I want to share the story of one of my first shoots in my reimagined editorial style. I did this shoot in November of 2020 (mid pandemic and at the height of election mayhem) and it was so good to have a creative outlet to be enthusiastic about amid the madness. My subject Angie has been a professional model for years. It was, therefore, with some trepidation that I sat down with her over cocktails to outline my new career vision and propose a collaboration. She surprised me with her enthusiasm and we immediately began talking over ideas.
Angie has had quite a successful modeling career (flying to New York and South Africa for campaigns), however she is extremely critical of the industry as a whole for its racism, sexism, and the unrealistic body standards that it creates and upholds. As we sat sipping GnTs discussing her frustration, we began imagining the idea of a comical commentary on the beauty requirements set for women by the fashion industry. We were both drawn to the extremes portrayed by fashion photography from the 40s and 50s (painfully tiny waists made even smaller by flared skirts and accentuated shoulders, plus an extreme lack of diversity), so we decided to make light of those tropes with her glorious afro and judicious use of a tape measure prop. I found a fantastic vintage shop (shout out to Lucky Dry Goods!) that rents out dresses, and spent a rapturous hour in their warehouse (I kid you not, a literal warehouse full of vintage fantasies worthy of Katherine Hepburn or Lucille Ball) blissfully wrapped in dreams of silk and crinoline. For a venue we chose the lobby of the Ballard Inn, a tiny, tastefully fancy, retro inn on Ballard Ave, whose staff are wonderfully supportive of the arts.
I must admit, I was definitely nervous at first to photograph such a professionally stunning person, and to try to manifest our ambitious idea. I’m always more invested in these creative, storytelling shoots and therefore am always a little more anxious about making them into a reality. As Angie and I brainstormed that first day, I formed such a specific image of the shoot in my mind, of the mood, the details, and the end product that I wanted. The specificity of my mental image and my personal investment in the success and end product added to my nerves and excitement and on the day of the shoot I bounced out of bed in a tizzy.
From this shoot I learned that I need to keep that image of my desired end product malleable. I can’t let it solidify into a shining, unreachable holy grail. I must allow it to grow and reform as the reality of the project unfolds. Every time I do one of these portfolio shoots I’m reminded how imperative they are for my artist’s soul. It’s so necessary to exercise my creativity and ingenuity (otherwise it’s all bankers and lawyers in picturesque QFC parking lots ;). I learn so much every time about pushing and balancing the creative and technical pieces of photography that come together to really make a shoot great.
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination