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Brueghel “the old man” “The triumph of death”

The Other Face Behind Death

Brueghel, a man who saw in the life of the peasants, a social character that passed the reality to more burlesque and satirical terms, now, showed in his work “The triumph of the death”, a rhetoric, between the irony and the mockery To humans, when trying to escape something that is not alien to life, death. But the deformities and human degradations are not only evident, but also, the surrealist management with which it is permissive in the personages and the landscapes mounted there.

Brueghel, transports us to a world dominated by chaos and pain, human beings present anxieties, fears and even deaths, a massive drama that can be seen in the whole scene, scenes framed by an army of skeletons, complaining The world, to transport the living to death, sowing panic among all.

The Triumph of Death Pieter Bruegel the Elder Original Title: De Triomf van de Dood

The Triumph of Death
Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Original Title: De Triomf van de Dood

It is noteworthy that Brueghel, with his uncommon style in portraying human figures in terrestrial terms, leaving the sublime, giving way to the grotesque and satyr, took into account “The Dance of Death”, as a starting point for The creation of this painting, too, is to observe, not only this ritual of the Middle Ages, but also, the fear of the human being to death.

Mannerism, transports us to a place that escapes from all lyrical paintings, and classicism [1] , the pursuit of perfection, left behind in the Renaissance, opening the way to more liberated representations and human beings, adopts A much more disproportionate perspective, however, does not leave aside the multiple scenes in the paintings that are typical of the Renaissance: each painting comprises different scenes that complement the work and oblige the viewer, to detail one by one these images.

And more characteristic of this movement, than Brueghel, an artist who defies the concept of the beautiful and sublime human being, to embrace a much more caricature and immoral notion of the earth, the true behavior of the human being. In his work, he shows us the most tragic traits and buffoons of the human being, especially the peasant, not because they are people lacking culture, but rather, human beings who deserve respect and care as anyone, without The peasants, practically the world would be nothing, plus without their work, there would be no crops no one would till the land.

However, through them, we see the decompensation, the misfortune, the mockery of morality and religion, the indignity of human beings, to such an extent that Baudelaire thought that Brueghel’s art was “diabolical and grotesque baraúnda can only be interpreted as a kind of singular and satanic thanks ” [2] .

In addition, he was the first artist to draw and portray landscapes that were a backdrop for religious representations. But what if Brueghel shows us a world in addition to all these descriptions, a world dominated by death and when it claims not only the poor peasants but also the kings and bourgeois? For Brueghel makes it happen in your box (for what he was compared to his compatriot “Bosch”) whose image surprised, but at the same time caused a certain mocking grace and “The Triumph of Death”, this painting Dating from 1563, measures 117 cm by 162 cm, where it is exhibited in the Prado museum, Spain, whose colors create the macabre and somber environment thanks to the application of brown, giving a frightening touch.

Here we must emphasise a world dominated by fear, death comes to stay, fight against the living, regardless of age, social rank and even ethnic classes. Here there is a clear absence of Faith around the characters, some are already rotten, others are still in a tone of defense, who think not to surrender to death, fighting with their weapons, others hide and escape and ironically, others , Are indulging in serenades of love, indifferent to what is happening around them, as can be seen at the lower right end. Even so, there is also an acceptance of defeat (like that cardinal who collapses to the left) and that in the end, is the only is a thing that can not be redeemed. For in itself, man is tragicomedico, according to Brueghel and his work. Here, not only is a depicted roundly, but here is more than a mere mockery and criticism of the behavior of people and their ways, depicted as unworthy and inhuman [3] .

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that death is a question that follows us, also becomes a theme that goes into the arts and carnivals, “The Triumph of Death,” is a painting inspired by “The Dance of Death,” Whose origins came from France during the lower Middle Ages, that incited the tradition in this event, after suffering the disgrace of the black plague. It is from this that the “Dance of Death” was converted from an allegory, which was to pass to the other world, to an allegory of the macabre and profane, where fear basically becomes the abandonment of material goods and The earthly pleasures. Death arises to destroy all human life and invites all human beings to accept death, regardless of the economic hierarchy or age. In Italy, the concept of “The Triumph of Death” was introduced.

As I said before, death is the only thing that can not be redeemed and it always wins, “They symbolise the finitude of life, the ultimate repentance and postrera are and loaded with a moral message, a shocking irony and social denunciation of the world they were born in” [4] . It is from this, which served as inspiration, to create this majestic and curious painting, rather than to demonstrate the lack of human dignity, is to show the reality and the fear of the human being of death and the priority of his fear is because the A human being is forced to abandon all that he has done, the pleasures, the fear of knowing something he has never seen, and besides, if he is a believer, he will not know what to face.

And so, as death is an object of criticism and time, of mockery. A situation that every human being is committed to, life forced to abandon his joys, rottenness in bodies and violence with which death carries the poor bodies, although in my opinion, is something very exaggerated, but in a certain way, not Escapes reality, because although we know, we ourselves are the army of death and also, we are the victims, blinded by ignorance and earthly pretensions that at the moment of facing us with death, we show the true being that we carry Inside, an animal that discovers behind its facet of worthy, a low and unscrupulous being who only asks for mercy and salvation.


  • Stechow Wlfgang, Pedro Brueghel el viejo, translated by R. Santas Torroela, editorial Timun mas SA Bracelona
  • Arpino Giovanni, Bianconi Piero, Brueghel’s complete pictorial work, Peter Brueghel, translated by Francis J. Alcántara, Noguer, Barcelona, 1968
  • Infantes Victor, The dances of death, genesis and development of a medieval genre (XIII-XVII century), Editorial Universidad Salamanca, Spain, 1997
  • Panofsky Edwin, Idea, Editorial Cátedra.


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