“Maggie Taylor is Alice. It’s as simple as that, and I think there could hardly be a more apt matching of the artist to text than her images inspired by Lewis Carrol’s strange book. I’ll explain.” – so starts the foreword to this extraordinary illustrated “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” penned by Norman Holland
Taylor’s process involves computerised photography in Adobe Photoshop. She is scanning small objects and old photographs, especially daguerreotypes, tintypes and ambrotypes and makes digital images from juxtaposing, assembling and combining various elements. Technically this technique can be called a computer version of “combination printing”, the latter invented as early as the mid-1850’s.
Images are theatrically staged against backgrounds that are made to look like painted backdrops in a theatre setting or in an old-fashioned portrait studio. The lighting on the figure in the foreground is also a nod to a studio setting. There’s an eerie stillness to this surreal art. In most images animals and persons are sitting or standing, immobile (as was common for the long exposures required by the early cameras), they hardly ever smile and look past you and often seem troubled or concerned for reasons that we can’t explain. Norman Holland suggests that it is this ‘inexplicable’ in Maggie Taylor’s images that match her art to the surrealism of Carroll’s text so well.
The images are distinctly of the past, details alluding to the Victorian era – clothing, hairstyles, demure poses of Alice with modestly clasped hands on her lap. “What you are seeing is from the past, is over, is dead, maybe a ghost”. The peripheral images draw our eye away from the central figures, Taylor experiments with inserting surreal, ghostly or repetitive details as if suggesting that central figures are to be both looked at and looked away from.
Maggie Taylor keeps changing Alice character using as models girls of varying age, from the very young to teens. The artist herself noted that she intended that this Alice be “everywoman”. As Norman Holland notes, Taylor’s images “put squarely in front of us Alice-the-questioner’s most propound question: Who am I, then?”
Maggie Taylor’s ‘Alice’ (published by Modernbook Editions, 2008) is so distinctly different that it easily stands out from the rest.
I am now exploring other photographic renderings of Alice and found that the famous photographer Annie Leibovitz tried her hand at a vision of Wonderland. One review of the latter suggested that Leibovitz was remarkable in using fashion photographs to illustrate Carroll’s surrealistic tale. Have anyone seen it (I’ve had trouble locating any leads to it)? Please leave a comment if you have any Leibovitz Alice/Wonderland intel 🙂
To browse other editions of illustrated “Alice in Wonderland” click here.
To browse other editions of illustrated “Through the Looking-Glass” click here.
What are you favourite versions of illustrated ‘Alice’?