RoByn Thompson is the creator of the Skyclad Tarot*, a color-saturated light-painted tarot deck that challenges the patriarchal assumptions of the historical tarot, as well as the influence of Madison Avenue, by including greater body diversity, greater ethnic diversity and a wider expression of the spectrum of human sexuality. Additionally, it breaks from tradition by including 4 versions of The Lovers card because more diversity is required than the standard M/F to be representative.
It was created with a long exposure photographic technique where all visual effects are done in camera. RoByn felt that most tarot decks leave something to be desired as far as diversity goes. She wanted to change that so she created the Skyclad Tarot in 2013.
What follows is a brief conversation with RoByn about the Skyclad Tarot deck and what went into its creation.
What is your relationship with tarot?
I was 10 years old when my stepmother gave me a paperback book on divination to keep me amused on a family road trip. It was there where I first encountered the tarot. I loved that the pictures of the cards contained a story. I was very intrigued that there was a code, and that knowing it could provide you with information from a higher source. I started reading about and studying the tarot long before I had my first deck.
Why did you create a new tarot deck?
I didn’t see my friends, family and the people that I know and love represented in most decks. I wanted to change that and I wanted to show them how beautiful they are.
Why are the models nude?
I wanted the Skyclad tarot to be very body positive. It includes over 50 models aged from 6 months to 78 years, who weigh from under 100 to 300+ pounds. I wanted to challenge the assumptions of Madison Ave and show that all bodies are beautiful.
What techniques did you use?
All of the effects that you see on the tarot cards are part of the light painting process. It’s a long exposure photographic technique where lights are shined on a subject in a darkened space. The only use of Photoshop was to add the titles. Everything else is straight out of the camera.My models had to stay very still for up to a couple of minutes in a pitch black room while I ran around shining different colored lights on them. They were all very patient because you don’t see what the photograph looks like until after you take it and some image required many attempts to get the final image. There was no editing.
What were some of the difficulties that you faced in creating a deck?
I always wanted to create my own tarot deck but was daunted by the process. It was not the creative aspects that concerned me but rather the financial. I researched online and read the accounts of other tarot creators. One person wrote of having to take a second mortgage on their home to finance the deck, another wrote of going $15k in debt to self publish and a third wrote of her problems with unsold inventory. I was so delighted when I discovered print-on-demand. I was able to create my tarot deck within my budget of $100.
I worked in the office of the location where the images were shot in exchange for the use of the site. I built or borrowed the props. And I was blessed by and am grateful to all the models who volunteered. Many of the models are friends and family, others are from model websites and Craigslist.
What do you want people to take away from your deck?
I want you to know that you are beautiful. I want you to know that people different from you are beautiful too. I want you to know that love comes in many forms. I want you to see how strong and vulnerable we all are. I want you to recognize that the things that make us the same are and will always be greater than the things that make us different.
*More information at the Skyclad Tarot Deck home page. Just be smart and don’t click on the link if you are not comfortable with artistic nudity or are perhaps at work. The images shown in this article are the ones that are safe for work. Most are not.