The Thousand Words: Anyã Likhitha

A picture tells a thousand words... and we are here to tell you a few more in our ongoing series A Thousand Words where we dig through the vault of talented photographers at Aperture Tours and get them to open up a little about some of their favourite images. 

Put Your Mind to Sleep

by Anyã

This photograph is titled ‘Put Your Mind To Sleep’ (2017).
Photographed by me, Anyã.
Hair & Makeup: Wong Ying Cui
Creative Direction: Anyã & Wong Ying Cui
Styling: Hoi Yao
Jewellery: Sherie (VETIVR)
Hair & Makeup Assistant: Jinghui Tan
Model: Ave Rohtla (Looque)

I am a fashion and portrait photographer - so when my team and I worked on conceptualising this, we go through the whole process of coming up with a backstory with a fully sketched out character before deciding on the aesthetics. I remembered reading Georgia Byng's Molly Moon as a little girl, and I was so attached to Molly's story. The absurdity, the blingy holographic book covers, and Molly's unusual abilities to manipulate minds and time. Eventually, we took inspiration from this character, took her abilities and made an older version of this character in our minds. We launched into elaborate discussions of what she believed in, who she loved, what she had done in life, what her future held for her - we cared so much for her, as though she was a dear friend in our own lives. For me personally, I instantly knew that I wanted the predominant colour to be blue.

“Blue is the color of longing for the distances you never arrive in, for the blue world.” — Rebecca Solnit


Orphan. Left on the footsteps of an orphanage as a baby in a box of Moon’s (brand name) candies - hence her surname. Parents never picked her to adopt her. Finds a book on hypnotism as a teenager in the local library. Learns to hypnotize people. Uses her eyes to hypnotize people. Has big, deep and profoundly intense eyes. Runs away from orphanage as a very young girl with her best friend. They explore the world together, seeking one adventure after another. She hypnotizes people to think she is the best in the world, to get what she wants. Draws power from different crystals. Uses the clear crystal to stop/ freeze time. Travels back and forth in time using red and green crystals. Can mind read.

Molly, years after walking through life, has done it all/ claimed it all. Life is dull, dreary. She can read people’s mind/ their agitations and sorrows/ can see their deepest and darkest corners. She looks at all her loved ones, the ones she found along the way in her adventures, and cannot bear to see them in this unspeakable pain. Molly observes thoughts of other people in their minds, she doesn’t just look. She is eventually filled with a deep darkness and sadness of her own. She wants to help them get rid of the pain, she thinks the way to do it is to put their mind to sleep. Euthanasia of the mind, assisted by Molly. She shuts their sorrows down (and in the process their entire self), painless killing of a person in psychological distress. Molly believes death is not permanent, and that there is a new life after death (and so she believes there is truly no life lost). Because she brings death to her loved ones, she is death herself. She has decided when life has offered them enough in this present/ current life, and she will perform the rite of passage into their next life/ past their deaths.

Molly’s inner eye, the hypnotic eye, sees the pain as a sad but beautiful thing. Molly’s outlook on death is quiet, calm and beautiful - not morbid, bleak or dark. This champions her belief of life = death, she doesn’t see death as the ending. She doesn’t think she is doing anything wrong, because she is facilitating new life. Molly calls to everybody in pain, she calls them to the dance - Molly’s Dance of Death. Life and Death of Molly Moon’s Loved Ones.

Life & Death

Death is stereotypically viewed as dangerous, dark, bleak and the end of life. I wanted to show death in a new light - softer, merrier, and as a celebration of a new beginning - a liberation of sorts. There is no life without death, and no death without life. I see life as the harsher one, filled with the intense energies of pain and sorrow. 

Inspired deeply by the wonders of Danse Macabre, I chanced upon Lübeck's Dance of Death. The image has such a huge presence, overwhelmingly so. I was captivated by the wonder of just how intense the image was, obnoxious in its own way. This was when I decided I wanted my image to be a single one, a panorama featuring Molly as she time travelled. The upside of this decision was... I couldn't wait to print a giant panorama of this. The downside to this was that it would feature poorly on social media, as well as websites where formats do not favour long panoramas. Details would be lost, and a little bit of the magic along the way. Nevertheless, I was determined this was the way to go, one way to do justice to Molly's character.

