I have loved the painting "Ophelia" by John Everett Millais for a very long time. When I went to the Tate Britain this Summer I actually had no idea that she would be there but when I saw her I was amazed. She was even more beautiful than the photos I had seen of her. Everyone knows the story of Hamlet, everyone knows how tragic Ophelia is, but something about the painting made it really hit home how sad the story really is. This woman, so rejected,so beaten down by the man that she loves, decides to kill herself. Maybe the desperation in the painting is so real because the model, Elizabeth (Lizzy) Siddal, lay in a freezing cold bathtub so long that she got sick before John even noticed. But maybe that's why he didn't notice. Ophelia's story was real, even if for a few hours, in that freezing cold bathtub. Lizzy had become the embodiment of Ophelia, had transformed herself, which is why she never complained even when she started to get cold and sick. I knew I had to do a shoot based around this painting not only because I loved the piece but because I know that feeling so well. I often trudge through lakes, spend hours after my photo shoots editing, even if I'm starving or tired. All that matters is the art and where it takes you. It's such a rush.
John Everett Millais loved Hampstead Heath. He visited often for strolls and liked to paint it. I like to think that this is the area he had in mind when he painted her because the landscape was so similar to the painting.
I contacted two amazing artists, Julianna Grogan, who does both makeup and hair, and Ashley Bristow, a wardrobe stylist. The whole team, including the model were from outside of England, which I think made Hampstead Heath all the more magical to us. It was so much fun to run around and explode the park, photographing all the places I imagined he had been. It started to rain in the middle of the shoot, something very typical of London weather, and we hurried along to a cute little cafe for shelter and had lunch.
Vanessa (the model) was such a great sport and was determined to get the last and most important image, the image of Ophelia in the water. It was cold and wet yet she put on a thin white dress a posed in the lake for 30 minutes while I took a million photos. It was golden hour and the light was amazing.
This Summer I went to Versailles and took a picture of the ceiling in hopes I could use it for a texture sometime and felt like this was the perfect use for it. The texture blended so well with the scenery and I think really finished the Pre Raphaelite look I wanted.
This shoot has become one of my favorites over the last few months. It's always fun to do shoots based on something you love. I hope to do more shoots inspired by paintings over the next year!