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Model: Lena Seyfarth
Make-Up: Kristy Karczewski & Aiga Jekabsone
Hair: Aiga Jekabsone
Designer: C. Rinella Designs
Wolf: Sabian (Owner: Tina Marie)
Photographer: Thomas H P Jerusalem, MUTE Photography ( Instagram )

 

She surely memorized every bush, shrub and berry by now. Her mom spent the past two hours explaining in detail how to get to grandma’s house and she had to recite everything she said. When she confused it, they started over. “I know Mother, it’s the blueberry bush, not the blackberries. believe me, I only confused the words.” But her mother wanted her Little Red Riding Hood to be safe, so they started over again. And again. And again. Until her mother was sure that she memorized every rock and pebble on the way and that she took the right path.
The walk to grandmother led to a dark area of the woods. The Deep Woods. And her mother was well aware of the dangers her little girl may run into if she left the path.
“If I weren’t so ill myself, I would have walked with you. I am a bit scared.” “I know Mother. But I am not a little girl anymore. I am all grown up.” “You will always be my little girl.” And, although she liked the warmth of her mother’s cheeks on hers and her warm kisses, the little girl felt a bit embarrassed when her mother hugged her very tight and kissed her lips. ‘That’s not what mothers do to grown up girls’, she thought. Maybe she was still a little girl. Be it. And she smiled at her when she put the bottle of wine and the cake her mother made last night in her little basket.
“I wish we had flowers, Mother. You know how grandmother likes flowers.” Her mother smiled at Little Red Riding Hood. “Yes she likes flowers. Maybe you can pick some on your way, just don’t forget what you promised me.” “Stay on the path, I know.” And they both laughed.

Little Red Riding Hood put her red cape on that grandma made for her when she was a very little child and that for some reason seemed to grow with her, grabbed the basket with the wine and the cake, and kissed her mother good bye. “Sometimes even grown up girls kiss their mothers…”, she smiled and she left the little house.

When the door shut, her mother all of sudden became a bit worried but she tried to brush it off. Soon she fell asleep. The fever that she developed took its toll.

The woods weren’t far from Little Red Riding Hood’s house. Actually they lived pretty close to the woods. Some smaller trees and shrubs actually started to grow in their backyard. Grandma’s house was on the other side of the woods, probably a one hour walk. ‘If I walk fast, I should be able to spend more time with grandmother before I have to walk back home again. I definitely have to leave one hour before sunset, so I will not get lost.’ The Deep Woods were the scariest part of the woods. There the sun hardly made it all the way to the ground, even on the brightest day. That’s the part of the woods her mom warned her about. The part of the woods with wild animals and unknown things that shy away from the light.
‘It will still take me some time to get there’, Little Red Riding Hood thought, and she started to sing. But her mind was already in the Deep Woods.
She remembered, that her mother told her once that singing will help when you are scared. And without noticing it her singing became louder.
‘This is the blackberry bush, here is the blueberry bush and here is the sign to stay on the right path. I’m a big girl, and there’s no reason to be scared.’
The woods became darker and darker with every step. From time to time the sunlight made it thru the leaves and left a dark shadow on the tree trunks. A shadow that looked like a little girl with braids, wearing a cape and carrying a basket. ‘Here is the rabbit hole. Hello little Rabbits.’ A rabbit family was looking at her with big eyes. “You don’t have to look so scared”, she said. “Stay on the right path Little Red Riding Hood, this is the Deep Woods.” “I will little bunnies.” And when she tried to get closer to them to pet them they hopped away, back into their rabbit hole. There was some other noise close by, but she didn’t hear that.

‘Oh flowers. Grandmother will like those flowers’. The flowers she noticed farther down the path put a smile in Little Red Riding Hood’s face. But then she remembered her mother’s words and her promise. ‘I promised her to stay on the right path. But it can’t be that bad if I just walk a few steps in the direction of the flowers. I can still see that sign showing the direction of the right path. Grandmother will love them.’ Little Red Riding Hood passed the sign. The flowers were only a few steps from it on the other path. But it appeared that with every step they moved farther and farther away. She turned around to ensure she can still see the sign, but she was hardly able to see it anymore. Finally she reached the flowers and picked a nice bunch.

“A little girl in the Deep Woods all by herself?” She froze. This was a dark smokey voice right behind her. She started to sing but couldn’t find her voice. Finally she squeaked, “Who are you?” and she turned around. “Are you scared? There is no reason to be scared. I am just a wolf. I live here in the woods.” Little Red Riding Hood still had a hard time getting some voice that sounded more like a girl other than squeaking from her lips. “Do you always talk like this?” the wolf asked. “Only when I’m scared”, the girl squeaked. “There is no reason to be scared. Or do you think I would eat you?” There was something in the wolf’s eyes that didn’t want her to trust him. “Looks like you are lost?” “No I’m not, I was only picking some flowers for grandmother, she is ill. I am on my way to her to bring her a cake and wine. I just have to walk back a little and turn to the right path.” But when she looked around, she wasn’t able to see that sign anymore. “Oh I see. Your grandmother lives close by?” “She lives on the other side of the woods, but I should go now. It was nice meeting you Mister Wolf.” The wolf looked at her and although he didn’t look too scary anymore, there was something in his eyes that made her not trusting him. At the very least she should get back onto the right path. “Bye little girl. Maybe I see you again soon.”
Without turning around Little Red Riding Hood walked back to where she thought the sign was, passing some blackberry bushes she didn’t recognize but eventually she saw the bunny family again. “The right path is here Little Red Riding Hood”, and she smiled at them. “Thank you Mister Rabbit.”

Passing the blackberries, blueberries, shrubs and bushes her mom told her about, she finally came to the small creek with the dead tree that marked the other side of the Deep Woods. ‘I can already see Grandmother’s house’ she smiled and followed the little stream for another few minutes.

When she arrived at the house, the door was open –

***

This shoot was done during bright daylight in a Chicago Western suburban forest preserve in fall. During my scouting I found this to be the perfect location for the set, with the tall prairie grass, the dead leafless trees that add a bit of mystery and the small creek. All we needed was Little Red Riding Hood and a wolf. I found Lena, one of my long time models to be the perfect Little Red Riding Hood, probably also because she is German and has that German fairy tale look I was going for. After a casting for a wolf we found Sabian being perfect for that role.
As mentioned the shoot was done in broad daylight – as much as you can use the word broad in a Chicago fall in the afternoon – and to add a bit of mysteriousness to the pictures and make them look like shot in a darker area I used one of my AlienBee strobes mostly from the 9 o’clock position. Me being German and growing up with the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, I remember the dark greenish coloring of the pictures in the books. This is the color for fairy tales and Deep Woods shouldn’t be any different. I wanted that mood for the story.
Both, the Designer C. Rinella who did a great job creating the perfect Little Red Riding Hood wardrobe and the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Aiga Jekabsone and Kristy Karczewski I worked with during multiple shoots were pretty used to my weird ideas and the edginess I was looking for.
The original idea was to only shoot the wolf encounter in the woods but we added a second shoot in grandma’s house a few weeks later. I saw some old stucco wall in an old TV show and this gave me the idea to the walls for grandma’s bedroom. Transforming the studio was done in an afternoon with drywall and several buckets of plaster of paris and a bucket of beige paint. The bed was built out of some old wood pieces I had in the studio, nailed together and painted brown and I myself was surprised that is was sturdy enough to survive Lena jumping on it while rescuing grandma – or her remains – out of the wolf’s body.

 

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