Down the (digital) rabbit hole

It was now 150 years ago that Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland made its first appearance into the book shelves. Lewis Carroll’s bizarre and nonsensical novel has gained such a popularity over the decades, that it has never once stopped being a source of inspiration across all arts. Its whimsical stories, wonderful characters and witty wordplays have effectively transcended the context of literature and made their way into our collective imagination, and it feels as if this bond can never be severed: you say white rabbit, you think of Alice; you say hatter, you think of the Mad one; you say Cheshire, you think of the Cat’s mischievous grin; you say Queen of Hearts, you think “Off with their heads!”.

Down the (digital) rabbit hole: Book illustrations @Thorns Have Roses

It therefore comes without saying that this year’s anniversary will spark lots of new, creative ways to pay homage to such a big part of popular culture. One of these is undoubtedly a new production opening at the London’s National Theatre. (pronounced “wonder-dot-land”) is a new musical inspired by Lewis Carroll’s iconic story and it’s about a young girl, Aly, who, trapped in a life from which she feels alienated and surrounded by people who constantly disappoint her, disappears into another wonderful (online) world through the “rabbit hole” of her smartphone.

Combining live theatre and digital technology, Rufus Norris stages what they call an “immersive digital installation”, venturing into an exploration of the potential of theatre and video. The wide range of technologies used by their creative team (from motion picture and facial motion capture to the creation of a full 3d character) marries perfectly with the uber-modern online-age reinterpretation of Alice’s adventures, which touches on topics such as virtual realities, idealised avatars and Internet gambling addiction.

Down the (digital) rabbit hole: Musical National Theatre London @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: Musical National Theatre London @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: Musical National Theatre London @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: Musical National Theatre London @Thorns Have Roses

The contrast between the dullness of the real world and the fantastical glitz of, the fictional online game, is in large part achieved through technology. ‘The video is really important to create that contrast’, says Betsy Dadd, assistant designer. ‘The real world is made into a very analog, black and white, handmade way. And then we transition into this technicolour, computer-generated landscape’.

Vogue didn’t miss the chance to join the celebrations, and their December issue features Kendall Jenner posing alongside the cast from in a uniquely quirky and wacky photoshoot by Mert and Marcus.

Rocking bleached hair and dark eye make-up, Jenner is wrapped in bold and bright outfits, surrounded by fantastical characters and weird sets that are out of this world.

Down the (digital) rabbit hole: Kendall Jenner for Vogue @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: Kendall Jenner for Vogue @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: Kendall Jenner for Vogue @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: Kendall Jenner for Vogue @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: Kendall Jenner for Vogue @Thorns Have Roses

This isn’t the first time Vogue takes inspiration from Carroll’s tales. In fact, how to forget the whimsical and magical shoot by photographer Annie Leibovitz, famous for her fantasy shots full of awe, surprise and intimacy. Similarly to Mert and Marcus’ work, here Natalia Vodianova, dressed up as little Alice, stars alongside famous faces the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Donatella Versace and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Down the (digital) rabbit hole: "Wonderland" photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: "Wonderland" photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: "Wonderland" photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: "Wonderland" photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: "Wonderland" photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz @Thorns Have RosesAlice2Down the (digital) rabbit hole: "Wonderland" photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: "Wonderland" photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz @Thorns Have RosesDown the (digital) rabbit hole: "Wonderland" photoshoot by Annie Leibovitz @Thorns Have Roses

Some stories are meant to last forever, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of those. These images have the power to stir profound memories in us, summon up fairy-tale worlds of merry unbirthdays and late-running rabbits, and draw us irresistibly into fantastical realms of dream.

sources / photo credits:
Daily Mail
The Guardian
Child Mode

Tim Walker’s The Muse

As a huge lover of film and motion picture, you can imagine my joy when I found out that Tim Walker, one of the most world-renowned fashion photographers, has directed a short film. Naturally, I had to watch it!

This mesmerizing and haunting 12-minute short was born out of a photoshoot that the very same Tim Walker took for W Magazine, starring model and long-time collaborator Kristen McMenamy as a mermaid (a role that, as they revealed in an interview, she had always wanted to take on and he had always wanted to capture). The basis of the shoot was Hans Christian Andersen’s short story “The Little Mermaid”, which was elaborated into a darker romantic idea of a mermaid kept in a tank in her lover’s garden.


“A fairy tale without darkness won’t resonate emotionally,” said the British photographer. And his fascination with the fantastic and the borderline-disturbing is plastered all over his work. It comes as no surprise that some of his biggest sources of inspiration are the sinister illustrations of Arthur Rackham and the eerie fairytales of H. C. Andersen.

