The 3 L's

Old Hollywood Age Gaps….

It seems, for a woman in Hollywood, you have to have buckets of talent and gumption to push through the typical end-of-career age barrier. Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor. Rightly so, I think – age seems to be the only thing that may stop mediocre-but-good-looking actresses like… Kristen Stewart. Lindsay Lohan. Blah, blah, blah.

The same can’t be said for men. Maybe it’s because men tend to age better. Look at Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, James Stewart. They have a ‘best before’ date too, of course – look at Harrison Ford now days, a great actor who has lost his sexy older man appeal and is now days simply… an old man with an earring and a penchant for canal boat holidays. My point is, male actors can go on being the leading man in a movie romance for decades longer than a beautiful leading lady easily can.

Example? Sabrina.

I haven’t seen the 1995 version, but the good old 1954 original; Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and William Holden.

Not to give much away to those of you who have not seen it, it’s basically about a young girl (Hepburn), who falls in love with her father’s boss’s son (Holden). She goes away to Paris for two years, and returns as this gorgeous and sophisticated European woman, complete with an enviously beautiful Parisian couture wardrobe and trademark Hepburn pixie cut. Pretty quickly a slightly complex, plot-twist riddled love triangle forms between Hepburn, Holden and his brother, Bogart.

Simple enough. I love this movie, though it’s been a few years since I last found the chance to sit down and watch it. But there was one particular line that strikes me each time.

Spoken during a scene between Hepburn and Holden, in which they are discussing their first kiss, Hepburn points out that they have kissed once before – which Holden has long forgotten.

‘I was nine, and you had your arms around me because you were teaching me to skate backwards. Suddenly, you kissed me.’

Note, at the time of release, Hepburn was twenty-five years old, while Holden was thirty five, and as he plays a man thrice-married, how much younger could his character be? He definitely looks like a man in his thirties.

Which means, nine year old Sabrina was kissed by nineteen year old David. And then there’s older brother, Linus (Bogart). Older as in, there’s a twenty year age gap between big brother and little brother. That’s thirty years between Linus and Sabrina. Creepy, creepy.

The same can be said about so many old movies, though

Rear Window. 25 year old Grace Kelly alongside 46 year old James Stewart.

North by Northwest. 55 year old Cary Grant alongside 25 year old Eva Marie Saint.

High Society. 26 year old Grace Kelly alongside 53 year old Bing Crosby, 43 year old Frank Sinatra and 45 year old John Lund. If you haven’t seen the film, I won’t tell you which one she ends up with.

 I just find it bizarre. Yes, women want men – we don’t want boys who are still living with their mothers, rolling around in yesterday’s boxers and the latest notch in their bed post, hungover, perma-tanned and full of steroids – the only way they can realistically achieve those bubble muscles. But surely the other alternative isn’t just wrinkly old men with borderline pedophilic tastes in fresh-from-school young women?

Well, according to old Hollywood, that’s the choice.

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The Curvy Ups and Creepy Downs of Optical Illusion Fashion

At school, I was always the kid who sucked at spotting the hidden tigers and butterflies in the Magic Eye books that would be shared between us beneath the branches of the willow tree that stood in the corner of the playground. Though I’m not entirely sure that my friends were being honest when they’d swear that they could see the possibly non-existent exotic animals hidden between swirling lines of ‘grass’.

So when the trend for optical illusions reached fashion, I loved it. Why strain yourself searching for pointless pictures of exotic animals hidden in a pointless painted jungle, when we can put the age old tricks to good use? Now a simple bodycon dress can give the impression of curves in all the right places, balancing out those somewhat un-proportioned figures. A godsend if, like me, you have what I would call a ‘crazy pear’ shape going on. While I do love my ‘curvy’ bum and my clothes-sit-well-on-me boobs… dress shopping can be a nightmare. Bodycon’s are a no no, unless I’m deliberately going for the ‘two aspirins on an ironing board’ look teamed with the ‘will that bum fit through the doorway’ look. The basic bodycon is a cruel illusion in itself, exaggerating my proportionate differences. That’s fine, I can rule out bodycon’s from my wardrobe. I can be a pear-shaped quite happily. After all, to be a perfect hourglass, with my waist and hip measurements, I’d need 30F boobs (according to a quick online calculator) – no thank you!!

So I’d resigned myself to a lifelong bodycon ban, sticking to a rule of baggy tops with pencil skirts or fitted tops with flared skirts – both fine, cute, easy enough.

Then I saw Kate Winslet in that Stella McCartney dress circa Autumn 2011.

