The creation of Rapunzel #1

This week, I thought I would do something a little different for In the Studio and write a behind the scenes for a recent shoot I did on location in Victoria’s Redwood Forest in East Warburton.


As a child, I had a deep love and fascination for stories, particularly fairy-tales, and especially the Grimm Brothers, dark and foreboding. I used to love to put on little plays and re-enact those stories, or even create my own. As we grow up and become adults we are often told to put away our childish stories and become a sensible adult. And I did. For years, I had jobs, got married, had children (who allowed me to tell stories and play make-believe again). Then fate handed me a camera and took me on a journey of discovery again. I allow myself to delve into these stories again, in greater depth. Those who join me, get caught up in the excitement and joy of creation as well.


So many Fairy-tales have been rewritten by the likes of Disney, and more. I have also created my own versions, Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Cinderella. Rapunzel was an enigma of sorts. So dark and ridiculous, I was intrigued. I decided I wanted to re-write her story, how would it play out now? I became slightly obsessed, as I often do with a series I am working on. I wanted it to have a happy ending, shouldn’t all fairy-tales have a happy ending?

I didn’t want any other characters in my series, I purely wanted to concentrate on Rapunzel and took her on her own journey of self-discovery, from lost, scared and lonely to a capable young woman in charge of her own destiny. I have completely destroyed the original moral of the story, and have re-written it to encourage young women to make a stand for themselves, to be strong and brave, and they do not need to be held a prisoner for their life to have meaning.


I wanted to keep certain aspects true; the forest, the long braided hair, I wanted suitable clothing, modest, simple, ageless. These things took time to find. I re-wrote the story and then created images in my mind for key parts. I wrote copious notes in my journal, little sketches of the images I saw in my mind. Starting with opening sequences and the escape. I wanted it to be dark and foreboding like the story, but end in a happier mood. Colour, played a big part, as did lighting. Mostly it was shot on a tripod in a deep dark forest, using only natural lighting and a reflector to catch it. Technically it was quite challenging. I could have shot in the studio, but this was one piece I really wanted to shoot on location.


There was never any doubt in my mind where to shoot this. In East Warburton, Victoria there is an old Redwood Forest, most feel it has mystical, magical properties, and perhaps it does. I have shot there many times, in Spring and Winter, during the night and at sunrise. People visit here all the time, they build giant nests on the ground between trees from fallen limbs. It is cool, calm, quiet and even when there are lots of visitors, you can still find a quiet spot to work in. It is also very dark, so to shoot deep in the forest, we needed to be there about midday to get some natural light through the tree canopy.


There was never any doubt about who would play Rapunzel in my mind either. My model Hayley, herself a survivor of domestic violence, is a fellow creative soul, she has often worked on some of my more artistic pieces. She understands the creative journey and she trusts my vision completely. Plus we enjoy each other’s company. We both worked to find just the right costume (specially bought for this shoot), we sourced and found a wig, the floral crown I had, as did Hayley own the boots, everything else was shot on set.


We actually had a few false starts, this piece had been in planning for so long, but had to cancel due to weather. Eventually, a day came, late in Spring, it was hot and storms were expected (again), but I made the call to attempt, as I had waited too long already. So a long day was ahead of us, the drive out there nearly one and a half hours, there and then back. It was hot and humid, but thankfully in the forest, it was cool. Poor Hayley was wearing a very heavy velvet dress, no fun in the heat. Due to months of planning, I knew exactly what shots I wanted and where, the exact pose the, expression, I shot all 12 images in just over one hour. There were actually 13 images, but I decided on the final twelve.

Tomorrow I will post the rest of the images and the re-write of the original Fairy-tale as well.

~ Julz