“In order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn,” – Octavia Butler.
The firebird is an ancient mythical bird whose symbolism and mythology still intrigue us and whose story is still told to this day, even making its way into pop culture like the X-Men movie franchise. The Greeks call it Phoenix; the Egyptians call it Bennu, and the Chinese call it Fêng-Huang. In Russia, it is the Firebird. Egyptians considered it to be the spirit of the god Ra. Some Native Americans knew it as Yel, its fire is so fierce it’s always identified with the sun.
The Phoenix in Greek mythology (which I have been fascinated with since I was a child, Clash of the Titans ‘n all) was a bird that could live for centuries and could also be regenerated or reborn from the ashes of its predecessor. Some sources say that the phoenix simply died and decomposed before being reborn, but others claim that it would combust and perish wrapped in flames. It was believed that it could live over 1400 years at a time.
Inspiration for its legend and artwork date back to at least 1500 BC, the phoenix symbolizes rebirth, renewal, immortality, healing, and fire. And perhaps its eternal narrative can apply to us today; in times of doubt, weakness and pain the Phoenix symbolizes strength, transformation and renewal, for only from the ashes of who we were can we rise up to become who we were meant to be.
Projects like this kind of feel like the baton relay of an Olympic track meet, one artist handles one portion, then passes off to the next, then the next, all for different stages, then finally passed on to me for the photography portion and bringing everyone’s work to life in imagery and to tell a story. For me it was important to not only shoot at a location that seemed a bit barren and apocalyptic but HOW exactly can I incorporate the elements of the Phoenix into the photos without it looking gimmicky or cartoonish or just dumb, really. Mystery, power, flame, red suns and moons, smoke, sparks before fire, and even a little bit of evil like the Jean Gray alter-ego, who was not only confident and beautiful, but dangerous and ominous, as well.
All photos: © Carrie Hampton Photography
Body paint/Makeup: Jessi Jewel
Hair/Headpiece: Monica McKenna
Model: Shelby Smith
Assist: Jeremy Hopkins
Concept: Carrie Hampton