by Maria Luci
Cheyne Gallarde‘s Firebird Studio specializes in vintage inspired photography. He describes his style as the lovechild of American painter Norman Rockwell and French filmmaker Michel Gondry. Most of his work is based on retro advertising work and he and his team are devoted to artfully combining classic fashion, colors, and props into “one retronaughty package that’s as cinematic as it is camp.” Recently, Cheyne decided to take his love of the classics a step further, and delve into the world of literature—with his camera of course.
It all began while Cheyne was watching The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a film the features literary characters from the works of Jules Verne, Ian Fleming, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and more. The movie’s mixed bag of characters inspired Cheyne to put his own spin on some of his favorite novel characters, and thus, production on the series “Paperback Portraits” began.
First, Cheyne put together a list of characters he wanted to bring to life. Of the selection process, he says, “I tried to select characters that would be fun to bring to life with costumes and props, but that weren’t too popular. The popularity thing was an issue because if a character was shown on television or in a movie, people already have a preconceived notion about what they should look like.” However, Cheyne did still pick one character who’s been interpreted many times: Sherlock Holmes—”There are currently three modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes, so that was a challenge to do something different.”
With his characters chosen, Cheyne and his team got to work on casting, wardrobe, propping and location scouting. Key props for shots like Dorian Gray’s mirror, Tintin’s dog Snowy and Alice’s “drink me” bottle were made specifically for each shoot. Most of the models were friends that Cheyne felt fit the parts well, and clothing was designed to match each character.
So far, Cheyne has completed five photos for the series, with characters from Adventures of Tintin, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Through the Looking Glass, the Sherlock Holmes novels, and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. He’s especially happy with the Holmes portrait, saying he’s “different from current versions—less showy and more eccentric. I wanted mine to be unkempt; the kind of guy who slicks his hair down by spitting into his hand. His surroundings are full of ephemeral oddities, which are the physical manifestations of his knowledge.” But his favorite shot so far is that of Tintin because “it conveys the sens of action and adventure, and I think Hergé would be proud. I’m also personally proud of my handmade Snowy!”
Cheyne is currently working on portraits of Pippi Longstocking, Nancy Drew, Peter Pan and Dr. Jeckyll. He’s also held a small exhibit of the series, which was very well received. Through this process Cheyne says he’s learned a lot, especially that “there are lots of people in the world like me, big kids with big imaginations, yearning for adventure.
View more at firebirdphoto.com.