Tag Archives: photography

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

I wrote about a WW2 photographer in my own novel Castle of Dreams and I wrote about light as a means to find my way into the story.
Light streamed in through the window, warmed the varnished timber panelling of their compartment, and encased Vivien with Robert and William, like insects trapped in amber. 
Reimagining the lives of famous people who have left an historical legacy is challenging.  I recently read ‘Becoming Mrs Lewis’ by Patti Callaghan and the author inhabits Joy Davidson the wife of C S Lewis. It is a wonderful novel. Now I can’t wait to read The Age of Light a novel about photographer and model, Lee Miller, by Whitney Scharer. I have had an interest in Lee Miller since I found a biography about her on my daughter’s bookshelf some years ago.
The Age of Light is a novel I am going to hurry out to my local bookshop and buy as a gift to myself. Titles are one of the hardest things for a novelist to come up with and this one is perfect. 

Women have always paid a steep price for artistic genius.

Take, for instance, sculptress Camille Claudel, who was as talented as her lover, Rodin, felt he took credit for her work, and spent the last 30 years of her life in an insane asylum. Or consider the painter Dora Maar, who had a long-term relationship with the physically abusive Picasso, before being crippled with a horrific breakdown.

And now here, in her dazzling debut novel, “The Age of Light,’’ the prodigiously talented Whitney Scharer reimagines the life of photographer Lee Miller, who was first a fashion model then a protégé to surrealist Man Ray, eventually coming into her own as a brilliant artist, all the while stubbornly refusing to let the male gaze destroy her own.

Scharer, who flipped the script by commanding a seven-figure advance for her own artistry, offers a kind of transcendent ghost story, where the past never seems to leave the present’s side. Her narrative moves hypnotically back and forth through time and through three very different Lees, starting with her early days in glittering Paris with Man (as Lee refers to him), when she’s just 22. After meeting the artist in an opium den, she rejects his offers to be just his model, muse, or lover, and instead determinedly pushes him to teach her how to print a photograph the right way.

But Man betrays her, claiming Lee’s work as his own, even though he had no hand in it, giving her the reason that “[y]our eye is my eye. You’re my model. My assistant. My lover.” How could Lee do anything else but plot her own revenge?

There is the Lee Miller who photographs the devastation of World War II, giving up her silks and satins for rugged army pants.

And there is finally the Lee Miller who retreats to a farm with her British painter husband Roland, becoming a food writer and Cordon Bleu chef, grappling with her rage about how things turned out for her, and cooking up recipes and articles instead of adventures.

But then her editor prods her to give up her food writing and instead tell the blistering story of her time with Man Ray, and while the editor is interested in the more famous man, Lee knows the story is truly hers, not his, and she insists on one very telling condition: All photographs used in the piece must be hers, rather than Man’s.

Lee is haunted by this story, but she also carries with her other betrayals and tragedies — all by men she trusted — striking the narrative like little electric shocks. An uncle rapes her when she’s just a girl. Her adored father urges her to take her dress off and stand naked so he can capture her nudity on film. Are these men any different from Man whose love for Lee comes with a price tag: that he be allowed to use her for his own purposes?
The book is so much about the difference in what we believe to be true and what is true, how a photograph can be absolute truth (Lee takes a photo of Buchenwald and captions it “Believe It”) or manipulated (What is more deliberately artificial than a fashion shoot?). But when it comes to herself and her life, the lines of reality blur for Lee. When Lee herself is photographed, she floats out of her body, completely unmoored in the moment. She even observes her own relationship with Man from a distance, as if she might be another person watching and judging, daring Lee to prove that they are a couple.

Part of the heady pleasure of Scharer’s novel is the writing, which is as seductive and beautiful as her descriptions of the shimmery satin kimonos in the opium den. Juxtaposed with that flossy Paris time is the war, where she points out “the bombed-out tableaux arranged before her like the work of some Surrealist set designer. A church destroyed, but a typewriter balanced on the rubble before it.’’ There are “malnourished babies dying in Viennese hospitals, their rib cages delicate as pick-up sticks.” And finally, there is food and drink, so intensely presented that your mouth might water, including a “baked Camembert, so rich and stinky it makes Lee’s tongue ache,” and the pleasure of a gin martini, “cold and clear as a glass of diamonds.”

An absolutely gorgeous and feminist novel about art, love, and ownership, “The Age of Light’’ is truly a work of art in itself, both deeply moving and thrilling. Want to know what it’s like to be an artist? Read this astonishing novel and then, like Lee Miller, take time to consider the extraordinary cost she paid to be herself.


By Whitney Scharer

Little, Brown, 384 pp., $28

Caroline Leavitt’s latest novel is “Cruel Beautiful World.’

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Filed under Allen & Unwin, Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote

A Writer’s Notebook – Woman with White Flowers

Here is another image created by the incomparable Oleg Oprisco. I like to think of this photo as a woman washed up on a far distant beach cast into the water by some long ago shipwreck.


