And so my fascination with stories from Greek mythology continues.
Orpheus, a charming mortal gifted with the talent of music, fell in love with a dryad by the name Eurydice. The two shared a magnetizing bond, in which they soon become married.
After the wedding, Apollo's son Aristaeus, lusts over Eurydice and chases her through the forest. Attempting to evade his sexual advances, Eurydice runs, but stumbles and is fatally bitten by a poisonous snake.
Upon discovering his newfound bride's death, Orpheus mourns for months on end, and everyone can hear his melancholic music in the air. Eventually fed up with his grievances, he decides to travel down to the Underworld and persuade Hades to let Eurydice go.
As he embarks on his treacherous journey, he uses his gift of music to overcome any dangerous obstacles he faces. Cerebrus, the three-headed guardian dog of the Underworld, lets him pass. The angry Furies weep for him. The souls of the dead move aside as Orpheus makes his way to Hades and Persephone, the king and queen of the Underworld.
Orpheus attempts to persuade them both with a grand speech to let his bride go. Hades, the cold-hearted king, initially refuses, but as Orpheus reminds him of his love for Persephone, his heart melts over and grants him his wish, but under one condition--as they travel back to the Upper World, Eurydice must stay behind Orpheus, and he must never look back at her until they exit. If the rule is broken, Eurydice will be cast away into the Underworld permanently.
They begin their trek back to the Upper World together; however, Orpheus eventually forgets about this crucial rule and looks back at Eurydice. Their eyes lock in panic as they realize what has been done. Orpheus reaches out for Eurydice, but grabs nothing but air as she is sucked back into the Underworld, barely able to muster out a farewell.
Stunned and shocked, Orpheus begins to lament his mistake. For the rest of his life, he plays sorrowful music for the second loss of his wife, rejecting any romantic advances by all women. Upon his group of rejected lovers are the Maenads, the women who worship Bacchus (the god of wine). Furious at his rejection, they rip his body apart scatter the pieces across the land. They toss his head into the River Styx, where it is said that onlookers could hear his voice calling out for Eurydice as it floats down the river.
Eventually his head reaches the island of Lesbos, where the three Muses discover it. They decide to find the rest of his limbs and give Orpheus a proper burial.
There are some twists to the story where it is said that Orpheus and Eurydice finally reunite in the Elysian Fields, the nicest part of the Underworld. I would much rather conclude this story with a semi-happy ending, instead of the depressing one, haha.
Story aside, this image was a bit of a challenge to finally shoot--I'd longed to shoot this idea for a number of years but never got around to doing so for what ever reason. Initially I wanted to share this on Valentine's Day as a tribute to the holiday, but casting models was a bit of a challenge for me--I had a few flakes, so the shoot was delayed to March.
Then it rained, so we had to push it back so that said models wouldn't freeze to death in the stream water.
I had a tough time with post-production and actually got so frustrated that I had to step away from it for a few weeks and approach it with a fresh perspective. It was taxing to conjure up an ethereal feel to this image--despite the fact that the scenery itself was gorgeous, I found the natural lighting to be less dynamic that I had hoped, so the challenge in editing was more of creating that magical atmosphere with color and contrast.
Symbolism: Most of the pre-production planning was scouting for locations... I had to think about a nice area of greenery that had a beautiful natural light as well as a stream to represent the River Styx. Not only was the location crucial, but timing the shoot on the right day for optimal conditions was key so my models wouldn't suffer in the cold water. Despite the fact that we shot on a warm day, the water was still FREEZING, so I could only imagine what would have happened if we shot on the first scheduled day, which was the day right after it rained. :/
Finding a lyre (which was actually his instrument of choice) was ambitious, as they run for a few hundred to thousands of dollars. I decided to go with a subtle prop and chose a bronze whistle necklace instead.
If you look closely, there is a snake bite on Eurydice's ankle also, done by yours truly. ;)
I felt the story needed to be told with straightforward symbolism instead of slapping a story onto it in order for people to understand. Of course, this is my own unique take to the story with a bit of tweaks here and there, but most who are familiar with the tragic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice should understand the connection. :)