If Tim Burton (think Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Planet of the Apes...) were to be a woman, he would be Christine McConnell — a 32-year-old Los Angeles-based photographer, stylist and baker. Except that the latter's works parade not only her love for Gothic, but brilliantly combine it with the 50's era chic (she has a penchant for full-skirts and square necklines) laced with humour.
McConnell's fans across the globe (110,532 followers on Instagram alone) are "horrified and fascinated" by each one of her period-style photographs and Gothic sugary creations; nonetheless, they always come back for more. Be it the Alien waffle cones or Party with the wolves, the creations are arresting.
McConnell started baking as a teenager, but really "only got super creative with it in the last two years." She's a self-taught baker. "I learnt it by watching YouTube videos," she says. "It's amazing how much you can improve in a short period of time if you try." She first baked sugar cookies, "Nothing too exciting," she conveys, "but it was fun.
Photography came later, and I think the first thing I ever photographed was a friend who was very pretty." Her fascination for aesthetics — "and also Tim Burton" — inspires her creations. Her photographic works have appeared in magazines, billboards and national advertising campaigns in the US.
|Alien waffle cone|
Growing up in Southern California, McConnell says she's always been artistic and "for the most part introverted". She grew up with her two brothers and many pets in a 150-year-old house that needed a lot of renovation. "That's how I spent most of my childhood — playing with cats, shading old floors and painting."
She explains: "Growing up in an old house and my mother's love of the past combined rubbed off and sort of created the aesthetic I've become known for. I like Gothic things and it seemed like a fun, creative thing to do."
She has been doing various forms of art for years and found photography an amazing way to share and document what she was doing — whether it was painting, baking cookies or a room that she had re-decorated.
"I'd say I'm a visual artist. I'm moved and inspired by the way things appear and can be manipulated. I believe you sort of have the power to make your world whatever you want it to be and I like mine to be beautiful with a hint of creepiness," says McConnell about her creations.
Sometimes she sketches an idea beforehand and sometimes she just starts and sees where her creativity takes her. "There's really no rhyme or reason and my kitchen is usually a disaster when I'm done," she says.
Her favourite sugary creation, she says, is the "face hugger from Alien. It was difficult, but I love the finished images very much." Her most challenging creation so far: "I baked a cake of my parents' house and it was incredibly detailed. It took about a week!"
In all the photographs, almost everything in the frame is usually baked, frosted, stitched, styled, created, conceptualised, arranged and photographed by McConnell. And the models (yes, sometimes there are more than one in a picture) are all McConnell too. "I use a timer in the camera," reveals this one-woman creative army.
Executing a single idea of McConnell's can be time consuming. Most of them are a result of her passion and not commission. "I have a new idea almost every other minute and I hope I never lose the energy to keep learning and trying new stuff," she says. There's no danger of that happening since she is having so much fun doing what she's doing. After all, isn't creativity intelligence having fun?