Back in January 2023 I've captured and witnessed a few intriguing scenes during the sold out Moon Child performance called Return to Chaos at Soho's Sevilla Mia, organised by Hanway Collective. The event included mythology, philosophy and occult-inspired poetry reading, live music, an exhibition of unique wet collodion photographs made by Dave Shrimpton Photography, and big quantities of wine.
Moon Child is an art project currently run by a model and artist Catarina Correia and photographer Dave Shrimpton, who is using vintage method of wet collodion established in 19th century by Frederick Scott Archer. During the event a former member David Fons Lathrop was playing his sound and music arrangements using guitars and electronics. You may listen to audio materials, such as music and voice recording, on the project's Soundcloud account.
This artist's statement sums up the goals of the project: "Moon Child is the manifestation of the timeless journey of the soul. From birth in chaos, till the liberation of the shadow, and all the deaths and rebirths in between: The experience of Magic and Divinity as one.
Through the lens of Victorian photography, this collective trio brings to you an experience of the esoteric, the strange, and the ancient. Aided by mystical performances of movement and sound, you will be taken on a journey through the looking glass, and into the world of wet plate collodion."
The event opened with Dave Shrimpton welcoming the guests in, speaking about his background and inspiration behind the photoshoots. He mentioned the process of creating and developing wet collodion photos that produces the unique results, with original examples displayed on the Sevilla Mia's walls.
The visitors could experience stories behind the photoshoots and have all their senses triggered: watch and listen to the performance on stage, smell the candles and incense sticks burning on the scattered tables, touch the merch items, and meet the creators in a tightly packed basement venue.
Catarina arranged for costume and make up changes happening live in front of the audience. Reading on the concepts behind the photos and the thought-provoking quotes from e.g., Carl G. Jung's Red Book: "Have you recognized your madness and do you admit it?", she was adding sudden louder outbursts that emphasized chosen phrases, echoing and bouncing them off the walls. The characters portrayed on the photos were being born in front of the guests, and music was matching the intensity of the spoken word.
I chose to photograph without a flash brought with me just in case, as its brighter aesthetics didn't suit the topic that was soaked in mystery and emotions. I was also aware that its use would disturb the artists' flow and concentration (and the audience's focus as well) during the poetry readings, plus its sudden bright bursts would would make people too conscious of being photographed.
I then chose to use different settings on the camera and be more discreet. There's a time and place for the flash technique, and this time I decided it wouldn't bring the subjects any benefits.
This choice of flash-free photography worked well especially during the exhibition part, when I could move quickly between people and capture the natural scenes, smiles and conversations. With this fly-on-the-wall attitude I composed the photos to include the audience interactions with the art, the intrigued looks and curiosity when experiencing the original works.
As I kept my eyes on the Moon Child's and venue's updates prior to the event, I found out that some people in the audience were normally based abroad and were visiting London briefly, so I made sure to photograph them and record these memories from their short visit.
I also squeezed through the crowd to go to the merch table, located in the opposite corner of the venue, to photograph the items for sale: zines, postcards, stickers, and others, so the artists could use these photos for sale announcements or mentions on social media.
A magical night, I was moved by the portrait of Joker and the story behind the photoshoot read by Catarina.
For more information on the project's future endeavors, go to their social media profile.