from an original story by: Earl Hamner Jr.
A Traveller and his best friend were walking along a road they were both dead; and looking for somewhere to rest.
Eventually, they came to a high stone wall along one side of the road. Set in to the wall was a tall arched open door. Standing in the doorway was a smartly dressed, attractive, young lady. The Traveller greeted her and asked her where they were.
“Why, this is Heaven!” She replied.
“Wow!” the man replied and they both proceeded to enter.
But the young lady stopped them and said, “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept pets. There is a place for your dog just up the road, leave him with me and I will take care of him.”
The Traveller thought for a moment and unable to leave his friend outside he decided to continue his journey along the road. Further along they came to a gate that stood alone, with neither a wall nor fence attached; and it looked as if it had never been closed, he saw a man behind the gate, leaning against a tree, reading a book.
“Excuse me!” called the Traveller. “Do you have any water?”
“Yes, there’s a pump over there, come on in.”
“How about my friend here?” (Gesturing to his dog).
“You should find a bowl by the pump.”
They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was a hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveller filled the water bowl for his friend before taking a long drink for himself.
When they were finished, the Traveller asked the ‘Gateman’,
“What do you call this place?”
“This is Heaven,” he answered.
“I’m confused,” Protested the Traveller. “The young lady down the road said that that was Heaven, too.”
Shaking his head sadly the ‘Gateman’ replied, “Oh no! That’s certainly not Heaven! That’s the gate to hell!”
“But can you not do something to stop her tricking people in to entering hell?” Demanded the Traveller.
“No! We’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.” He replied with a wry smile.
So much for the contextual narrative! What do we see?
A man stands in the foreground holding a dog on a lead, whilst gripping a walking stick with the other hand. He’s looking at the dog that’s looking back, he’s dressed in a suit with a Yorkshire cap; both he and his dog are drained of any warm colours with a distinct cold blue hue tone as is most of the image. In the background we see a sign indicating no dogs on a wall by an open door, inside the doorway we see a smartly dressed young woman, she appears to be pointing or wagging her finger, her mannerism implies a negative signal and her legs crossed emphasizes this negative message. She appears to be illuminated by very warm amber light and a red halo rims around her head.
My intention for this image is to create a division between the outside world of the Traveller and his dog with the world beyond the door in which the women stands. To achieve this I used the white balance settings of my camera, gelled speedlights and made additional enhancements in Lightroom. The Traveller is between worlds, it is cold. He and his dog are both dead and I wanted their shades to reflect this. The young lady on the other hand is standing somewhere that is very warm and I wanted to convey this; I also wanted to hint at danger using rim lighting.
There is another message in this picture, one of temptation. The young lady represents the fetish pleasures of capitalism; her sexuality is to tempt the man away from his moral values. The price for this implied promise of luxury and pleasure is that he must be selfish and turn away from anything that could hold him back. His dog represents his values and socialistic principles of loyalty, trust, responsibility and selflessness.
I didn’t want to create an obvious ‘Lucifer’ therefore I thought that a sharp dressed business woman would act as a suitably modern metaphor for him/her.
When creating this image, I tried to keep in mind Barthes idea of studium and punctum. The Traveller and dog is part of the studium of the picture punctuated by the warm coloured image of the attractive women (the punctum). I wanted to carefully construct a single image to project my intended narrative.
This was a particularly tricky picture to make when depending on the unreliability of a dog and using non-professional models. Further complication was that my chosen doorway was unavailable to me due to a lost key. The location I chose happened to be my local church which had the ideal doors. I obtained permission from the Vicar however, on the appointed day the Vicar had taken his wife away for her Birthday and not informed anyone of our arrangement. No one had the key to my chosen Choir Vestry door; so I had to use a fire escape door instead. This side door was exposed to the wind and also needed to be wedged open and in the process of the shoot I dropped an expensive speedlight that bounced and although remained serviceable may now need to be serviced by Nikon. I was unable to get the perfect shot as either the speedlights failed to fire at the perfect time or the dog kept moving around and directing my models is still a new experience. I ended the afternoon feeling low as I thought that I had failed to get a suitable image. I gave myself a couple of days space and looked again and I was pleased to find some images that I could collage together to make one suitable picture in Photoshop.
I enjoyed making this image and although it may not have a great wow factor, I am pleased that I was able to achieve my vision. I would like to make more images based on a narrative theme in the future, perhaps using novels biblical stories, sagas, legends and songs.