The Seven Deadly Sins and their Virtues

My initial thoughts for a project, were to construct an exhibition based around the Seven Deadly Sins. To that end I started to research the history around the Seven Deadly Sins. Initially upon researching into the Seven deadly Sins I was surprised to learn that when the Seven Sins first appeared in a work, they were noted by the 4th Century Greek monk Evagrius Ponticus, and there were in fact eight sins. There was an additinal sin to the current ones and that was Despair. Pride was noted by Ponticus to be the overarching Sin of them all. For the Catholic Church it was Pope Gregory the first, circa 6th century. who transcribed the words of Ponticus in his discussion of the book of Job.  The Seven Sins according to the Roman Catholic Canon are; Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath and Sloth. These were later given greater depth by St Thomas Aquinas. They are often referred to as the things which prevent us becoming close to God. They are often called "mortal"’ or "deadly" sins because they lead to the death of the soul,” If you commit a mortal sin and do not confess to the crime then your soul will die and you will be condemmmed to Hell for eternity. Despair was eventually merged with Sloth to  leave us with the seven Deadly Sins. 


The more I started to look at the various sins, I was struck that to create an exhibition of them would be a difficult task. Most people know the Seven Deadly Sins through thier upbringing or through meda such as film or television. In fact one of the big films of the 1990's was the film Se7en (1995). This told a fictional story of two detectives who hunted a serial killer as he embarked upon a killing spree using the Seven Deadly Sins as his motive. 

Another television programme from the 1960's that is allegedly dealing with the Seven deadly Sins was Gilligans Island. A popular commedy television show. Telling the tale of a group of castaways stuck on an island. The seven Characters all exhibited one of the sins. Certain commentators have suggested that the island was actually a representation of Hell! Although it has currency on the internet the producers have neither confirmed or denied the existence of coincidence.

The Seven Deadly Sins Incarnate?

Putting The images together

The type of work I really enjoy are constructed images. Where the photographer takes control of everything. One of the most notable photographers at moment would be Gregory Crewdson.  He takes control of everything from lighting to the position of everything within the image. his crew list reads like a film set, with Joiners and electricians working side by side with make-up artists and lighting technicians. His most recent exhibition An Eclipse of Moths, used a crew of over 100 people. His production techniques are legendary in that nothing is left to chance. It is all constructed for the image. 

The Cobra G Crewdson 2018-2019

Alone Street G Crewdson 2018-2019

For me however, the Photographer at the top of the tree for staged photography is Sails Chong. He is a Chinese photographer. he studied fashion and art and he works with a large crew to produce images that are outstanding in every way. He utilises photoshop to bring a contemporary feel to his work, ensuring that the products he advertises are shown to maximum effect. 

Sails also produces videos of shoots that he embarks upon, showing the viewer the work that goes into his images but also the need for technical excellence. One of his videos on You tube is one I watch on a regular basis, as I always seem to find something else I have missed previously.

Sails Chong


One of the painters I admire is the work of William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) La Rochelle, France. Along with Alexandre Cabanel,  Bouguereau was the most influential upholder of the conservative values of French academic art in his day. His paintings stress those values: precise drawing, contour, and finish, along with strict adherence to the rules of anatomy, perspective, academic modeling, and physiognomic expression in which internal character is revealed by outward appearance. An heir of Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Bouguereau's subjects included Classical, mythological, allegorical, or Orientalist themes, as well as contemporary history. Most of his works were popularly known through engravings. From 1843 to 1850, Bouguereau studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, winning the Prix de Rome in 1850. When he returned from Rome, Bouguereau decorated several great houses, drawing his inspiration from the frescoes at Pompeii and Herculaneum. He was awarded a medal of honor at the Paris exhibition of 1878 and in the 1885 Salon. Bouguereau's academic renderings were highly regarded by many of his contemporaries, but they were exactly what the Impressionists rebelled against. When Pierre-Auguste Renoir was being fitted with new glasses to correct his myopia, he threw the spectacles on the floor, crying: Bon Dieu, je vois comme Bouguereau!("Good God, I see like Bouguereau!")


The First Mourning

Bourgereau also produced a work illustrating Dante and Virgil in Hell. In hois work The Divine Comedy, Dante and Virgil travel through the circles of Hell together where the sinners are left to their fate. The punishment in Hell reflecting the misdemeanours the dammed are convicted of. It is interesting to note that Dante's vision of Hell heavily influenced christian thinking with regard to Hell and punishment.

Dante and Virgil


The next artist I am familiar with is that of Rembrandt. Having been to Amsterdam on numerous occasions, I have visited the Rijksmuseum several times. Obviously there is a whole floor devoted to the works of Rembrandt in cluding the Nightwatch painting. 

