Art Photography Inspiration: Katherine Mansfield’s Novel “Bliss” comes to mind.

Art Photography Inspiration: Katherine Mansfield’s Novel “Bliss” comes to mind.

The magic moment of Art Photography inspiration in Bliss, named after Katherine Mansfield novel.

Bringing together literature and art photography. The location is in a gorge, in Vulci on the Tuscan – Latium border, that I consider my private Eden. Working on the image later I thought the model looked in a state of bliss and the Mansfield story came to mind.

I have read two short stories by women both of which years later I could remember almost nothing except the effect they had on me: in both cases they were unsettling. One was “Bliss” by Katherine Mansfield from 1918 which had no plot to speak of, it was more of an interior dialogue taking place one particular evening; the other “The Lifted Veil” 1859 by George Eliot was quite different, a complicated and fantastic story, but it too was an interior dialogue. Coincidentally the female protagonists in both stories were both called Berthe. When I re-read them years later it was in a way like reading them for the first time except for the fact that the uneasiness was present from the start.
“Bliss” is about ignorance, the joy of not knowing what lies ahead;  as ignorance gives way to knowledge, sadness follows as the evening develops.

I had no thought of Mansfield’s story when I took the picture. We were at Vulci on the Tuscan – Latium border at the bottom of a gorge. An Etruscan place that once had a population of a hundred thousand it is now completely abandoned, a desolate plain with some ruins, ransacked tombs, a castle, the river in the gorge and not much besides. The ravine is difficult to access down a steep cliff, it is a secret place, it reminds me of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ” The Land that Time Forgot”, one almost expects to see a pterodactyl soar overhead. It is my private Eden.

I gave my model, a professional opera singer, Brahms’ “Schicksalslied” (Song of Destiny) to listen to on headphones because I thought it would add to the magic of the place.

Reclining Woman - painting by Felix Vallotton 1913

Reclining Woman – Felix Vallotton 1913

Afterwards, when I was working on the picture some months later in the autumn I thought she looked in a state of bliss, and that is how the Mansfield story came to mind. Before re-reading it I recalled the sense of unease and also I remembered the pear tree in blossom in the moonlight. I found a 1930 copy on-line of the book which I chose for the beauty of its cover and I contacted an Australian photographer friend to ask her for some pictures of pear blossom.

Her name is not Berthe, but Lara.