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Something Wicked This Way Comes

By MichaelBilottaPhotography    
Imagine the hubris and the conviction it must have taken to compel a "man of the cloth" to come to "the new world" to convert the "savages" referred to as Indians to the faith of the Christian Europeans and the Christian God. The opinion of the first colonists towards the Native Americans was they were possibly not human, and the Europeans were determined to convert them from their polygamy, their polytheism, their sexual perversions, and their pride. Pride was considered the biggest sin, an even the native's long hair and comfort with nudity was considered wicked and of course, prideful.

This fairly simple image nevertheless gave me a lot of trouble in completing it. The priest with his tab collar - walking towards something, but what? Or walking away from something perhaps? Of course, if I were to adhere to historical accuracy, the priests of the 17th century would not be wearing this 20th century version of the christian man of the cloth, but this look has become synonymous with priests in the modern culture, and any attempt to adorn the model in a realistic 17th century costume would be cost prohibitive to say the least. As it was, getting my hands on an authentic priestly tunic with the tab collar insert was hard enough, and I actually found it and purchased it only hours before the shoot.

But besides all that, restraint and minimalism was required on this one, and me and restraint are not the best of friends! I enjoy a challenge, and I like diving into an image rich with layers both of the symbolic and the photoshop variety. But as soon as I put this priest on a grassy hill, and put an ominous sky behind him, something told me to stop - not to overload it. Of course I tried to - I added stars in the sky, I added demonic traces on the priest, I added a phalanx of floating umbrellas behind him to imply a funeral procession, all that came and went. In the end, I wanted the character to be the focus, and anything around him had to point to him and him alone. The symbolism in the piece is on his person, and nowhere else. All of it is strongly christian of course; the bible, alight with the Holy Fire, the serpent and the apples, references to the book of Genesis and "original sin" and the Forbidden Fruit. The sword by his side represents the steel of the Europeans. I wanted this to be a symbolic representation of what the Christian Europeans, and particularly the missionaries, were bringing to this "New World" to "save" the savages, who were, at least to the Europeans initially, peaceful and friendly. I added two crucifixes on either side of him to echo the classic crucifixion scene on Calvary, with the priest taking the center position echoing Jesus, and the other two depicting the two thieves he was crucified with. The priest is, after all, supposed to represent God or Jesus on Earth, or at least the apostles of Christ.

They brought their burdens of Original Sin, the unknown concepts of Heaven and Hell, and they brought their weapons of steel to force conversion, under threat of death. And yet, to the wide-eyed young Christian, filled with the convictions of his faith, he was on a mission of mercy, and believed he was doing his God's will.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is derived from a line from Shakespeare's Macbeth, and has been a popular quote ever since, and was even used as the title of a Ray Bradbury novel.

I think, in this case, and in my point of view, it is also a very apt expression for the Christian infiltration of the New World and the subjugation of native people of the Americas.

Model: Felix P

A "before and after" version of this image and many others in my portfolio are available on my Facebook page at:

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

Voters: answersonapostcard, silverbells, Ian-Jones and 27 more

Editors' choice awards are given by the team to outstanding images. Readers' Choice Awards are given to photos that get over 30 votes

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abeeror2 8 23 Australia
23 Jun 2013 12:21AM
Thought provoking and beautifully done as always. Stunning work.
Nick_w 14 4.3k 99 England
23 Jun 2013 8:22AM
Strange Michael, I was working on something with a very similar theme last night, superb feel and mood to this
bluesandtwos 11 521 1 England
23 Jun 2013 10:15AM
Unmistakably yours. Brilliant as usual, my only regret is that my very modest monitor doesn't do your images justice. Sad


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