Seven Stories…
Gretchen Heinel

Photographer: Gretchen Heinel
Based in: New York, NY


This photograph was taken in February 2013. I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, consider myself a fashion photographer. However, I do like to work with clothing and accessory designers, and often I’ll get inspiration for an entire shoot just from looking at one particularly unique bit of wearable art. In the case of this shoot, the bird wing wrist cuffs were that bit of inspiration. I put together a shoot based on ritual and evocation and levitating spirits. Since I shoot film and don’t know a whole lot about post-processing, I had to rely on practical effects in order to have our spirit/demon/angel/creature levitate convincingly. I collaborated with hook suspension artist Miss Gisella Rose (pictured), so that the issue of suspending an individual off the ground wasn’t so much an obstacle to overcome as a chance to add another layer of depth and dreaminess to the shoot. In this photo, there’s a little snow on the ground – Gisella is such a trooper, she was hanging up there for approximately 40 minutes in freezing weather, completely nude. I love that lady.



I took this photograph in August 2011. I had just started photography that Spring, and had acquired a roll of color infrared film along the way. I set up a shoot specifically with the purpose of using that roll, and I completely went over-board in the planning process. I scheduled four models to show up, even though, before that day, I had never worked with more than two at a time. I was completely overwhelmed, and most of the photos didn’t turn out all that well (I forgot to account for how much infrared light bounces around in the shade under trees), but I do rather like this photo, the colors are weird. It was taken in a stairwell at an abandoned farm colony (which I think functioned something like a debtor’s prison). I’ve got a few more rolls of color infrared that I really should take out and shoot sometime…it’s gotta be for juuuust the right idea, though, that film was discontinued years ago.


I was contacted in early 2013 by an older couple who are mummification fetishists. Prior to their email, I actually didn’t know that such a fetish existed– it makes total sense, but I hadn’t really been exposed to that sort of bondage before. Since this decrepit estate was about equidistant between where they lived and where I am located, we agreed to meet and shoot there. We didn’t account for how cold it was going to be, so the shoot didn’t last very long, but I still got a few shots I really loved. It was rather interesting getting a mummified individual onto a window ledge, considering that if we had pushed too hard, he would’ve fallen approximately 15 feet onto some rusty metal pipes and thorn bushes…


One of the few self-portraits I’ve done. It was a really great learning experience, one that’s left me with a few scars. I was running around post-blizzard in a homemade latex and cheesecloth skull-cap/thing, wearing this crown of red branches. I had sliced up my torso pretty good with a scalpel, and I was smearing the blood on my face and stomach. It was a pretty self-indulgent shoot done at a time when I was feeling a lot of complex pain and frustration, both on a personal level and an artistic level (but I’ll only talk about the artistic level). I had wanted to move towards more visceral, raw, sacrificial work for a long while, but it’s tough to find models willing to literally bleed for your art. It’s an intimate, intense thing, and it didn’t feel like a fair thing for me to ask of someone. For reasons of both artistic and personal integrity, I’d rather have someone truly want to share with me, rather than feel as though I’m forcing them to do something they’re not comfortable with. So I figured that, until I could find such people, I might as well do some self-exploration in front of the lens. I was lucky enough to have a friend assist me and make sure I didn’t die of hypothermia or blood loss.


This photo was taken at my absolute favorite location, an abandoned power plant just north of NYC. Alas, it’s no longer abandoned and is being converted into a hotel…or something…Compared to some of the other stories, I guess there isn’t anything all that crazy that happened that day. I just really like it. I took it in early October, 2011. My good friend Danielle Hills of Gilding Primal Instinct ( came along and lent a necklace she had created out of little blood-sugar testing needles (at least, I think that’s what they were). Everyone on-set that day who had a fear of heights quickly got over it, as we were climbing some questionable-looking rusty stairs to get to where we took this shot.


This photo was taken during out near San Francisco. My ex-partner and I organized for 5 models to show up, we were both taking pictures, I hopped in front of the lens for some of the photos, it was a real blast. That is, until we got caught by the park rangers. Fortunately we were caught as we were packing up to leave, so by that point almost everyone had gotten their clothing on (myself being one of the exceptions, go figure). Surprisingly this has been my only real brush with the law, none of the urban exploration has gotten me into trouble (thus far…). But anyway, the people I worked with on this shoot were all truly creative and wonderful individuals, I hope I get a chance to visit and work with them again.


Another photo taken at my favorite location, the abandoned power plant. I think this photo is a better storyteller than I am, so I’ll remain pretty quiet on this one.

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The Author



Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation webzine and clothing alongside her husband Sean.

1 Comment

  1. Danisthebastard
    December 6, 2013 at 11:24 am — Reply

    Thanks for sharing your photos and stories that go along with them.

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