I’m not saying this was the first optical illusion within fashion. I mean, look at corsets! And my ‘baggy/pencil skirt, fitted/flared’ rules But for me – and most women worldwide, judging from the stir that this dress caused – it was a definite moment of ‘yes – finally!!’

Before this dress popped up on every celebrity with boobs, there was the interesting Viktor & Rolf dresses of their Spring 2010 collection.

And since, there are been so, so many adaptions of the Stella dress (who made several restyles of her own), that I could dedicate an entire blog to each design.

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Alexander McQueen

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Stella McCartney

However, yesterday, this trend took a strange turn for me. It was a first – never has a photograph of Keira Knightley ever sparked such creeped-out horror to my eyes. Nor has a photograph featuring Chanel couture – and especially never have I disliked a combination of the two, as much as I do in this moment.

I give you, the weirdest ready-to-wear optical illusion outfit I have seen to date:

It’s like… Chanel’s version of the Skittle family of Toy Town.

Optical illusions should be used to flatter our curves, and create them when we have none! It’s about making a woman more womanly, more beautiful. Not… separating our upper and lower half, burying our natural curves beneath swathes of shapeless fabric and wrapping a teeny tiny waist until it no longer looks slender, but sickly.

And for this outfit to be Chanel… while I get how this outfit fits perfectly with their theme of the ‘incredible lightness of being’, I’m disappointed.

Then again, I saw their Pre-AW14 collection. Cowboys and Indians? Really? That’s the look you’ve chosen for this season, Mr Lagerfeld? Ok… you’re the boss.

Please, please, please.. no more scary illusions, ok? I know that the hourglass enhancing bodycon dresses of Stella McCartney’s collections are three years old now, but you know… if it’s not broke.

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Oscars 2014 Fashion

Firstly, I think it’s sucky that the Oscars are not aired live in the UK – unless you have Sky. Maybe the feed could be found somewhere, buried in the deepest depths of the internet, but unfortunately my hours of searching brought me nothing.

So instead, I’ve had to turn to Vogue Online again. I won’t lie, I don’t pay too much attention to who won what Oscar (frankly, the various voters have made too many questionable choices over the years for me to trust their judgement). For me, it’s all about who wore what. I think that’s the most important part of the Oscars to most of us, really – the fashion. All images are sourced from Vogue.co.uk and eonline.com

The Best 10

Lupita Nyong’o’s Prada dress was made especially for her, teamed with Fred Leighton headband and jewellery. Most photos that I have seen of her in this dress involve her swishing it, and I can’t blame her – I would be doing exactly the same were this my dress – it just looks so amazing!

Show us a twirl: Lupia seemed particularly pleased with her gown, which she revealed had been made especially for her

I’ve seen this Gucci dress on a few ‘worst dressed’ lists because of the ‘armory’ detailing, but personally I love it. It’s a gorgeous touch of detail on a classically cut dress.

Cate Blanchett’s Armani Privé dress actually took a while to grow on me. Or rather, the dress of 90% instantly gorgeous – the sheer, uber pale, colour-match fabric. It was the embellishments that took some getting used to. It needs something of course, otherwise it would have just looked… ‘is she wearing a dress or just foundation with a skirt?’ blandness. There’s just something about these particular… what are they, exactly? Pearly, flat, round… coins? Discs? They just remind me a little too much of barnacles and other weird anthropods and mussels and… sea stuff. I think I’m probably the only person in the world who sees that though, so let’s just ignore that weird little comparison. I do, however, love the sleeves.

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Worst Dressed

This could have been a great dress – Giambattista Valli – if Penelope Cruz had just ditched the weird drapey shoulder scarf thing. Though I’m not keen on the pastel, faded-bubblegum colour, either.

A bit too 2001 glitz rather than 2014 Gatsby.

Wacky wallpaper: Zooey Deschanel donned a very busy floral and polka dot strapless number to the Vanity Fair party (left), and Nikki Reed looked ready for bed in her bathrobe-style boho gown (right)

Lace overload: Fashion darlings Karolina Kurkova (left, in Elie Saab at Elton John's viewing party) and Diane Kruger (right, in Valentino at the Vanity Fair after party) both opted for over-the-top lace looks

Bin bag dress, anyone?

Disney Media co-chair Anne Sweeney. wore an oddly structured blue Armani Prive dress, which opened at the waist to reveal a bright red silk accent

The ‘Almost There’s…

This Vera Wang dress just doesn’t quite… work. The fabric looks a bit cheap, a bit too t-shirt-y.

