It’s Halloween in Peterborough, and somewhere a Trickster is playing with fire in the woods. Ursula rises from the river, her crown glinting in the setting sun as people gather around her trying to capture her beauty. Forest creatures, Mother Earth, mermaids, and even the Moon were seen haunting Peterborough this month, and yes, they were all really there.
They are creations of Christie Read for her project 30 Days of Halloween, where this makeup artist transformed models, with the help of local stylists and photographers, into characters fit for a movie screen. This project was done voluntarily, with the sole purpose of seeing through a vision Christie had a few years ago: to take Halloween to the next level with her talent.
I interviewed Christie as she prepared a model for one of the shoots. “I used to work a call centre,” she says as she paints her model, Sky Lisette, with her palette of makeup. “I was never myself when I went into work, but something that helped at the time was putting on makeup before going in. I know it sounds silly, but it’s what I wanted to do full time, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was my escape.”
Word of Christie’s talent spread throughout the community. Sky, who was being transformed into a Dryad (see cover photo), talked about how they connected. “I actually met Christie because she did my sister’s makeup for her graduation. My mother was bragging about my styling talents to her, and Christie reached out with an opportunity to work together. I thought the project was so cool, and so is Christie! I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Writing about passionate artists for a number of years, this project caught my attention because it is one of the most intensive and collaborative things I’ve seen in Peterborough. Talented photographers, stylists, and models came together for 30 Days of Halloween, and volunteered hours of their time to make Christie’s vision come to life.
“It’s entirely collaborative,” she says. “We all work on the concept, the models choose what they want to be. The goal for each shoot is to have a hairdresser, a stylist, a model, and a photographer. If we can get extra things in it that’s awesome, like local businesses contributing props, such as Sky’s partner Curtis who has Beneath the Bark, a woodworking company. He’s given us necklaces and pendants for the shoot, so he’ll be attributed. We all discuss what we need to get together, and because we have a deadline, every shoot has come together fairly organically.”
Watching the shoots come together was a bit like magic. If you were following Christie on her Instagram @muachristie or any of the artists involved, you would have been privy to a look at what happens behind the scenes. I’ve been a fan of the photographers involved for a number of years, and I got to watch them being thrown into the dirt, water, and woods, trying to capture the perfect shot and enjoying every moment of it.
I asked the photographers why they would dedicate their time to a project like this. Aside from the shared love of Halloween, many of them cited Christie’s amazing personality and energy as a no-brainer for wanting to be a part of it. “If you’ve ever met Christie, you already know the answer,” Jen Gaffney said. “She’s just the most sweet, bubbly, and energetic person. Honestly, she gives off a vibe that makes you feel positive and happy every time you work with her.”
Photographers like Wayne Ferguson, Samantha Moss, and Bryan Reid came out of their comfort zones, learning something new about themselves as photographers. Wayne had never worked with prosthetics, and Samantha and Bryan found themselves in front of the camera for a change.
“I really tried to push outside my comfort zone and play with the characters, and had a blast modeling and getting to work with a live snake,” Samantha said. “I’m a big fan of Bryan Reid, who photographed me for the shoot, and this was our first time working together. It was super cool getting to be on both sides of the lens.”
It was a treat to see Bryan Reid, who is rarely in front of the camera, to be photographed as an epic Forest King. “This was my first time ever really modeling. It was strange, liberating, awkward, and exciting. I love stepping out of my comfort zone as an artist, and surprising people when it really comes down to it. I love Halloween, and dressing up and getting into character. It was a really cool experience, and I feel like I gained some real inside and perspective as the subject, which I feel is important for any photographer.”
To see artists come together, some of them for the first time, because of Christie Read’s shoot drives the point home as to why projects like these are special. Speaking to Kate Story earlier this year, she talked about the difference between the collaborative nature of the Peterborough community, compared to bigger cities like Toronto. For Christie, to have a large group of artists come together and offer a unique set of talent and skills for her passion project is truly electric.
What’s even more interesting about the project, and about the many artistic projects that happen in Peterborough, is that people don’t do them for praise. It’s why I chose to highlight this project, because the value of hours artists pour into labours of love is often not recognized. We have a community filled with artists who aren’t always celebrated for their work and for their time, and as a writer trying to figure out my own place in the world, I know that is emblematic of how people value the arts itself.
When I came across this project, I tried to think of where I could do it the most justice in a publication. Though there are many publications in town, it felt most home in Electric City Magazine, a space that has been created by David Tough and Gabe Pollock to celebrate artists in this community. To create such a space where this could be done was no easy feat. Being part of print media myself, I was acutely aware of the countless hours and sleepless nights it takes to make something like this happen. In the end, it is often thankless, unpaid, and unrecognized work itself. Without the work these two have done to create this space, I could not have showcased this incredible initiative.
So thank you artists. Today I celebrate you, and I hope you celebrate yourselves for the hard work you do. Halloween, a holiday thought of for kids, has a special meaning for grownups. It’s a day we can escape the tribulations of adulthood, while we pretend to be kids, showcasing our creativity and indulging in something magical. For me, I spent it writing about Christie Read’s project, something she did purely out of love for her craft, with a boundless energy and vision.
“One thing,” I asked her. “How come it’s 30 Days of Halloween and not 31?”
“Because,” she said, her reply mirroring the realities of adulthood, “I’m tired.”
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