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Wonderland is an award-winning collection of 74 photographs by Kirsty Mitchell, created in memory of her mother Maureen, published in a record-breaking, bestselling book

‘Wonderland’ is created in memory of Kirsty Mitchell’s mother Maureen, an English teacher who died of a brain tumour in November 2008. In the months that followed her family’s tragic loss, Kirsty fell into a deep depression. Struggling to cope with the demands of her job as a fashion designer and overwhelmed by grief, she found sanctuary in the woodlands that surrounded her home in the English countryside. There, she developed a sudden and unexplainable passion for photography, creating pictures filled with fantasy, colour, sadness and longing as a form of personal escape through the portal of her camera.

By regressing to the ‘safe’ memories of when her mother used to read to her as a child, Kirsty spent months handcrafting scenes inspired by the faded fairy tale illustrations of the books they once shared, tinged with her newfound spiritual connection with nature and adult grief. Nothing is a recreation of a character that already exists, these were Kirsty’s own visions used as a mirror to express her emotional state of mind in the real world. It became a way to block out the ghosts of the hospital, a powerful therapy and ultimately a way of stepping into a more beautiful existence than her actual reality.

“Mitchell created ‘Wonderland’ not only as an artistic expression, but to help people cope and process their own emotions, as well as to create a dialogue about grief.”

CNN Style

The Wonderland Book

Kirsty first published the Wonderland Book on September 9th 2015, and it has since become the most funded photobook in crowdfunding history,

‘Wonderland’ was completed at the end of 2014, culminating in seventy four photographs and the five year journal Kirsty had written throughout its development. Driven by the need to create a book beautiful enough to commemorate her late mother, Kirsty decided to turn down the publishing contracts she had been offered. Instead, she took the risk of launching her own Kickstarter campaign in order to maintain full control and self-publish the Wonderland book in collaboration with renowned British designer Stuart Smith.

The campaign was launched on September 9th, 2015 and has since become the highest grossing photobook in crowdfunding history, a title it still holds to this day. The enormous success of the campaign enabled Kirsty to create a book made from the finest quality materials, printed in Italy, at one of the best book factories in the world. Now in its 3rd edition, with a new elaborate gold foil embossed cover designed by Kirsty, the huge volume weighs 4.5 kilos and contains over 640 photographs. The book allows the viewer to discover the details in each Wonderland piece, with close up crops and large fold-out gatefolds, as well as extensive behind the scenes imagery from the shoots and costume galleries of the pieces made by Kirsty. Most importantly for her, the book includes the deeply personal journal written by Kirsty which documents the creation and meaning of the works, as well as her journey through grief.

In addition to the standard book Kirsty designed the beautiful Limited Edition box set (Edition of 250) and the coveted, top tier Collector’s Edition (Edition of only 25) which comes with a portfolio of prints and a solid bronze sculpture of The White Queen’s key.

‘Wonderland’ was completed at the end of 2014, culminating in seventy four photographs and the five year journal Kirsty had written throughout its development. Driven by the need to create a book beautiful enough to commemorate her late mother, Kirsty decided to turn down the publishing contracts she had been offered. Instead, she took the risk of launching her own Kickstarter campaign in order to maintain full control and self-publish the Wonderland book in collaboration with renowned British designer Stuart Smith.

Read more

The campaign was launched on September 9th, 2015 and has since become the highest grossing photobook in crowdfunding history, a title it still holds to this day. The enormous success of the campaign enabled Kirsty to create a book made from the finest quality materials, printed in Italy, at one of the best book factories in the world. Now in its 3rd edition, with a new elaborate gold foil embossed cover designed by Kirsty, the huge volume weighs 4.5 kilos and contains over 640 photographs. The book allows the viewer to discover the details in each Wonderland piece, with close up crops and large fold-out gatefolds, as well as extensive behind the scenes imagery from the shoots and costume galleries of the pieces made by Kirsty. Most importantly for her, the book includes the deeply personal journal written by Kirsty which documents the creation and meaning of the works, as well as her journey through grief.

