Froth-Born on the Sea
"I'm not ashamed of heroic ambitions. If man and woman can only dance upon this earth for a few countable turns of the sun... let each of us be an Artemis, Odysseus, or Zeus... Aphrodite to the extent of the will of each one." - Roman Payne
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What is truly beautiful?
The soft turn of the sea brushing against the warm palette of a sunset sky...
Light dancing on summer waves...
A human being at peace in the midst of chaos...
The stories of Aphrodite, of Venus, passed down through time have told us that she was the most beautiful of the Olympians. She sprung fully formed from the ocean waves, the froth or foam-born goddess, and would become the most desirable of all the gods. Although many have created their own versions of the goddess, Renaissance painter Sandro Boticelli's depiction in The Birth of Venus is my favorite.
Yet, to me, the restriction of beauty to the feminine form is highly outdated. So, in my interpretation of the goddess - the archetype of beauty - I decided to do things differently.
When I met with Stephanie Brownell, costume designer and playwright extraordinaire, in early Summer of 2014, I told her my idea. She, being the awesome person she is, was all for it. For Aphrodite, the costume would be simple, white pants and a gorgeous headdress. I left it up to her to figure out the design.
She never disappoints.
All that was left was to find someone willing to give the idea a go, which often proves somewhat difficult. Something which happens to me all too frequently is that I'll book a model for a shoot, and then months of planning has to happen before the shoot can take place. Unfortunately, the original model – tired of waiting or for whatever reason – will message me the night before the intended day saying that they can no longer do it. So, I have to scramble to find a new model who fits the costume and reschedule the shoot.
This is exactly what happened. Except this time the model had moved to New York and getting back here was proving difficult. He also had a fever of 102. Poor thing.
Lucky for me, since there wasn't much costuming to being with, finding a new muse came down to just asking around.
Enter the perfect person for the job: Matthew Shannon.
I assembled a small crew of marvelous people and we met in Salem to prepare before heading down to Dead Horse Beach, near Salem Willows, for the right level of atmosphere.
Photo by Arden Barlow.
You'll notice that Caroline is holding a piece of cardboard with aluminum foil taped to it. In a pinch, you have to use what you've got. My reflector was reflector-napped by a friend of mine, unintentionally. I doubt I will ever see it again.
Aphrodite with the golden apple of discord.
Arden Barlow, flash animation genius and makeup mastermind:
and Caroline Usovicz, lightbender supreme:
And Matthew, our brilliant Aphrodite:
And yes, me, Joey Phoenix.
Photo by Arden Barlow.
© 2014 Joey Phoenix Photography
Matthew informed me after the fact that he had no idea what he was getting himself into. I had thought I had explained it fully, but now I'm sort of glad...because if he had said no this never could've happened. This was a collaboration that makes me incredibly proud to be a photographer, and I'm grateful to Stephanie, Matt, Arden, and Caroline for helping me make this shoot a possibility.
The next on the list is Poseidon, which is nearly finished...and there will be a wonderful video by the super rad Leah Cirker-Stark, I'm excited to announce.
Account of the Birth of Aphrodite, as told by Hesiod in the Theogony:
"Ouranos (the Sky) came, bringing on night and longing for love, and he lay about Gaia (the Earth) spreading himself full upon her. Then the son [Kronos] from his ambush stretched forth his left hand and in his right took the great long sickle with jagged teeth, and swiftly lopped off his own father's members and cast them away to fall behind him . . . and so soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden. First she drew near holy Kythera, and from there, afterwards, she came to sea-girt Kypros, and came forth an awful and lovely goddess, and grass grew up about her beneath her shapely feet. Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and Aphrogeneia (the foam-born) because she grew amid the foam, and well-crowned (eustephanos) Kythereia because she reached Kythera, and Kyprogenes because she was born in billowy Kypros, and Philommedes (Genital-Loving) because sprang from the members. And with her went Eros (Love), and comely Himeros (Desire) followed her at her birth at the first and as she went into the assembly of the gods. This honour she has from the beginning, and this is the portion allotted to her amongst men and undying gods,--the whisperings of maidens and smiles and deceits with sweet delight and love and graciousness."