Sophia St Villier: De Lempicka

(Click on the Image to be taken to the shoot gallery)

Sophia St. Villier is a model and burlesque performer that I'd wished to photograph for a very long time. If you've ready many of these blogs, I'm sure you'll find the 'wanted to photograph for a long time' theme prevalent. I guess this isn't so surprising-I'm sure that like me, many other photographers have a list of people they'd wish to collaborate with as long as Claudia Schiffer's legs. And, given that I have to fit my photography around a time consuming job-i'm not complaining, as the job pays for my photographic escapades-the list of potential collaborators continues to grow faster than the opportunity to shoot.

Anyway, I digress. Sophia. Sophia is a fabulous model with an already exceptional portfolio of images, wonderful red hair, and an amazing look. And as noted, a portfolio already filled with some exceptional and diverse images. Whilst wishing to collaborate with her, I wanted to be sure that I'd be able to ensure images that would add something to both our portfolios. Whilst looking through Sophias portfolio, I was particularly struck by one image, which to me had the feeling of a Tamara De Lempicka painting. De Lempicka was a painter who's work is best described, I'd guess, as art deco in style. Whilst you may not know her name, you'll doubtless be familiar with her work, but if not, check out this site.

Taking this one step further, I thought it would be great to do a shoot with Sophia, based primarily on the 1920’s era De Lempicka portraits. So, I proposed the theme to Sophia, and she was happy to collaborate on this. Putting together the mood board of images by De Lempicka was essential, and It allowed us to draw out key elements of the 20's De Lempicka portraits that would lend themselves to a photographic shoot. Strong lines, satiny materials, strong contrasts, and so on… 

We'd be limited to a studio shoot for this one, but fortunately, one feature of De Lempickas portraits is that they are usually a very tight crop, with just enough of the surrounding room to give atmosphere, and presence to the image. And, whilst it would have been wonderful to get out into some fabulous oak panelled room with period art-deco style furniture, we would have doubtless been hunting for weeks to find a location. So, we settled for the studio, and using whatever we could get our hands on. Of course, the intention was not to slavishly copy the portraits, but to take inspiration from them, allow them to inform our shoot. All things considered, I think we did okay. Sophia showed up with some fabulous dresses and fabrics, and I for my part brought along an epically sized red satiny thing, and flowers, all of which ended up getting used in the images. All in all, I'm very happy with what we were able to come away with.

Of course, given that the images were to have a 'painterly' feel to them, the post-production work would be different from usual. I wanted the images to have the sense of a painting, but without the heavy handed 'filter' approach, where a third party filter would be whacked over the image to give a very quick and dirty, but ultimately thoughtlessly processed image. So, I set about experimenting. I'm sure there are photoshop gods out there who could do a way better job, but actually, I'm very satisfied with what we got. 

We also, in the final fifteen or twenty minutes or so, photographed a short sequence of burlesque performance images. Whilst Sophia has any number of fantastic performance images, it was something I wanted to try out, and again, we came away with some great images, which I'm certainly very happy to have in my portfolio.