If you enjoyed reading A Steampunk Guide to Hunting Monsters, Chapter 1. The Ghost of Esme Gorey, then perhaps you will want to learn more about how the photos were created? Below you can learn all about the costumes and photography!
This book started out pretty simple. Costume designer, Alisa Kester, of Dragonfly Designs with Alisa, and I worked together on a steampunk photoshoot in Seattle (you can buy that short book here). We thought it would be fun to use her pre-existing steampunk costumes, as well as making some new ones, and do a monster themed fashion shoot. What started out small has turned into a large scale book with hundreds of costumes that I made myself, with my friend Catey’s assistance, as well as the costumes we borrowed from Alisa.
Costumes – Philomena Dashwood
In the first chapter, Philomena Dashwood, our heroine, sneaks out of the house to attend a seance. Alisa made herself a steampunk ghost for a steampunk convention, and she also made another version of that outfit from a different fabric. Therefore, both Philomena and the Ghost actually wear the same style of dress.
I thought this outfit would show that Philomena was a pretty young thing, and I wanted everything she wore to be impractical and cumbersome. I decided that she should wear a blouse with gigantic sleeves, to make everything she did a little more silly.
Alisa also created the tiny hat that Philomena wears. Tiny doesn’t just describe the hat, since this garment was, by far, the most difficult thing to squeeze our model, the merry Brin Merkley, into.
Costumes – Percy Longville
Our male lead, Percy, wears a high-collared silk coat during his normal days out in London.
This black silk coat features an enormous collar, braid detailing and dozens of real Jet Buttons!
The buttons all feature a different design on the front, which is a fun detail!
I also bought a real French Top Hat for this character.
Props – Ghost Catching Bottle
This steampunk bottle is for catching ghosts! You can read about this monster hunting tool in the first chapter of our book!
The bottle is a Ramune bottle, a Japanese soda with a marble in the neck. I removed the marble (it was pretty difficult. I broke one bottle doing it.) Then I added little ornate bits in the indents and some copper wires.
The cork is a hand carved articulated face wine stopper. He has a lever on his back, and when you press it, his head bobs up and down and his mouth opens. I found it at the Antique store and thought it would make a fun cork for the ghost bottle. This is also the only bottle I could find that the cork fit in.
Isn’t he fun?
Costumes – The Ghost of Esme Gorey
The Ghost costume, as I mentioned, was created by Alisa for a steampunk conference. It was hand embroidered by the artist, and covered in blood on the right shoulder to evoke some sort of wound, most likely stabbing.
Alisa also made a hat for her own costume, but I wanted the Ghost to have more of a visual impact with the shape of her head — hair spreading out like horns. Therefore, it was up to me to build a tiny top hat for the ghost myself. It is based of of Alisa’s original, but is miniature — hers was a full size top hat.
Photographing the Heroes
The heroes of the story are Philomena Dashwood and Percy Longville, which is a minor spoiler if you have not read the book, but it quickly becomes obvious that Philomena can never get rid of the very helpful young man who becomes a sort of side-kick on all her adventures. Philomena is portrayed by Brin Merkley and Percy is portrayed by Jeremy Fornier-Hanlon.
The shooting for this chapter took place in two steps. First, I photographed Brin and Jeremy who were only available for 14 days. We tried to work with every other human character during this fortnight of photography. Then, after all their images were complete, I went and shot the majority of the monsters separately. Nearly every image in the book is a photo composite of some kind.
When Philomena sets out on her adventure, overlooking the airship she is about to board, you will see a few vehicles in the background. In order to emulate the early Victorian cinema of artist Georges Méliès, I created the airships (as well as many other upcoming vehicles, monsters and sets) as miniatures and then photographed them separately to add into the shots of the life-size actors. Below you will see one of these airship elements before photoshop.
Photographing the Ghost
The Ghost of Esme Gorey is portrayed by performance artist Kat (Saturn) , a woman with much experience using her body to convey feelings and ideas. Donning Alisa’s Steampunk Victorian Ghost costume, Kat showed up to get spookified for our first chapter’s antagonist! Below you will see a before and after make-up shot.
Catey came to help run the fog machine and dress the model. She had to help Kat into the shoes, because it’s hard to bend over in a corset.
Then, we photographed the ghost in the creepy basement of the apartment in which I lived at the time (the whole insane asylum takes place down there if you want to see what I mean by creepy when that chapter goes up). We set up a smoke machine in front of the backdrop to make a Spooky ghost!
The elements from both shoots were combined for the final image which you can see below.
Once all the elements were combined, I went on to complete the layout of the chapter, matching the images to the narrative of the story. I hope you enjoyed this look behind-the-scenes, and I hope you will come back to read new chapters every month!
A Steampunk Guide to Hunting Monsters is a Free Online Book and I hope you will enjoy the things that my team and I created to bring this hilarious, horror-filled story to life!
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