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The Witching Hour Photography - Interview with Joy Marshall

Joy Marshall is a fantasy photographer living near Salem, Massachusetts. An award-winning artist, who we happily host on the pages of Imaginarium, talks to us about her art and brings magic to our gloomy days.

Each of her photos is a story. She captures it with her imagination and gives it to us through her camera lens. The town she lives in has magical nature, which, as Joy tells us, inspires her to create her own backdrop. Each photo has hours of work behind it. In her imagination; where it creates the protagonist, the atmosphere, the plot, and after; hours of work to create the costumes, the setting, the lighting, and the textures, as they are called in photography. From my conversation with her, I understood how much perseverance and passion she puts into her work and how professionally she takes care of every detail.

I first asked her what inspires her, since inspiration is the beginning of everything! "I get my inspiration from just about everywhere. There's a story in everything and I try to tell it as often as I can. My inspiration ultimately follows my interests. I'm fascinated by relationships, particularly with colour. I love colour symbolism and using colour theory to evoke emotion or tell a story. Sometimes I base an entire image on colour theory alone. I'm also really interested in the symbolism behind objects, colours, and costumes. I enjoy researching symbolism on a lot of levels. Let's take a balance scale for instance. It is used as a tool for measurement. I think many people look at these types of scales and instantly think of balance. It could be argued that a balance scale universally symbolizes balance. In many cultures, a balance scale symbolizes a type of judicial balance. It can also have personal meaning for each individual looking at it. A scale can measure things associated with mass, gravity, and balance, but it can also measure moral or ethical things. So I get a lot of my inspiration from symbolism and thinking culturally and individually about various things I use in my images. I also take a lot of inspiration from folklore. I love to research old practices and incorporate them into my images. For instance, I did a self-portrait of myself flying over a field on a broomstick and it was inspired by the sympathetic magic of people jumping in a cornfield to inspire the corn to grow taller. I love to read fantasy books, so a lot of my inspiration comes from the stories I've grown up with and continue to love. And lastly, I get a tremendous amount of inspiration from being in the woods. I live in New England, US, and every season has a new story to offer. In the winter, the trees are bare and show all their truths, in the spring, the animals and plants come back to life. After the winter, that sense of renewal is a lifeline. In the summer, life is opulent and bursting, and in the fall, everything gets crisp and goes back into shadow. It's so beautiful".

With Joy's words, I drifted with my mind to those fields in New England where centuries ago witches were hunted down, and people fear of the devil. How intense would the magic still be on the soil of that land? And what does this land remember from the souls that departed back then, so unjustly? Are we still living in a time when we are chasing the devil and people are closing in on our homes for fear of our neighbour?

I asked Joy about art in the time of covid-19, and how it has influenced her:

" In this age of COVID-19, we are all re-examining who we are and what we do in the new space we have to create. I was never a self-portrait artist before COVID-19. I will say that branching into that world has brought a lot to my craft. I've learned so much about how to pose, and convey how to pose to models and clients. I've learned a lot about light and working in confined spaces (my living room). It's also brought a new sense of confidence into my work and I feel I can explore darker concepts than perhaps I ordinarily would. I love fantasy photography because it's a big umbrella that can mean so many things. It has the potential to teach us things we didn't know, tell us stories that are transportive and relatable, and hopefully, give us an outlet and inspiration during such a dark and weird time. Because of this, I'm really passionate about bringing more diversity and representation into the field. We all want to see ourselves reflected back in the art that is meaningful to us. This is how we connect and feel inspired. I tend to see very similar model types in the fantasy genre. And while I'm certainly not bashing those awesome women and men, the lack of diversity hurts us all. Every single person on this planet has beauty, and we all have a story worth telling. We gain so much value in telling those stories and letting the beauty of everyone reflect back".

Seeing her new work on Instagram about mental health, I understood exactly what she meant! However, I wanted her to navigate me to the -slightly- more

technical parts of her work to perceive how all the fantastic photography works.

