My Photographic Fairy Art
I have always loved fairy tales. There is something there that expands the imagination with all the magical lore of fairies, elves, gnomes, and goblins. In light of that, I created these little photographic fairy images from photos of my relatives and neighbor’s children.
The original old French, Welsh, or even old English term was “fay,” basically meaning any magical creature—including goblins and gnomes. The suffix was added like it would be to any magical profession, like knavery, roguery, or wizardry.
In the Victorian era, fairies became synonymous with elves. They weren’t always small either. They could take the form of an ordinary human or child. The traditional folklore began referring to them as “wee folk,” “good folk,” or “people of peace.”
I think that is where artists began depicting them as very small, with insect wings. Still, originally they flew using magic—not necessarily wings. Some stories, however, have them flying on the backs of birds or using ragwort stems. Yet the idea of butterfly, dragonfly, or angel wings, gave them a sort of visual charm and it stuck.
Some traditions have them living underground as a hidden kingdom. They were believed to be a former race of people who were driven out by the later humans and driven underground. This may be one of the reasons some stories have fairies as mischievous and even dangerous.
Although most folklore have them as basically harmless, they do ascribe certain pranks to them, such as tangling people’s hair in their sleep or stealing small household objects. I always preferred to think of them as helpful and secretive like the blue fairy from Pinocchio.
Along with the folklore of fairies comes the folklore of protective charms. Things like wearing you clothes inside out, four-leaf clovers and St. John’s wort were regarded as effective against the pranks of fairies. The Newfoundland folklore seems to be the most popular defense against fairies: bread. All kinds of bread, from stale to fresh, or even hard tack, will ward off fairy magic and evil. It is also understood that you can offend a brownie (fairy) into leaving by offering it clothing… or is it inferior quality clothing?
At any rate the lore was used in the Harry Potter series (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) by implying that a house elf can be released from his service to the house by offering clothing of any kind. Dobby is the house elf owned by the Malfoy family that Harry tricked into being released from his servitude by leaving an old dirty sock in the book the Malfoys gave to Dobby. That was a great use of elf folklore.
Do you think of fairies as good or evil?
My Fairy Series
I started a fine art photography series of fairies using the photos of my children and some others I took of children close to me. I took many photos of the children of my neighbors and cousins. With these photos, I cut out the background and replaced it with one more suitable to fairies. I used photos of mushrooms and flowers. I made some of the boys into water pixies by putting them in an underwater background.
After this I added wings. Many were wings of butterflies from many different sources, mostly free photo sites. Some I used photos of dragonfly wings. The water pixies have no wings, although I always thought they should have something more pixie like but I haven’t found what yet. I think I only used white bird’s wings on only one. She looks angelic, but not very fairy-like to me.
This will make you laugh. I thought that fairies should be barefoot. I’m not sure why I think that but I do. Many of my photos were taken spontaneously so the children were shod. Sometimes I got a child to pose for me and they took their shoes off, but not always. When I wanted to use a photo of a child with shoes, I cut out feet from some other photo pose and pasted it over the shoes. I “Frankensteined” the children’s feet together.
As a photographer, this is a bad solution to the problem. I should have posed the children purposely. But as an artist using Photoshop, it is a genius answer to a problem. The difficulty is making the lighting and perspective match. In these images I’m sharing can you find the photos where I had to “Frankenstien” the feet on? If I did a good job, you should not be able to see the seam.
The next thing I manipulated was the clothing. Some clothing I left completely alone and just went with whatever the child was wearing on the day of the photo shoot. In one case I got my little cousin Skye to pose for me. She took off her shoes and was oh, so cute. However she was wearing her pajamas. We were at my daughter’s house for a birthday party and I couldn’t very well ask her to go home and put on a dress, so I just posed her with what she had on. I could have superimposed a dress on her later but decided not to. I just used the photos as they were and her fairy pose still came out charming.
In one photo, I pasted a frilly dress over the tee shirt and pants the girl was wearing. I have to say that one didn’t come out as nice as I had hoped it would. It is always best to leave the children in the clothing they are wearing. The lighting and perspective match up perfectly that way.
The final thing, once I created the fairy and background, was to add a filter overlay that made the image look very old. I could have made the colors faded and blued to give it an old photo feel but that’s not what I wanted. In the end I chose to keep the vibrant colors and add overlays that make it look like an old painting with scuffed edges and a canvas type texture.
I’ve made dozens of these little fairy children and intend to do dozens more. The underwater pixies have sunken ships, treasure chests, sea turtles and dolphins. Those were fun to create and adorn but in the end I had to keep the colors in muted blue. I especially love the flower and mushroom fairies where I can add lots of vibrant dancing colors and costumes.
Do you have any ideas for fairy images I can create? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. How do you feel about fairies? Is it nothing more than folklore or do you believe that there may be hidden kingdoms somewhere beneath us? If magic and magical creatures are just myths, why do so many different countries and histories include them as part of their culture, do you think? Is there something more out there that we know little or nothing about? I usually prefer to keep an open mind and dream big.