Sophia St Villier: De Lempicka

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(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. 

Miss Lucy Fur: The Valentine Shoot

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

I recently completed my third shoot with Lucy Fur. We had a brief shoot at Ingatestone Hall last year, and was so happy with the results that we arranged a Christmas shoot together. Both are covered in earlier blogs. We got some great images that we've both been very happy with, and which have also been the subject of great feedback from others. So, when Lucy suggested a Valentines shoot, it took me just a few seconds to reply with a 'blimey yes!'. Actually, I may not have said 'blimey'. It may have been a shorter, much more vulgar, sweary word.

Obviously, as a Valentine themed shoot, pink was to be the order of the day. Pink lighting, pink background, pink candy stripe lingerie and fascinator, and, well, general pinkness. And some hearts, on pants mostly. We also scoured ebay looking for suitable props, and were fortunate enough to win a set of eight red and pink heart shaped cushions. You probably didn't notice them in the shoot. Not least because the seller didn't contact me for three days after I'd won the things. She actually eventually contacted me right in the middle of the shoot. Pah. Still, I guess that means we've got our first set of props ready for next year… ;-)

Anyway, back to this years shoot. We started off with some lovely candy striped lingerie, matched perfectly to a wonderful fascinator borrowed for the occasion from Miss Kitty Hats, who you'll find at this link
here. We tried a couple of lighting setups for this one, both of which turned out to be pretty cool. We changed the lighting and background completely for our next set, something a little bit cheekier. Literaly. We photographed some great lingerie, with a sheer lace heart cut out of the bottom, the images being something of a nod towards vintage pinup style shots. Next up we draped a massive sheet of satiny red material (the one ebay purchase that did arrive on time!) as a background, coupled with an absolutely wonderful corset which Lucy brought along. Much darker images than you might imagine for a Valentines shoot, but as Lucy noted, the images turned out to be 'very OMalley….'.

We then moved back to a very pink background to shoot the same outfit, and got some of the outstanding images of the shoot for me. We also managed to squeeze in a fabulous latex outfit which Lucy brought along, with matching shoes and handbag. This was only the second time I'd shot latex, and was happy to have the opportunity to do so again. For these we stepped away from the valentine feel a little, but returned for the final couple of shots to round off the session. First of all, incorporating some candles spelling out 'with love' which I actually picked up from the newsagents on the way to the shoot. An opportune find, but which got us a great image from the day. Next up was me hanging precariously from a very tall ladder to photograph Lucy top down. I thought it would be funny if I pretended to be falling from the ladder towards Lucy. Lucy didn't find it anywhere near as funny as me, actually, and I think I can safely say that I've now experienced Lucy's proper telling off voice. Won't be doing that again in a hurry, I can tell you…

As usual, clicking on the image above will take you to the gallery.

Morgana, photographed in London



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

Whilst I"m not usually a fan of studio based group shoots for various reasons, and tend to not to attend too many, occasionally there will be something which persuades me to join one. The neon shoot last July was one such, and the opportunity to get a few shots with Morgana was enough to persuade me to join a recent 'MeetUp' shoot in North London.

The promo for the event described Morgana as 'the alternative legend Morgana', and that sums things up pretty well. If you're not familiar with Morgana's work, a quick google of Model Morgana will fix that, and make it pretty clear why I'd be happy to put aside my indifference to group shoots, and sign up for this one. Additionally, I'd already exchanged emails with Morgana, having used one of her corsets in a previous shoot, when shooting her good friend Lucy Fur, so not least, this was also a good chance to meet her properly.

Of course, one of the reasons I'm not usually enamoured of group shoots is that in order to keep things running smoothly, the lighting setups need be functional, and, in order to keep six photographers happy, pretty much suited to all. So, broadly speaking, you will end up with a setup that's comparatively straightforward. No harm there-most of my lighting setups are usually one light, two max, with very occasional straying into the rock'n'roill bleeding edge dizzy heights territory of three lights. I'm that crazy, me. Anyway, my point is, simple lighting does not automatically equal bad lighting, but I do like it to be my own lighting, rather than someone else's. If someone else has set up the lights, and told you the aperture/speed for the shot, I find it difficult to feel that it's 'my' photo. Anyway, I managed to end up being the last of the photographers to shoot for each of the lighting setups, which meant that I could actually experiment a bit with the lights, and change them round a bit.

