Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Kirsty Mitchell

Gaia, The Birth Of An End

     Kirsty Mitchell was born and raised in the English county of Kent, known to many as the ‘Garden of England’. Growing up, art became Kirsty’s sole passion. The imagination and belief in beauty became her root, and the place she constantly try to returns to in her work. She studied until 25, taking courses in the history of art, photography, fine art, and then on to train in ‘Costume for Performance’ at the London College of Fashion. Having graduated and worked for a short time in the industry, Kristy decided to further her education, returning to university and completing a first class degree with honours in Fashion design, at Ravensbourne College of Art in the summer of 2001. During this time Kirsty completed two internships at the design studios of Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan.

The Ghost Swift

     Since then, Kirsty has worked full time as a senior designer for a global fashion brands, until 2007 when personal illness brought a sudden change, and led her to pick up a camera. Photography became a passion, and gave her new purpose.
            Mitchell's fondest childhood memories are of her mother Maureen, a schoolteacher, reading fairy tales aloud. These tales of imagination, beauty and love followed Mitchell throughout whole her life. Her mother passed away of a brain tumour in 2008, leading Mitchell on a creative journey through ethereal lands and personal memories. The photographer has created a new world in her mother's memory, rich with intricate detail and drama. Her work reminds us that the real world is not the only world, if you allow your imagination to take hold. 

The Queen's Centurion

     She retreated behind the lens of her camera and created Wonderland, an ethereal fantasy world. The photographic series began as a small summer project but grew into an inspirational creative journey.
     'Real life became a difficult place to deal with, and I found myself retreating further into an alternative existence through the portal of my camera,' said the artist.
'This escapism grew into the concept of creating an unexplained storybook without words, dedicated to my mother, that would echo the fragments of the fairytales she read to me constantly as a child.'

A Forgotten Tale

     To realize her visions, Kirsty, collaborated with hair and make-up artist Elbie Van Eeden. In the beginning, both were in full time jobs so they spent evenings and weekends creating props, wigs, and sets on a shoestring budget and shot in the woodlands surrounding Kirsty's home in Surrey. She developed a deep bond and respect for the locations in which she was working and strove, through her pictures, to 'remind others of their forgotten magic and beauty'. 

A Most Beautiful Dead

     She became fascinated with pockets of wild flowers such as the bluebells that would appear for only a few brief weeks of the year. In some cases, she would wait a full 12 months so she could shoot costumes matched to the vivid colours of nature.
      'All the characters came to me in my dreams,' she explained, but she delighted in the chance to step into the scenes for real: 'after all, it's not often you get to stand beside an eight foot princess in the rain, or witness the dawn with a dancing circus girl on stilts!'

The White Queen                     The Fall of Gammelyn

     The resulting images looked so hyper-real that it was assumed that they were created in Photoshop. Many people believed the photographs were shot all around the world, when in reality they were taken in locations within short drives of her Surrey home.
            Kirsty began to write diary accounts and blog behind-the-scenes shots about the creation of each photograph. 'My aim was to portray time passing, an unsaid journey through four seasons, incorporating every colour in the rainbow’. As things progressed, her costumes became more elaborate with the props and new characters often taking up to five months to create. 'The project blossomed into our own private playground,' she said.

The Arrival Of Gaia

     In the words of Mitchell, Wonderland is a “storybook without words”. The series, made up of 69 images with 10 more in the making, has been completely self-funded and every single character is product of Mitchell’s imagination. A incredible imagination that gathers faded memories of stories read to her by her mother, book illustrations, poems, paintings and dreams and mixes everything to construct a detailed and singular fairy tale world. “The costumes, props, sets and accessories, are all a vital part of the process that is finally recorded in the finished product of the photograph. This physical creation is my favourite part, and has taken me to places I would have otherwise never known. I have walked on snow covered in flowers, stood in lakes at sunset, painted trees, set fire to chairs, made smoking umbrellas, and giant wigs from stolen flowers.”

The Garden of Whispered Wishes

     Mitchell’s unique approach to portrait photography shows the deep influence of her 10 year career as a costume and fashion designer. Everything framed by her camera is real, including the intricate costumes that are specifically designed and constructed for each character she creates. All the elements are shown in real scale, all the props exist and are handmade by her, and the locations are natural settings found in the woodlands around her home. Her extraordinary technique creates otherworldly scenes without the need of Photoshop, cloning or digital add-ons.

The Briar Rose                 The Beautiful Blindness of Devotion

     The artist describes her photography as ‘fantasy for real’. She spends months meticulously handcrafting her characters costumes and props to coincide with the complex narrative she imagined. But the actual shoot may take months or years to complete since it must coincide with the exact season or weather conditions that the character and scene calls for. The photo shoots are elaborate, similar to a miniature movie set, with lighting and assistants.


     In order to share her incredible production over the 5 years it took to produce them, each of the images is accompanied by a 5 minute film, which shows the intense and meticulous work that it requires. For those who cannot believe that these images are real and created without digital intervention, Mitchell’s diary offers a detailed and up-close account of the entire project.

More of her works can be seen on her website:


She'll Wait For You In The Shadows Of Summer

The Voyage                             Vortex      

The Queen's Armada

In the process                                 Gaia's Promise

The Patience Of Trees

The White Witch                           The Fairy Cake Godmother

Portrait Of A Princess

Kirsty Mitchell

                 The Making of the ‘The Ghost Swift’