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Alice Kiss - Crux Legend

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Well I'm here looking through an old picture frame,
Just waiting for the perfect view.
I hope something special will step into my life,
Another fine edition of you,
A pin-up done in shades of blue.

Sometimes you find a yearning for the quiet life,
The country air and all of its joys.
But badgers couldn't compensate at twice the price
For just another night with the boys, oh yeah,
And boys will be boys, will be boys.

They say love's a gamble, hard to win, easy lose,
And while the sun shines you'd better make hay.
So if life is your table and fate is the wheel,
Then let the chips fall where they may,
In modern times the modern way.

And as I was drifting past the Lorelei
I heard those slinky sirens wail - whooo!
So look out sailor when you hear them croon,
You'll never be the same again, oh no -
Their crazy music drives you insane - this way.

So love, leave me, do what you will -
Who knows what tomorrow might bring?
Learn from your mistakes is my only advice
And 'stay cool' is still the main rule.
Don't play yourself for a fool,
Too much cheesecake too soon.
Old money's better than new,
No mention in the latest Tribune
And don't let this happen to you.

('Editions Of You' by Roxy Music 1973)

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Happy Birthday Alice

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'If life is your table and fate is the wheel,
Then let the chips fall where they may.'

Ten years ago, on 20 June 2007, two young women entered a forest somewhere in Russia. They were accompanied by a small film crew. In an afternoon this team produced a film and photoshoot which have become legendary in the world of crux. As directed, the two women were crucified, naked upon trees. The occasion was an isolated opportunity for the cameras and one of the girls never repeated the performance.

The video 'Alice and Koshka in the Crux Forrest' and its accompanying photoshoot must surely represent one of the best known crux sequences ever filmed, and there can be few crux fans who have never seen at least some stills or video clips. Makar's images of Alice have inspired widespread comment and a veritable genre of photo manipulation throughout the ensuing decade. As a manipulation artist who has used her extensively myself, I have often wondered about the qualities which make her so memorable, alluring, endearing and enduring.

How is it that following a single shoot, a nineteen-year-old girl, who never appears in another bondage set ever again, achieves lasting fame and an international fetish scene reputation as a BDSM porn star? What mysterious qualities make Alice Kiss the adored and respected crux girl she remains ten years later?

I can only speculate on the answers. Alice pursued a nude modelling career which kept her in the limelight. I believe Koshka made an additional indoor shoot for Cruxdreams, in the guise of 'Cleopatra'. Tragically, Makar suffered a fatal heart attack on 3 September 2011 at the age of 43. Sadly, I never had the opportunity to correspond with him. His direction of the shoot certainly contributed to the magic which the results still convey today. A DeviantArt comment on 7 September 2007, informed him, 'You're either a terrific director, your models are very skilled or they are emotionally engaged in the process. Or all of the above. Excellent work.' ImageMaker has kindly expressed his support for this thread, and I am sure we would love to hear his recollections of that day in the forest.

Today is 13 May - Happy Birthday Alice! According to her Metart profile, she is 29 today. We're going to celebrate with a thread in which all Makar models and their manipulations are welcome. Let us make the journey to explore the question, what does it take to be a contender for the MMMM Award - the Most Manipulated Makar Model?

Starting with some portraits, in my opinion the most intense and expressive images of Alice are Makar's. The monochrome photograph at #1 was taken at 12.43 pm on 20 June 2007, using a Canon EOS 10D digital camera and is entitled, 'Why Me?' It is Makar's most popular picture on DeviantArt. In the last decade it has attracted 18,432 views, 991 downloads, 529 favourites in members' collections and 38 comments (including enquiries about the identity of the model) - in all respects exceeding the statistics of any other picture of the 328 in his gallery.

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DeviantArt comments invited comparisons with actresses Emma Watson and, perhaps more plausibly, Danica McKellar. ImageMaker's comment, summarising #2, 'Why Me? - 2' was the single word, 'Круто' ('Cool').

#7 and #8 appear to be screenshots, which accounts for their reduced quality. The last two pictures demonstrate the enduring popularity of Alice in crux art - the Makar original colour version of 'Why Me?' at #9 and a recent filtered detail by Jollyrei at #10, separated by ten years. Jollyrei's interpretation employs a colour exclusion filter to enhance the blue-green values of the original.

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'A pin-up done in shades of blue.'

Makar's DeviantArt gallery, which he opened in 2007, is just part of his legacy. http://makar013.deviantart.com/

This collection remains popular today, the statistics showing 1,178,664 picture views to date - a current average of 308 picture views every day with 5 favourites being added to members' collections daily. Visitor numbers over the last month average 29 daily. For a gallery which received its last submission on 26 July 2011, the figures speak volumes.

Alice's first appearance on Deviantart was in Makar's candid behind the scenes rear view, entitled, 'Contemplation of Crucifixion'. This was taken at 2.29 pm on 20 June 2007 and Makar submitted the monochrome version to his gallery the same day. Alice is identifiable from the Chinese tattoo on her lower back, visible between the tight jeans and T-shirt. She sits, between shoots, cigarette in hand, observing Koshka on the cross, her svelte form accentuated by the vertebrae showing through her top. Makar observed that this was the only picture he had of Alice with clothes on. It may be the only one of her on the Internet in which she was unaware of the camera.

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Some more pictures from the Makar-ImageMaker Cruxdreams set, which established Alice's reputation as an icon in crux photography and subsequently in manipulations. ImageMaker states that during the film shoot Alice mounted the cross several times, her longest endurance being fifteen minutes.

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'Another fine edition of you.'

Birthday Girl.

Some more portrait views, this time from an indoor shoot. It seems that Alice was required to smoulder against the neutral if uninspiring background in this series. But in my view, it is her relaxed, off-guard moments which have produced the best pictures on this occasion.

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'No mention in the latest Tribune.'

Who is Alice Kiss? A diminutive 5'4" Russian girl, allegedly with a remarkable 33"-23"-33" figure, grey-green eyes, brown hair, a navel piercing and Chinese tattoos on her left shoulder blade and lower back. We will probably never know her real name or anything much else about her. That's fine. She gave crux fans her best ever performance and we owe it to her to respect her privacy. Makar referred to her as 'Olga', which might be her real name, although it was also the name she used when modelling for Amour Angels.

She worked for a variety of studios under a bewildering array of different names. The full list includes, 'Alice', 'Alice B', 'Alis', 'Lara', 'Marina', 'Olga', 'Olga Kazakova', 'Olya' and 'Ondine', although these are aliases which were also used by numerous other models. 'Olga Kazakova' is also the name of a Russian actress as well as a photographer, and Alice does not appear to have used it with the major studios. 'Lara' was the name she used exclusively with MPL Studios and 'Ondine' was used for shoots with Femjoy.

Giving nothing away, her MPL profile projects the following persona - 'Stoic and understated, Lara's style is difficult to describe. It's both melancholic and emotive. She holds much in, but in her eyes, there's a vulnerability you can't miss. What's Lara really like? She's edgy. She's guarded. She remains a mystery to us all.'

Most of the studios presented her as 'Alice Kiss', including Metart, Met Models, The Life Erotic, Erotic Beauty and Rylskyart, and this is the name by which she is best known. But to us she will always be Alice, a girl with a secure place in our crux wonderland and in our affections. 'Alice' was the name she used for Cruxdreams - her work with Makar and ImageMaker. I like the fact that she is mysterious, enigmatic and inspirational - it all adds to her allure.

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'Too much cheesecake too soon.'

From the age of 19, Alice featured regularly in nude photoshoots, published between 2007 and 2012 by the following studios:- Just Teen Site, Domai, Amour Angels, Femjoy, Rylskyart, Metart, Met Models, MPL Studios, Erotic Beauty and The Life Erotic. Some of the earlier shoots were published as late as 2014. It is plausible that Makar first discovered Alice through her early work with Metart or one of the other studios contracting with her Moscow-based agent, Fotokritik (fotokritik.ru). Four years later Makar recalled, 'Yes, she was very busy modelling for various sites but I don't think she'll ever forget one session for Cruxdreams.'

It appears that many of the studios were connected and shared models and photographers in common, Met Models and Erotic Beauty being trade names for the same studio. Rylsky photographed Alice (predominantly indoors) for several studios including Metart, Met Models, Erotic Beauty and The Life Erotic in addition to Rylskyart.

Photographers like Alexey Bessarab (for Domai) and Peter Chupurov (for Amour Angels) generally obtained excellent results working outdoors in conditions which highlighted Alice's natural beauty and encouraged her to pose in a relaxed way. The outdoor Femjoy shoots were also notably successful in this respect.

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'So love, leave me, do what you will.'

Whilst Alice's indoor studio shoots did sometimes produce very beautiful images, in my opinion many of them were spoiled by the unnecessary requirement to wear bizarre costumes and excessive make-up. This was in addition to the use of unflattering, harsh lighting and shooting directions which included requiring the model to splash around in an inch of water on a wet floor. Alice's expressions reflect the tedium of shoots in which she must have felt ridiculous and she appears much happier posing nude outdoors in attractive natural surroundings.

Some covers from Metart and Rylskyart, including intimate lesbian-themed shoots featuring Alice and Freya.

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'Sometimes you find a yearning for the quiet life,
The country air and all of its joys.'

Peter Chupurov's riverside shoot for Amour Angels produced two similar photo series entitled 'Wild Coast' (published in 2007) and 'Calmness' (published three years later in 2010.) These are notable for the low, soft, natural lighting - sometimes Chupurov resorted additionally to infill or flash lighting. In the pictures, it looks like a cool evening - Alice ('Olga') huddles in a cotton floral print dress, sitting on a blanket spread on the grass.

Some portraits from that session are contrasted here with my recent 'Ecce Femina' manipulation. As usual in my manipulations, it is all genuinely Alice, the hair and shoulders being taken from a separate photograph of her. This required only six layers in Photoshop with the finishing details, bloodstains and blending completed in Windows Paint.

The interval between the publication of 'Wild Coast' and 'Ecce Femina' is some ten years, but as Alice continues to inspire fresh manipulations, the images are timeless.

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'Don't play yourself for a fool.'

I have identified between 50 and 60 photoshoots by Alice, although there are probably many more, including unpublished work. Additionally she featured in a small number of videos. Whilst enjoying a high profile in solo modelling she also made a number of intimate shoots with other females which placed her in the lesbian genre. Model reference sites tend to classify her work as 'glamour' and 'lez'.

In the duo sets, Alice was usually paired with another model of similar physique, such as Freya. These artistically posed, playful sessions often develop strong sexual overtones. The studios were dedicated to the erotic female nude and, as far as I know, Alice never posed with a male model. The Cruxdreams shoot was her only flirtation with bondage, which makes it remarkable in the wider context of her modelling career.

I think it is to her credit that Alice did not take herself too seriously. Some of her shoots are of variable quality in terms of the themes and lighting employed, and sometimes the published results are frankly disappointing. She seems to have formed good working relationships with her regular photographers, such as Rylsky, and her moments of humour are revealing in presenting a refreshing if bizarre contrast with the evident tedium of posing repeatedly in the nude.

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'Who knows what tomorrow might bring?'

According to information provided by Metart Studios, Alice pursued a modelling career to fund her university studies. She seems to have been an ambitious undergraduate, studying history and classical music as well as listing rock and folk music among her interests together with psychology. Whilst this possibly hints at aspirations to a career in music therapy, it is entirely likely that she fully understood the visual appeal of her own sexuality as well as the erotic appeal of nude bondage in re-enacting a historical crucifixion.

As a slim, 5'4" lightweight, she was able to perform feats of athletic endurance on the cross which arguably set the standard for many other crux performers. Along with her gymnastic abilities, her facial expressions in the crux shoot reflect a dedicated artiste pushing the pain barrier, all of which makes her one of the most convincing and memorable women to have hung on a cross for the purpose of thrilling an audience.

Such is the appeal of Alice, and I wonder if she could ever have surpassed her Cruxdreams performance had she taken the opportunity to repeat it. When asked in June 2011 if this was likely, Makar responded, 'Who knows? But I haven't heard from her for a few years.' Meanwhile Apostate had already proposed a sympathetic and credible reason for declining such an encore - 'Probably because it hurts like hell to hang from Makar's cross. For many models, however much they appeal to us, once is enough.'

Having made such a phenomenal impact, her subsequent nude modelling almost pales into insignificance in comparison. Whatever poses she struck for the camera afterwards, she was always the girl who hung on a cross for Makar. The sheer quantity of crux photo manipulations produced over a period of ten years, which feature Alice, are a tribute to her outstanding success in this role.

Makar originals with manips by Damian (#2, #9) Julie & Melissa (#3, #6, #7) and Jollyrei (#4.) Damian has employed Alice in several manips, referring to her affectionately as, 'this skinny little thing the late great Makar snapped and I have used in many pictures.' Julie & Melissa show both Alice and Koshka together in #6. In the dramatic sepiatone multiple crucifixion at #7, Alice appears with Makar models Oxana and Jane plus a Falco figure. Damian retains Makar's cross and ropes whilst the other manipulators sometimes substitute timber and nails. Note how Alice's stretch reveals her rib cage - tension in suspension!

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'Learn from your mistakes is my only advice.'

Damian is a professional photo-manipulator who has expressed his full support for this thread and generously provided samples of his work from DOFantasy. Obviously these should not be distributed beyond the confines of Crux Forums. Recognised as a master of crux photo manipulation, he subjects his work to continual refinement and welcomes feedback in his quest for perfection, explaining, 'I value critical input as it helps me to correct some things I haven't done so well and to go in new directions.'

Damian and Makar met on a couple of occasions in Athens, when Makar was en route to his rented accommodation in Crete. They formed a successful collaboration in which the manipulations of Cruxdreams models received Makar's approval. Referring to Alice, Damian says, 'I have used her in a number of pics and always thought she is one of the best.'

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Of photo-manipulation in general, he observes, 'It's not so much how many images you use but to find the right ones, with suitable lighting and perspective to fit the scenes, I often spend more time looking for the right material than actually doing them.' I think many manipulators would tend to agree with his assessment. His use of source material is notable for the composite treatment of figures, subtle alterations to poses, faces and features providing endless scope for originality.

Consequently there are sometimes significant variations between Damian's reworked figures and the Makar originals, which can make precise identification of the sources almost impossible. Meanwhile, the complexity of the process is disguised by the fact that Alice retains her natural appearance and remains consistently recognisable in the new artwork. The basic component principle is crudely demonstrated here with approximate source material in each case for the manipulations shown above.

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'And 'stay cool' is still the main rule.'

Most Manipulated Makar Model?

I have started out on this thread to acknowledge Alice in terms of the little we know about her as a real person. The Alice we love to see repeatedly in our crux artwork is, of course, a fantasy. But part of the appeal of the fantasy Alice is the knowledge that she was crucified in reality, and this contributes to the convincing realism of the photo manipulations which employ her poses from Makar's pictures.

I have been unable to identify these dramatic albeit unsigned BATS/crux manips - can anybody identify the artist, please? Each of these employs a trio of Makar models including Alice, on the left in both pictures. The second one is entitled, 'Pompeii'. Incidentally, I would also be grateful for corrections to any errors in this thread.

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Another Makar original provides the source for some manips by Madiosi. His illustration of the Spartacus Rebellion aftermath, 'Via Appia with Crucified Girls', features crux girls Alice, Mila (Cruxdreams) and Susie Q (Insex.) A prolific manipulator, as well as keeping the Crucifixion Manipulation Cut-outs Kit (CMCK) updated as a resource, Madiosi's invaluable work provides illustrations and book covers for members' stories and undertakes their publication as e-Books, which can be found in the forum library.

His cover pictures for 'Game Day' and 'The Competition' both employ the same crux group, showing Alice (left) with Makar models Christina and Lena flanking Orchid's Nadya. 'The Story of Jessica Christ' shows Makar models Alice and Julia (left and centre) with a manipulated Damian figure. Madiosi has used the same figures again in the Rainbow picture. Julia retains Makar's rope fixings whereas Madiosi changes them for nails on Alice and other models.

The untitled mountain top scene features five Makar models. Koshka takes centre stage and Alice thrusts out on the far right. Kira hangs in the distance between them. The contemporary figure of the executioner, wearing a baseball cap, sits in the foreground, surveying his handiwork. He brings a disturbingly casual and modern tone to the proceedings. Other figures wander about the scene like souvenir hunters looking for rusty nails. The contrast between extensive suffering and vast scenic splendour is poignant.

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'And don't let this happen to you.'

On 1 March 2015 at the Crux Foundation Cypher posted a picture entitled 'Ruins, Alice Kiss, crux, ravens and blood'. This title is remarkable for acknowledging Alice's identity in a crux manipulation and effectively describes the content of the image. A highly competent manipulator, Cypher also acknowledged Arcimboldo's inspiration:-

'Unfortunately I don’t have much knowledge about historical crucifixion but it is very interesting for me to make pictures with its motif. Though once I'd thought crucifixion was rather limited as a motif of picture, I found that there were many hints for various representations in crucifixion (such as wooden tools, torture instruments, nailed or bound situation, victim's pose, clothed or unclothed etc) whether the drama can become more emotional or not depends on what I choose among these details.'

'I don’t know whether people in medieval times really used it or not, I chose good old wooden saw as a torture instrument on making my fresh re-start. Was it sir Arcimboldo’s invention? As a matter of fact, I owe a lot of things to him (in fact, he kindly invited me to this fabulous world of photo-manipulation as I wrote somewhere before). Almost ten years ago, I had a small “Arcimboldo show” in a tiny gallery in Tokyo.'

This picture is notable for being an Alice crux manip which does not rely on a Makar source photograph. The figure is a composite image, apparently all genuinely Alice, Cypher's sources of choice being from Femjoy. The roped, over-arm pose with unsecured feet and cruelly serrated sedile present features which are unusual in crux art. The strong vertical composition, lighting, landscape and birds all contribute to a sinister atmosphere, complimenting this bloody depiction of agony. #2 shows an Arcimboldo manipulation from 1998 which appears to be the source of inspiration.

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I believe this next picture (#3) is also by Cypher, although it is unsigned - perhaps somebody can confirm this, please? Cypher has certainly used the same background in another picture. The figure of Alice is sourced from the Femjoy 'Low Tide' shoot (#5) and for a change, her peril is presented by archery rather than crucifixion. My own use of the same source image did, however, result in a traditional crucifixion.

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At the time I made 'Ivdaea Capta 6', I was unaware of the Cypher manip, although it would not have deterred me. The Femjoy picture was irresistible and I simply had to use it. The modifications for my composite figure include opening the mouth a bit wider and furrowing the brow. New arms and feet constitute more obvious alterations and the titulus hints at her true identity. I produced my picture by free-form cutting, pasting and blending entirely in Windows Paint since I did not have Photoshop or anything else at that time.

Three years after the Cruxdreams shoot, Makar suggested, 'I don't think we'll see Alice anymore. So, why not enjoy what we have?' He was rightly confident that our enjoyment of his work with Alice would continue indefinitely, and he witnessed the start of the Alice photo manipulation phenomenon, based on his pictures, which continues to endorse her popularity. Whilst he observed that she would not pose on one of his crosses again, his confidence about us not seeing new Alice crucifixions was arguably misplaced. She is such a wonderful model and she did it so well. And in crux art all things are possible.

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No survey of Alice crux manipulations would be complete without the extensive and highly accomplished work of saintjohny. To date I have found some 27 of his manipulations which feature her in Makar-derived poses. Some of these indeed feature multiple Alices, so he has used her far more than 27 times. The first image, showing seven Alices crucified together on a beach, is a powerful one with its background architecture implying a modern setting and the small girl who appears to be holding a whip. The sense of tragedy is emotive considering modern prohibitions against images depicting children being exposed to scenes of violence and nudity (albeit technically this image does not constitute exposure to sexual activity and the child is not identifiable.)

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The second image, which features Alice six times, and is entitled, 'The Endless Circle', was originally posted on CruxForums with the accompanying lines by saintjohny -

"I have been here before
My agony at once, can recall
When eternal curse upons my fate
Again, I've been crucified and forsaked."

Alice carries her patibulum to the execution site, escorted by a legionary, whilst the circle of previously crucified Alices form transparent, ghostly apparitions in the background. The picture evokes a recurring nightmare and presents an eerie reflection on the continual crucifixion of Alice in manipulations. The picture is signed, 'Julia Starr' - is this a previous saintjohny pseudonym?

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Alice appears twice in 'The Watchers' (#3) beyond the dramatic rear view of Orchid's Emily which saintjohny is fond of including in his manipulations. Alice fills the foreground of the atmospheric monochrome 'Road' (#4) as well as appearing in the distance on the right whilst Makar's Oxana carries her cross up the hill. Saintjohny described this manipulation as an interpretation of the Markus drawing, 'After the Riots - Sabrina.'

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'Skyrim' (#5) and 'The Last Amazon' (#6) share many of the same figures in the same poses, including Orchid's Emily (seen from behind) and Makar models Oxana, Inga and Julia. Alice appears three times in each of these pictures. The inspiration for 'Skyrim' comes from the game, saintjohny observing, 'I never had an idea about the Skyrim theme until I took an arrow in the knee - best game ever!'

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In his manipulation of Ismail Kemal's 'Crucified' (#7) saintjohny places Alice to the right, Orchid's Yana in the centre and a Falco figure on the left. I have not been able to identify the crucified figure seen from behind, although it might be Emily again. Saintjohny has reduced the number of crosses lining the road in the original, allowing us to focus on the four main figures in his version.

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In 'Wolf Pack' (#8) Alice appears crucified again opposite Emily. 'Witch Hunt' (#9) has Alice in the middle distance on centre stage between Emily and a Falco figure. The panoramic 'Indian Dream' (#10) has Alice and Emily again on the right hand side with Makar's Sveta at far left. These manipulations are notable for their sympathetic lighting effects which help the figures to blend convincingly into the landscape.

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Maha Shiva is a long standing, multi-talented creator of fantasy themes which are expressed in his writing, line drawings, and more recently in photomanipulations. As recently as 30 December 2016, he commented, 'As a relative newcomer to photo manipulation, I'm sure there are rough spots aplenty in these pix. Every time I re-visit a pic I made two or three years ago, I always have to fight the urge to re-work the whole thing all over again. The problem is that I'm so used to how I do things that oftentimes I'm not even aware of what might not be right until much later, when I learn a new thing or two.'

This is a field in which, despite his modesty, he has developed a high level of artistic and technical competence. His manipulations explore a variety of themes in original ways, and these include crux art in modern settings. Shiva's popular models are sourced from collections including Arkady, Orchid, Subspaceland and E-digital-fantasy. Interestingly, the only Makar model featured in his DeviantArt gallery is Alice, and she appears in two of his pictures.

'News from around the World (1)', submitted on 19 June 2016, illustrates, in the form of a web page, the penalty for ticket evasion at the Louvre. Referring to his model, Shiva commented, 'Yup...pretty Alice can travel the whole wide world without ever leaving her cross.' He does, of course, recognise that other manipulators have engaged Alice for non-crux projects, and concedes, 'I find pretty much every single picture I have ever seen of Alice totally irresistible.'

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'Promotional Posters (6)', submitted on 30 October 2016, presents a satirical image of a modern mass crucifixion. On the technical aspects, Shiva states, 'This is definitely one of my more elaborate projects - I don't think I have ever squeezed so many girls into one pic before.'

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Shiva and I exchange banter based on the premise that we both have contracts with Alice which allow us to compete for her attention and services in producing fresh crux work. Consequently he informed me, 'As for Alice, I'm pretty sure she has a lock on the MMMM Award. Don't worry, you can have her back safe and sound for further assignment--no nails were used in the production of this pic, so the recovery time required should be minimal.' Obviously Shiva retains Makar's crosses and bindings whereas I substitute alternative carpentry in my own manipulations.

Maha Shiva's manips are notable for their consistent scale and lighting as well as the convincing blending of elements. He has successfully eliminated the green skin tone relections which tend to affect models like Alice, originally posed in secluded, leafy woodland surroundings. Recently he explained with typical modesty, 'The main reason that I am usually able to blend the elements in the pix well enough to pass a casual inspection is that I'm a rather conservative manipulator - I generally don't attempt a piece until I have found the perfect raw materials to go together, and I don't actually alter the different images that much other than superimpose them on top of one another. And that stems mainly from the total lack of digital painting skills. I probably use about 0.5% of all the tools available in Photoshop, but I do have a lot of patience, which certainly helps with these.'

For original concepts and variety, I can recommend a visit to his gallery - http://mahashiva001.deviantart.com/
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