The first thing you notice about the piciture is it's size. It literally is huge. It is approximately 12 feet by 15 feet. It dominates everything around it. The next thing you notice is how the artist has painted in light into the picture, which gives dramatic effect right accross the image. In fact there is a term within photography called "Rembrandt Lighting" where light and shadow are as important as each other. 

There are a significant number of different characters portrayed in the painting and with the use of light it gives an impression of movement within the picture, some of the characters at the back are almost in their world out of the spotlight. The painting though is an example of the constructed image. 

The Night Watch

The Virtue of Sin

As I began to think about how I would create these seven Tableaux that I was interested in creating, I began to think how I could make my work stand out a little. A conversation with a friend who has a daughter who is six, left me thinking that rather than concentrate on the Seven deadly Sins I could also perhaps counterbalance the exhibition by reproducing the seven virtues. 

I quickly decided that I could create a series of Tableaux that would represent both Sin and Virtue. However what I woud then do would be to introduce my friend and her daughter into each Tableaux. The mother being tempted by the Sins or the Virtues. the child would then appear almost to act as the soul of the mother at each point the temptation pulling the child as well, will the child try to pull the mother from danger? Would the child in her innocence be aware? 

The Seven Virtues were adopted by the early Christian faith as the antidote to sin. Following them set you on the path tp a place in heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) defines virtue as "a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. Traditionally, the seven Christian virtues are prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope, and charity. These were adopted by the Church Fathers as the seven virtues. Although it is worth noting that these are virtues taken from different parts of the Roman Catholic Canon. Some are Theological some are Cardinal. It is beyond the remit of this shoot to explore the differences, that is for theologians not photographers.

The actual concept appears to derive from a poem by the Poet Prudentius, it is named Psychomachia, it describes the conflict of vices and virtues as a battle in the style of Virgil's Aeneid. Christian faith is attacked by and defeats pagan idolatry to be cheered by a thousand Christian martyrs. The work was extremely popular, and survives in many medieval manuscripts, many of them illustrated. It may be the subject of wall paintings in the churches at Claverley, Shropshire, and at Pyrford, Surrey, both in England. The word may be used more generally for the common theme of the "battle between good and evil." 

Having thought about the idea. I set about sketching and thinking ideas for each scene out. The viewer would be able to walk  through a corridoor with the paintings either side, then leaving a final image for a photgraph of the child and the mother looking back. I had a discussion with The Dean of St Asaph Cathedral the Very Reverend Nigel Williams, about whether ity would be possible to hold an exhibition at the end of the course within the Cathedral. He was very supportive of the idea. 

The next issue to consider was where to shoot the images, and what resources would I need? I made contact with a photography group in Manchester who use a disused Mansion at times for shoots, but part of it wasn't overly safe to use, especially if there are children in the scenes. I then contacted Woolton Hall on the Wirral. This is another disused Great house.

Woolton Hall Stock image Liverpool Echo undated

Woolton Hall

Woolton Hall is a former country house located in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool, England. Built in 1704 and extensively renovated in 1772 by the influential architect Robert Adam the building is praised as the finest example of Robert Adam's work in Northern England. Throughout its 300-year history the building has been the residence of a number of notable figures, including the Earl of Sefton and Liverpool shipowner Frederick Richards Leyland. During the later part of the 20th century the building went through a number of uses eventually becoming a school in the 1950s and later being abandoned with plans for its demolition. A campaign against its destruction was successful and the hall is now a Grade I listed building.    (Wikipedia  accessed 11 November 2020)

The house is now loked after by a cartetaker who actually lived in the house as a child. Although the property is faded it is beautiful in it's dereliction in parts. There is a charm to it. One of the groups I loosely belong to, often organise shoots there for Photographers and models. It s a marvelous site with lots of photo opportunities. 

Woolton Hall

Woolton Hall

Woolton Hall

Woolton Hall

I met with the caretaker to discuss using Woolton Hall as a backdrop for my images. I discussed the whole idea with him and he advised that he was happy to put it to the trustees and that it would not be an issue. My plan revolves around using different rooms for different scenes, using the child peering in at the characters, as noted this is about her reaction as much as the actual images themselves. 

Due to the sheer size of the building, I will need to use additional strobes for lighting. I have a full range of bowens studio strobes that can be powered off batteries, so I have enough lighting. I am thinking of various scenes being cropped in quite closely, so the characters will appear out of the darkness, As an example of this, I shot this image using one flash through a softbox.

I will be looking to add drama to each image. I want them to veer between stripped back drama and oppulance, as it would befitting for the property.

Henry Peach Robinson Fading away 1858

Welsh Firebreak 23 October 2020

It would appear that the Welsh assembly have imposed a new lockdown in Wales, this is likely to lead to a further lockdown. Englands figures for Covid infections are going up very quickly, it is likely to also move to a full lockdown.

Lockdown 2

The Governments of the UK have now come together to reintroduce alockdown along the same lines as the previous one. This means that there is no chance of being able to produce this work.