Ben Whishaw (whom I already loved in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and Cloud Atlas, and who you probably recognise from the latest James Bond movies) is Edward Dunstan, the photographer obsessed with his muse. The concept of the lost muse or inspiration and the effects that this loss has on the artist isn’t new to arts and film, and it perhaps became iconic with Fellini’s Otto e Mezzo (8½), whose veiled autobiographical tones depict an alter-ego of the filmmaker going through a “director’s block”. Just like in Walker’s short, memories and flashbacks merge with reality, and fantasies and dreams become a mean to an escape.

The artist’s consuming obsession and blinding perfectionism take over to become the central element of the short: Edward wanders aimlessly in open fields of grass lost in an empty sky; he watches footage of his muse on a loop and obsessively organises the pictures he took of her. He is trapped in his own mind, just like the mermaid was trapped in his tank. “I was as much your prisoner as you were mine,” he echoes. But there is a warning:

Legend has it that if a human man falls in love with a mermaid she will grow legs; legs that will, if she so desires, carry her far, far away from the very man she cast her watery spell upon… But what becomes of the human man, when her spell remains but she is gone?

The idea of separation is also a constant: first between his mind and the outside world, then between the present and the past, shown through bright and hopeful flashbacks; and finally between him and her, through the physical barriers of the tank at the beginning, and of the footage projected on the wall towards the end.

“His shoots, they don’t start with the clothes,” said Stefano Tonchi, the editor of W, who commissioned the original shoot. “They start with an urgency for him to tell a story”.

The short was shot on film (not digitally), with no use of CGI, and mostly silent. Part of it comes from the feeling of emptiness and alienation that the director wanted to convey; part of it must necessarily come from Walker’s solid background in photography, which, as Ben Whishaw puts it, is a much more sculptural process, it has much more to do with the body and its physicality than it does with dialogue. In fact, the only real dialogue that takes place in the film is that of the artist with the footage of his long-lost muse, caught in a perfect moment of vulnerability and grief, and exquisitely expressed through the actor’s body language.


The film is available on We Are Colony, a website that aims to provide exclusive independent films and behind-the-scenes footage with a pay-per-title policy. The special bundle for The Muse includes lots of extra interviews, hidden scripts and cut scenes and is only £2,49.


bill cunningham: a chronicle of NY fashion trends

To ease into induction week and to get into the visually-oriented mindset that we will need during our course, we started off with a screening of the movie/documentary ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ by Richard Press. The movie was a fresh and insightful view into the life of 80+ New York-based legendary photographer Bill Cunningham, a man who almost entirely dedicated his whole life to his work and passion: street style. As I watched him go about his daily routine, carefully inspect the hems of the skirts of the women passing by on the pavement, and sometimes even chase an eye-catching outfit through heavily-trafficked streets, I couldn’t help but feel utter admiration towards this man. His dedication to clothes and his talent in spotting trends as they are born among the widely-varied New Yorker crowds were beyond inspiring, especially when topped by his humility and sense of humour.

“We all get dressed for Bill.”

– Anna Wintour

His philosophy? “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do”. And he most certainly lives by it. For the sake of preserving his artistic freedom, Cunningham has rejected most of the material goods that the majority of people in our society would consider mandatory: a private bathroom, a kitchen and a closet full of clothes. His tiny flat being essentially a storage for his negatives and photographs, he spends his days by cycling through the streets of New York to spot new and recurring trends, selecting which photos to keep (very few are actually published) and putting them together to write an article on whatever trend has caught his eye. His work is his life and his life is his work.

It was also interesting to hear his opinions circa the fashion industry as a whole and the glamour and glitter that this environment is drenched in. He is clearly fascinated by it, but at the same time he prefers to keep his distance from it. Cunningham successfully made a name of himself in the fashion world even though his persona doesn’t exactly match the dazzling, gleaming socialite image: an aged man, very reserved, living the humble life, who has been wearing the same cheap blue coat for several decades, and who simply doesn’t participate in the glittering fashion events and parties that he attends as a mere photographer, never a guest. As if he were staring through a looking glass, he observes but doesn’t touch, documents but doesn’t get involved. He wants to be invisible; which is what differentiates him from the aggressive paparazzi.

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👋 Bill! #hyperlapse #nyfw

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I have definitely enjoyed watching this movie and found it to be quite the perfect start to this course. As a movie junkie myself I can hardly hide my excitement for the Film Club sessions we are going to be having on each Monday afternoon, and I look forward to finding inspiration as to how to integrate my love for movies and TV into my own visual communication concept.

“Bill on Bill” –
“Why Bill Cunningham is actually the most interesting person at Fashion Week” – Huffington Post

“Bill Cunningham New York” (2010) – IMDb

photo credits:
the sartorialist