Purple Roses for Juli x
This journal post has been a long time coming – in fact sharing this image/shoot/idea has taken me longer than I thought, and that’s for many reasons.
As some of you may already know, my Aunty Juli passed away last year due to cancer, and it was particularly hard on anyone that knew her, because she was just so amazing. In an earlier journal post “The Story Behind ‘Afflatus‘” I wrote about the background story of another image I created for Juli before she passed away, and explained just how amazing this woman was, and how special our friendship was. She was like a unicorn; a rare, magical being – who not only made you see the good in life, but also made you want to be a better person. I cannot even begin to explain how much she influenced and inspired me, and so because of this, I wanted to return the favour by creating something beautiful for her, and continue her legacy. But to do this, I’ve found it to be difficult so far.
When Juli was sick, I would send her things to cheer her up, like letters, potted plants, some of my art, and bunches of flowers – which one day, featured small purple roses. Neither of us had ever seen purple roses before, and Juli was just so excited that such a thing existed (as it was, after all, one of her favourite colours). I will never forget her text message thanking me for it, and then the several photos she sent me of the purple roses. It made me happy to know that I was able to cheer her up during such a tough time. This memory I often revisit, as it was the first time I felt like I helped her, even for a second, just to make her smile.
Roughly around the same time as this, I came across images of a breath taking floral-art installation by florist Rebecca Louise Law which was featured inside UK fragrance designer Jo Malone’s headquarters in London. The colours, the soft lighting, and the abundance of the installation really resonated with me, and immediately I thought of Juli and how much she would love this. I even toyed with the idea of flying to Melbourne and spending all my money on purple roses to fill Juli’s room with, just to make her smile… but as time slipped away, so did our dear Juli, and I was too late to do anything remotely close or as special.
The idea still stayed with me for a long time, and it wasn’t until it was close to the one year anniversary of her passing was when I decided to do something about it. I realised it was going to cost me a lot of money to purchase that many flowers – so I started to make paper ones by hand in my free time. I made them from newspaper by creating a swirl drawing in the middle of the page, and then cutting along the outline to create a snake type shape. I then twisted the paper around my thumb until it resembled a rose type shape, and used a staple to hold it together. I then spray painted the newspaper roses, and used a sewing needle with fishing line to string them together. This process was very long and time consuming and was taking me longer than I hoped to create more than 150 flowers (even with the help of my amazing partner!). So I gave into having to buy a heap of artificial flowers to make up the rest of the installation, and raided all the variety stores for another 150 or so flowers, and strung those together with their own stems.
The weekend of the anniversary of Juli’s passing I spent at my parents’ place where I intended to create this flower installation in the spare room. Several hours later after emptying the room of furniture and hanging roses either side of the window I realised I didn’t have nearly enough flowers. I needed at least double of my current amount in order for it to be fuller and impressive.
A few weeks later, I visited all of the variety stores in my area and took every last purple rose I could find, to which I was then informed that they weren’t getting any more in for another month, so I figured I had to make do. I had come to a total of 800 flowers and attempted a second time to set them up in my parent’s spare room… it wasn’t as full looking as I had hoped it to be, but I did the shoot anyway with myself as the model.
Looking back on the photos, I realised how hard it is to pull off such an elaborate idea with such a small team. Being the model and having my partner Bradley assist by pressing the button after I had set up the camera, didn’t allow me to see and adjust things like lighting and focus at the time of shoot. I wasn’t happy with how they turned out – I wanted the wow factor, I wanted something that takes your breath away – I wanted this image to be a reflection of my amazing Aunty, and these images just didn’t do it justice. So I attempted the shoot a third time.
Another month and a few hundred of flowers later (coming to a total of over 1000 flowers) I was able to use a recently vacated bedroom in our share-house to create the installation in, which worked to my advantage being a smaller room allowing the flowers to really consume the space. It took me about a day to hang the pre-strung flowers from the ceiling, creating a unique spider-web like shape that would allow standing space in the middle for the model. I then asked good friend and beauty professional-extraordinaire Elisse Lancaster to assist in creating the perfect look for our brunette beauty Ebony Nave. The girls were such a great team to work with, bringing many laughs and good creative vibes throughout the day. I had Ebony wear a long purple, sparkly gown that I purchased from local designer I Found Lucy, which suited perfectly to the 60’s styled hair & make up that Elisse created. This era was chosen to reflect my Aunty’s love of the Beatles music, and also combining my admiration for Lana Del Rey’s vintage style and hauntingly beautiful vibe.
The photography set up of the room was tricky due to the small space and lack of natural light coming through the window. I set up my speedlite with a square soft box outside the room window facing inwards, which not only lit up the room, but also created a glow-like back lighting to Ebony. I then hand held my other speedlite as fill flash to ensure her face was illuminated while my other hand was able to press the camera shutter to take photos. The room was so small that I had to stand next to my camera on a tripod which was already pushed against the wall, making it tricky to check back the images on the screen. During the shoot, Elisse was able to assist me by working the fog machine while Ebony swayed and sung to Blue Jeans. The experience was beautiful.
Looking back at the images after the shoot, I was a lot happier with the results – the set design worked well, the lighting was efficient and the talent was flawless. However, being the perfectionist that I am, I still feel there is further to go with this concept. I’m still yet to feel that this image is close enough of a reflection of Juli’s greatness. And that might be because for me, nothing will ever compare to her – which is something I need to accept and move on from perhaps. But this is why I took so long to share these images, and to write this journal post. It still hurts to think of her not being here anymore, and I’ll always miss her.
Thanks for reading.
Love Pheebs xx