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This final series of images (for the foreseeable future) using the ladder and the key symbolism goes out with a Biblical bang, in an image that was inspired mainly from Zack's pose and expression. His outstretched hands and impish grin in this shot started life as a corrupt, snakelike politician, basking in his victory amidst a ticker tape parade, surveying the city and its population now under his control. The city and the throng of followers proved impossible to fake, given I don't have a lot of city landscapes or stock crowds in my files, so this character became a man in black, a harbinger in the desert. I did that recently though, in an image called "Slouching Towards Bethlehem," so I wanted to get away from the bleached dull color of the desert.
One of the classic uses of a ladder as a metaphor is in Genesis, when Jacob dreams of a ladder to Heaven, or Bethel, where angels come and go to earth. This is usually represented as a stairway (hence Stairway to Heaven!) but this is the one classic use of the ladder I had not used yet, and I saw the opportunity for my ladder one last time. The devil's first appearance in the Book of Genesis is as a serpent, tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. I saw a concept forming in merging two stories, two allegories, into one image. I have my devil, I have my ladder going upward out of the frame, I have Eden in flames behind him, classic symbol of the Expulsion from Paradise. The Key is dangling from the ladder, and the ladder is occupied by a snake, symbol of temptation and evil from Genesis.
The whole concept of the devil, the prankster, the trickster, the Beast, to me, is man trying to understand his darker self, his lesser nature. We are trying to explain to ourselves how evil entered into the world, and when, and why. Here, my devil is setting up man with obstacles. He has burned paradise or innocence, and the Tree of Knowledge with the ladder to heaven, to God, is loaded with the key to unlocking the mysteries, but also the serpent to distract or block man from reaching this higher plane. In other words, the way to enlightenment is blocked by earthly temptation and darker impulses.
So when was evil introduced into the world of Man? Always. It is part of our dual nature, this capacity for great, this tendency for destruction or darkness. If you look closely at the jacket of the trickster, you'll see a little infinity symbol on the breast pocket!
This edit took a lot of time…the layers numbered 666, just kidding. About 100 in all, including each and every "berry" which were shots of apples I took recently, and placed one by one into position over some flowering tree branches I took several years ago. The sky and the field of flowers were from last October. The ladder, possibly the last time I will use it, was shot in October as well.
This edit, and all the computer freezes and torturous slowing working in Photoshop, has prompted me to purchase 8 additional gigs of Ram!
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”
Epicurus – Greek philosopher, BC 341-270
Model: Zack Barnes
Whence Cometh Evil
by Michael Bilotta
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