"I love both creepy, surreal photography, as well as classic, painterly images reminiscent of old paintings.

Light is really important because it has the potential to be

so evocative and can tell so much story. Sometimes I plan out images, sometimes they're spur of the moment. The more surreal the more planning they usually require. For instance, the image of me flying on the broom took some planning. I used my tripod to keep my camera in the exact same place. Then I positioned myself on a footstool and used a remote shutter to take many pictures of myself stationary, and then many more with both my hair and the cape moving. Afterwards, I removed the stool and took a blank shot of the scene. Later in Photoshop, I was able to composite everything together. I used the blank shot to paint out the stool and then added the moving hair and fabric to make the overall image more believable. I added a shadow to the ground beneath me and then did a lot of colour toning and light adjustments to make the overall image more painterly. I also add textures to many of my images. This gives the images a more painterly feel, and also adds some depth. Sometimes an image is just the one picture I take, other times I used 10-20 other pieces of pictures to composite one big project. Editing can take me anywhere from 2-60 hours, depending on how much compositing is involved. For every added element, conditions have to be changed to make it believable. This can include painting in shadows, changing colour toning, and to an extent, shaping the light. The perspective has to match, as does the focus and general lens size, or the two elements won't look like they belong. A tripod is key in images like this. If I were shooting a model and trying to work with just holding my camera, I would have had a really hard time painting out the step-stool to make it look believable".

I thought that such a technique would be not only time-consuming but also quite expensive. However, Joy explained to me that art should be accessible to everyone. Although she finds it fantastic to watch videos of how some professionals work, with numerous assistants, expensive lights, etc., she still works on a very low budget. She makes the costumes and props herself while she uses tripods instead of assistants.

I noticed that she often works with a specific model, Tatiana Pimentel, and she told me that they are very good friends and have been working together for two years now.

"I'm fortunate that my very good friend, Tatiana Pimentel, models for me a lot, and comes on location to assist pretty frequently as well. She and I have been working together for two years now. Tatiana is a very gifted artist (she makes fantasy fairy wings!) and a talented model. Even when she's not in front of the camera, she contributes so much. Because we've been working together for so long, we are frequently in tandem. As an assistant, she jumps in to move the fabric, or change the light with hardly any communication from me. She's an incredible friend, and the partnership we've built over the years is one of my most valued relationships. Before COVID-19 we would spend entire days with a carload of costumes and props, driving around Massachusetts looking for locations to shoot in. No pressure, just exploration, and creation. "

It is indeed a great blessing to have found your "partner in crime" even in your work. It is so rare and wonderful that her words made me smile, imagining their great artistic adventures. Then we talked about her plans.

"When it's safe to do so, I want to resume working with models and clients. I hope to expand my product line to include both composite work and also creative editing. I want to start holding workshops and teaching. I'm hoping to start producing some YouTube videos on shooting and editing soon. Fantasy is made better with more stories. When it's safe to do so, I really want to make it my mission to work with as many different people as I can and tell as many stories as I can. Because ultimately, photography is just a means of storytelling".

One of the joys of the New Era is this very community we have with people, all over the world. It was a great pleasure for me to be able to talk to a great artist, but also a great girl, from the other side of the world, as well as present her work. At other times this would be difficult. She added: "We are living in a difficult but quite interesting time!"

In closing, we will leave you with her advice:

"If you want to be successful, nothing is holding you back. What you need, will find its way to you. Ultimately, you don't need fancy equipment or a huge team, or a Bachelor's degree to create meaningful art. You need a passion to create, an open mind, and I think most importantly a community. The good news is a community will come to you, as long as you keep pursuing your passion and telling your stories".

You will find Joy Marshall on her website: On Instagram @ thewitchinghourphotography and Facebook: the Witching Hour: Fine Art Photography. The incredible mermaid Tatiana ( with her fairy wings) has a shop on Etsy: and on Instagram, you will find her as @teepimentel.

Imaginarium Magazine Issue 2 February 2021

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