Lady Gaga, Oscars 2014

Chuck the chiffon around-the-neck wrap, and the ugly Gaga shoes (yes, I am aware that Gaga is not Gaga without Gaga shoes), and it’s a yes. The dress – Lorraine Schwartz – is beautiful. I’m not a Gaga fan, but all in all, she looks much better than when she wears her usual crazy outfits.

If it weren’t for the weird thigh-split detailing on the skirt (and that random layer of fabric above her leg), this J Mendel dress would be a yes for me.

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The 3 L's

Photography Graduation

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A quick announcement… my graduation! Yes, I’m finally out of the education system after… wow, seventeen years! Even longer if we’re counting nursery. The vast majority of my life has been spent as a student, and now finally, I’m free. And I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.

I was so ready to leave last summer, when I was completing my exhibition, As I’ve mentioned before, I broke my foot in the lead up to my final deadline – on a photo shoot. Terrible, terrible timing on my part to break my first (and hopefully only – *touch wood*) bone. It left me feeling frustrated, bringing a grinding halt to my planned photo shoots. I made a few wobbly attempts, balancing on one leg, crutches stuffed under my armpits, camera firmly on a tripod, but it proved a nightmare. Luckily, I am not a last minute person when it comes to deadlines, and so I was organised, I had already shot several shoots for my final project, giving me a lot to choose from. I can’t imagine what would have happened had I broken my foot before having taken a single final-exhibition photograph.

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But, as I have also mentioned before, proudly, everything went well, and I came out of my three years as a student of Commercial Photography with a first. Yes, I am proud of myself for that. For once, that perfectionist streak is calmed. There is nothing more I can do to please her. In this matter, anyway.

Looking back, I do wish, however, that I had not cut down the number of images that I planned to display at the exhibition to just one, for practicality. Maybe I’m wrong to regret it, maybe it would have proven impossible, as I remember the difficulty I had in trying to squeeze my single A1/A0 (I can no longer recall quite how large it was) print into my friend’s tiny Smart Car. Correction. That suggests that it was me doing the squeezing… I remember watching, balanced on my crutches, on the pavement, while my friend tried single-handed to squeeze the huge, framed and well-wrapped image into her tiny car. It just about squeezed in, with some persuasion. I’m not sure that she, or any of my friends, would have agreed to a further two trips back and forth to the framing shop for the other two, had I gone ahead with my original three-image plan.

Ah, c’est la vie.1536726_10153718395340291_331009447_n

None of that matters though. My change in opinion over the last year of my time at university is what matters. I left feeling, like most of us at graduation, I think, a little deflated, wondering whether it was worth the money that I would soon have to start paying back, or whether it’s a waste of time studying photography as a degree. I wondered if I’d chosen the wrong University, and wondered how different my life would be had I studied elsewhere. I’m a terrible ‘what if’ person.

Now, however, I look back and I don’t feel that way anymore. To any fellow photography students/graduates who ever feels that way, I suggest that you do the math, and calculate just how much money you would have spent on hired lighting, studio space, camera equipment for the various shoots and experiments of the past three years. Add to that an estimated cost for a photography workshop with your lecturer, rather than the ‘free’ (until we all reach that dreaded debt threshold) lessons they gave us. Because those are the equivalents to learning the trade sans degree. Personally, I may now be in debt, but I’ve saved a few thousand.

Yes, you could argue that most of my photo shoots would not have taken place were I not at university, surrounded by the exact inspiration and people and the opportunity to use free equipment and free studio space, because spending money can be stifling for the imagination when a poor, starving artist. Then again, how bare would my portfolio look without the free access to studios and equipment?

What if, what if, what if…

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Alfred Hitchcock. Undoubtedly one of my favourite directors, quavering on the top-spot with the equally amazing visual genius, Joe Wright. I feel its safe to say that Hitchcock bags the top spot for himself through reputation alone. If ever a Hitchcock appears on the TV schedule, you will find me, sat inches from the screen in a child-like awe, sucked into the colours, the shadows, the beautifully dense suspense that only he could master so well. My mind, you can guarantee, will be racing, nails digging into the carpet as I pick apart his use of each colour; the symbolism of the green light in Vertigo, the alternating red and green in Rope, the fireworks illuminating the darkened room in To Catch a Thief. I am aware of the general ‘Hitchcock colour theories’, but I can’t help but conjure up my own, as if its a code that only I can crack. I pick apart his lighting set ups, absorb every item that builds the carefully crafted sets, drool over the beautiful designs of Edith Head, envious of Grace Kelly or the various other Hitchcock blondes. Let’s face it, it’s generally Grace who ruffles my envious feathers more than anyone.

