“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
~ Lewis Carroll
Words and Photos by Joey Phoenix
What is it about tea parties that is so engaging? We, as humans, just deeply love the idea of large tea pots, scones and clotted cream, putting jam on our pocket watches. But really, we are completely caught up with one tea party in particular. Well, at least I am.
And it’s all a bit mad.
This shoot came about as a result of a collaboration between myself and a group of immensely talented people. Our goal was to bash gender norms, grinding them completely into the dirt of wonderland, and then eat a lot of delicious pastries.
And oh yes, create some magical photographs.
Designing the Shoot
Setting up an Alice in Wonderland themed tea party in the woods was no simple feat. Each of the cast members had to create their own costumes – many of which were crafted by hand or compiled from the mismatched offerings of thrift store sale bins. We also had to come up with a bountiful table full of wonderland-esque props and edible treats.
One of my favorite pieces was the white rabbit’s card collar, which snapped in 2 on the way to the shoot, so Meaghan had to hot glue it back together a half hour before we were set to begin. The fact that it survived, and looked as good as it did, was something to marvel at.
Another of my favorites was the ears worn by the March Hare and the Dormouse, which was made by Megan Afon (who played the Dormouse). Megan is a multi-talented individual whose artistic abilities never fail to impress me.
In addition to this costumed loveliness, Elle Nightingale spent 3 days prior to the shoot baking everything on the table, including candying the edible flowers and making fondant for the three tiered cake. So much was created that didn’t even end up in the final photos. However, I will point out that although the fondant on the three tiered cake in the center of the table is edible, the cake itself is not, because instead of a cake, Elle used hat boxes.
Because Elle is a genius.
In addition to what the cast themselves created and provided, we also had the benefit of some outside creative magicians who contributed a great deal to the shoot.
The first was the Mad Hatter’s Hat, which was designed and created by Linda Mullen of Grace & Diggs. Linda draws inspiration from the world around her, using recycled and found materials to fabricate all new creations. She took our idea of the Hatter and made into something extraordinary. Everything she does is wonderful.
The second was the Cheshire Cat’s body paint, which was done offsite by the talented Adam Canvas. Ember LaFuze worked closely with Adam to come up with a design that would fit the spirit of the cat – including the twisted smile and vibrant colors. The final result was perfection.
The third was the White Rabbit’s face, which was designed and brought into being by Margot Tate of Intramersive, LLC. Margot played a huge role in my last series – Pleasure in the Pathless Woods – and did her own costuming and body paint. The woman is a wizard.
And lastly, Alice’s hair and makeup were done by Sarah Mann, whose stage-centric abilities are the stuff of dreams.
The Day of the Shoot
It took us 2 hours to set up the display in the woods. The mosquitos were thick and the light was fading fast. Originally we had planned to do this during the day, but scheduling conflicts made that impossible.
Fortunately, Retonica was on site to help with lighting and save the day. We set up faerie lights on the table itself and a spotlight over the table to imitate the angled light of sunshine. Where originally I had planned on light pastels and airy colors, the images took on bold hues and heavy contrasts. They may not have been what I had planned, but they ended up looking like something out of another world.
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