Woman, 36, who lost mother to brain cancer creates breathtaking fantasy land photo series in her memoryKirsty Mitchell's Wonderland series has been three years in the makingAll costumes, wigs and sets were constructed on a shoestring budgetSome images took up to five months to create
She would often wait an entire year to find the perfect natural setting for her shots
09:34 GMT, 18 May 2012
Kirsty Mitchell's late mother Maureen was an English teacher who spent her life inspiring generations of children with imaginative stories and plays. Following Maureen's death from a brain tumour in 2008, Kirsty channelled her grief into her passion for photography.
She retreated behind the lens of her camera and created Wonderland, an ethereal fantasy world. The photographic series began as a small summer project but grew into an inspirational creative journey.
'Real life became a difficult place to deal with, and I found myself retreating further into an alternative existence through the portal of my camera,' said the artist.
Kirsty Mitchell has dedicated her Wonderland photographic series to the memory of her late mother, Maureen, who lost her life to a brain tumour in 2008
'This escapism grew into the concept of creating an unexplained storybook without words, dedicated to her [my mother], that would echo the fragments of the fairytales she read to me constantly as a child.'
Kirsty, 36, who has a background in fashion and costume design, collaborated with hair and make-up artist Elbie Van Eeden.
Both were in full time jobs so they spent evenings and weekends creating props, wigs, and sets on a shoestring budget and shot in the woodlands surrounding Kirsty's home in Surrey.
Kirsty developed a deep bond and respect for the locations in which she was working and strove, through her pictures, to 'remind others of their forgotten magic and beauty'.
She became fascinated with pockets of wild flowers such as the bluebells that would appear for only a few brief weeks of the year. In some cases, she would wait a full 12 months so she could shoot costumes matched to the vivid colours of nature.
'All the characters came to me in my dreams,' she explained, but she delighted in the chance to step into the scenes for real: 'after all, it's not often you get to stand beside an eight foot princess in the rain, or witness the dawn with a dancing circus girl on stilts!'
The resulting images looked so hyper-real that it was assumed that they were created in Photoshop. Many people believed the photographs were shot all around the world, when in reality they were taken in locations within short drives of her Surrey home.
So Kirsty began to write diary accounts and blog behind-the-scenes shots about the creation of each photograph. 'My aim was to portray time passing, an unsaid journey through four seasons, incorporating every colour in the rainbow.
As things progressed, her costumes became more elaborate with the props and new characters often taking up to five months to create. 'The project blossomed into our own private playground,' she said.
Her three year labour of love is now almost complete and there are plans for an exhibition and accompanying book: 'I just know that the day I see my mother’s name printed on the inside cover of the Wonderland book, it will feel like I have finally fulfilled my promise to myself and her precious memory.'
Danaus: A close-up of a model before a sunlit backdrop, peering through a veil of paper butterflies
While Nightingales Wept: a model captured running though the woods near Kirsty's home in Surrey
A Floral Birth: Kirsty imagines a creature begotten from nature
Lady of The Lake: A model emerges from a pool of lilies deep within the forest
Far, Far Away: A twenties style circus performer swings from a giant tree
Gammelyn's Daughter: The model clutches a ship to her chest atop a heathery cushion
The White Queen ruling over the forest of Wonderland and The Fall of Gammelyn, a decaying forest king
The Storyteller: A reference to Kirsten's English teacher mother, a model sits elegantly on a carpet of bluebells enveloped by books
The Queen's Armada: A fantasy queen sails a fleet of the most delicate paper ships
The Beautiful Blindness of Devotion sees a painted girl with eyes closed in prayer while The Briar Rose is a human rambling rose appearing to grow from the stonework
The Faraway Tree: ethereal ships, magically lit, appear to sprout from this tree as if commanded by the queen
Dryad: A nymph clings to giant tree roots suspended over the river
Euphaeidae: A winged fairy princess amid a sea of lavender
Spirited Away: Blooms stand out against a snowy forest backdrop – a promise of the spring to come