Wonderland is an ongoing series of portraits made by UK photographer Kirsty Mitchell. It is meant as a tribute to her mother and can be cataloged as part conceptual photography and part explorations of costumes and set designs. “Photography became my voice when I couldn’t speak about what I was going through,” explained the artist.
Kirsty Mitchell’s mother, Maureen, was a well loved English teacher who was passionate about sharing stories. She would collect books about European folklore, most with stunning illustrations and pass the tales on to her daughter. Maureen was diagnosed with cancer in April 2008. The brain tumor made her too weak to be able to return back to England from France where she had retired with her husband. The small funeral ceremony that followed, away from Maureen’s former pupils who loved her and would have mourned her, made Kirsty want to do something that would never be forgotten.
“I think when you lose somebody, you need to channel yourself into something,” the artist explained. “It’s the only way to block out what happened. And so I obsessively began creating these pictures that became the Wonderland series.” At that time Mitchell was working as a fashion designer. However, she started seeing photography as the perfect outlet for her grief and began what would later become the Wonderland series.
The artist revisited the fairy tales her mother had shared with her. She started a series of portraits where she used her background in fashion and costume design to create stunning compositions. All of the costumes in the photos were sewn, painted, glued, and assembled completely by hand, taking up to five months of preparation. The setting of each photo was usually carefully constructed in the woods near her home. The photographer likened these sets to a miniature movie one in terms of preparation.
The Wonderland series spanned five years and 74 stunning photographs. Do you think they manage to capture the magic of fairy tales?
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