3 Decades and counting’ Fine Art Project: Jaina Solo

 In Memento Vivere

It’s been a long time coming, but here is the next installment in my birthday project series.  For my 30th birthday I created a list of things that inspired and defined me, and set out a challenge for myself to create a unique photograph to capture each idea.  This latest image was inspired by my love of Star Wars novels.

My tribute to Jaina on Yavin 4

Star Wars has become a huge cultural phenomenon.  But the story you know is not the one that inspired this photograph.

When I was younger I was just as much of a book fiend as I am today, even more so, perhaps, due to my free time as a child.  You see, I was lucky enough to be homeschooled, which meant that I finished my school work at my own pace, and then was free to fill the rest of my day with other things.  My mother encouraged me to try new things and pursue anything that interested me.  What interested me most in Jr. High was reading.  I devoured books and flew through every series I found.

I can’t remember how old I was when I read my first Star Wars novel.  It was after Episode I was released, so maybe 12 or 13.  We went to Disneyland for Christmas that year, my mom was great at planning fun adventures for our family in lue of tons of ‘stuff’ for Christmas.  We all still received a small gift or two on Christmas morning, and mine was a copy of I, Jedi, by Michael Stackpole.  My mom said she had no idea what she was buying, she just found a Star Wars book at the grocery store and figured I might like it because I liked the moves!  To this day, I, Jedi remains one of my favorite books.  In fact, I’ve met the author several times and have that very book signed.

After reading that first book, the Science Fiction section at the Dobson Ranch Library became my go-to spot for book hunting.  I read every Star Wars book that came in.  Eventually this led to my love of fantasy and sci-fi in general, as I hunted the shelves for anything with the ‘Star Wars’ logo on it and stumbled on Dinotopia, Earthsea, King Arthur, and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

At the time that I was consuming Star Wars novels, they were experiencing an uptick in publishing thanks to the success of the Prequel Trilogy.  This meant that I was experiencing the stories as they were being released, eagerly counting down to the on sale dates for the latest book.  Back then there wasn’t a Strict on Sale date, so I’d call my local bookstores a few days before the official release to see if they’d gotten the book early.

My favorite Characters by far were the Solo kids.  Yes, kids, plural.  In the books, Han and Leia have twins, followed by a third child they name Anakin.  Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin became like siblings to me.  I had never been emotionally invested in a fictional Character like this before.  I remember the first time I cried while reading, and it was during an especially meaningful scene in Vector Prime, the first in a long and brilliant series about an alien force taking over the Star Wars galaxy.  These books contain action, heroism, philosophical problems, you name it.

To say that I identify with Jaina, arguably the eldest of the Solo kids, wouldn’t be entirely true.  She’s a bit more pragmatic than I am, I’d like to think I’m a little bit of a dreamer where Jaina would stick with facts.  But she has siblings that she doesn’t usually see eye to eye with, parents that she admires and loves despite some head clashing, and she thinks with her head instead of her heart.  She also seemed to go through major phases of life around the same time I did, it felt like we were aging at the same rate.

Long story short, Jaina is one of my heroes.  Fictional or not.  She influenced me and inspired me as a teenager and young adult, which is why I was so devastated when Disney bought the Star Wars franchise and deemed her storyline obsolete.  So when I sat down to outline the things that defined and made me into the person I am today, Jaina was one of the first on the list.

I had the extreme pleasure of road tripping out to Imperial, CA with my incredible Second Shooter/Sister Brook and her husband Nathan last weekend.  Our mission was to explore a great new location and snap her maternity photos, but I snuck in a quick mini session as a Jedi as well.  I wasn’t trying to imitate Jaina, but rather create something that paid tribute to the books and character that so influenced me.

“I name you the Sword of the Jedi. You are like tempered steel, purposeful and razor-keen. Always you shall be in the front rank, a burning brand to your enemies, a brilliant fire to your friends. Yours is a restless life, and never shall you know peace, though you shall be blessed for the peace that you bring to others. Take comfort in the fact that, though you stand tall and alone, others take shelter in the shadow that you cast.” ―Luke Skywalker

The Glamis Sand Dunes in Imperial are stunning.  It’s actually the location where they shot the barge scenes in Return of the Jedi where Han and Luke are about to be fed to the Sarlac.  It’s pretty amazing to be there, surrounded by rolling sand dunes with the rocky hills in the distance.  We shot on a cloudy day, which obscured our sunset, but photoshop provides a way around most on-location issues.  I was able to shift the white balance and add the twin suns to my Jedi photos.  I also replaced the crude PVC pipe in my lightsaber with a pretty purple light beam, which is also a nod to Jaina’s Character.  I’ve included a few before and after shots to illustrate the work that went into post-processing on this series.

While it was not my intention to create a side job out of this idea, I am certainly intrigued by the notion of bringing other people’s passions and dreams into reality through photographs.  I’ve had a few people reach out and ask about setting up their own composite sessions, so we’ll see where this takes me!


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