In addition to the standard book Kirsty designed the beautiful Limited Edition box set (Edition of 250) and the coveted, top tier Collector’s Edition (Edition of only 25) which comes with a portfolio of prints and a solid bronze sculpture of The White Queen’s key.

Wonderland Films

The Story Behind Wonderland

My Mother Maureen, 1945 – 2008

What started as a desperate distraction from the pain of reality, led to a dramatic turning point in my career, and consequently my entire life

Wonderland began in the summer of 2009, born of grief for my mother Maureen, who died 7 months earlier in November 2008. Back then as I sat in my kitchen sewing the first rough costume, nothing could have prepared me for the 5-year journey that lay ahead. What started as a desperate distraction from the pain of reality, led to a dramatic turning point in my career, and consequently my entire life…..

My mother was an English teacher, who spent over thirty years inspiring generations of children with her stories and plays. She was rarely seen without her head in a book, or writing in her own vast diaries, which she had kept since I was young. In April 2008 she was diagnosed with a brain tumour that left her too ill to be brought home to England from the small French village where she and my father had retired. Instead of a funeral filled with her friends and ex-pupils, we had to make do with a tiny family gathering, which left me heartbroken and compelled to do something that would never let her be forgotten.

In the months that followed real life became a difficult place to deal with, as I found myself retreating further into an alternative existence through the portal of my camera. This escapism grew into the idea of creating a storybook without words, dedicated to her, that would echo fragments of the fairy tales she had read constantly to me as a child. Originally it began as a small summer project, but none of us could have predicted the path that lay ahead and the very special friendships it would produce. From the moment I met hair and make-up artist Elbie Van Eeden there was a sense of something deeper, we became extremely close and the series blossomed into our own private playground within the ancient woodlands that surrounded my home. Some days I would walk for hours in the landscape searching for it’s high points of natural wonder, at times waiting a full cycle of 12 months for a certain flower to bloom. I wanted to convey the feeling that despite it’s theatrical inhabitants, my Wonderland was in fact real and all around us, something many of us have become blind to in this digital age.

As the months passed I developed a deep bond with the land, it became my church, the place where I could process my sadness and speak out loud to my mother. Without at first realising it, a subconscious parallel had developed between my journey through grief and the lead model Katie Hardwick in the photographs. She had become a mirror to all I was feeling, and so I chose to embrace the ebbs and flows of loss, and let my emotions guide the narrative of the series.

In the beginning I was still working full time as a fashion designer and could only spend my evenings and weekends creating the costumes and props. Everything was entirely self funded, so I worked with the most basic of materials to try and achieve results as convincing as possible, scavenging and customising whatever I could lay my hands on. There were no stylists, designers or huge teams of assistants involved. It was simply a few passionate friends helping out for free, whilst I scraped together the funding for raw materials from of my wages each month.

None of the pictures were a recreation of a story that already existed, to me that felt empty and pointless. Instead it was a blur of colours and settings inspired by the faded illustrations of my childhood books, mixed up with memories, grief, and my new found spiritual connection with nature. As the project progressed some of the new character’s concepts could take up to 5 months to make. I found their physical creation became my favourite part, and the chance to actually step into the frame on shoot days was unlike any other experience in my life. It became a way to block out the ghosts of the hospital and a chance to momentarily live in a more beautiful place than the darkness of my reality. At last I could lose myself behind the camera, it was a relief and began to heal me in the most unexpected of ways.

Two years into the project I found it almost impossible to cope with the demands of the series whilst holding down my full time job in the city. On the verge of a breakdown in December 2011, I felt I had no choice but to leave my fashion career behind, to dedicate my future to finishing the project and the dream of producing the book. It was the hardest decision of my adult life, but thankfully also one of the best.

