Blog #192    1/26/17


The editors of the major German weekly magazine, Stern, asked me if I’d be interested in doing an underwater fashion editorial.

I said that I would love the assignment, and after thinking about it, I suggested a story, a fairytale, of sorts, to connect the individual pictures, ending – as the most satisfying fairytales do – in “HAPPILY EVER AFTER.”

The magazine’s editors asked how that story might go, so I wrote a short idea: there would be a pretty young princess who lived in an underwater kingdom. She loved, and was loved by, a handsome prince, whom a jealous queen wanted for herself. The queen steals the lover, the princess and queen have a raging battle…well, you’ll see what happens in the feature that appeared in Stern.

The editors loved the idea, and we discussed how I would go about it, technically, and they told me what the feature needed to accomplish editorially. (This collaboration with editors and art directors is something I usually really enjoy.)

They sent their famous fashion editor, Barbara Larcher, across the Atlantic with suitcases filled with dresses, jewelry – all the necessary ingredients in big magazine fashion shoots. There was even a Versace chainmail dress made from metal, a serious challenge to the model who would quickly sink from its weight.

I asked my brilliant writer friend, Owen Edwards, to edit my story. I implored him to “make this story sing,” and he set about creating a tale as magical as the photographs I was making. The story inspired the pictures, and the pictures inspired the story.

Here is that fashion fairytale as it was published in Stern a few months later. The brilliant set designer, Esmerelda Kent, made all the backgrounds and prince’s costume.

THE PRINCESS of the SPRING, and the QUEEN of the SEA.

“In a watery realm of magical light lived the Princess of the Spring.“

“She spent her days at play with her love, frolicking in the freshets that fed a shimmering lake.”

“From the shadowy depths of an ocean far away, the powerful Queen of the Sea rose in jealous rage.”

“An indiscreet salmon on the way to school had brought her news of the happy Princess and her lover.”

“Lonely in her lair; the evil queen imagined their joy, and daily longed to make the lover her own.”

“Through bays and rivers and streams she slithered to the distant lake.“

“Finding the lover lazing in the shallows, she captured him…”

“…and carried him off to sea.“

“Back in her sea bed, the Queen tried to tempt the lover, but he spurned her slippery seductions.”

“Furious, she turned him into a grotesque saltwater creature…”

“… more seahorse than sprite.”

“Far away, the Princess longed for her lover. From a trusted trout she learned where the Queen of the Sea held him captive. Swift and silvery, she flashed downstream to the rescue.”

“In the stinging brine of the hostile sea she confronted the fearsome queen…”

“… and in the garish glow of a crimson tide, they fought a terrible fight.”

“The Queen summoned the implacable magic of her golden net. But powerless to overcome true love, the net turned on its mistress…”

“… and imprisoned her for all time…”

“… in the tomb of the sounding sea.”

“Freed from the spell of the Queen’s covetous desire, the beloved became himself again.”

“The Princess and her consort swam gladly from saltwater to sweet, rejoicing in their limpid lake and languorous love…”

“… happily ever after.”

Princess: Shawnee Free Jones

Evil Queen: Samantha Randall

Prince: Alex NesicSet/Costume

Design: Esmerelda Kent

A note from the editor/writer, Edwards: When Howard Schatz approached me to help out with the text for his underwater fairytale, I took one look at the pictures he was making and realized, with pleasure, that I would have the chance to edit and augment the kind of story that, in my career as an essayist and critic, I’d never had a chance to do. I treasure this work as some of the most enjoyable I’ve ever done. Grazie, Maestro!