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The theme you choose may change or simply elude you but being your own story means you can always choose the tone.  It also means you can invent the language to say who you are and what you mean….. Toni Morrison

So yesterday was  Day 4 here at Bundanon Trust which also meant it was photoshoot day.  My friend Cecile was leaving today, so we had a quiet breakfast together. My model was arriving mid morning and I was getting ready to tell the second part of the series, From Fractured to Fairytale.  I was a little bit nervous.  I’ve been planning this shoot for months.  The dress has been on a mannequin in my lounge room for the whole time I’ve been planning it.  I’ve scribbled pages and pages of plans and outlines.  I’ve agonised over it, as this isn’t just a photoshoot to me, it’s so much more.  It’s therapy, it’s healing, it’s finally having a voice.  A fairytale is certainly not the way everyone would tell their story but it’s the way I want to tell mine. I choose the tone, I invent the language… It’s my life.

Throughout my life I’ve had no voice. Oh,  I talked a lot but never about what mattered.  I hid the sexual abuse.  Family Law Court silenced me during the domestic violence.  The grief over losing my daughter was too deep for words.  I laughed at being diagnosed with mental illness as I thought no one would want  to hear that voice.  Trying to find a safe place in the world to call my own felt like my fault so looking for a home  came with shame.   I think that’s why when I was diagnosed with cancer I chose to speak and speak and speak.  Too much information, some may say?  I don’t care.. It’s my life, I choose the tone and I invent the language.  Can you tell I love that quote?

Creating the first part of the series was like lifting a gigantic weight off my shoulders.  There it was in storybook form.  I made it.  I said it.  I felt it.  I finally let go of it, as much as is humanly possible.  I’m hoping this next part will do the same thing for me.  Chronologically I am dealing with the traumas in my life.  So, the point I am getting at is, this was no ordinary photoshoot.  It is one of the most important I will ever do.

I headed out to set up the bed I was using made of sticks and twigs.  I decorated it with artificial ivy and flowers I brought with me.  I  spread the glorious velvet over it and was so thrilled with how it looked, I wanted to lay there myself.  I didn’t though, I kept going  making sure batteries were charged (after yesterdays battery failure), I went and took a few snaps on my iphone to kill some time and nervous energy  and by the time my model arrived, I was all ready.

Tiana arrived looking just as gorgeous as I expected both on the inside and outside.  I’d only spoken to her through Instagram so knew she was the perfect look for what I needed but I was a bit worried as this person is playing me, so it’s always a bit of a gamble choosing someone for the role.  I needn’t have worried.  She was just lovely.  I felt safe handing my story onto her.  When I first saw her photos, I honestly thought she used heaps of filters on her skin.  Nope.  Her skin was just beautiful.  The stuff fairytales are made of.  This was a bonus.  The dress I had for the shoot (which was ridiculously tiny) fitted her except for the last part of the zip which was fine.  I was prepared to sew her  into it if I had to.  It was the perfect dress. No time was needed on hair or make up as I wanted her as natural as possible to signify youth.

So we were ready to start.  It’s not always easy to get models to react the way you want them to, so Tiana was an absolute delight.  She understood the mood I wanted in each image without me having to give her much direction.  There are some that I took that I can’t stop looking at as they are so perfect.  We did quite a few images in that part of the landscape then moved on up to the single man’s hut that I visited the day before.  Again, the landscape coupled with Tiana’s beauty and understanding of the scene produced some amazing images.

We finished up and sat and had a bite of lunch and a good chat.  Such a lovely girl with so much maturity, it was a delight to sit and pass the time with her.  After she left, I hit the wall.  Yes, I hadn’t done quite so much physical stuff since I got out of hospital, but it was more emotional exhaustion I think.

With Cecile and Tiana both gone, I sat quietly in the unit and fell promptly to sleep for a few hours, sitting up. When I woke up, I tried to edit a few images as I was so excited but the technology fairies didn’t want to play nicely.  To be fair, my laptop is an old girl and I’m sure if I ever open it up I’ll find a few dinosaur eggs in there.   I desperately need a new one but it is low down on the list of priorities.   This laptop is about 7 years old now and has come overseas with me 3 times, saw me through my Cert IV and Diploma of PhotoImaging, as well as just everyday stuff.  It’s pretty amazing.  I really struggle to edit on the laptop though, and much prefer my desktop so I decided that other than basic edits, it would all have to wait until I got home.   I decided to call the day just that and to have an early night.

Since I won’t be editing much, I’m going to head back into Nowra to pick up some new felting needles and a few other bits and pieces that I might need. I’m going to spend the rest of my time here working on some of the other things needed for the installation of this body of work when it’s finished.  I’m also going to start looking at some options available to me to show this work in it’s entirety when the  whole series is complete.  I hate grant and exhibition applications but I want to get this work out there, so I have to do some things that I don’t enjoy like applying for grants and exhibition space.  That’s the work part of creating art.  The rest of what I do, feeds my soul.  And that is why artists create, even if they don’t sell a lot.  Their soul needs the nourishment.

I’m so blessed to be here at Bundanon to just completely immerse myself in the beauty, surrounded by so many pieces of art and other amazing artists.  Let me introduce to another of the Artists in Residence here with me.  This is Susan Oxenham.  I worked with Susan as part of Front Up where we both exhibited together at the Onion Reality exhibition.  She created an amazing series of work there which catered to  senses other than sight.  It was based on the four seasons and the paintings had texture for touch and you could smell and hear the seasons.  Very clever, thoughtful and beautiful work.   I’m sure you’ll find her quite fascinating.  (and great to borrow a cup of sugar off when you realise you bought everything with you except for sugar for your cup of tea)

Happy choosing your tone…. Livvy xxx

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