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Babylon

2 November 2014

Babylon. A name redolent of wonder, opulence and gold. An ancient empire crumbled, stripped bare, its lands occupied by Egyptians, Greeks, Romans. Palaces reduced to rubble, people long gone; only their golden ghosts remain. And the name. Babylon.

On Sunday 7 September, Babylon came to the green and pleasant land of England. Three models and two photographers converged at an obscure roadside turn-off and hiked for half an hour through overgrown countryside to reach a secret location. Here our four to five-hour photo shoot would be: Babylon.

We came armed with more ideas than we had time to make real; more props than we could possibly use. Still, it’s better to be over prepared than under. In the shattered interior of this derelict site we began our transformations.

Photographers Natansky and Paolo unpacked their cameras and accessories, while I joined fellow models Louise and Nefretari in undressing. Louise put on her wispy white ankle-length “nude skirt” and started our poses with some graceful ethereal swirls.

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Photographer: Natansky

Meanwhile Nefretari had slipped into a puffy white mini-skirt. Both put on white veils, while I remained nude save for a black long-nosed Venetian masque. Our first group shot would be an unlikely wedding scene with me as plague-priest blessing the union of two bare-breasted brides. And why not?

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

We remained in these costumes for atmospheric shots at various locations around the building: all together, or solo, or just the two brides.

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

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Photographer: Natansky

Next came a Spanish interlude. Louise changed into a long dark skirt and took up her castanets to recreate the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa album cover. I joined her, pulling on my black jeans, and suddenly we were a passable approximation of flamenco dancers on a staircase.

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

After this we switched to a Roman influence for two poses inspired by a tableau from Caravaggio’s Seven Acts of Mercy – Louise as Pero and me as Cimon. Pero was the merciful daughter who sustained Cimon, her father, in prison when the old man was sentenced to death by starvation. We shot this once with me leaning through a hole in a wall, and again with my face pressed against iron bars.

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

Poses continued apace. Louise stood on the ledge of a high-arched window. I joined her in a duo. Paolo and I also posed together in the same window.

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Photographer: Natansky

Nefretari lay nude on her front across a pile of demolished bricks, then turned on her back with red rose petals scattered the length of her torso. Natansky photographed her from the only high vantage point available: my shoulders.

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Photographer: Natansky

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

Time for one more pose before a break to enjoy Louise’s delicious home-made ginger cake. The three models were strewn naked over a high mound of rubble like so much discarded humanity. It was a magnificent concept and location, but we needed more bodies for maximum impact.

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Photographer: Natansky

For the second part of the shoot we became gold. Babylon gold. Louise, Nefretari and I first applied gold by hand to our own faces. We then dropped our gowns and allowed Paolo and Natansky to spray us from neck to toes using aerosol body paint – there was just enough to go round. Any gaps were touched-up with the face paint.

babylon-08
Photographer: Paolo Bridge

Fittingly, Nefretari started our gold sequence with an elegant solo pose seated on a low wall.  The three of us then stood against a graffiti-decorated wall in all manner of combinations, culminating with a tightly-bound variation on Canova’s Three Graces from Greek mythology.

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

In a different part of the building we were captured in a corridor, walking in separation or with our bodies close together.

babylon-10a
Photographer: Paolo Bridge

Nefretari posed solo in the window; Louise and I went head to head on a staircase.

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

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Photographer: Natansky

Finally we lined up for a shot seated on the staircase before ascending to the outside world. We stood at the top of the stairs, staring out from behind a rusty barred gate – golden prisoners gazing wistfully at the sun.

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

In the unkempt greenery outside we reprised our Three Graces, and picked the fruit in this Garden of Eden. Our last pose was occupying another broken brick doorway.

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Photographer: Paolo Bridge

The hours had simply flown by. It was now mid-afternoon and we had lost the light, so we called it a day. A token attempt was made to remove our gold, but most would be showered off at home. As I boarded a train, still with golden face and arms visible, an elderly lady remarked: “Ooh look, it’s one of them statues.” If you only knew, dear.

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So much had been achieved, and yet so much more remained of our ideas. Which is how it should be: let there be a reason to recharge, regroup, re-create and realise our dreams. We are the makers, and we made this: our Babylon.

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From → Art

One Comment
  1. Beautiful pictures, beautiful models. I particularly like the Pixies Surfa Rosa pic – fantastic. Love to see more.

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