In 2009 photographer Kirsty Mitchell created her Wonderland series in memory of her mother, who had passed away from a brain tumour the year before. The three-year-long series became a way for Mitchell to heal from her loss; she combined her own work with the memories of fairytales that her English-teacher mother read to her as a child.
‘In the months that followed real life became difficult to deal with, and I found myself retreating further into an alternative existence, through the portal of my camera,’ says Mitchell.
This escapism grew into the concept of creating an unexplained storybook without words, dedicated to her, that would echo the fragments of the fairytales she read to me constantly as a child.
Her dramatic photography, similar to that of legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, is not just a heartfelt piece of art, but a combination of many elements of art that goes beyond just photography. Mitchell – who has studied photography, fine art, history of art, costume for film and theatre and fashion design – designed and created all the costumes herself, by hand.
The series was the first time in my life I had found a vehicle to incorporate all aspects of my creative training into one form.
With very little budget to work with in creating the work, she shot the series in the woodlands surrounding her home and the help of hair and make-up artist Elbie van Eeden.
‘There were no stylists, designers or large teams of helpers; it was just us and a few friends who would help out on occasion. Everyone worked for free, nothing was commissioned, I paid for what I could out my wages every month and just begged and borrowed the rest.’
With a plan to incorporate all rainbow colours and capture the beauty of nature, some pictures took months to make, waiting for flowers to bloom and other processes of nature to create the perfect picture. No such thing as a ‘perfect picture’? Mitchell begs us to differ.
words: Amava Kamana
images: © Kirsty Mitchell Photography Ltd.