Persephone

‘Persephone’ is one of the first studio projects where I tried to work on a particular theme. It came about simply by coincidence – I love pomegranates and just found a couple to work with, my acting classmate Carole was posing for a shoot, and I wanted to experiment with a red backdrop in the studio. On another level, however, I sort of became fascinated with the ancient Greek legend of Persephone and her unusual destiny as Queen of the Underworld. According to the most commonly known version of the legend, she was a daughter of Zeus and Demeter, abducted by Hades into the world of the dead. He released her eventually but tricked her to eat a few pomegranate seeds first, so that she would be forced to return every year.

This myth has several different variations as well as interpretations but I felt most inspired by the one described in story of the Handless Maiden from “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés (a senior Jungian psychoanalyst, poet and storyteller):

“Here, the old night religion again comes up from the road to meet us. While the old tale of Hades grabbing off Persephone to the underworld is a fine drama, far older stories from the matria-centered religions, such as those about Ishtar and Inanna, point toward a definite ‘yearning to love’ bond between the maiden and the king in the underworld. In these old religious versions, the maiden need not be seized and dragged into the underworld by some dark God. The maiden knows she must go, knows it is part of divine rite. Although she may be fearful, she wants to go meet her king, her bridegroom in the underworld, from the beginning. Making her descent in her own way, she is transformed there, learns deep knowing there, and ascends again to the outer world.”

“In time of the great matriarchies, it was understood that a woman would naturally be led to the underworld, guided there and therein by the powers of the deep feminine. It was considered part of her instruction, and an achievement of the highest order for her to gain this knowledge through firsthand experience. The nature of this descent is the archetypal core of both ‘The Handless Maiden’ fairy tale and the Demeter/Persephone myth.”

Editing a shoot always takes quite a bit of time for me, so I usually use it to think about the storyline and choose the post-production tools that would suit it. In this case, I used blue filters and darker shadows around the figure to hint the ‘under-worldly’ atmosphere. It was also interesting to change the hue of the red backdrop, progressively from brighter lively red to the duller dirty red, to show the heroine’s transition into the shadows. In future, I think it would be interesting to do this shoot outdoors, closer to Persephone’s natural surroundings.

I’ve encountered this theme in many female artists’ work. Perhaps it’s the connection women have with the cycles of nature, the ebb and flow of seasonal changes, that make Persephone’s journey to the underworld and back so metaphorical and important.

Persephone 2

Persephone 1 Persephone 3

Persephone 4 Persephone 5 Persephone 6 Persephone 7

 



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