COURTNEY BROOKE HALL aka light witch
| PHOTOGRAPHER | BY MIRANDA WILEY |
She’s a doom-witch photographer. A feminist. A tree-hugger with a reverence for dirt rivaled only by the people of Waterworld—this is Courtney Brooke Hall, professionally known as Light Witch.
Her aesthetic is ethereal, and despite the dark-room-developed feel of her photos, she works digitally, paying homage to the tactile in her woodsy scenes.
Hall aims to “connect the female form back to nature” as a response to the growing disconnection between modern society and the natural world.
She acknowledges this schism as a human experience, not only felt by women, but better paralleled by women’s ability to birth, as the earth does—“most people have this deep, innate spirituality inside them and it gets really dragged down by dogma, by a lot of organized religions. I think we are connected to the Earth more than we know we are. That’s what my work is trying to do, remind people visually that they are [a] connection. I lean more towards the feminine because I think the connection is more obvious.”
Her gorgeous, bucolic backgrounds may feel plucked from a fairy tale, but exist in real life. Hall stumbles across these naturally serene settings and leaves them untouched for her shoots because, “that’s kind of the point -- the wild is just there. If you open up your eyes, open up your mind, you’re going to see some good stuff.” She even shoots at an abandoned dumpsite reclaimed by the earth, lending a desert-like landscape that’s otherwise unheard of in Hall’s rural New England.
All her settings possess an almost magnetic attraction—their natural mysticism leaves her longing, like the drinking reservoir atop a Western Massachusetts mountain she considers Tolkien-esque. “The water has this constant low ripple to it, there are these islands that are off in the distance, making what looks like a portal. Everything is so lush and green; the shoreline is always in flux because it’s a reservoir, so it looks different all the time. When it gets to the end of summer, like it is now, you get wildflowers and moths. In winter, you get these ice rings, in fall there’s this beautiful orange… I keep going back and I can’t stop,” she waxes.
“As a female existing, trying to make art, it’s important to show women in a way that isn’t exploiting them. I want women in my artwork who are empowered, in touch with themselves, [and] in touch with nature.”
That love and dedication for nature and the feminine form has grown synonymous with Hall’s Pagan spiritual beliefs. In broad terms, her faith is “within the seasons, within deities, within ourselves,” she claims, never shying away from the shadow, rather, embracing it. Death and darkness are part of the world and our human experience; life and light cannot exist without it. The elegant balance between the two is exemplified throughout Hall’s work—from her soft, bright summertime scenes, to her harsh shadows and eerie nightscapes.
Still, all human experience is valid. And while feminism can have a mistakably negative connotation, at its core it means equality of the sexes. For this reason, Hall finds it necessary to carve a place for women in the art world. As a woman creating art with predominately female subjects, Hall can’t help but struggle with the male gaze and women’s lack of representation in the field. “As a female existing, trying to make art, it’s important to show women in a way that isn’t exploiting them. I want women in my artwork who are empowered, in touch with themselves, [and] in touch with nature,” she explains.
For these reasons, Hall keeps returning to ‘The Warrior Woman’ trope. Exhausted by the barrage of characters with personalities that reflect a victimized Disney Princess, Hall’s Warrior Women reveal the inner strength present in all feminine bodies, a strength portrayed from ghostly figures hidden amongst flowers, to bright and bold angels of death baring blades. Her representation of Warrior Women comes as a much-needed shift from the male perspective—or women in “armor” with boob windows—that typically surround the archetype.
“[women] are resilient, amazing beings. It’s unfortunate that we get delegated to being soft when we’re not. That goes for men, too. Men get delegated to being hard all the time. We have both of those. That dichotomy is in all of us.”
Hall’s models are in constant collaboration with her, as they exchange self-confidence and empowerment. But it’s not just about women being strong or badass, though they totally are. In both her professional and personal life, she explores how all humans embody both sides of strong and supple existence—“[women] are resilient, amazing beings. It’s unfortunate that we get delegated to being soft when we’re not. That goes for men, too. Men get delegated to being hard all the time. We have both of those. That dichotomy is in all of us.”
To connect her creations to warriors of the past, Hall often employs historical, or mythological stories in her work. She’s created images about the Greek Goddesses Ophelia and Circe. Today she interprets Medusa. Soon she’ll work with Justice and the corresponding Goddess of Prudence, often depicted holding a mirror with a snake wrapped around her arm. An unwavering eye on the horizon, Hall doesn’t intend on retiring her armor or camera any time soon, and for that we’re eternally grateful.