Ever since that day, life has been a roller coaster of emotion and so much hard work it is difficult to put into words; but as I sit in front of this computer screen years after my mother passed, I can finally say quietly to myself that the dream did come true. Wonderland continued for a further 3 years and was completed in November 2014, culminating in 74 photographs. After a number of offers from publishers, in September 2015 I decided to walk away from all contracts and instead launch my own Kickstarter campaign in order to make the most beautiful book I physically could without any compromises. The campaign went on to become the most successfully crowdfunded photobook ever made, raising £334,000 in just 28 days and was completely sold out within 2 months. 8 months later, due to overwhelming public demand, a Second Edition was released and later a Third Edition in December 2021.

The series eventually reached the major press, being recognised by Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Italia, Vogue Portugal, The Royal Photographic Society, The BBC News, The Guardian and The Telegraph to name just a few. It has since been exhibited in London, America, Spain, South Korea, Milan, The Netherlands and many venues in Sweden.

Finally in the winter of 2018, for the first time ever, the entire Wonderland series opened as a major show at Fotografiska in Stockholm – one of the largest museums for contemporary photography in the world. It toured to their sister museum in Tallinn, Estonia and it is hoped it will eventually reach Fotografiska New York in the future. The show was due to open in NYC in June 2020, but was cancelled due to the museum closing during the Covid Pandemic.

So this has been a bittersweet tale to tell, back in 2008 my world had ended, I had never felt so lost, numb and alone. Yet what was the worst thing to have ever happened to me, somehow bloomed into something extraordinary that I may have never known in another life. I’ve learnt that grief can take you down in the most monumental way, but it can equally lead you along a path you never expected. This is something I try to hold on to everyday, especially since my own cancer diagnosis after the birth of my first child in 2015. I’ve learnt to embrace what we have thrown at us, to try to take the sadness and fear and make something meaningful and beautiful in it’s place.

Nothing I write can express how losing my mother has felt, or how she touched the lives of the many who loved her. I miss her more than words can ever say, and I still struggle greatly with the void she has left. This series is all I physically have inside of me and is the best I can offer to commemorate the incredible person she was. I have tried my hardest for her, just as she did for me.

She will always remain in my heart…… this is for you mum. xx

My Mother Maureen, 1945 – 2008

What started as a desperate distraction from the pain of reality, led to a dramatic turning point in my career, and consequently my entire life

Wonderland began in the summer of 2009, born of grief for my mother Maureen, who died 7 months earlier in November 2008. Back then as I sat in my kitchen sewing the first rough costume, nothing could have prepared me for the 5-year journey that lay ahead. What started as a desperate distraction from the pain of reality, led to a dramatic turning point in my career, and consequently my entire life…..

My mother was an English teacher, who spent over thirty years inspiring generations of children with her stories and plays. She was rarely seen without her head in a book, or writing in her own vast diaries, which she had kept since I was young. In April 2008 she was diagnosed with a brain tumour that left her too ill to be brought home to England from the small French village where she and my father had retired. Instead of a funeral filled with her friends and ex-pupils, we had to make do with a tiny family gathering, which left me heartbroken and compelled to do something that would never let her be forgotten.

In the months that followed real life became a difficult place to deal with, as I found myself retreating further into an alternative existence through the portal of my camera. This escapism grew into the idea of creating a storybook without words, dedicated to her, that would echo fragments of the fairy tales she had read constantly to me as a child. Originally it began as a small summer project, but none of us could have predicted the path that lay ahead and the very special friendships it would produce. From the moment I met hair and make-up artist Elbie Van Eeden there was a sense of something deeper, we became extremely close and the series blossomed into our own private playground within the ancient woodlands that surrounded my home. Some days I would walk for hours in the landscape searching for it’s high points of natural wonder, at times waiting a full cycle of 12 months for a certain flower to bloom. I wanted to convey the feeling that despite it’s theatrical inhabitants, my Wonderland was in fact real and all around us, something many of us have become blind to in this digital age.

