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the Sire of Sorrow

By MichaelBilottaPhotography    
If someone asked you to describe a Biblical scene, describing the scenery, the people in it, what would you say? Robed women, bearded men, deserts, dust, burning bushes, crucifixes come to mind, and that is perfectly fine. Now if I told you that this image is based on a Biblical story, it would be a stretch, would it not? The scenery looks wrong, the tall, comely man in the shot is wrong, the harlequin pattern on his skin suggests medieval period, and there is no sign of robes, no burning bush, no crucified bodies on the cross. Nevertheless, it is absolutely based on the story of Job, or at least the themes in it.

The basics of the story are: Job is a prosperous man: wealthy, wife and save children, and devoted to God. Satan and God have a discussion about Job's faith, and Satan insists that if God took away the blessings and fortunes in Job's life, Job would scorn God, and lose his faith. So, God and Satan make a wager, and God allows Satan to terrorize Job's life with loss, death of his family, and physical ailments. Job is miserable and in pain, but does not renounce God. God then speaks to Job, and basically tells him that God's creations need not understand him or ask questions, and as reward for his faith, Job is given a new family, more wealth than ever before, and a remarkably long life.

The moral of the tale is obvious, but the part that devout Christians are quick to dust over is this odious part where God will let one of his most beloved children be ruined with grief, pain and suffering, all for a bet with the Devil. This is some extremely questionable behavior for one supposedly omnipotent, and while I don't believe the story as true, or in God or the Devil, for that matter, the idea of the bet, the game, is compelling. Humanity as chess pieces for the god like beings has been visited in many mythologies, not the least of which the denizens of Mount Olympus, and all their shenanigans on the earthly plane.

So I wanted to capture that concept, the man as pawn, the chess piece, the game itself. This is my Job, who really represents all of mankind, and he is covered in a pattern of the game board. There are signs of injury and damage, there are two key holes and two keys, one for God, one for the Devil, to turn the man whichever way they desire. One ladder ascends up and out of frame, one descends, the God Ladder, the Hell Ladder. My third attempt at the harlequin motif on the skin, and I feel it is my most potent metaphor using it so far. Many shots utilize the ladder for various concepts, this one is the method of transportation from hell and heaven that our two gambling men use to wreak havoc on the playing field of humanity.

My title comes from a remarkable song by Joni Mitchell, who perfectly embodies Job's point of view in her lyric, wondering what he has done to suffer so greatly. Man is the sire of sorrow, and even if you don't believe in God or the Devil, it certainly seems we are in sorrow's grasp, our duel nature, our capacity for emotion and empathy, make us all players in the game of life, and wonder what it is all for in the end.

This was a bit of a monster edit, three full days, and the masks were a test of patience. Two layers of texture were applied to the model's skin, one of a stone wall, and the other was a chessboard pattern I made in Photoshop.

a before and after version of this image is viewable on my Facebook page:

Model: Mike Ryan

Tags: Specialist and abstract Digitally manipulated Digital art Portraits and people Flash and lighting

Voters: Mactogo, Philip_H, williamthorpe271 and 16 more

Highly Commended Photos are given by the team to photos that were good but not quite an editors' choice award.

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abeeror2 9 23 Australia
11 Aug 2013 11:32PM
bluesandtwos 11 522 1 England
12 Aug 2013 8:41AM
A classic example of what you do so well. The image, as a 'stand alone' for me at least, is not that inspiring and certainly, again for me, not one of your best.....but, add the text and the reasoning behind the components of the picture and it gets elevated to something way beyond just the 'at face value' picture. The text gives it it's reason to exist, the total far greater than the sum of it's parts. Hope that all makes just a little bit of sense Blush.


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