Sometimes, when creative and inspired people get together to collaborate on making imagery in a specific vein that no one’s attempted before, a special kind of magic happens. Case in point, this elaborate photo series independently produced by Jessica Rowell of J-Chan Designs and photographer Nina Pak in cahoots with model Elizabeth Maiden:
Κατάρα της Αθηνάς, η μοίρα της Μέδουσας
Αθηνάς: Elizabeth Maiden
Μέδουσας: Jessica Rowell of J-Chan’s Designs
Photography: Nina Pak
Costume Design & Styling: J-Chan’s Designs
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Ancient Greek lore and steampunk culture clash, titan style, in a sumptuous mythos-meets-modernity photo series depicting the Goddess Athena (Elizabeth Maiden) and the Gorgon Medusa (Jessica Rowell).
According to legend, the once ravishing Medusa was cursed with a monstrous appearance after “seducing” Poseidon, Lord of the Sea, under the roof of Athena’s sacred temple. Hence, this series title (which, translated into English, means) “Athena’s curse, Medusa’s fate.”
Rowell pulled “inspiration from Desmond Davis’ 1981 film Clash of the Titans, then put an atemporal spin on things by incorporating several contemporary ingredients that “also felt industrial and familiar to alternative culture.”
Rowell confirms that there are some traces of Tim Burton injected into the Medusa design, but she was also heavily inspired by the aesthetics, setting, lighting, and costume design of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. Her resulting interpretation of Athena reflects wardrobe and color-palette similarities to the characters Maximus and Lucilla from that film. It’s a beautifully unorthodox re-imagining of the classic heroine.
Rowell’s complex one-of-a-kind headdresses provide strong focal points for the series:
“A majority of my energy and effort were dedicated to crafting the headdresses individually, which both took a week’s worth of work. The headdresses allowed me to tell the story… to represent the characteristics, personality, and attributes of [Athena and Medusa]. From the very start, I had a vague vision of how [they would] look; during the creation process I allowed the pieces to evolve and manifest [...] The rest of [their] ensembles, including the accessories, were developed around the headdress of each character. Specific symbols associated with the characters were used: the owl in Athena’s design, and of course. the more obvious snake in Medusa’s.”
Collaborative unity between Rowell, photographer Nina Pak, and model Elizabeth Maiden was “critical to the results conceived.” A little over a year ago, Rowell met Nina Pak, an artist widely recognized for the ethereal quality, presence, symbolism, and magical elements that inform her signature photographic style. Pak’s talent for digital post-processing enhanced Rowell’s strong set designs.
“Working with Jessica from J-Chan’s Designs is always an extravagant process,” says Pak. “She puts so much work into the costumes, styling, and makeup that the resulting images are out of the world amazing. She comes to the set completely prepared, often with part of the makeup done. She is efficient, organized, and exceptionally creative, I love working with her! I have photographed Elizabeth on two occasions and love her dearly, it is always a pleasure to have these two women visit for a collaboration.”
Maiden “was honored to portray Athena, and I knew I had to bring it. During the shoot I had Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ playing in my head for inspiration.”
Rowell, a Cancerian, states that her Eastern Zodiacal counterpart is the snake. She also has “an ongoing affinity for the feministic, villainous type” and grew up transfixed by Ray Harryhausen’s incredible stop-motion/claymation Medusa from Clash of the Titans. “The horrifying images of Medusa were forever implanted in my mind [...] It seemed only appropriate to use myself as a canvas in her portrayal.”
Indeed, this collaboration has yielded a singularly imposing Medusa and an incomparably whimsical Athena. It’s a pleasure to premiere these images on Coilhouse. Well done, ladies! We can’t wait to see what you all get up to next.
All images contained in this post are © of Nina Pak and Jessica Rowell. Please attribute properly.