A Box Full of Darkness

Yuliya Rae Seattle PNW portrait outdoor photographer

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
― Mary Oliver

I’ve always been drawn to dark imagery. In my college days I was infatuated with the work of Caravaggio – a Baroque painter from Italy, the father of a technique called chiaroscuro. Translated from Italian it literally means lightdark and that is what Caravaggio was the master of – the interplay between light and dark.

But where other painters basked their canvases in light, Caravaggio submerged them in shadows. It was more about the details that were hidden in the shadows than those highlighted by light.

I loved the idea of shadows and darkness because it finally provided a counterpoint to the American ideal of happiness in perpetuity. I wanted to explore the dark corners because that’s where vulnerability and fear lived. The darkness felt more real to me than anything light, as I perceived light to be unbalanced, one-sided, somewhat misrepresentative of the whole story.

Interested in both yin and yang I painted like Caravaggio, seeking out darkness and attempting to learn from it. This was the beginning of my cultivation of shadows, my desire for duality to be represented in my work, at that time as a painter and now as a photographer.

When Rachel and I were planning another shoot together I wanted to play with the notion that every human has a dark side, a shadow where we hide things we are scared or ashamed of, things we would rather no one knew about us. We go there in our sad moments to deposit any uncertainty, anxiety, anger or disappointment. Far from sight we consider these items to be safe. But what if one day that seam broke and we could no longer contain it?

It was wonderful to be able to borrow designs from the very talented Kimmi Designs and incorporate a level of texture that was delicate and representative of another era. Kimmi repurposes vintage fabrics into modern day dresses and wedding gowns and her designs are graceful and ethereal, with a touch of otherworldly charm.

I love the eerie and sad mood we were able to capture. But most of all I love the idea of bringing our darkness out instead of hiding it because our fears, vulnerabilities and insecurities make us human and we can’t fully experience this state of being, how can we ever be fully present for all our lives have to offer?



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