In Greek mythology, Calypso is a nymph who lives on the island of Ogygia, and the daughter of Atlas – the Titan who bears the world on his shoulders. During the war between the Olympians and Titans, Calypso sided with her father. When the Olympians won, they exiled her. To add to her punishment, the Fates cursed Calypso by sending various castaways to her island (including Odysseus), but who would never stay – leaving the nymph forever trapped and lonely.
(And yet, she inspired the happiest music ever in the steel bands of the Caribbean!)
This past April, major surgery derailed projects I had set for the spring and summer. I’ll confess it’s never easy for me to be idle, even when doctors order it. So I made a compromise that would allow me to heal properly and satisfy my creative brain, and decided to focus on smaller projects and experiments over the summer months. It’s a good idea to let your artistic heart wander into unfamiliar territory from time to time, if not on a regular basis – because that’s where the visionary juju can be called upon.
Calypso is synonymous with her island. But in my story I wanted her to break free from its shores – to define herself despite being someone else’s captive. This time out I chose to tell a story in photographs – and edit it like a video. I wanted to work in wide shots. How does Calypso fit into her landscape of exile? How does she connect to it and become it? How do I frame that? What single moments define her story? It was some of the most intense storyboarding I’ve ever done. It was also some of the most hefty Photoshop work I’ve ever done. You can see in the example below how much the image changed from the original.
– All elements were photographed by me. (I was lucky enough to come home from work one night to find a thunderstorm slowly rolling in over the roof, which made for some great sky shots)
Calypso is portrayed by Shellie Schmals, whom you may (or may not!) recognize as the Lady Dis from HELL. Shellie is game for anything – the ocean, the mud, the rain, being covered in paint, leaves and dirt – she’s at home in the elements, so I knew she’d be perfect for this. I wanted an earthy nymph, dirty dress, water-laden, messy hair. Someone who’s been living her exile for generations – and yet not jaded, but hopeful for renewal.
The haunting melody in the video is “Les Berceaux”, a french folk song by Gabriel Faure which laments sailors leaving their families. It is sung by the talented Jenilyn Rodriguez of the band Sixes Wild (also an actress/collaborator on TITANIA, and Violence in HELL):
While the story of CALYPSO has Odysseus, and he did leave his family for war, I used the song because it speaks of good-byes and the lure of other horizons. Experimenting over the summer, I found myself gravitating toward a new set of inspirations in my work. There are new paths I want to take, and some existing projects (such as TITANIA) that need to be seen through a different lens. In order to do that, go where my heart feels happy and at its most potential, I need to break free of my current shore and a certain genre I’ve been clinging to. Doing that can certainly feel like leaving a home behind, but it also forces you to break your chains of comfort and lay down any fears you have about telling your stories. So here I go! I’ll walk deeper out into the water, and in the coming months you’ll start to see a change in direction, but at its core my work will still be coming from the same woman. I’m excited to see where Calypso will lead me, and hope you’ll stay on the journey too.
Click here to view – CALYPSO VIDEO
Click here to view – CALYPSO PHOTOS