Kirsty Mitchell worked as a senior designer for an international fashion label for several years beginning in 2001, as she explains on her website, but this was not the pinnacle of her creative career — she was still at the beginning of her artistic journey though she didn't realize it at the time. 
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She explained in her personal statement that it was an encounter with family illness that first drew her to photography. She found that she suddenly possessed an unexplainable, yet deeply powerful pull to start photographing people. She elaborates, "I used to say that I had never truly 'looked' until it was through a lens ... life was different, more beautiful, more sad, and extreme in every sense of the word. People mattered, how they sat, how they slept, how they looked when they thought no one else cared." In March of 2008, however, her focus changed. 

Her mother had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, and it shook Mitchell's world. She described this period of time as the most difficult in her life, and to be able to cope with what was happening, she became the subject of her own photography. She found solace in being able to escape the harsh reality of her mother's illness by photographing herself, but this all changed when her mother passed away in November of 2008. 

Suddenly an even more voracious appetite for photography was awakened in her. She began her "Wonderland" series as a way to pay homage to her mother, who had been an English teacher and loved fairy tales, as she explains on her website. Each image from the "Wonderland" series is like its own miniature fairy tale, each telling the story of an elaborate, stunning, and powerful character, adorned in makeup and costumes that are breathtaking, to say the very least. 

Mitchell explains later in the "Wonderland" background story that she originally envisioned a photo series in which she would create an unexplained storybook; she had no idea that the project would grow into something so much bigger. The original plan entailed a few photo shoots over the course of a summer, but it eventually evolved into a five-year project with many more shoots. What started as a coping mechanism for Mitchell quickly turned into an intricate and highly personal dive into fine art photography, establishing her as an incredible and devoted artist.

In the video below, you will get a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot "Gaia: The Birth of an End" from Mitchell's "Wonderland." Seeing behind the scenes of the "Gaia" shoot perfectly illustrates the level of intense dedication and hard work that Mitchell puts into each of her photo shoots. Makeup, body painting, and attaching costumes are all lengthy processes on the day of, but, according to her website, Mitchell prepares for months to get each of these elements absolutely perfect. 

She goes on to explain that some of the characters she imagines can require up to a year of planning and five months to physically create. Alongside hair and makeup artist Elbie van Eeden, Mitchell is creating an entire alternate world for each of her characters. With roots in fashion design, costume design/creation, and art history, Mitchell brings an almost-unparalleled creative eye to her photography, but these qualities would, perhaps, be far less impressive if not for her emotional and personal ties to her creations. 

One might be tempted to simply call these images fine art photographs, but the technical term doesn't do them justice. They are a lens into the imaginary world that Mitchell shared with her mother. They are a physical representation of what it is like to transition through and cope with an intense period of grief. Most importantly, however, they are the reflection of a daughter's immeasurable love for her mother.