Read more

As the months passed I developed a deep bond with the land, it became my church, the place where I could process my sadness and speak out loud to my mother. Without at first realising it, a subconscious parallel had developed between my journey through grief and the lead model Katie Hardwick in the photographs. She had become a mirror to all I was feeling, and so I chose to embrace the ebbs and flows of loss, and let my emotions guide the narrative of the series.

In the beginning I was still working full time as a fashion designer and could only spend my evenings and weekends creating the costumes and props. Everything was entirely self funded, so I worked with the most basic of materials to try and achieve results as convincing as possible, scavenging and customising whatever I could lay my hands on. There were no stylists, designers or huge teams of assistants involved. It was simply a few passionate friends helping out for free, whilst I scraped together the funding for raw materials from of my wages each month.

None of the pictures were a recreation of a story that already existed, to me that felt empty and pointless. Instead it was a blur of colours and settings inspired by the faded illustrations of my childhood books, mixed up with memories, grief, and my new found spiritual connection with nature. As the project progressed some of the new character’s concepts could take up to 5 months to make. I found their physical creation became my favourite part, and the chance to actually step into the frame on shoot days was unlike any other experience in my life. It became a way to block out the ghosts of the hospital and a chance to momentarily live in a more beautiful place than the darkness of my reality. At last I could lose myself behind the camera, it was a relief and began to heal me in the most unexpected of ways.

Two years into the project I found it almost impossible to cope with the demands of the series whilst holding down my full time job in the city. On the verge of a breakdown in December 2011, I felt I had no choice but to leave my fashion career behind, to dedicate my future to finishing the project and the dream of producing the book. It was the hardest decision of my adult life, but thankfully also one of the best.

Ever since that day, life has been a roller coaster of emotion and so much hard work it is difficult to put into words; but as I sit in front of this computer screen years after my mother passed, I can finally say quietly to myself that the dream did come true. Wonderland continued for a further 3 years and was completed in November 2014, culminating in 74 photographs. After a number of offers from publishers, in September 2015 I decided to walk away from all contracts and instead launch my own Kickstarter campaign in order to make the most beautiful book I physically could without any compromises. The campaign went on to become the most successfully crowdfunded photobook ever made, raising £334,000 in just 28 days and was completely sold out within 2 months. 8 months later, due to overwhelming public demand, a Second Edition was released and later a Third Edition in December 2021.

The series eventually reached the major press, being recognised by Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Italia, Vogue Portugal, The Royal Photographic Society, The BBC News, The Guardian and The Telegraph to name just a few. It has since been exhibited in London, America, Spain, South Korea, Milan, The Netherlands and many venues in Sweden.

Finally in the winter of 2018, for the first time ever, the entire Wonderland series opened as a major show at Fotografiska in Stockholm – one of the largest museums for contemporary photography in the world. It toured to their sister museum in Tallinn, Estonia and it is hoped it will eventually reach Fotografiska New York in the future. The show was due to open in NYC in June 2020, but was cancelled due to the museum closing during the Covid Pandemic.

So this has been a bittersweet tale to tell, back in 2008 my world had ended, I had never felt so lost, numb and alone. Yet what was the worst thing to have ever happened to me, somehow bloomed into something extraordinary that I may have never known in another life. I’ve learnt that grief can take you down in the most monumental way, but it can equally lead you along a path you never expected. This is something I try to hold on to everyday, especially since my own cancer diagnosis after the birth of my first child in 2015. I’ve learnt to embrace what we have thrown at us, to try to take the sadness and fear and make something meaningful and beautiful in it’s place.

Nothing I write can express how losing my mother has felt, or how she touched the lives of the many who loved her. I miss her more than words can ever say, and I still struggle greatly with the void she has left. This series is all I physically have inside of me and is the best I can offer to commemorate the incredible person she was. I have tried my hardest for her, just as she did for me.

She will always remain in my heart…… this is for you mum. xx

The Wonderland Diaries

“I positioned her in the womb of the woods, dressed in the precious coat of protective petals given to Katie by the flowers. It’s faded panels of familiar bedspreads, curtains and chairs, stitched together with silken memories of home. English roses brushed against her skin, the same coral pink as the ones that grew in our garden when I was a child; whilst poppies stood proud on her sleeves in remembrance of the day my mother died."