Frankly, if there’s a Hitchcock on TV, leave me be. (Rhyme not intended).

I am as enraptured as Hitchcock always intended for his audience to be, and before I know it, the notebook is in my lap, a pen in hand. Every creative needs a moleskine whenever they watch a Hitchcock, in my opinion. Regardless as to whether you’re a photographer, writer, graphic designer, stylist, artist… that man is gold, a portly ball of imagination-inducing energy. Caffeine is my usual go-to stimulant when I’m in my daily ‘idea development’ session, but Hitchcock is much more effective. Even if my ideas do need to at times wander a little further from the standard ‘blonde model’, ‘dramatic lighting’, ‘bold colours’ trio. Duly noted.

I’m not the only photographer who finds themselves constantly inspired by the great director, of course. I can spot a Hitchcock-esque editorial a mile away. They’re becoming something of a must-have for most young fashion photographers, a transition point between the mimicking and the inspired. However, just because Hitchcock’s lighting styles, dramatic shadows, bold colours and trademark locations (think motels, showers and trains), are so on-trend, doesn’t mean that I can’t have a go too, right?

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Model: Jessica Bailey

MUA & Hair: Emma Grant

Styling: Emma Styles

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Hitchcock Blonde

My mind, you can guarantee, will be racing, nails digging into the carpet as I pick apart his use of each colour; the symbolism of the green light in Vertigo, the alternating red and green in Rope, the fireworks illuminating the darkened room in To Catch a Thief. I am aware of the general 'Hitchcock colour theories', but I can't help but conjure up my own, as if its a code that only I can crack. I pick apart his lighting set ups, absorb every item that builds the carefully crafted sets, drool over the beautiful designs of Edith Head, envious of Grace Kelly or the various other Hitchcock blondes.

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Workaholic

Oddly Enough: Studio

People often think that the only people who ever get nervous before their first photo shoot is either the model or the photographer. No one seems to give any thought to how a new makeup artist, hair stylist, wardrobe stylist or designer might be feeling before their first photo shoot. I was recently approached by University of Derby fashion student, Erica Godfrey, of Oddly Enough designs, to photograph her final collection.

Erica admitted that she had never had a photo shoot for any of her work, and that she – as were a few of our models – was a little nervous. This was out of her comfort zone. We decided that we should hold three photo shoots – a studio test with a short video as a ‘casting’ for our models, as Erica wanted to see who would be best in front of the camera for the look she wanted, a lookbook, and the grand, main photo shoot at Wollaton Hall, the images of the latter being the one that would be prominently displayed during her final exhibition.

I don’t like that we live in a world that seems to expect everyone to be an expert at whatever is thrown their way. A lack of confidence does not equal to a lack of skill, an introvert is no worse than an extrovert, and I think that, while I enjoy learning new skills as much as the next person, its important not to spread our abilities too thinly across too wide an area. I’ve always believed that nerves equal to passion. We would not feel nervous about something that we did not care about, and so nerves are just another powerful emotion that can be channeled into something wonderful, such as our creativity. After all, powerful emotions, be them negative or positive, are always the best stimulant for the imagination.

This shoot in particular consisted of a great team of people – anyone who felt a little nervous or unsure as to the process of a photo shoot, was welcomed with open arms and made to feel ‘at home’. Everything was organised meticulously, and we came away with a clear vision for the main shoot and lookbook in mind.

The video produced by Ben Bransbury-Hare can be seen here.

(Update* my other two photo shoots with Oddly Enough can be seen here and here.)

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Models: Jessie Jing & Jessica Bailey

Video: Ben Bransbury-Hare

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Chanel Couture SS13

Apparently the inspiration behind this collection was a ‘gothic Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and quite frankly, I would give anything to have been there and seen it for myself.

Vogue’s description: We stepped into an enchanted forest beneath the dome of the Grand Palais and into a world seemingly straight from the pages of Shakespeare, a wooden auditorium surrounding us, and edgy fairies about to come to life before us.

I am waiting impatiently for clearer photos of the rest of the collection to appear online, but I love what I am seeing so far! Black feather eye makeup has been teamed with more black feathers woven into their hair or placed in a bunch precariously above the eye see here. Again it sounds like they have stuck to the monochrome colour pallete that they are so damn good at, with splashes of colour such as this dark floral dress, which really ought to belong in my wardrobe.. as do those boots! Those boots are incredible, and I need them!

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Chanel Couture SS13

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