For two sets, I didn't change anything, but for one set, I thought there was potential for something a little more dramatic in changing the lighting. The light was originally set up with a big octobox, with the model far enough away from the white background to drop it out to grey. But, nothing dramatic. Adrian Jones, one of the other photographers had brought along some pretty impressive antlers for his own image, and was gracious enough to let me use them for a couple of shots. Very gracious-I know that as a photographer, having sourced a prop, and set everything up for the image *I* want, to have someone then go 'cool-I'll do that too!' is more than a little galling. So, hat's off to Jonesey, for being so genuinely generous in letting me steal his antlers for a couple of shots. Anyway, first thing I did was take the ambient lights down to leave just the light from the proper lamp, and take the soft box off it, so that we'd get much more direct light, and stronger, much more dramatic shadows. This resulted in a couple of images from the session that I can definitely call my own.

But, this does highlight the good side of group shoots-meeting other photographers, and seeing how they interact with the models, and how *they* get the best out of the situation. It's always interesting to see other photographers work, and there's always something you'll learn from seeing this interaction. After this shoot, for example, I know that I'll be taking much more of an interest next time I'm anywhere near an antiques place, or second hand junk shop-as I've realised now, you never know when something might show up that may well make an image some way down the road.

So anyway, Morgana. Blimey. I have to say, out of the images I got, I could pretty much have picked a dozen or so at random, and been very happy to post them. She's an amazing model, and I'm looking forward to collaborating with Morgana again just as soon as I have the opportunity, but this time having much more control over the setup, and full control over the concept of the shoot. In the meantime, click on the image above to be taken to the gallery of images from the first shoot, and check out the iPad wallpaper, featuring Morgana,
right here.





Miss Lucy Fur, photographed in London

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(Click on the Image to be taken to the shoot gallery)
I recently shot for a second time with Miss Lucy Fur, the first shoot being covered on my blog here . Lucy's a wonderful model, and I was very happy to have the opportunity to collaborate with her on a festive pinup shoot. It's something I've wanted to do for quite a while, and it was great to work with Lucy on this-she brought loads of ideas to the shoot, and not least, a wonderful wardrobe that helped us really capture a festive holiday feel in the images. We hit a bit of an emergency, however, when I realised the wrapping paper I'd purchased to wrap stuff was still at home. Doh! Fortunately, a quick trip to Brent Cross, a fifteen minute shopping spree, and we were sorted again.

We shot three or four different looks, with a mix of backgrounds, and I’m delighted with our results.

Miss Lucy Fur, photographed in Essex: Part One

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(Click on the Image to be taken to the shoot gallery). What a wonderful and surprising shoot this was. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a mini group shoot (just four photographers) at a wonderful stately home in Essex recently. The bigger part of the hall is usually open to tourists, with a separate area where the family who built the house several centuries ago still live. Well, their descendants, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, we had the run of the museum bit. About twenty rooms, and massive grounds, for four photographers. So, not much chance of getting in each others way. The group was being run in a kind of random manner-if a model’s ready, photograph them. Well, yes. Fine. Except I knew th
at more than anyone else, I wanted to collaborate with Lucy Fur, much more than rolling the dice. Lucy’s been on my ‘must work with’ list for at least a year or two now, and when I learned she was attending, well, fantastic. So first thing I did was make sure I was first on the list to work with Lucy. And I was so glad I did. Lucy was absolutely wonderful to work with-charming, a wonderful model, receptive to ideas, happy to leap around the place, and cheerful throughout.

As noted, we had the run of the museum section, and so long as we didn’t break anything, or sit in the especially old chairs, we could move stuff around to our hearts content. So we did. The gallery here contains images from the first hour or so of our collaboration, after which I felt guilty for hogging all of her time, and decided I should let one of the other photographers collaborate with Lucy. It was hard to do so though-I knew we were getting some great images, and I really didn’t want to share. But, even as I did so, I made sure we had our plans for the afternoon session, and the images from the PM will be posted her soon.

I’m thrilled with the images we got, and certainly, the image above is one of my favourite images, not just from this session, but ever.

Lucy’s now at the top of my ‘must work with again, and soon’ list.