I assumed the role of art director and photographer for this shoot predominantly, the shoot came along really well with everybody's selfless and sincere contributions to the narrative. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted. What I wanted was nowhere to be found in references. I had a vision in my head that I wanted to create, I only know what I wanted to feel from it. I know what I wanted people to take away from it. After thinking for a long while, I narrowed down the look for the image to the following, a very unconventional way of storyboarding. I storyboarded emotions, more than anything else. I took inspiration from Tim Walker’s dichotomies, charming nightmares and emotions; Paolo Roversi’s stares and emotive light; Them Yeste’s use of colours. I love Tim Walker's strange ability to make the more bizarre things beautiful and charming. He makes me want to go up to something I'm afraid of, and confront it willingly. I wanted to take this enthusiasm to approach such a dark topic like death. I wanted the viewers to look at the image and feel like they were transported into another world - something magical. They knew it was a serious and solemn thought, but they still couldn't help but acknowledge the beauty in it. Paolo Roversi's ability to emote with light even in the simplest images steals my breath away. With 11 Mollys in the image, I toned down the intensity of the magic the light itself played - but took Roversi's work as the starting point. We used long stretches of silk organza to make the background - a material so beautiful and wonderful in the way it catches and sees light. This, I felt, would add a touch of otherworldliness to the image.

When I decided I wanted to use blue as a predominant part of the image, I was looking for references to execute this - technically and otherwise. I am always in awe of Txema Yeste's colour work. Anyone who knows me would tell you I love colours, and I instantly thought of him as inspiration. The more I looked at his work, the more it hit me that his work is very red. The same way the same type of blues seem to reappear in my work. Each red in his work held a different meaning, different depth, different emotions. I used this as my reference for use of blues in this image.

I planned the lighting to follow the panorama. My focal point in the panorama is the centre. Typical panoramas are usually viewed left to right (or right to left, if you use languages that follow a right to left script. The makeup and styling progress towards the center from the far corners, increasing in intensity. Consider it a yin and yang of sorts. The light source also had to be moved accordingly to show that subtle progression while keeping with the mood. There were two light sources, one backlight strobe with a snoot and a blue colour gel behind the background - facing the camera and pointed above the camera straight ahead. This light is intended to leak onto the background to give the beautiful blue you see. The main light source to light the model was placed on either side of the camera (shifted according to the visual narration) - a silver umbrella on a strobe. The use of strobes was important to freeze my subject. The camera’s position doesn’t change and every shot was taken with the same frame and later stitched together as a panorama. All images shot with a Nikon D810, Nikkor 50mm ⨍/1.4 AF-S lens. Shutter speed remains at a constant of 1/80. ISO 100 through all the images, and aperture at ⨍/5.6. 

People in general liked the fantastical and magical aspect of it. The blue proved to be calming as they viewed the image with all of what was going on, and were able to take it all in with all of it’s overwhelming details. Personally, I still love this photograph because my team and I worked really hard on endowing meaning to everything that is seen - every choice was a carefully made one and it speaks volumes. The camera documents what is put in front of it, and we are the storytellers. When crafting an image from scratch and starting from a blank canvas, it becomes even more imperative to think about why we put anything in front of the camera. 

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Photographer's Profile

NAME: Anyã Likhitha
BORN: Bangalore, India
PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE: Fashion, Beauty, Fine Art
INFLUENCES: Peter Lippmann, Nick Knight, Tim Walker, Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Yayoi Kusama, Diana Vreeland
FAVOURITE PLACE TO SHOOT: Forever in the darkness of the studio, creating something from scratch
HIGH POINT: The moment I learnt to mix strobes with continuous lighting - and what the potential possibilities of it could be
LOW POINT: Not a photography low point - but generally photography has supported me through the ups and downs of life. I’ve found photography cradles me when I hit low points in my life, and doesn’t let me sink to rock bottom. It’s the most beautiful gift life can give me!
TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIP:  What do you want to say with the photo you want to take?

TWITTER: @AyaLikhitha
INSTAGRAM: @anya.likhitha
FACEBOOK: anya.likhitha


Anyã Likhitha is is a photographer with Aperture Tours in Singapore and you can read more about her work on her personal blog.