|KING GAMMELYN by Kirsty Mitchell|
How much do the stories read to you by your parents when you were young, affect your life and your ethos when you are older? I don't actually recall my mother reading to me although I remember that we owned Beatrix Potter books and my mother would often quote from Winnie the Pooh. The book I do remember reading at school was ''Wind in the Willows'' and immediately, I identified with Mole. I liked Ratty but I was never a rat, at least not then.
Why am I rattling on about this? Well, Kirsty Mitchell's amazing "Wonderland" project was influenced heavily by the stories that her late mother told her when she was little and when her mother died, not so long ago, Kirsty was inspired to create a land and characters based on those stories as a tribute to a mother she loved so much. Whilst in the middle of this huge undertaking, I happened to come across her work and was blown away by it. So much so, that in July 2010, I wrote to her asking if she would photograph me. She replied in a manic rush which became familiar to me over the next twelve months or so saying that she was ".. drowning, drowning, drowning in work at the moment..." (yes, three drownings) but also that she was just about to launch her website and had been working relentlessly for the past six months building up to this and was now at her wit's end BUT she said that she was interested in my project and that she thought there was a very strong chance that we could do a one off special portrait in her Wonderland style but before that she genuinely needed a bit of a rest. Phew!
Of course, I was delighted and told her so. Well, she never did get a break but, when I wrote to her again about three months later to congratulate her on the latest Wonderland pictures, she said that the only way she could really fit me in to her schedule was to incude me in Wonderland and so become the only male participant. I replied, "YES, YES, YES, YESSSSS!!!!" (Yep, four YESes and four exclamation marks).
We continued to correspond in the same way (ie more manic emails from Kirsty and more exclamation marks from me) and she gradually unfolded her ideas about the fallen King I was to play, first of all in a swamp but then in a woodland setting. Finally, on 26th September, I arrived at her front door and entered what seemed to be a very calm and ordered hive of activity to meet Kirsty for the first time as well as her fiance, Matt, and her make up artist/partner, Elbie. She reminded me how the Wonderland series had all come about and, as we chatted, she showed me the incredible costume of the sad old King whom I was about to play. I was made up and then donned my costume and we drove off to the secret location in some woods near Leatherhead in Surrey. First of all, I was asked to clamber up a bank and sit on a chair suspended halfway up a bank and all the wiry entrails of the roots of the tree were knitted roughly into my hair and Kirsty took her photographs of which this is one.
Then came the fateful journey to another part of the woods. Stupidly, I offered to carry a box of stuff and hit the front of my right lower leg on a branch. I was wearing lilac tights but the bruise swelled up pretty quickly and soon I was in some pain. I was then asked to sit under a tree for the second, final pose and the race was on to finish the shoot before the sun went down. This combined with my rapidly swelling shin, began to induce a lot of tremor so Kirsty had to wait whilst I calmed down. She was incredibly patient but I wondered whether I had given her enough of what she wanted especially as, a few months later, she decided to shoot a younger male model as a younger version of the King. However, she has assured me subsequently that I was one of the most successful parts of her wondrous project. I was now officially part of Wonderland and had been photographed by Kirsty Mitchell, the wonderfully innovative creator of this world.
Kirsty is a ball of high octane energy fired on by an indefatigable drive and creativity handed down by her lovely mother who inspired her project and this new beginning in her life and who must be looking down on her equally lovely daughter with a knowing look and a great deal of pride.
And talking of pride - just look at the photograph! How would you feel?