Kingsbane is a love letter to my younger self.
When I was around 10 years old, my mom started buying me a lot of illustrated books of medieval legends because she saw my fascination with knights, battles, and fantasy. I was particularly drawn to the tale of King Arthur and liked to imagine it my own way.
The sad thing is, when I was younger I never told any of my friends about how much I loved these stories because I was embarrassed and thought I wouldn’t be cool if I did. As an adult, I am continually learning to embrace things that I am excited about and not to fear judgement from others who don’t feel the same way. Kingsbane is a manifestation of that.
It started out as a single question I posed to my new friend I had made through Instagram: “Do you want to do a fantasy shoot?”
When she said yes, I remembered the painting of The Accolade I had seen in one of my King Arthur books as a kid, and I started to wonder whether I could recreate it in my own style. It was then that I had the idea to write my own narrative of Guinevere and Lancelot and shoot a full series around their story.
Behind the Story
My first task was to decide which characters to include in the storyline. I wanted to put a modern spin on the Arthurian legends, so I chose to genderbend the characters of Lancelot and Merlin. In the stories, Lancelot was King Arthur’s greatest friend and companion. As a child and still into my adult life, most of my closest friends have been female. Being able to talk and consult with friends whose life experiences are unique from mine is incredibly valuable to me. I wanted to bring that connection into the story of Arthur to explain why Lancelot’s friendship with him was so special. It also led to an interesting development with the betrayal of Arthur’s trust with Guinevere. I imagined that since Lancelot was female, she would be assigned to protect the queen and guard her at all times, whereas a male guard could have been perceived as a threat to her, or at least a worry to Arthur.
In my story, the Lady of the Lake presents Arthur with a vision of Guinevere and Lancelot at their camp, the night after Lancelot has been officially knighted by the queen. The dreamscape then presents itself through Merlin’s eyes and she sees the bond broken between Arthur and his closest friend as jealousy and fear overtake the king. I wanted it to be left to the viewer to decide whether or not Lancelot and Guinevere were actually lovers, or if the firelight visions were falsely interpreted. It is the reason that the final shot of Lancelot and Guinevere is one that is intimate, but not an actual kiss.
My choice to have Excalibur be a Japanese sword was based in folklore. Katanas were crafted through folded steel, made by hammering out the metal and then bending it in back on top of itself over and over until it was an incredibly strong and sharp blade. In Arthur’s time, European swords were made out of a single piece of metal that was then hammered outward until it was flat enough to be a weapon. It was said that since katanas were stronger by nature, they would cut through all other swords. In legend, Excalibur was famous for this same concept and was said to shatter swords on the battlefield. This particular katana in the series is an heirloom from my great grandfather, so it was even more important to me to use it to represent the unbreakable sword that Arthur carries.
Color and Imagery
The location, time of day, and differentiation between separate moments in the storyline played an important role in creating Kingsbane. I wanted the color palette of each scene to not only be unique to the others, but create a strong statement for the tone of the images themselves. To achieve this, I spent hours watching some of my favorite films for visual inspiration, including James Bond: Skyfall, The Fall, The Fountain, Blade Runner 2049, and Macbeth (2015).
Kingsbane uses colors and light to guide you wordlessly through the narrative. The opening of the series uses subtle blue, gray, and green tones to convey the peace and stillness of the knighting of Lancelot. In contrast, the final duel uses dramatic reds, oranges, yellows, and haze to let you experience the heat and intensity of the battle.
Each image stands on its own and simultaneously exists as a strong and necessary part of the storyline. In order to achieve this, I dedicated anywhere from three to fourteen days of careful and intentional editing to each photo in order to give it a unique feeling and individual worth.
Never tell me the odds…
In its infancy this project felt to me like it would be impossible, since I had no finances for it, no resources, and only one model who had agreed to work with me. I created a concept board for each shoot, planned out the roles, and then messaged everyone I wanted to represent the characters. To my surprise, each person seemed to have a connection with the legend of Arthur, and they all jumped on board in full support.
Each shoot brought its own unique set of challenges, ranging from “the tide is rising too quickly” to “the fire will only be bright enough to shoot for about 15 minutes.” Despite the obstacles, each shoot turned out even better than I had imagined in my head, and everyone who collaborated on the project forged a strong bond with each other.
Over the course of 7 months and 6 photo shoots, I traveled all around California, from Lake Arrowhead for “The Knighting of Lancelot” to the Salton Sea for “The Sight of Merlin.”
And now I have a finished book.
… But this is only the first half of the story.
I’ve written the narrative for the second part of the book involving Guinevere training under The Black Knight, Merlin’s duel with Morgan Le’Fae, and the creation of The Knights of The Round Table.
If I am able to make enough profit through these prints and the book itself, it is my goal to shoot part 2 throughout the later half of 2020 and into 2021.
Thank you for listening to my story, and I hope you enjoy the art I worked so hard to create.