Arbour by Dylan Collard, Kay Sexton and Lucy Stephens
This is a typograph from the Photo Stories exhibition, which launched at Saatchi & Saatchi on Thursday 26th May. For more information on how to see the free exhibition, go to nftuphotostories.tumblr.com. To buy limited edition prints go to photostories.myshopify.com.
Sylvia’s life began to change as soon as she bought a weekend hideaway on the edge of the Forest of Dean. She’d known she needed peace, quiet and contact with nature because she was close to burn-out and full of Hollywood paranoia. A woodland retreat seemed a perfect solution.
It worked. She won the role of Grace in “The Woodlanders”, after giving what the director described as a ‘surprisingly pliant’ audition for such an established star. The new part would break a movie drought that had existed since she’d stopped being a teen sensation and become just another young actress in the film industry. Knowing it was her last best chance, even though she was still in her twenties, she threw herself into the character.
Paradoxically, her boyfriend Max complained that she’d become wooden in bed and—after he’d spent several weekends mooching around the cottage, complaining that the forest was claustrophobic—he left.
She focused on learning her lines, barely noticing he’d gone. While the cottage was annoyingly quiet without him, the woods were filled with endless sound, especially at night when branches played pastoral lullabies and the feet of night creatures choreographed a gentle ballet over the soft forest floor.
Sylvia paced the woodland margin, rehearsing Grace’s speeches: “There is a surgeon lately come, and I have heard that he reads a great deal—I see his light sometimes through the trees late at night.” When she looked up, she would indeed see pale lights through the trees: glow-worms perhaps, although they sometimes looked like distant eyes.
Then her green tea began to reconstitute as soon as she lifted the cup: fragments of leaf coalescing together, chrysanthemum buds bursting into bloom. When her coffee re-formed into beans in hot milky water, she sought expert advice on her mental state.
A Harley Street psychiatrist—familiar with film star neuroses—gave her mild sleeping tablets and a rehab appointment for the following week.
That night, late back from London, she couldn’t sleep despite the pills and wandered into the woodland. Standing in its cool depths she knew she had come home: she was a dryad, a wood nymph, a creature of the forest.
Instead of rehab she called a press conference to announce her new role as guardian of the trees. Her Personal Assistant found a suitable glade for the media launch: Sky, Fox and CNN all sent teams to cover the story and Sylvia prepared for the performance of her life.
Early on the decisive morning—as she checked out final arrangements and brushed filigree spider webs from the rows of chairs set out for the journalists—she felt the trees embracing her.
“I’m doing this for you,” she said, breathing in their green aroma.
“Daughter, we don’t need you to do anything but join us,” they murmured, closing their branches around her.
The PA searched everywhere, but in the end the film crews departed with only the story of Sylvia’s peculiar disappearance and footage of an empty woodland clearing.
Sometimes, when the sun warms the glade, you believe you can smell her perfume on the breeze.