Human, natural and built landscapes, ancient and modern, come together in an ethereal photography series by Maryam Eisler in dialogue with poet thomas Paul
When LUX Chief Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler has an idea, beautiful and strange things happen, often in unison. Such was the case at Parnham House, a country estate in Dorset, southwest England, one chilly day this year, when Eisler descended on the ornamental grounds with her co-conspirator, author and producer Cavan Mahony, model Stephanie Bolam and poet thomas Paul.
Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine
Eisler has made her name as a photographic artist through her developing takes on the “Sublime Feminine”, the female form seen through the female camera gaze. Bolam offered a new interpretation: she is covered in body art (or, as she calls it, “body armour”), from head to toe, and has never allowed herself to be photographed naked before.
As she says, “I am a walking piece of art. I had to learn to become more powerful and resilient to handle people’s reactions. I chose the responsibility to do this.”
While Eisler and co-creative Mahony created the shots, Paul composed verse. “There were a lot of challenges,” says Eisler, “but Stephanie was a great trooper and faced these head on. The most challenging, of course, was me asking her to take a deep dive into the murky cold waters of the pond at Parnham, which is green and slimy, and not exactly the most welcoming environment. But she did it and the result, in my view, is one of the most beautiful images of the day: painterly, ethereal, Ophelia-like.”
The creatives played with the forms of space and place and drew focus to the detailed architecture of the Elizabethan house, its grounds and its storied history. “Everything at Parnham House is very intricate and ornate, and that has a dialogue with the patterns on Stephanie’s body,” says Eisler. “This worked so well because Stephanie is someone extremely contemporary, on the now, with the art she is adorned with, and here she is in dialogue with an evocative place of the past – one of the most beautiful houses of the West Country, in fact.”
Or, as the first lines from thomas Paul’s poem, composed on the spot, run:
“Elegance in form, beauties face
To overwhelm, blinding fears and scorn
In images of dreams, in fairytales
I hear your screams, your conversations within”
The exhibition “Ignis Avis Lineae”, by Maryam Eisler and thomas Paul, launched in October 2023 at Cricket Court in Somerset, home of fashion designer Alice Temperley. See maryameisler.com for details
This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX