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siren swamp Scarlett Carlos Clarke
Photography Scarlett Carlos Clarke

These photos play on the seductive power of the mythological siren

Set in a misty and mercurial swamp, photographer Scarlett Carlos Clarke and make-up artist Grace Ellington team up on a sensual shoot that will tempt and hypnotise you

Sirens have been tempting men for thousands of years with their seductive songs and hypnotising eyes. They lured sailors into the depths in the Odyssey, were drowned out by Orpheus’s enchanting music while he sailed with Jason and the Argonauts, and charmed sleeping travellers in Dante’s Divine Comedy. More recently, sirens have mesmerised the beauty world, influencing many of the most popular trends of the last year, from the sultry siren eye make-up to the dark mermaid trend that was all over the SS23 runways.

It was the hypnotising temptation of the sirens, as well as other folklore mythology, that Scarlett Carlos Clarke and Grace Ellington wanted to capture in their new shoot where models are transformed into swampy siren creatures. “I’m super inspired by Irish folklore and their traditions of sirens, faeries and this whole ecosystem of morally neutral creatures that live in the same world as we do,” says Ellington, who created the make-up looks for the shoot.

Wet and slippery, photographed amongst the verdant greenery of a mossy swamp, these mercurial creatures bathe in dark pools in the hazy moonlight. Ophelia meets the creature from the black lagoon. “It’s this mixture of something quite serene and picturesque with something a lot darker and more earthy,” says Ellington. This atmosphere of heightened nature also influenced the make-up looks, which she wanted to feel very sensual with “undefined edges and blurring colours” that would both stand out from and belong with the environment.

“All the models had a slightly different personality. Zenobia is ethereal and watery, Lara has a darker, more seductive feel whilst Mimi and Roxy feel kind of impish,” says Ellington, who also drew inspiration from Maxine in Ti West’s X, an illustrated book of Irish folklore in her possession and a Devon Aoki shoot for Vogue Paris March 2000 by Satoshi Saikusa.

This is the second collaboration between Ellington and Carlos Clarke, who previously teamed up on a Vegas shoot that celebrated the trashy glamour of sweaty, post-show make-up. While the setting and the characters might be worlds apart, there’s a sensuality and fascination with a feminine darkness that is shared between the two shoots and a desire to flesh out what Ellington describes as “realised worlds” for the characters to live in. When it comes to the misty, seductive world of the sirens, many would quite happily go to their watery graves if these were the guides leading us down into the depths.

Photography Scarlett Carlos Clarke, make-up Grace Ellington using Byredo, set design Penny Mills, styling Lola Chatterton, hair Hiroki Kojima using Orbie, nails Sasha Goddard, models Mimi DeyZenobia, RoxyLara McGrath.