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Interview with Gary Nicholls, Creator of The Imaginarium

Posted by Sian, Jan 2016. Gary Nicholl's Photography owns copyright to  photos displayed on this page.

I interviewed Gary Nicholls to find out more about his new steampunk epic, The Imaginarium: Eva's Story which will be launched at the London MCM Comic Con, May 2016.

I first met Gary at the last London Comic Con (October 2015) where I was introduced to his fine art photography which portray a steampunk inspired story about a young woman named Eva. Fine art photos with text will feature in a coffee table book, which are entirely open to the reader's interpretation.


An overview on The Imaginarium can be found here:

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Whilst I understand The Imaginarium entails several storylines, what would you say forms the central thread for the story?

Gary: Eva, as a baby is born into a workhouse where her mother dies in childbirth. A woman called Bella Donna helps deliver Eva as a baby and keeps a secret about her hidden away in a wooden box. Bella Donna’s husband, Captain Mordecai Abernathy, sells Eva to work as skivy under a cruel bordello madam. Bella Donna is a bit like Nancy, in Dicken’s Oliver Twist, whilst Captain Modercai is scheming like Bill Sykes. They receive payment for Eva working under the bordello madam.


By the age of 14-15, Eva is made to work as a prostitute and grows to become too popular for the jealous madam’s liking. The madam sets out to see to her ruin, by further exploiting Eva. Eva’s life spirals into deeper unhappiness. However, one day Dr William Stockdale meets Eva hanging out the bordello window, taking to the bottle and quinine. He sets out to save her from her life, with the help of steampunk angels, who rescue Eva from the clutches of Montague Belvoir and his harlots. In doing so the Madam's twin sister, Cassandra is killed.


When the bordello madam learns of Eva’s escape and the death of her sister, she becomes enraged and seeks the power of her mother Corvus, a steampunk witch, to transform her into an all powerful Nemesis. The Nemesis, with her extraordinary powers seeks to destroy Eva and does not want Dr William to interfere with matters at hand. The Abernathys also go after Eva as they suddenly no longer receive money for Eva working at the bordello.

The press release for The Imagianrium describes the story as neo-gothic. How is this distinguishable from the steampunk genre. 

Gary: Neo-gothic could describe a dark side to steampunk which captures people’s imagination. Generally, steampunk is not seen as a dark genre. For me, there are no limits to my imagination. To that end, if you consider that there is a box to think to think outside of, it is already too late, because imagination has no constraints.

What would you say are the most powerful magical features in your story?

Gary: The Necessitti, a device created by Dr William to help deliver Eva’s salvation, the Elvin Queen and Corvus the witch, the extraordinary power of The Nemesis, are all magical elements in the story. The Imaginarium is Dickens in style but there are lots of fairytale elements.

You have described your work as fine art photography. How would you define fine art photography?

Gary: A photographer is very different to how I work, as an artist with a camera. A photographer focuses on a subject whereas an artist with a camera treats an image as a canvas and fills this with corner to corner detail. I have used composite photoshop work for 99 of my finished images, whilst only 4 have been taken as straight out of the camera photographic images. I work by imagining the image in my mind’s eye, and then travelling wherever I need to in the world to find the locations that match the image I "see". I do not sketch anything out first, as I always "see" the image finished first.

How long does it take for you to produce each image and how do you work to keep the quality of the images consistent?

Gary: I take photographs using a Canon 5D Mark III camera with F2.82 lenses. I then use a workflow in photoshop to deliver a consistent quality. It can take between 100-350 hours to produce each fine art image.

How did you come across Peter Walton (Rabbit Hole Engineering) who you have credited for producing steampunk objects for The Imaginarium project? 

Gary: I first met Julie, who plays Eva and Laura, who plays one of the steampunk angels at The Asylum (in 2013). Peter Walton is Julie’s husband. Julie had told me that her husband made steampunk objects. I met Peter later on. He plays Dr William in the story. At first, Julie had told me that I would never get him in front of the camera!

Have you had a dedicated costume designer for the project and do you provide visionary concepts for them to work with?

Gary: Julie designs the costumes but I also leave it up to the other cast members to create their own to fit the character I have created. I provide no visionary concepts to Julie but I do tell her details about who the character is. Steampunks may have several different outfits which I can pick and choose for them to wear for the photo-shoots.

How many people have been involved from the Steampunk Community and would you say that this has positively strengthened community ties?

It has strengthened community ties. 4000 steampunks will appear in one of the pictures for the book but people often have to travel to get involved. For instance, there’s Monty who’s a steampunk wrapper from New York.
There are 65 cast members and 35 extras who feature throughout the book. The project has been supported by the Victorian Steampunk Society who organise The Asylum and support me by inviting me to take part on their stands at Comic Con. All this has helped raise the profile of steampunk. 

Where have you travelled abroad to capture photographs for The Imaginarium project?

Gary: Greece, America, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France. The scenery for the airship picture was taken in Kefolonia, in Greece.

Learn more about Steampunk and catch Gary at  the launch of The Imaginarium trilogy

The Imaginarium: Eva's Story which will be launched at MCM Comic Con, March 2016. Visit Gary's website, dedicated to The Imaginarium project for a preview of fine art images which will feature in the steampunk coffee table book. You may also be interested to read An Interview with Scarlet Butterfly. Scarlet has played as Adella Daw and as The Elven Queen in The Imaganarium trilogy. 

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