This gloomy time of year brings to mind a creation of mine from some time ago. A shoot morphed into an album cover mockup made just for fun.The story is, I submit, as much fun as the unexpected outcome.
My friends Brad and Remi were volunteering to get their heads shaved for a charity event. In preparation they had spent months growing it out and both looked like old Father Time.
I volunteered to run a photoshoot, and then make a poster to put up online and around town to advertise the event. The theme was the guys shrinking away from two cackling women descending on them with a rusty scythe and gardening shears to cut their hair and eyebrows. The four of us had a lot of fun during the brief shoot, which took place on a warm sunny day on a street corner in town. An anecdote: The two hairdressers were played by my loving wife, and Brad’s then girlfriend.
It went very well, and in short order away I went to make the poster. A little time laughing and joking with those in front of my camera always pays dividends, bringing out their best. As is the way of all photoshoots, I shot way more images than I would actually need. Including several of Brad alone, posing solemnly with the scythe, doing his best impression of the Grim Reaper.
When I shot this image of the Port Colborne Clarence Street Bridge months later, the gloomy fog brought to mind a crossing over the river Styx, the river of Greek mythology which marks the boundary between life and death. The swirling mist hides the land of the dead beyond, which living eyes may never see.
Only the dead may cross the river Styx. They are usually ferried across in a boat piloted by Charon, the immortal guardian. He charges for passage, which is why coins used to be placed upon the eyes of the dead; so they would be able to pay their fare. The dead are only offered one crossing. They must do it willingly. Refusal to board Charon’s ferry consigned them to walk the earth forever as ghosts.
The phrase ‘Don’t pay the ferryman’, made famous by the song of that name by Chris De Burgh, way back in time, was about this. Paying the fare represents the abandonment of hope and an acceptance of the fate ahead. Until you pay, there is hope. Simply, do not pay the ferryman. Because once he has your coin there is no turning back. This crossing is a one way journey.
As a boy I was fascinated with Greek mythology. I spent an entire year in the local library devouring tales of heroes and heroines, gods and mortals, monsters and myths. Those Greeks knew how to spin a tale. There is nothing more to this seemingly gloomy thought process than that. The fog along the Welland canal simply brought this particular myth to mind. And then I remembered the scythe.
Brad with his scythe became Charon, the guardian. Using my editing skills I put him in front of the bridge, barring the crossing. Scythe poised, those timeless eyes await the arrival of the dead, and prevent the living from going further. He does not speak. What is there to say? It is time to choose. Cross. Or do not cross.
With ‘Don’t Pay The Ferryman’ front of mind, I wanted this to look like an album cover. It needed a title. I went with The Crossing. Of course. And of course I also needed a band name. And really, what else could I choose for this one? But Styx is also the name of a rather popular Canadian band of musicians. This is not by coincidence. The band is named after the same mythical river, which held an additional wrinkle.
As a designer I am acutely aware of potential copyright infringements. I created a new logo from scratch for the fictional band, similar but changed enough to be recognizably not Styx. It is quite clearly Styx Not. Or ‘Not Styx’, depending how you read it. A small but important touch, sufficient to avoid a law suit. So far. And also appropriate to the image. This is not actually the Styx. It is the Welland Canal.
Two Bikes and a Haircut
For those with interest, the charity event that triggered the original photoshoot was cancelled due to COVID lockdown which put a damper on everything that year. So this poster, made and created as a charitable donation from the equally freely given photo shoot, never actually saw the light of day.
The title was a nod to the old phrase ‘two bits and a haircut’. Brad later came up with ‘Leave It To Cleaver’, another cultural reference which, I hate to admit, is actually better.
Once the lockdowns were ended, another event was organized. Hair was removed. Money was raised. Video was shot. But that, as they say, is entirely another story. But hey. I got this poster from it. As well as a kick ass album cover. So I am happy. Fun times. Onward…
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