to get married. Thus, Kai styled my hair with a wonderful abandon of curls gathered on top of my head. “I’m going to do your make up!” she exclaimed after my hair was done and removing cooling eye patches to get rid of my bags. I had brought my own make up of course, but what she did was far beyond my menial application of basic foundation; blush, eye shadow and lipstick. Kai blended two tones of foundation, something clear, then lightly dusted my face with blush to give an overall natural effect. Throughout the day, I couldn’t help by caress my face. My skin was oh so soft.

Tess and Barbara, volunteers of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario, poked their heads in from time to time to see how things were going. I’d like to think they were a little excited to finally see what my project was about. They were very kind and wonderfully relaxed with the whole ordeal. I was pleased they trusted me enough to leave us to ourselves. Of all the time we had, starting at 11:30 with hair and starting to shoot sometime after 12, there wasn’t enough time in the day. However, both Tess and Barb let me know that I was welcome to return to finish my shoot. Somehow, I don’t think one more day will do it. I feel one more day in costume perhaps, but I told Barb, I wanted to build a gallery for them. Take photos of the rooms use my costumes to dress them up a little bit. We discussed other things, but these I won’t divulge until they come into fruition.

Now that I have had time to sit with the experience and “live” with my photos, I have more confidence in them. The next time we descend upon the house will be more organized, we’ll arrive sooner, work flow will be more streamlined, I will have more homey aspects to the images like an apron, partially stated embroidery on a hoop, that kind of thing.  “Next time”, however, will be the dead of tourist season.  So things will have to be sorted out. I’m going to Portugal in a week you see. Then I go home mid July. Summers are very fickle indeed.

Keep watch for my Portugal posts! I’ll be staying with my friend, Jeniffer and her family in a village on Sao Miguel. It’s only now sinking in.

The One With the Chair

A few days before Christmas vacation, we were handed our Christmas bonuses. That weekend, when walking in my old hood, The Beaches, I noticed a new antique pop-up store next to Ends. Needless to say, I went in to see what treasures could be found. It was destiny to have found a beautiful Victorian chair and a mid 1930’s sewing machine. Destiny? At that time I was wondering what my next Anachronist shoot would be. When I saw the chair in the window, I knew immediately what that shoot would become. In the case of the sewing machine, my 1950’s Omega was on the fritz. Quite the regression, I agree, but it works wonderfully! Each was bought at an amazing price, including delivery.

More recently, a girl, who also uses the studio space, and I went halves on a storage locker a block away. How convenient! Slowly we’ve been filling it up with things like chairs, fabric backgrounds, fake flowers and other things. I have a feeling our little 5×5 storage unit will soon be full enough upgrade before too long. Especially at the rate I’m going because on my way to work one day, walking up Pape Ave I found rolled up, slung over someone’s fence a beautiful area rug. There’s a large red (like Cool Aid) stain at the back and a small bare spot, but otherwise in excellent condition and thankfully not too large to prevent me from carrying it. So into storage it went. Along with a a new pair of IKEA faun coloured curtains bought at Value Village. The three most recent arrivals made up 90% of my set for this shoot.

It’s dangerous having a storage locker. It has become an excuse to go shopping for things that you think will do well on a set. When shopping at antique and second hand stores I’ve begun to ask myself a list of questions; How will this purchase fit into the look and design of your shoots? Does this object look authentic period wise? Is “X” amount of dollars really worth it for this purchase? How often will you use it? Are you buying for the sake of buying it, or will you use it? I’m sure there are many more questions I ask myself as I gaze in stunned contemplation around the store. My general rule, if it’s something amazing that you just can’t pass up, buy it! If it’s on the sidewalk in good condition, take it! Back to the subject at hand.

When looking back at these photos, I love how the colours are so soft and graceful. The background, the curtains and the first two costume changes worked well. When the image is changed to sepia, it’s a cohesive image. That being said, some of the images do well with an autochrome treatment. Something I’ve recently discovered in the many hours of pouring through Pinterest.

A while back I had asked my friend and sewing teacher, Marianne from Costume Witch, to help me with dressing and keeping an eye on the general all around look of my costume to ensure there was nothing sticking out, the train of my skirt was nicely laid out, in short, that I looked presentable. She worked in the costume industry for some time on film sets and plays, eventually opening a costume store. We’ve been Stitching and Bitching for many a year now, helping each other out with fittings, asking advise and just hanging out having fun.

I’m extremely happy with this shoot, but not as much as I was with the last one. Perhaps it’s because I’ve realized, unless I do the shoot again with hair down and in my under things, or re-do the moon making it out of ridged insulation board, The Anachronist Project is swiftly coming to a close. From here on in I’ll be shooting on location. My much anticipated shoot at Lucy Maud Montgomery’s house I hope, will be the crowning jewel. To prepare, I’ve begun to read volume two of her selected journals. Throughout the summer, I’ll be hitting, picturesque parks, beaches, gardens and wooded trails here in Ontario and home in Cape Breton.

There are a few ideas for what comes next floating about in my head. The main goal of this project is to create a museum-like photography exhibit. I was hoping to get a spot within Gallery 44, the Members Gallery, but sadly that did not come into fruition. It doesn’t do to dwell on rejections, but I can only think, this body of work is not contemporary enough despite the following definition from Foto Relevance: “A relevant definition of the word contemporary is happening in the same period of time, of/or, in the style of present or recent times.” Hmmmmmm…… the style of present or RECENT times. Since I’m using modern technology, wouldn’t this count as contemporary photography? Like I said it doesn’t do to dwell.