In April, I had the most amazing experience when I joined forces with Donald K. from Mondomedeusah TV (main photographer), Tania from Electric Bitch Management (hair stylist and makeup artist) and three lovely ladies who were the models for the day. We cooked up a photo shoot that took the better part of a day at an incredible location – Pinecrest Cemetery. This is the account of and resulting photos from the day’s shoot.
The first step was to pick and set the date, obtain and confirm a location, find the models and decide which pieces of my work were to be featured. As my personal goal for the whole collaboration was to end up with photos for a possible look book that would showcase my signature and aesthetic as a designer/artist, it was also necessary for me to decide on a mood and overall impression that I wanted the viewer of the photos to be left with.
As I chose the key garments from my collection, formed outfits and completed the styling for each model, it all started to come together and I knew that I wanted to use a cemetery as our location. This took a bit of research…. calling around and dealing with rejection before I finally got the go ahead from the Pinecrest Cemetery. Somehow it felt wrong or like trespassing to just show up there and assume we could have the run of the grounds of such a sacred and maybe even controversial place so I wanted to be professional and advise them of our presence and intention for that day. I also made a point to reassure them that at no time would there be any disrespectful or tasteless conduct on our part (i.e. no models draped over gravestones, vampirism behavior, fake blood etc.). They were very accommodating and told me that they had photographers, students and models there fairly often so my request was easily granted. My intention was to have a creepy, sombre tone to things and to have the perfect setting for the dark and edgy qualities to my designs and styling of the models. We achieved that in my opinion but, you be the judge as you take in the photographs throughout this posting.
The models who so graciously agreed to be part of all this were Karolyne (a burlesque dancer, “Kerosene Misfortune” with Ottawa’s own Bourbon & Spice), Daisy and Sandra. Karolyne and I already knew each other from previous dealings and introductions, Daisy and I were introduced to each other through the casting call Donald did for the shoot and Sandra and I met through my “accosting” of her at Lowes earlier in the winter to potentially model for me sometime in the future. All of the models were very easy going, fun, personable and totally into the whole experience. They arrived at my house for around 10am, patiently sat through hair and makeup, had their fittings with me, a light snack and then off we all went in various cars to meet up together at the cemetery.
As for the weather, normally a slightly cool, overcast day in April that was threatening rain would not be optimum for an outdoor photo shoot but, given the location, attire of the models and mood we were all hoping for, it was perfect. When we got to the cemetery the ground was dry enough but still soft from the winter thaw. Everything was nice and green though and the rain held off the entire time we were there. The temperature seemed to warm up a bit as well after a while and the models not in actual jackets of my design, had the foresight to bring a wrap of some kind to keep the chill at bay while awaiting their turn in front of the camera.
Before I forget to give him his due credit, Sandra’s husband Robert also tagged along for the ride and am I ever glad that he did! He is a photography buff himself and had brought along some of his equipment to the shoot. He asked myself and Donald if we minded if he took some of his own shots as well and promised to be just a shadow and remain on the sidelines. I was all for it, especially when he indicated that he would provide me copies of his photographs as well if I wanted, and Donald was also fine with it. I am more than ecstatic and feel so blessed to have such fantastic results from not one but two photographers! Each has their own style and way of seeing things through the camera lens and it was a learning opportunity for me to see how my work could look through different applications. I should also mention that there was a third photographer who also joined us and his enthusiasm about the project and his intense and focused method of working was very admirable. Photographs of this gentlemen’s work are not included here due to poor quality of work, on the contrary. It is simply because they did not feel right to me for this posting or for the overall package I am trying to create for my look book.
Okay so, you have all of the background info. Now, it’s time for the good stuff such as the designs chosen for the shoot, who wore what and my thoughts and feelings during the whole day. So let’s get on with it!
As promised from my trash the dress posting, one of the outfits used in the photo shoot was my wedding dress make over piece. Daisy wore the dress together with the headpiece I created using the deer antler, which I also previously wrote about. Her whole look that day when she showed up at my house with her deep chocolate eyes and all that glorious hair just spoke of natural, fairy like and ethereal. She was over the moon at being chosen for the dress but may not have been as enthused over having to balance the headpiece for her shots. She was a trooper about it though and the photos posted here are evidence of her ability to “do as she is told to get the shot”. The dress looked like it belonged in the pine tree and green grass setting and all that was needed was a pair of wings sprouting from her back. As this was a major piece to wear as well as get in and out of, Daisy wore only the one outfit. She was laced into the dress at my house before we left and the butterflies were pinned onto the dress once we arrived at the cemetery. The headpiece was settled into place once we were ready to start.
Karolyne had two wardrobe changes. The first styling we did with her was a cream tulle skirt and vest combo. She also wore another nature inspired fascinator I had made from a brown paper flower with butterflies floating above her head. The overall effect of her personal look with these designs was a steampunk meets wild west inspired theme. During her portion of the shoot, some of the facial expressions and poses she effected were very mischievous and secretive. It really made you wonder what her story was and if she could be trusted. Karolyne also wore my gypsy skirt and the doll head steampunk/horror hat. The whole colour scheme was black, deep mustard and plum and it worked super well with her vibrant red hair. The head shot of her that I have included here is just stunning! The colours are rich and saturated and from her gaze at the camera as well as the way she really worked the outfit during that section of the photograph taking, you can tell how comfortable she was at the point and how much she loved what was chosen for her to wear.
Sandra also had two different looks but, each one had the same theme as the other. When I met Sandra at Lowes that day, I just knew she would be a perfect fit for me as a model to represent the darker and more edgy pieces I like to create. I was not wrong. I put Sandra in my black lace dress, teal velvet jacket and matching hat. Her shaved head and crop of violet red hair peeking out from under the hat and large dramatic eyes were perfect for this look. Her natural pallor also adds to the dramatic and gothic colour palette. The other pieces that Sandra sported for me were a black tulle skirt and my leather military inspired jacket with the human skull applique on the back. She also wore the hat with the cream coloured peacock feathers, dusky purple roses and skeleton hand with this look. Again, I could not have picked a more perfect styling for her. She manages to look fierce and tough while still maintaining a beauty that draws you in.
I have included more photos of Sandra here than the other two ladies because that is what I received the most of from the photographers. Truth be told, once I started receiving photos representing the compilation of the day’s work, I realized that the photos of Sandra best presented the overall look and feel I had been hoping for all along. I also had a few comments throughout the day and afterwards from the photographers that for someone who had never modelled before, Sandra was a natural. I completely agree and lucky for me, she has agreed to model for me as often as I would like!
It felt otherworldly and like it was someone else’s life that day. I could hardly believe that I was actually there, at a cemetery, with models wearing MY work and photographers loving it and me so much that they wanted to give up a day in their weekend to do this shoot with me. The models also gave up a day in their weekend to be part of it. No one was paid even one cent. This was all a true collaboration and coming together of various talents and time simply out of the desire to create something cool and fresh and be a part of it. We all did receive various “rewards” from participating however – Donald had an interview with a new artist for his media site as well as some new photos for his portfolio, Daisy has some fresh looks for her book, Karolyn gained some more experience and perhaps some new contacts, Sandra had her first foray into modelling (something she’s always wanted to try) and me, well, I gained some more exposure, spectacular photos of my work on live bodies for once and some more affirmation that I am truly where I belong and need to keep pushing ahead with my dreams and imagination.
It would appear that this photo shoot has also produced even more than just a great experience and superb photos for everyone as Sandra and I have found a kindred spirit in each other and are quickly becoming close friends. Overall, it was a an inspiring and total art becoming reality kind of experience….one that has pushed me to go further and one that I won’t soon forget!