Have you ever had a photo shoot that went so well, it’s literally engraved on your memory for all time? Even if there were hiccups, any memory of those are erased, and instead the entire shoot just beams in this warm, sentimental glow and you just think, ok, why can’t all of my shoots be like that?
I definitely did not think that this shoot would go that way. It was a recipe for disaster, I thought – there was just too much that could go wrong. Firstly, the only stage that I had been able to find in Derby (a city of few great locations, despite three years of searching throughout university), was in a church. It was a very modern building, but a church nonetheless. I was lucky to find it, and only did because my Dad was working as a gardener for the building at the time, and he managed to twist the Bishop’s arm. The number of sleepless nights that I had, imagining a bad tempered Bishop storming my photo shoot, complaining about… well, everything. I had visions of us being thrown out, or not being allowed into the building at all, convinced that, because it had proven out of the question for me to speak to anyone of authority personally, that there would prove to have been some mistake on my Dad’s part. It’s not that I don’t trust him, but the number one rule of finding a location is not to leave it down to a third person – cut out the middle man (aka, Dad), and for that to have not been possible, was scary.
We had a few… I can’t really call them dramas. They definitely were little more than hiccups – our model running late convinced us that we had a no-show on our hands, the cardboard waves that I had spend weeks making had to be taped to the back of the curtains and wooden floors, which of course, took a good forty-five minutes before they finally agreed to behave themselves and be still. Not to mention, it was bitterly cold in there. Why are churches always bitterly cold? I thought it was just an old building thing, but this was a bright, shiny, modern build, and still… I was a goosebump away from wearing gloves.
I’m complaining needlessly, as usual, of course. Despite the goosebumps, the fear of being thrown out and the rebellious set, everything went swimmingly. We closed ourselves into the darkness of the stage, using only one tiny window as a beacon of light, reflecting it around the room with a broken mirror, the smashed shards glued clumsily to a sheet of photo frame plastic. I really love the effect that this DIY addition created, breaking up the image, creating a dreamy effect that I’ve never managed to achieve before in quite the way that I’ve always wanted. This was one of those shoots that actually ends up better than the polished, impossible-to-recreate image in my mind. And that’s rare, for a perfectionist like myself.
The ISO had to be pushed up to accommodate for the unexpected darkness, but I really like the cinematic feel of the images that this creates. The cinematic and theatrical qualities go hand-in-hand, and my styling became quite ballerina bride, which I adore. Very little editing went into these, and it was all colour manipulation only. Basically, I’m really pleased with the results, as you have no doubt gathered, and I really hope that you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed creating them.
Model: Oona Elizabeth
Hair/Makeup: Razwana Kausar
Styling: Emma Styles
I’ve always been a big fan of behind the scenes images, though I’ll be the first to admit that, when working on small, intimate photo shoots with a small creative team, such as this one, I don’t always remember to capture as many BTS moments as I’d like. I’m too busy being the photographer, makeup-consultant, hair-consultant, set-designer, lighting director, general shoot manager, director, creative extraordinaire! It’s always nice to have an assistant on hand with a second camera, but otherwise, I make do, be it because they’re absent or too busy holding reflectors and rearranging lights to be using their own camera.
Model: Jessica Bailey
Hair and MUA: Emma Grant
Styling: Emma Styles
This was such a wonderful shoot to be a part of. I am lucky enough to have worked with both Jessica and Emma numerous times before, and we have become quite the creative trio, fueling each other to strive for perfection; I always feel that my portfolio comes away stronger after a shoot with either of these two lovely ladies. It was quite a complex array of mirrors, coloured filters and lighting set ups, meticulously planned and put together after a practice session the night before to be sure that I could light the set exactly as I wished – allowing us more time to actually create beautiful images, rather than faffing about with experimental set ups, though I am aware that sometimes, the experimental set ups bring the best results, because they are unexpected. Were it not for the limited time slot on the studio, there would have been less planning, more experiments.
With mirrors, filters and lights, you’re probably wondering why on earth I worked sans assistant. While I did have help for the initial set up of polystyrene reflector boards and moving the lights into position, I decided that in this instance, I preferred to keep the shoot as intimate as possible, a chance for three girls to have a laugh, in order to create a relaxed atmosphere that would result in images to match. My assistants tend to be men, and while I adore them all – otherwise I would not work with them, no matter how good an assistant they may be – sometimes a shoot calls for loud music, girly stories that we can laugh at during outfit changes, and general silliness, such as the final image above. Besides, though we went against the idea in the end, there was contemplation of nudity; I would never force a model to pose in front of a male assistant.
I definitely made the right decision, even if at times I was a hand-short in holding both camera and mirrors (seriously, I think evolution made a big design flaw in giving us only two hands. I constantly find myself envious of
octopi octopuses octopodes), in which case Emma would come to my rescue. We often work in this way, and equally, I tend to act as the ‘makeup passer’ or straightener plugger-inner, hovering around the neatly laid out table waiting for instruction during each makeover. It’s teamwork, and it works a charm.
And for you, a selection of quick, unedited previews of my favourites from the day. I would love to hear your thoughts, once the final, edited versions are posted.
