What if you could run down a tree-laden lane, embrace the forest around you, and feel the deep roots of the earth speak to you? Also, imagine that the trees will protect you if you ask them to. Take a deep breath. Do you smell the scent of decaying leaves and moss? If I shut my eyes, I can. As a child, I frequently imagined running to the woods for seclusion and safety. My imagination always carried me there when I needed an escape from the harsh realities of life. Even today, I find myself a wanderer seeking solitude and mystery in the depths of the verdant woodland I call home. These influences of my childhood imagination show up in my photography.
Needing A Place of Solitude
I have referenced how I am a minister’s daughter in previous posts, so that should not surprise most of you. Growing up in a minister’s family is difficult because you are an ardent witness to the more tragic situations of life. In addition to that, my mother suffered from severe depression, and we were also caregivers for my bed-ridden grandfather. My grandmother never learned to drive, so she was wholly reliant on our weekend trips to her home to take care of my ailing grandfather.
Between church and caring for grandparents, that is a lot of my childhood in a nutshell. Naturally, it goes much deeper than just this surface statement, though. Because the culmination of these experiences shaped my imagination.
When the disheartening phone calls would come in for my Dad to assist someone in crisis, or my grandfather’s health was on a downward spiral, I wanted a place of solitude.
Following in my Dad’s footsteps, I turned to the woods.
Living in My Own Fairytale
I have so many memories as a little girl running amongst the trees around my home and my grandmother’s place in an oversized burgundy housecoat. I have no idea where my Mom had picked it up, but if I am not mistaken, it was given to her, and she had planned to give it to someone else, but I found it.
This coat became my royal robe, and I ruled kingdoms with it! When reality was too harsh, I would slip it on and step into my own private fairy tale. I would wander the properties adjacent to where I was at the time and throw my head up like a royal lady.
But I also imagined that I could command the forest to do my bidding. Reaching out my hand, I could bring leaves up from the ground and send them swirling into the sky like a tornado. When I felt insecure, I could wish the bramble to multiply and encircle me like a cocoon to hide me away.
I can not count how often my Mom or Grandma would come outside to discover that I had found loose bricks and made small fireplaces throughout the yard to “stay warm” during the summer.
In my mind, I had the power to bring fire to life!
My adventures were not limited to the current season I was living in.
And throughout my wanderings, I could command the natural elements around me.
Seeking Mystery In the Night
My adventures were not restricted to daytime hours, though. Do you recall that I mentioned that I have always followed in my father’s footsteps by turning to the woods for solitude?
My Dad is an avid outdoorsman. His favorite pastime and source for solitude is raccoon hunting in the winter or night fishing during the warmer months. From him, I learned to appreciate the wonders of the night just as much as during the day.
Of course, I also inherited his propensity for insomnia that I still battle today.
I have fond memories of layering up clothing in the bitter cold of winter to go hunting at night with my Dad. I would always feel cold at the beginning of these trips, but it did not take long for me to be sweating even as the frosted grass beneath my feet crunched like potato chips.
We would climb mountain trails, and every time we would enter a meadow, my Dad would say, “Sabrina look up at the stars.” I would gaze at them and notice the clouds my breath made as we paused on our journey to where the hounds were baying at a lone tree in the distance.
When I could not sleep in the warmer months, I would sneak outside and sit in his boat to look at those same stars and daydream. I always thought no one knew I did this, but I found out recently he knew what I was doing.
To me, there was always a mystery that hadn’t yet been discovered at night. There was always another bend in the path we didn’t reach on the trails in the winter. In the summer, on the lakes fishing, there were coves we never ventured into.
The mystery of those places has left me longing for adventure as an adult.
My Childhood Experiences Influence My Photography
The culmination of my childhood experiences influences my photography heavily. I can’t help but seek wooded lanes, mountaintop vistas, dramatic sunrises, sunsets, waterfalls, and more.
I constantly seek ways to bring romance, mystery and wander into my work.
Artists are relentlessly seeking new ways to reinvent themselves and their visions.
One of my favorite photographers, Scott Robert Lim, once said it typically takes five years for a photographer’s business to find its own in the world.
I have officially been shooting professionally for that amount of time, and I find myself drawing inspiration from my childhood more and more. With each shoot I complete, I am becoming more distinct in my style and sources of inspiration.
Shooting the Coat of Many Colors
Recently Mandy Wildman of Uplove Bridal contacted me to see if I wanted to shoot one of her custom creations. Mandy does a lot of work with the HART Theater here in Waynesville, NC, by helping them create costumes for their various theater productions. They had just wrapped up their play “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and Mandy had designed the stunning coat for the play.
When she asked me if I would like to shoot with it, I squealed with delight because I had seen it in her window display several times as I drove by the previous week.
She quickly introduced me to Ty Baka, otherwise known as Hey Shady Lady on YouTube, who became my model for the shoot you have been viewing throughout this post.
When I saw the coat in Mandy’s window display, I was immediately reminded of my childhood wanderings in my royal oversized housecoat. We took off to one of my favorite wooded lanes up towards Sunburst.
Ty did an excellent job of bringing my vision to life by embodying mystery, grace, and power. The entire time I was shooting, I felt like I was revisiting the imagination of my childhood. As the sun began to set, my husband rigged up my fog machine to a generator, and we made the setting even more mystical and fun.
If I had had this coat when I was a little girl, I would have probably slept in it!
It feels terrific to be experimenting again after such a busy year. I cannot wait to show you more shoots I have already shot that tell stories. Who knows what storybook visions will pop up next! Stay tuned for more!
If you missed my last story-inspired shoot, check out my previous post titled A Witchy Good Day | Halloween Themed Photoshoot.