When I was in school the class I most looked froward to was art. I was one of the lucky ones, my teachers were always enthusiastic, a little bonkers, and always, inspiring. It was in those classes that as a teenager I was introduced to Dali, Van Gogh, Pollock, Monet, Manet, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Gustav Klimt, Mucha, and so many more incredible artists. We were encouraged to study them, to investigate and decode what made them tick, what inspired them and why they used the mediums they used to express themselves. During a turbulent time in my life the voices of these artists before me kept me company, inspired me to keep creating, and this release of expression kept me sane. The theory, application, and philosophy that I learnt during those years has stayed with me and when I create I channel them through my work.
As a fledgling creator, I didn’t start taking myself seriously until 2014 when I created a picture of a sleeping nymph surrounded by flowers. That picture for me was a step into something new, something special, a world where I controlled the content, where I could explore my love of spring, of femininity, of fairytales, of flowers, of enchantment. It’s what most of you guys know me for and it’s a world I’ve escaped into over and over again, at first to distract myself from a job that wasn’t my calling, and later to experience and immerse myself in the wonders of the natural world and collaborate with artists whom I admire and who are as passionate about their craft as I am mine.
For my latest picture I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone once more, to push myself to create something that captured and symbolised this moment in my life as well as reconnect to the magic that I felt in that little shoot back in 2014.
As a new romantic love blossomed in my own personal life, I found myself growing as a person, as a girlfriend, as a business partner, as a best friend, and as of this year, a fiancee.
Up until now all my pictures featured solo feminine characters blossoming into their own, from sleeping nymphs to warrior queens. The growth of the characters quietly mirror my internal evolution into womanhood while at the same time drawing us into their world.
It was time to add another dynamic.
Just as the pastel hues of spring reminds me of Monet, and summer’s vibrant tones of Frida, the golden leaves of autumn reminds me of Klimt’s, The Kiss, a romantic portrait of two lovers in a sweet embrace.
The idea of this image has been brewing for a few years. I didn’t quite know what it would look like but two years ago I began pulling the pieces of the shoot together. I contacted models, tried to find a male model in the area, and source styling to suit but somehow the threads I was holding onto tightly unravelled and as these things happen, that shoot never panned out. However, the concept was still there, quietly cooking in the back of my mind.
Last year as though the universe itself was guiding the way somehow the pieces came together, all I had to do, was say yes.
Yes to Maria staying at my house for a few days before we went to Stockholm.
Yes to Jeremy Moineau, an Australian model recommended by a friend who happened to be visiting the UK for a couple of days.
Yes to Agnieszka Osipa who sent over a box of selected dresses and headpieces.
Yes to Pratik, my love and partner in creativity who kindly offered to shoot BTS footage and worked with me on the final edit.
Yes to Scarlett who was kind enough to assist.
And Yes to Phase One’s support with the XF IQ3 100MP camera system.
Just like that, the stars aligned and on one late summer’s afternoon deep in the green woods, our picture, The Kiss, was born.
When it came to the styling Maria, I reached out to designer, Agnieszka Osipa, a woman whose creative, detailed craft I admire. I selected a dress that had beautiful intricate gold detailing and elements of green as I knew this would work beautifully with a foliage rich background. I chose a crown that she had also designed, one I felt suited the look best.
Since the outfits were richly toned I wanted Maria's hair to be neutral toned. I decided to go with white as it would then work quite nicely with the white of Jeremy’s shirt and keep the colours in the picture balanced.
Jeremy’s styling came together a little differently. A few weeks prior to the shoot I came across a robe in Zara that was made of a beautiful gold toned fabric. I knew immediately that I wanted to use it in a shoot but I didn’t know when or where. As this shoot came together I pulled out the robe and discovered that it paired beautifully with the dress from Agnieszka. It was then a case of putting together the rest of his outfit. I picked up the shirt on Amazon and replaced the previous string laced rope with red velvet for a more romantic style. The leggings are also from Amazon which I lightly spray painted gold for a more cohesive feel. The crown he wears is from eBay. I loved pairing the delicacy of it with his masculinity.
As always, I wanted to create a voyeuristic atmosphere, as though we the viewer are peeking through a portal, a slip of magic, into another world.
I knew the final piece would be shot from above, however there was just one tiny problem… I forgot to pack the ladder !
Any working photographer will tell you that problem solving becomes something that you became very good at over time. When it comes to photoshoot be prepared for something to go wrong, sometimes it’s the weather, the client’s changing demands, missing equipment, etc. In any case some things are just out of our hands (in this case my ladder haha), and it’s perfectly normal to make mistakes, this only means that a) that’s one more mistake out of the way that you won’t make again and b) you develop some skills on how to overcome set backs.
For this shoot I had to reach out to some of those skills I’d developed over time. Since I didn’t have a ladder, I shot standing over the models with my arms raised. Since I couldn’t fit the entire scene in one frame, I decided to shot in “pieces” then stitch them together in post production. This allowed me to focus on the expressions, the movement of the neck and hair, the flow of the arms and hands, the fall of the dress, and the position of the feet. Checking the camera after each shot to ensure the focus was perfect also gave me a chance to reflect on ways of improving each of these elements.
I also shot around the subjects too incase I wanted to expand the image (which I did do in the end as you will see in the timelapse video below).
In a strange way I’m actually quite happy about my mistake in forgetting the ladder as had I used it, this would be a slight different picture I’m sure of it. And now that I think about it, even the distance of the subjects and the viewer has meaning to me now, it’s the entire length of me, 5ft 2” plus the length of my arms. As someone who hasn’t always been particular grateful for this short stature, to create something beautiful with it, well, it makes me smile.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little bit about what inspired this piece and some of the thought process behind it.
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H O W I T A L L C A M E T O G E T H E R
To light this image I used a Profoto A1, that we had rigged (via good ol' duct tape!) onto a softbox modifier. The Phase One IQ3 digital back has a built-in Profoto Air trigger, I synced the A1 to this. I'll be honest, I really appreciate this handy little feature!
When Pratik had finished filming for our BTS video, I asked him to hold the light above the pair at an angle where I felt the light fall looked beautiful.
Since I knew I was compositing the image later, we actually lit each frame separately to create a consistency in the images.
In the editing room...
Using Capture One 10 and Photoshop CC, slowly and in pieces the final picture was brought to life. I decided to timelapse my edit. This, along with the massive Phase One 100MP files (that I was compositing!) added quite the strain on my computer as you can imagine!
At one point the Photoshop file grew to over 18GB !
I had to keep saving, flattening, and renaming as I went. It was the only way.
Everything in this timelapse is from my computer. Later when I was happy with the edit I sent it over to Pratik who then worked his magic to take it our picture to another level.
I M A G E D E T A I L S
Camera used: Phase One IQ3 100MP
Lens used: Schneider Kreuznach 55mm LS f/2.8
Settings: 1/250 f/8 @200 ISO
Lighting: Profoto A1 with (rigged) softbox modifier
Software to edit: Capture One & Photoshop CC
Inspired by our love and created together, our picture, 'The Kiss', will always have a special place in my heart.
I hope you've enjoyed reading all about it. And well done, pat on the back!, if you've made it this far!! <3