Kirsty Mitchell’s Wonderland series is a fresh tale that’s captured via portraiture by this gifted photographer and costume designer.
It began as a small project that Mitchell wanted to do to help her through the inconsolable grief she felt over her mother’s passing.
In truth, it turned out to be an epic, five-year project with 74 photos shot on location in the backwoods of Great Britain.
Why fairy tales? Mitchell’s mother was a beloved English teacher who had a particular love of this genre, which she shared with her daughter from an early age.
The stories of good and evil, magical creatures and happy endings created a special bond between them that lasted a lifetime.
Throughout the photo series, Mitchell’s heroine travels through Wonderland, experiencing all four seasons and meeting some extraordinary creatures along the way: the Fairycake Godmother, Candy Cane Witch, Ghost Swift, Gaia and many more.
It’s also rife with symbolism about her mother, including the final image where her heroine unlocks a majestic door nestled among foliage and ancient trees and reenters the real world.
Mitchell has kept a diary to chronicle her time with Wonderland, which also includes priceless behind-the-scenes photos and video clips (KirstyMitchellPhotographer/ Diary).
Here she writes about her heroine Katie and her journey’s end.
July 15, 2014: "The Fade Of Fallen Memories" is a goodbye, both in the Wonderland story but also within the real world, in my own life. Their parallels intertwined in such a way that it gives me chills. It brings me happiness and sadness all at once, but above all this photograph is about release. In Katie’s world, it is the end of her time in Wonderland, the door being the final piece of the puzzle that fits the queen’s key she has carried close to her heart throughout her journey. In my world, it is the metaphor for letting go of the years of grief I have carried with me and taking that final step back towards reality."
Beauty Behind the Scenes
While Mitchell’s vision and photographic and costuming skills were sterling, she still needed a special beauty talent to truly bring her characters to life.
After meeting Elbie van Eeden on the Model Mayhem website and viewing her work, she invited her to work on her project.
Mitchell made a wise choice! Eeden’s penchant for conceptual shoots, and her skills as a hairdresser and makeup artist, made her the ideal artistic partner for the Wonderland series.
As the scope of the series continued to expand, Eeden remained steadfast in her commitment to the project.
"We didn’t have private funding, so we paid for everything ourselves," Eeden recalls. "We did everything from the creative work to hauling sets in and out of remote locations. It was truly a labor of love."
Eeden also notes that most of her makeup designs were done on location. "I preferred doing that whenever possible because it allowed me to create makeup designs that were one with our surroundings."