I've always been a big fan of behind the scenes images, though I'll be the first to admit that, when working on small, intimate photo shoots with a small creative team, such as this one, I don't always remember to capture as many BTS moments as I'd like. I'm too busy being the photographer, makeup-consultant, hair-consultant, set-designer, lighting director, general shoot manager, director, creative extraordinaire! It's always nice to have an assistant on hand with a second camera, but otherwise, I make do, be it because they're absent or too busy holding reflectors and rearranging lights to be using their own camera.
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?
Model: Jessica Bailey
MUA & Hair: Emma Grant
Styling: Emma Styles
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.
After a week in Paris, we headed south to visit an old friend of mine who I met in Derby – of all places – via Couchsurfing. We skipped along from Bordeaux to Montepellier, with a day in Avignon.
For me, I can’t visit Paris without heading south for a few days. Yes, there is less to do in Bordeaux and Montpellier compared to the long list of Parisian sites, but while in Paris is rained – at times – the sun seems to be perpetually shining on the south. Paris is great for using all of your energy on trundling around museums, exploring streets full of antique shops, and strutting around in your best Parisian wardrobe, and then once you can’t possibly bring yourself to look at another painting or teeter down another piss-puddle and dog-poo riddled Parisian pavement (yes, it’s a gross reality rather than just a stereotype… why do I still love Paris?), grab your bikini, hop on a train and within a few hours, you’re sunbathing on a beach or a park.
I love the Mediterranean influences in the south of France, from the style of architecture to the colour of stone used to pave their streets and build their walls.. Everything is more colourful in Bordeaux and Montpellier, the people are friendlier… sometimes a little too friendly. A homeless guy tried to kiss me… which was quite unpleasant. On the lips – not a typical french cheek-to-cheek greeting. Though from the smell of him I wouldn’t really have appreciated that ether, in all honestly. Is that mean to say? But generally, people know boundaries.
And of course, we had to take advantage of my friend’s balcony for a few spontaneous, au naturel photo shoots.
Can I go back yet, please?
Me and my lovely friend Jessica spent the first two weeks of this month in France, travelling by train from Paris to Bordeaux, Montpellier and Avignon. Quite frankly I wish I was still there, not only because of the better weather, food, and because back here my uni deadlines and the realities of being a grown up are slapping me in the face again, but also because, while we arrived back in Derby at 4am last Saturday (20th), by midday on Sunday, I found myself sitting in A&E with a broken foot…..
Of all the times to break my foot, now is not a good one! I have my two final uni deadlines, arrangements for our two uni exhibitions, the end of my TEFL course and figuring out my post-uni plans (as in, my move out date is 30th June… possessions need to be sold/stored… flight ticket needs to be bought for 1st July), all on crutches… fun.
Still, the cast is off on 30th May, just in time for the Derby exhibition! Timing!
As for France… what is there to say, besides that as ever, it was beautiful, and I miss it already. I have come back with a really dark tan, and therefore England seems more dull and grey than ever before. While I am glad to finally give my feet a rest (I couldn’t begin to guess how many miles me and Jess walked in terrible, blister-inducing shoes over those two weeks), I especially miss walking around Paris, bra-less and shoe-less, with tourists trying to be helpful by pointing out that we were not wearing our shoes but in fact, have you noticed… you’re carrying them…….? Oh really?!
For anyone visiting Paris, I strongly recommend Oops Hostel by Les Gobelins metro stop, and La Manufacture Restaurant, which is just a few doors away. Amazing food.. and amazing chocolat chaud!
Jess being a beautiful model, we of course had a few personal shoots while we were travelling, and I am currently editing those… I may post a preview soon.
For now.. a few travel snaps.
Every blog I go on lately has been talking about MAC’s new cover girl: bodybuilder and fitness model, Jelena Abbou. It makes sense of course, who better than a beautiful bodybuilder to model a collection entitled ‘Strength’? But people still seem to be pretty shocked by it, though shocked in a good way, luckily. I think fashion is finally beginning to embrace the fact that not everyone is a skinny minnie, teeny tiny size zero, and MAC’s new collection is just one example of that, though there is still a lot of catching up to do, for example, Vogue’s summer spread didn’t exactly go about celebrating the bulging biceps of the female olympic athletes, did they? They were still instead, for the most part, stuffed, as much as their biceps would allow, into that ‘perfect model’ box.
It’s not the first time that MAC have shocked with their choice of cover girl, such as last year, when 90 year old interior designer and fashion icon Iris Apfel collaborated with MAC to create her own makeup range, and went on to act as cover girl for the range. Everyone was shocked that MAC, a top cosmetics brand, if not THE top cosmetics brand would ever use a model past her twenties, let alone a woman in her nineties! However, I can’t help but have noticed that people seem to be rebelling about the obsession with youth that our society has, and the fashion and beauty industries seem to have started listening. For example, this Vogue cover, published January this year, featuring 62 year old Meryl Streep, Vogue’s oldest ever cover girl, a few years back in 2009, Ellen DeGeneres first appeared as the face of CoverGirl, then aged 50, and all over the catwalks more mature celebrities are dressing their age, while still looking incredible, rather than leaving us to cringe at their ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ attitude that we used to see so often.
It’s about time.