Oleg Oprisco Fine Art Photography

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My Writing Journey

A busy week with three days away from my computer! This was a time to think and reflect on my WIP (work-in-progress). I decided to approach writing a particular chapter in a different way. It was by serendipity that I came across a story that will suit my own story very well. It will impart the same information but in a very different way. I was given a gift. This is one of the last chapters I have to write to finish my WIP. Of course as all writers do I have a story mulling around in my head for my next novel. The siren song of another story is often what waylays a writer but I will ignore my protagonist for the moment. I have visited the grave of the woman I am going to write about and I have a few pebbles from her grave, which is a very old one, on my writing desk.  I definitely felt a connection to her.  Her life was a sad one but also one that was, at times, full of hope. I have a rule that I don’t discuss my writing in any depth before I have finished the last line but I can say that it is a fabulous story.  I hope you enjoyed my previous post this morning. Oleg Oprisco is a photographer who has a soaring imagination. His photos encapsulate all the things I love: fantasy, a fairy tale and mythical element, and there lingers in his photographs something of his imagination and vision.  I have given the link at the bottom of my previous post to his Facebook page and website. ENJOY! Have a good writing week and thanks for being in touch, I have made wonderful friends through  this Blog,

Best, Elise

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An Interview With the Incomparable Oleg Oprisco

Oleg Oprisco is a photographer of the beautiful and the unusual. He has generously given permission for me to share his wonderful photographs on my Blog and to re-post his recent interviews. Thanks Oleg.

When Oleg Oprisco agreed to take an exclusive photo for the 500px ISO launch, we were over the moon. If you don’t recognise his name, you will definitely recognise his photos. Oprisco is an inspired photographer who brings that ethereal, fairytale quality to his photos that make them iconic. His photos have inspired so many photographers to try and capture the same magical effect, which we truly admire. As Oprisco says, “Create + Desire”. Here’s a little more about him.

Hi Oleg. Can you please tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in the small town of Lviv, in western Ukraine. After completing my studies and working a little, I moved to Kiev where I worked as an assistant to a famous advertising photographer. I was making money, but I lost my creativity. For a long time I thought that was all I was able to do until I tried to shoot on medium format film. That changed my life.

You’ve said your photographic journey began when you were 16 and working in a photo lab. What about that experience made you interested in photography?

Yes, that was a very important moment for me. As an operator, part of my job was to adjust all the pictures that the photo lab printed. I had a few buttons to control the color, brightness and contrast.

I lived for several years in “reality show” mode, observing every day life. I have visited thousands of weddings, birthdays and many other special occasions. I could do this forever, in what I call “robot” mode. This means working seven days a week for several months. This experience taught me what colors people like. I am using this information to this day.

What do you love most about photography?

Like every Ukrainian, I love freedom. I like the ability to stop time and create my version of reality

Where does your inspiration come from?

We live in exciting times. Everything changes very quickly: the weather, architecture, landscape, people, time. We can see this all happening in real time.There is inspiration all around us. Everything that happens in our lives is a unique source of inspiration. There’s no sense in stealing someone else’s. Only the original is a unique creation. Be sure any artist of the 18th century, the 19th century is very jealous of us. We can live anywhere and create anything and show it around to world. Everything is in our hands.

Can you share a memorable story from one of your photographic experiences?

Each picture has a unique story. My models are heroes and I love them for it.

Is photography your hobby or profession?

Funny question. I only work in photography. If you want good results, it cannot be a hobby.

Your photos have so many complicated props and outfits. Do you design and make these yourself or do you have an assistant?

I always try to do everything myself. I collect clothes from flea markets or old studios and then learn how to adapt them. Same with the props.

How long does it take to prepare one shoot?

I have a notebook where I keep a lot of ideas for photography. If everything turns out as I imagined, preparation takes two to three days. It is a question of weather, people or mood. Sometimes the work I put in does not yield the result I wanted. Therefore, the more experience and reflection I depend on for the shoot, the better.

You only use film photography. Why is that?

I use medium format film. It’s hard to explain in a few words. It’s a different system. I shoot for 12 frames and enjoy the importance of each frame. I carefully work on each frame. This is a fantastic process.

You press the shutter button but do not know what happens. This is real magic.

I often hold workshops and it’s very funny sitting in front of many photographers with $2000 – $3000 cameras and lenses, and on my table is an old Kiev 6C, which is worth about $50.

What advice would you give to amateur photographers?

I strongly advise to use your time wisely. Laziness is your worst enemy. Enough looking at photographs taken by your idols. You’ve commented on enough work that you hate. It’s time to take photos. Your best photos. Let go and shoot, shoot, shoot!

You’re from Lviv, Ukraine and you’re interested in politics. What are your thoughts on the recent Maidan uprisings? Is there a message you’d like to say to them here?

This is the story of a free people and corrupt authorities. Ukraine is a very young country. We’re go through the processes that occurred in other countries for centuries. It’s very complicated, but we believe that the result will be wellness and peace. We wait and believe.

Thank you for taking the time, Oleg. And thank you for your gorgeous photo! We will always treasure it.

Published by Alex Kim • 3 weeks agoInterview used with permission: Oleg Oprisco


Link to Oleg Oprisco facebook: https://www.facebook.com/opriscophotography




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Filed under Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote

Haunting Landscapes

Haunting landscapes just made for myths,legends and fairy tales. Also
look at some of the other articles on this page, really interesting.


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From Bianca’s Garden

a2 Photo: Bianca Washington

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March 1, 2014 · 8:55 pm

Blue Mountains Clouds


I took this cloud photo about a week ago, before the 
birds got to the flowers in the trees. Now the 
flowers are all on the ground!
In the last few weeks the cloud formations 
have been so beautiful and I find them an incredibly 
interesting subject to watch and capture on camera.
Hope you like the image.

My photographer friend Bianca Washington took this 
I have copied her email text and the photograph with her permission.


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Bushfire Country


Photograph: Bianca Washington. My friend Bianca lives in bushfire country, NSW. Her home was saved. Sadly other homes nearby were destroyed.

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A Snowy Day


Snowy House. I’d love to be inside this house on a cold and wintery day.

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Perfume Magic

My wonderful friend Bianca took this photograph. She paints, takes photographs, works in her mountain garden and recently sent me a beautiful notebook to write in. She loves her family and cats and loves life.

Photography: Bianca Washington

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