A widowed woman unable to carry on and who only lives in the odd chapters.
A fundamentally optimistic man who lives in the even chapters and is about to find out a shocking truth about his own identity. These are the premises of Magpies, a 150 pages long graphic novel about loss, love and the quest for the real self. This is a project that has been going on for years, often neglected for long periods of time, always haunting me in the back of my mind. I used analogue and digital techiques, in form of photographs, collages, drawings and photomontages; I wanted to break free from restrictions imposed by my work: I didn’t want to spend my time caring about the rules of how a photograph should be made, I don’t like all the fuss around the “digital vs analogue” issue, I don’t care how much post production is put into a single photo. All I wanted was to grab the images I had in mind and spread them onto a piece of paper so that they would stop bugging me. Using a medium like the graphic novel to tell a story, I was able to explore narrative possibilities which are very different from those granted by a single photograph or even a series of photos. Combining text and images, I can look at a concept from different points of view simultaneously, creating a bond with the reader, who is to participate more actively in the unfolding of the plot, creating a short circuit between words and pictures. There are more layers.
The title refers to a traditional nursery rhyme for children that goes:
“One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret Never to Be Told”.
The narrative is divided into seven chapters, which mimic the rhyme and try to shed light on one question: who are we, really? And how do we change when we relate to other people around us?
Pages: 164 | Hardcover
Writing the story was the easy part: everything was done in less than two days years ago and it hasn’t changed much since then. It took me several years (and countless failures) to finally set on a visual treatment that I was satisfied with for this project. Then each chapter has been roughly storyboarded by a first grader (not really… but it looks like that. I just suck at drawing). I just needed to break down the text making sure that I had an idea of what was going on in each panel. At this point I re-drew the sketches very quickly and imported them in Indesign, to make sure I knew the exact dimensions for each and every panel. This was a really important part of the process, as reframing a photograph usually ends up being a pain in the ass or just plain ugly.
- I built the masks using paper and masking tape (isn’t that what masking tape is for, after all?) and then I used white paint and fiber paste to add some texture to them. At first I did some test shootings without masks, but I was missing the surreal quality I liked about the sketches and I wanted both character to be almost unhuman.
At this point I shot the characters on a neutral background, making sure I was matching the lighting I had in mind for the final scene, in terms of direction and quality of light. Since all the work has been done an ocean apart from my studio and all my gear, during a three month sabbatical spent in L.A., I just moved all the furniture in the living room to use the white walls as a background and I lit everything using speedlights.
- Each character was then printed on a Canon Selphy printer, cut out with an X-Acto knife and placed on my little cardboard set that I built. Using speedlight proved to be the best way to really control light on a small scale project like this, and controlled lighting is what really makes this little world come to life. Almost everything has been shot with a 100mm macro lens, except for the super-close details, which were shot with an inverted 50mm (a.k.a. poor man’s macro). The only thing I did in Photoshop was the tinting, to make sure there was a consistency between images, and balloons and text. That’s not because I’m against compositing or heavy post production, it was just more fun this way (and WAY faster).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m not sure I’m comfortable sitting under the word “author”, but “about the weirdo who did all the job” didn’t sound fancy enough, for some reason.
My name is Sara Lando.
I’m an italian photographer who likes to tell stories that never happened. I like to mix things and experiment, I like to play with paper and I like to spend time indoor while the cool kids play outside. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m doing it anyway.