Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Pure, originally uploaded by margotwood.
This is the 10th in my series of photos inspired by my favorite young adult novels. Holy shiz this was a hard one to do. It's for the book PURE by Julianna Baggott - a dystopian / post-apocalyptic / survivalist young adult novel that was one of the toughest, most upsetting books I've read, but also one of the most visually inspiring.

Here's the premise: Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

So why is there a baby doll's head for a fist? Well, in the book after a cocktail of atomic bombs go off, the people who weren't protected in the dome fused with the objects around them. Pressia, the protagonist, was only a child when the bombs went off and was holding her baby doll at the time, so the head of the doll fused with her hand, thus giving her a baby doll headed fist. Creepy, I know. (UPDATE 5.31.12 - After speaking with my father who is a doctor and part-time superhero, he has agreed to write a guest post for me on the medicine behind fusings...if it's actually possible and what happens when it does so stay tuned for a follow up post!)

I was so obsessed with the idea of doing interpretation of that. How tragic, disgusting, creepy and oddly beautiful that must be? I searched and searched for the perfect baby doll, eventually found it, but when it came to actually doing the photo, I just couldn't make it right. What you see here is not at all what I had envisioned, and it was a humbling experience realizing that my Photoshop skills aren't as awesome as I like to claim they are. I am just not good at manipulating or creating things in Photoshop so making the transition from plastic doll head to forearm look realistic was a struggle for me. I'm an expert photo editor and retoucher, but if someone asked me to make something from scratch in Photoshop, well...they would be sorely disappointed in the blank white space I'd give them in return.

So yeah, I would have loved to have done a closeup photo of the baby doll head fused with her arm to really get at how gruesome this mutation really is (at least in Julianna's descriptions and in my head), but I'm just not good enough to make it look real, so I settled with a view from further away.

Anyways, this is a haunting, bleak and semi-depressing story. But the world building and imagery in Pure is so unbelievably strong that if you can stomach many gross details, you should certainly pick up.

This photo is very, very tame compared to the source of inspiration, so if this shot intrigues you, then perhaps the book will as well.

UPDATE (5.31.12) - So after sleeping on it, I decided I need to say that this, like The Forest of Hands and Teeth fauxto, is one of those books that if I ever had a large enough budget and a crew, I would totally redo this photo and also do many, many others for it. For example, I don't want to be too spoilery but, I would totally do a shot of the suburban moms in a sort of Vanity Fair styled photo. If you've read the book, you'll know exactly what part I'm talking about....thoughts?


  1. Dude, I don't know what you had in mind, but this shot is PERFECT. (IMHO... :P) It's creepy and realistic and gritty -- and somehow beautiful too. Bravo!

  2. I've read the book and this is f'ing awesome.

  3. I'm totally creeped out and intrigued by this book! Amazing photo darling!

  4. I just read the book and was browsing the internet on it and found this picture. I printed it and tucked it in the copy of the library book, so the next person can have a treat.

    1. I'm so glad you found my blog and that is the most amazing thing I've heard like ever. I would love to be there when the next person finds that photo! Maybe I should do that....just leave signed prints in the books at the New York Public Library....

  5. Holy shit! This is so awesome! I seriously need to read this book because this pic is so creepy that I can't take my eyes of it! Which is creepy ;)

  6. Dude. I don't think I could handle that book. The photo? Might change my mind.

  7. I'm pretty much mesmerized by this's so creepy, but I can't stop looking. This is one of my favorite that you've done!

  8. Gah, this is good enough. This photo terrifies me, like the book did.

    Also, the suburban mom shot would be utterly horrifying. I cannot get the images from that book out of me head. They will haunt me forever. O_O

  9. Dude. Dude. Dude. Yes to the Vanity Fair idea. Yes times a billion

  10. OH MY GOSH. This is amazing. So creepy to see Pressia's hand in a photo like this!

  11. I've had this one on my wishlist since I first saw the cover and read the blurb.