(Extract from The Wonderland Diaries…   March 2014 )

 The Wonderland Diaries are two fold, documenting the raw emotions of Kirsty losing her mother Maureen, the early days of creating the series and the meaning behind each artwork; written in parallel to the fictional narrative of Katie’s journey through an ever-changing landscape of surreal characters, which mirrored the ebb and flow of Kirsty’s grief in the real world.
The diaries began as a small online blog, a place to pour out some very personal thoughts which Kirsty never imagined would be read by anyone. However, as the years passed and she left her job as a fashion designer, the writing became an important part of the project, something that many followers of the series found comfort and community in. Consequently, the words and pictures became entwined to the point that when publishing the book, Kirsty felt compelled to remain authentic and include the original diaries in full; in the hope that people could understand its very humble beginnings and all the struggles that came with it.

Filter

Home

'Home'   I have lost count of the times I have started writing this entry,…
5th November 2014

The Fade of Fallen Memories

'The Fade Of Fallen Memories' It is now July 11th, and I’m sat by the…
16th July 2014

The Last Dance of the Flowers

'The Last Dance Of The Flowers'  Sitting down to write this today is a completely…
16th April 2014

Limited Edition Prints

All Limited Edition artworks are personally proofed, signed, and certified by the artist.

The Limited Edition artworks are available as museum-quality, archival pigment prints, professionally printed on 320gram Hahnemühle ‘Pearl’ paper. Large artworks of 170cm and above are printed on 325gsm traditional Baryta Fibre paper. Kirsty meticulously proofs every artwork to ensure quality of the highest standards.  She pays particular attention to colour rendering, as it is such an important feature of the series. Each print is signed, numbered, and accompanied with a signed Certificate-of-Authenticity.

Credits

Kirsty Mitchell

Artist

Separate to the photography, as with all her work, Kirsty also designs every single element of the characters and scenes in her artworks. This includes the hair, make up, costumes, props and sets. The scenes are entirely real and her props and costumes take many months to make.

Elbie Van Eeden

Hair & Make-up

Elbie is an Editorial Hairstylist and Make-up Artist based in London.

Katie Hardwick

Lead Model

Katie is the protagonist of the Wonderland story, a character whose appearance shape-shifts as she experiences the ever changing landscapes within the series. Kirsty describes ‘Katie as her mirror’ due to her role in each scene being based on the emotions Kirsty was going through in the real world, whilst coming to terms with her grief.  Mitchell describes Katie as the anchor of Wonderland and crucial to its timeless aesthetic.

Further Credits

Matthew Stevensen – Production Assistant

Richard Wakefield – Videography

Ashleigh Halliburton
Model for ‘The White Queen’, ‘The Faraway Tree’ and ‘The Queen’s Armada’

Nastasha Musson
Model for ‘The Lavender Princess’, ‘Portrait of a Princess’, ‘A Listless Dawn’, ‘Danaus’ and ‘The Secret Garden’

Francesca Gaymor
Model for ‘The Storyteller’, ‘A Forgotten Tale’ and ‘The Blue Saint

Helen Beadle
Model for ‘The Foxglove Fairy’ and ‘Anansi’s Widow’

Anna Syciova
Model for ‘The Beautiful Blindness of Devotion’, ‘The Pink Saint’ & ‘The Suicide of Spring’

Tim Andrews
Model for ‘The Fall of Gammelyn’ and ‘The Puppetry of Fools’

Adam Richardson
Model for ‘The Thousand Empty Days of a Frozen Heart’, ‘A Floral Birth’ and ‘The Coronation of Gammelyn’

Marianna Toka
Model for ‘She’ll Wait For You In The Shadows of Summer’,  ‘Gaia, The Birth of An End’, ‘Gaia’s Spell’, ‘Gaia’s Promise’ and ‘The Arrival of Gaia’