Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity, originally uploaded by margotwood. View it in a larger size here.

My first historical fiction fauxto has been added to my series of works inspired by young adult novels! This one was inspired by CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein - a gut-wrenching, novel a British spy plane that crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

After reading this novel I knew I had to do a fauxto for it. First of all, it would be an massive challenge for me since I've never done a historical photo before and secondly, I have never worked with props of this magnitude before –– but for some reason I was really intent on doing a shot that included a parachute, so I set my mind to it and voila.

I have a lot to say about this photo and not quite sure how to organize my thoughts on it so I think listing them out might be helpful.


1. WWII British military parachutes are really hard to find. WWII military parachutes that still have the lines and harness and aren't a gagillion dollars are even harder to find. I settled for a white, 28ft nylon, French military parachute from the Vietnam War. (Yes, yes. Wrong war, wrong country. I know. I know.) Thanks to the Federal Army and Navy surplus store in Seattle for selling me this and the flight suit my sister is wearing.

3. Laundry rope (the kind you hang clothes on) makes a great substitute for parachute lines. Most parachutes come with cut lines ––so you don't try to use them as real parachutes and end up killing yourself –– so I used laundry rope as a substitute. 

4. Getting a parachute to billow is a pain in the ass unless it's really windy out and you have an extra pair of hands. It was me, my Dad and my sister on "set" for this shot and we couldn't get the chute to open on it's own without all three of us involved, so instead, I put the camera on a tripod, laid the chute down flat on the ground and took the photo of my sister posing first. Then all three of us opened the parachute, my dad used a leaf blower (!!) to get it started, then nature did the rest. Once the chute was wide open, we all ran out of frame and the shot was taken. What you see here is a composite of those two photos - the one of my sister and the one of the open chute. Thank you, Photoshop.

5. Sunny days are killing me. Much like the fauxto I did for The 5th Wave, the sun was cursing me the day we did this shot. It was just too damn bright to really achieve the darker, more subdued style I was going for, but trying to get the family together at the crack of dawn was kind of not an option, so I had no choice. It was now or never.

6. I am not a hair stylist. But I am pretty proud of being able to get a 1940's style flip in my sister's hair like you see in the shot. (You should see the other side of her hair. . . it was awful.)


1. Why does she have half a flight suit on? Well in my mind, the character my sister is portraying, Queenie, has just parachuted out of her friend's plane because her pilot friend, Maddie, couldn't land. But Queenie, being a British spy, would be wearing civilian clothes, but she wouldn't parachute down in them - she would wear a flight suit, probably over her civilian clothes. So I bought a flight suit and decided that the shot would be half flight suit as if Queenie had just started taking it off. I did this for two reasons: 1) I didn't want to have to put together a full, authentic 1940s outfit because I had already spent money on the chute and didn't have any budget left and 2) I didn't want her in the full flight suit because then she could have been mistaken for the other character in the book, Maddie.

2. Why is she looking away from the camera? When I originally conceived the shot I always pictured Queenie staring dead straight into the camera and I have several shots of my sister doing just that, but I decided to go with this one for a few reasons: 1) Her posture and glare is very confident and determined like the character and 2) in the plot line of the story, this scene would have taken place just before she is captured by the Nazi's. She's just landed in enemy territory, so I when I look at her looking away, I like to imagine she's getting her plan ready in her head. She's preparing herself for the task ahead. She's all business.

3. Why color? There are two versions of this fauxto and I love them both and had an incredibly hard time trying to decide which on I preferred. Last night I liked the black and white one better but this morning I decided the color version was the way to go. My coworker, Aubry, told me her grandfather's photos from WWII all looked like my color version, so that sold me. Color it is.


I gave my Dad my camera phone to take some pics while my sister and I were working, so here are some behind-the-scenes shots!

A NOTE ON SHARING: Sharing is allowed but please respect the art and the artist and do not make alterations to this work. If you post this on your blogs, please either link to this blog post or my Flickr page and cite me as the artist. Thank you!


  1. Margot, it legit took my breath away. If I hadn't already read the book, I would want to now.

  2. This is so beautiful! I am so totally in awe.

  3. I honestly love both shots, and this is definitely one of my favorites in your entire series. You're right that your sister's pose in this one is very confident and determined, and that SO fits the character. The hair flip is great, the costume is great, the lighting is great. You've totally evoked this heartbreaking story.

  4. I love this! It's one of my favorites out of your entire Fauxto series. I love your sister's stance and pose as well as the lighting in this. Definitely reading Code Name Verity asap.

  5. Hahah I'm dying after all the flip flopping we did on b&w vs. color that you changed your mind again. They were both so damn good and made me feel different things. That's why I was wondering about the film back in that time -- so I'm glad Aubry gave insight into that bc that was really going to be my determining factor when we were talking. Today I think I like the color more too. Tomorrow I'm sure it will be B&W all the way.

    Honestly my favorite yet. I think you def captured her spirit and you are bad ass for getting that parachute to work and look awesome!! Now I want to reread it!

  6. Oh, I love this - it captures the character of Queenie so perfectly! And, as always, I love reading all the behind-the-scenes details.

  7. THIS IS GORGEOUS. I've said it before, but it's worth repeating -- you do fantastic things with your camera and editing and shot planning skills, Margot.

  8. SO LOVELY. This one is my new favorite.

  9. Awesome photo, my friend. I still need to get off my butt and read this one.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  10. SO this is my first time visiting your site and I am already obsessed! You take such beautiful photos and the fact that they are inspired by books just makes them that much better. Two of my favorite things. I loved Code Name Verity, and I love the depiction you have here. New follower and I will definitely be visiting regularly from now on!

    Nicole @ the Quiet Concert

  11. Woah this photo is really impressive! Seems like it took quite a bit of preplanning and money to get this one going and it turned out so beautiful!! Good for you :)