Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Travels With The Night Circus

Every month one of my friends, Andrew Thornton--of international jewelry design fame--hosts a book club.  This isn't just any old book club.  This is Inspired By Reading Book Club!  The members of this virtual club read the book each month (OK, who really finishes them?) and then are challenged to make something artistic/creative inspired by that book.  The majority of folks in the club are jewelry makers, including my wonderful wife Sarajo--of Sj Designs Jewelry.  Andrew does host an in-person meeting each month in Pennsylvania, but if you can't make the trip, he hosts a Blog-Hop for everyone to see the art generated each month.  HERE is the main page for this Blog-Hop.  I took part in one last Fall when we made it out for the celebration and had a blast!  Finally there came another book that interested me and I was ready to take part again.  Sj and I listened to it on disc on our way to Duluth and on our many trips into the Cities for Fringe Festival.

The book: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  Published in 2011, this was the author's first book and arrived to much critical acclaim.  I'll try to avoid spoilers so I'm not getting into too many details here.  The basic plot is that a man and a woman are raised from a young age by two rival mysterious magicians in the late 1800's and trained in the magical arts.  They are bound together into a game of sorts in which they compete with each other but neither knows the rules or conditions of the game.  As we discover, once things get going, the "game board" is a very unusual traveling circus.  The book is somewhat slow moving, but told with a richness of description that is quite entrancing.  The subtle foreshadowing and use of magic make this stand out from the usual period piece.  The narrator for the audio book was very good as well, making this a pleasure to listen to.

I was initially expecting something more creepy or horror-like, but the book ends up being quite dreamy and even a bit romantic.  There was just enough magic and unearthly material to keep me interested.  The only real gripe I had with the telling was that the chapters skip around in time a bit and especially when listening, this can be a bit confusing.

As I listened to this book, I got to thinking about what I could do with photography to bring across some of the feel of the story.  Then it hit me...what is magic, but smoke and mirrors?  I started to experiment in my makeshift studio (on top of Sj's jewelry making table) with photographing smoke trails.  I ended up using an inverted and mirrored image to complete this effect.  I also left this in black and white to mimic the black and white theme of the circus itself.

I'm pretty happy with the results!  Sj says she sees faces in the patterns, and this just makes more sense when you've read the ending of the book...

As an added bonus to the one photo, I'm adding in this creepy black and white spider picture I took on my deck.  While there are no actual spiders in the book, I felt that a theme through-out was one of manipulation--both of people and objects.  The two "evil" magicians were manipulating the two young protagonists in their web, while the protagonists themselves wound a web of magic through the whole circus.

So there you go!  I'll probably take part in next month's book as well...


Alison Herrington said...

Amazing work! I love to see other types of artists join in! You spider is VERY appropriate. I am blown away by the smoke and mirrors! Fantastic!

Sarajo Wentling said...

I'm really impressed with how your smoke picture turned out... even if the basement DID smell like incense for a good while afterwards! And it's going to give me nightmares to have seen that spider from our deck blown up so large. Just remember, you only have yourself to blame.

Ann Schroeder said...

I really love the smoke photo! It's beautiful and mysterious. I see the faces too, so it's perfect for the book. The spider creeps me out, but so did the two master manipulators in the book, so it is fitting!

Marie D'Onofrio said...

Eric, great photos. The spider web is such a perfect metaphor!

Andrew Thornton said...

Ha ha ha! I had to laugh reading your blog post. I don't know about "fame". I guess if you count a handful of people who like making things, then MAYBE. But I appreciate all your kind words!

I agree about the book. I really liked listening to it and think the reader was excellent. I too got confused about the chronological order while listening, but someone else made the comment that the author might have been doing it on purpose to make it sort of disorienting.

And thank you for participating! I hope you didn't smoke out the house too much with your photo session. I love it! It's super dramatic and I love the contrasts of the black and white smoke. They fit the book perfectly! And I saw hearts in the smoke, tethered to each other.

And your spider picture is perfectly creepy. The dueling magicians are totally like spiders, weaving webs and watching things unfold.

Thanks again for participating! Hopefully we'll have you all out in PA again one day!