There have been more Tales from my Minds brewing than time has permitted, but with the usual Januari downtime, it has been a great moment to go full production into an old idea: the Midas Touch.
King Midas, the Phrygian king, was bestowed a gift by the god Dionysus for returning the missing satyr Silenus. Midas chose to turn everything he touched into gold. Delighted with this newly gifted talent, he started turning things into gold, until he discovered that touching his food and wine also made them turn gold. When his daughter came to check on him, the gold also consumed her body, and made her into a statue. Cursing his gift, the grief struck Midas turned again to Dionyus, who instructed the king to wash himself and everything he touched in the river Pactolus.
This iconic story always with me, and this photo has been brewing inside my mind ever since 2015. The idea was that she turned to gold in an explosion of glitter. Styling wise we would have gone turn-of-the-century, and even went as far as build a functioning glitter canon. In the end we never gotten around for the necessary permits, or a strategy to clean up the mountain of glitter we would produce.
Set & Styling
Sifting through old files, I rediscovered my original sketches, and brought it up to my current level of knowledge and skill. I knew we had to be time accurate to really drive the point home, so we teamed up with the knowledgable people of Huis Baeyens. This costume rental store is one of the biggest wardrobe icons in Belgium, housing over 80.000 costumes! Browsing through countless rayons of historic attire I found the right matches of textures and colours, making it look like a painting of Rembrandt, Poussin or Caravaggio. For the Turkish-Greek temple we found a partner in Alter Ego Decor. Fabrics and small props were scouted together from furniture and decor stores. It’s a good thing Ancient Greece was one of the inspiration sources in the home decoration world.
With a casting and a production team assembled, I went and scout for a possible location. The original idea was to shoot in outdoors in a heather moorland, but with costs of production rising exponentially, and an issue of safety and comfort for the entire team, I decided to look back at old Hollywood movies, and sourced a painted backdrop. This landscape not only features a waterfall that could double as the river Pactolus, it was the perfect size to wrap around the temple and create a depth and give an even more classic painted feel. Also, it was important to me that, apart from a high production value, we also created meaning to this tale. So I really delved deep into symbolism and added the right type of props and decoration to give it another layer of quality.
Next up was to come up with a lighting battle plan. You can’t light a set like this with just a few speedlights. This is a job for big flash, and a lot of it, so I made a complete 1:10 scaled cardboard model to know how the angles would be, how light would react, and what props and decor we would need to hide the seams.
We started lighting back to front, with a Profoto D2 1000Ws unit, a Telezoom, gelled with a Lee 021 Gold Amber. This extra powerful flash unit gave us enough light to create the sunbeams of a warm Greek sunrise, and have it running on constant modelling light for placing props and models. With a little bit of subtle haze, it gave an amazing glow.
The backdrop was lit by two strategically placed 1/2 CTO’d Profoto B2 units in a XL Umbrellas on a high C-stand, feathering the entirety of the backdrop, and giving a subtle light fall-off of natural light.
However, controlling the light inside was more crucial than ever. The main light of our princess came courtesy of a tabletopped B2 through a Beauty Dish (Lee Vel 188 – Cosmetic Highlite gel). Without a grid on location, we improvised and used Blackwrap to control spill on the king and backdrop. A technique we also used on his key light, which was a Profoto B1 with an Elinchrom Deep Octa 100, with their brand new grid.
To add some very subtle fill and warm up the inside of the temple, I set up another Profoto B1 in a diffused Profoto Umbrella Deep White XL with another Gold Amber gel. To diffuse that light even more I added another two layers of diffusion with a Lastolite 2mx2m Skylite, with a clamped IKEA sheet in front of it. You don’t always need the most expensive toys to get high quality lighting. To control spill, I set up a large floppy to keep the light off the temple and just hit our king and princess. As the final touch, we added the last Profoto B2 head on a 30° grid and a Gold Amber gel as a rim light on the princess.
As usual with these projects, it takes a village to raise a child. So I want to thank all of the people helping me to create such a big production.
- Talent: Eric Kutula, Petronella Mwasi
- MUA: Sarina Mannaert
- Assistants: Kevin De Borger
- Behind The Scenes Video: Timo Vandiest, Arno Poppelaars
- Technical Support: Uwe Verschaeren / UVE
- Location: UVE, Herentals
- Costumes: Huis Baeyens
- Scenery: AlterEgo Decor
- Camera: Hasselblad X1D-50C
- Lights: Profoto D2, B1, B2
Read more about the entire series here.