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"the Reaper (the flower of fire)"

By MichaelBilottaPhotography    
Oh what a long journey this one was. Four days of editing this one, though a good deal of time was spent ripping things apart and starting over again. This was intended to be triptych, a large panorama consisting of three separate images that when viewed together tell a larger story, but each part also works as a standalone. The idea of doing this was the work of artist Hieronymus Bosch and besides, it would be a real challenge to pull off and conceive. But, what did I want to say with it? For several weeks all I could think of was the idea of planting, gardening or seeds, and I decided to go with it and see what came about when I got around to shooting. All this was several weeks floating in my mind, if not months, and then…someone else did it just last week - another photographer in the fine art photography camp, and because she is rather well known in this little world, and has many adoring followers (read: copycats), there are likely going to be many many attempts and triptychs coming and I did not want to be perceived as one. Yes, I had the idea for awhile now, and though I should do whatever my motivation is, besides not wanting to be perceived as a bandwagon jumper, I also wanted the three parts to work really well, and not depend on the full image for success. I was not sure that was going to be the case, so, with two detractions dragging the idea down, I decided to scrap it for now, and try again some other time. That damned collective subconscious, it seems we all tap into the same trends and ideas!

Anyway, I did shoot my model with that in mind, so I wanted to do at least something with the theme of planting or tending the earth. The three shots I decided were the best of them, which were to become my triptych, were worked up separately, all using the same style, colors and environments, and I really liked the slightly ominous, slightly whimsical tone of them. I had two shots that I liked in particular, both with the model acting out planting or dropping seeds. Having just completed a string of images focusing on Christianity and a priest character, biblical overtones started creeping into the surviving two shots of my DOA triptych. I thought of a wonderful line from a U2 song…"you plant a demon seed, you raise a flower of fire…" and that seemed like a perfect fit for the two pieces I worked on simultaneously. In a rate case of serendipity, I shot a bunch of flames a few weeks ago, so I had plenty of fire elements to work with. All I really needed was the flower of fire, which I shot over the last two nights, using two separate flowers (fake flowers from an art store) to make a strange shape to it - I didn't want an obvious red rose on fire. But the composition and the placement of elements was proving difficult - I wanted a sparse image, and did not want to overload it. Since this was not going to be a triptych, I felt the image, which was originally intended to show just the reaper of the flower, didn't have enough context on its own and was too dependent on the other pieces to work. So I decided to add the sower into the background, and turn the foreground model into the reaper.

At the same time, the meaning behind this symbolic piece and the words of that song lyric from U2 took on a new meaning to me, which was "if you plant a bad deed, or cruelty, you will reap what you sow, or spread it. A bad feeling festers (demon seed) and blossoms into more. The wires, originally placed there just because I liked the shape of them, took on a few meanings: one is reference to the Holy Trinity, either guiding him to his deed or attempting to sway him from it. The other represents a struggle, a three-way struggle between God, the Devil, and man, or his free will. There needed to be three because, well, when you are planning a triptych, you tend to think in threes, and also, scenes from Bergman's "the Seventh Seal" were on my mind, with man playing chess with death.

So, here together are the reaper and the sower, not acknowledging each other, separate duties but still connected. I finished one other piece of the sower, the man in the background of this image, which was intended to be the first panel of the triptych. I may post that anyway, just because I like the lines of it, and if you look at the two of them together, they do represent that lyric pretty well: one being the "demon seed" (the sower), and this one being the "flower of fire."

A note about the bare feet…

Yes, it is odd that a man this dapper and dressed in finery would have no shoes on, but it is deliberate and a bit of an in-joke. I did an image called "the Strange Self Portrait of Dr. Henry Jekyll" which had the doctor dressed much like this and yet barefoot. It was shot with the intention of a crop, but in the end, I did not crop it, and decided that the poor doctor had a rough night previously as Mr. Hyde, and well, forgot a few things in leaving for his portrait sitting. A viewer, who is usually quite a lovely man and very supportive, hated this image powerfully, and took issue with the bare feet. I decided from that point on to make it my "thing." I have done it with every model since then!

model: Ed Barron

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

Voters: Anacithidus, HappyBaer, fazzer and 31 more

Highly Commended Photos are given by the team to photos that were good but not quite an editors' choice award. Readers' Choice Awards are given to photos that get over 30 votes

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bluesandtwos 11 521 1 England
18 Jul 2013 8:44AM
The thoughts behind you images ( I love the explanations, I wish more would write the reasoning behind what they do), and the images themselves always fascinate me. This is, for me, is one of your better ones. Brilliant!

Richsr 14 91 223 England
18 Jul 2013 8:58AM
Well created image Michael
Regards Richard
DeSilver Plus
13 14 12 England
18 Jul 2013 10:16AM
Not only do I like your images and appreciate the skill that has gone into them but your write ups that you put with your images are always a welcome read. I wish that others would do the same as I fell it makes the images so much intresting. Thank you.

Alex_M 14 55 2 Scotland
18 Jul 2013 10:32AM
Great image well worth the months of thinking and planning
18 Jul 2013 11:31PM
HowieR 10 20 3 United Kingdom
19 Jul 2013 9:19AM
Great imagination and technique

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