How Alexia Sinclair Creates Her World of Make Believe with Hand Constructed Artwork | Profoto (US)

How Alexia Sinclair Creates Her World of Make Believe with Hand Constructed Artwork

04 May, 2015

Written by: Alexia Sinclair

At this point, it cannot have escaped you that Australian fine art photographer Alexia Sinclair seems to have an inexhaustible source of imagination. But how does that imagination turn into an image? Well, that’s what you will find out here in Alexia’s own story of an enchanting shoot.

“It doesn’t have to be hard, I just make it hard.” Apparently I said those words. In a fleeting moment they escaped my lips and I would have long forgotten them had they not been recorded in the behind-the-scenes documentary. What I meant by that statement was the old adage “Life is a journey, not a destination” and while arriving at the destination is often extremely gratifying, it’s not without the journey that makes it so.

So with the journey in mind let’s take a look at the eponymous artwork Into the Gloaming.


For those not up to date on their old English, the gloaming is that time of day where the soft glow of dusk envelopes your soul. Where the nocturnal gatekeepers take control and anything seems possible. You can (at least I do) imagine secret doorways in the trunks of trees or toadstools the size of houses and it’s easy to understand why it’s commonly known as the magic hour. Anything seems possible and that’s where we begin.

Into the Gloaming is my episodic journey into the world of make believe, and while the end product is always more than the sum of the parts, it’s easiest to deconstruct it as such.

The Set

This was probably the hardest part of the entire shoot to compile. I had never printed onto an adhesive material before. How would the inks react? What dynamic range would I get? We were entering completely new territory. Had it been a simple flat wall there would have been very little drama. However, as I like challenges, I wanted the image (which I had earlier composited) to wrap and warp around the book case, to merge the two worlds of inside and out.

Make sure you watch the behind-the-scenes documentary as you won’t believe where I sourced the mushrooms (seen in the lower right of frame). In short they are grown in an 600 meter long decommissioned train tunnel which prior to mushroom farming held World War II munitions for the United States Government.


The Book of Fables

The book and the castle are essentially the hero of the artwork. They are presented to us, handed down generation after generation. It’s within the book that the series will evolve. Of course it’s not a real book of fables. It’s an old manuscript from the 18th century which I sourced on the cheap to build a model castle on. I had originally tried to source a commercially manufactured castle to save on time but as the French say it needed a certain je ne sais quoi. In the end we spent several days hand constructing the model castle I had imagined.


The Gown

The gown is one of those recursive metaphors. For the storyteller to be immersed in the artwork her attire needed to be the artwork. After brief flirtations with printing on fabric I had decided now was the time to construct something more elaborate. We foraged for local ivy and lilies. Once we had the still life composed in the studio we photographed plates ready for printing onto a Belgium Linen with my large format (Epson 9900) printer.

It’s crucial to look laterally to see how we can get the most out of our tools. Of course we use our tools to capture the final photograph, but why not use them for other things like prop, costume & set creation?


Lighting the Shoot

Plant matter is utterly transformative, it’s the eye candy which the light will wrap around, and it creates the highlights and the shadows. With this in mind we had three objectives.

  • Light our hero, done simply with a gridded/flagged beauty dish as a key.
  • Fill the background in to around 1 – 1.5 stops below the key, done with an HR Softbox Octa 7′ boomed above the set.
  • Light the eye candy. We did this by rim lighting the toadstools, ivy, flowers & books with gridded ProHeads.






This was the first of six blog posts that Alexia Sinclair will write about her Into the Gloaming project. The next one will be published in about a month’s time.
If you’re curious to see more of her work, check out her website or her stunning A Frozen Tale project.
You can also follow Alexia’s daily updates on both Facebook  and Twitter.

Into the Gloaming Gear List

Profoto Pro-8a 2400

Our key and fill light generator.

Profoto Pro-B2 1200

Our kicker generator, rim lighting the moss, mushrooms, ivy and books.

Profoto ProHead
4x (1 Key, 1 Fill, 2 Kickers)

Profoto Softlight Reflector White

Our key light camera left of the shot.

Profoto HR Softbox Octa 7'

Our general background fill light, 1–1.5 stops under the key this was boomed above the set.

Manfrotto 425B Mega Boom

Used to boom the octa

Manfrotto Super Wind Up Stand

Alexia Sinclair hasn't made any notes about the Super Wind Up Stand

Phase One IQ280

80MP digital back to give us the immense detail.

Phase One 645DF+

Alexia Sinclair hasn't made any notes about the 645DF+

Pea Soup Colt 4 Turbo

Our smoke machine used on set.

Written by: Alexia Sinclair