Monday, July 8, 2013

The Making of The May Queen

Several months ago now I decided I wanted to try and push myself farther with my photography.  More in the direction of setting a complete scene.  Trying to create images that are over the top and combine both art and fashion.  I'm not the first to mix the two genres for sure but I wanted to see what I could do with it.  

I chose to create a four piece series based around the seasons.  Always being inspired by nature I figured this would be a good starting point.  Plus I could really pour myself in to each season having a couple of months before each to plan for the next.  Brilliant!  When I began first planning this project it was Winter and I thought I would start with a Winter Maiden.  I searched and blogged and pintrested to find my characters and slowly began to stitch a fuzzy image together in my mind.  

I thought I would buy a vintage wedding dress and embellish it from there.  At the time I was very inspired by photographer Kirsty Mitchell and the amazing time and attention to detail she provides.  Her images truly are a feast for the eyes.  I asked my sister to help me attach flowers to the bodice of a vintage dress and other silly things to which she agreed.  She’s really good at that kind of stuff.  She always had the best Halloween costumes when we were growing up....  Well, with it being Winter already before I knew it the Holidays were here and then the end of the year and guess who didn't manage to sew any flowers onto any dresses?  Ok, Winters out, how ‘bout I begin with Spring?  That seems somehow better right?  New beginnings and all that.  Ok, go get ‘em Spring!

I decided creating everything from scratch is not something I could accomplish in a time frame I’m comfortable with.  Not within two months certainly.  Having a full time day job really cuts into ones creative time but it does pay the bills.  I wanted to work with striking gowns and searched for a local designer that might be interested in collaborating on the project but was unable to connect with just what I needed.  I decided to spend more money and get a few gowns that I could hand pick for each shoot.  now that I had the wardrobe I was inspired to create this character a large crown or head-wreath to really complete the look.  I mean these characters are basically the physical embodiment of seasonal nature spirits so it seemed fitting.  
I also realized I needed killer makeup and hair.  I turned to my friend Allison of Alli Mae Makeup and after looking through the mood board images I’d collected she created a magical look for our May Queen with vibrant color.
I searched for the right shaped crown online that I could cover it with tiny flower blossoms or something but couldn't find one that was just right so I took a chance and reached out to Willow of Creatrix Headdresses by Willow to see if she might be interested in loaning me one of her designs in exchange for images for her site.  I crossed my fingers…  Happily I can say that she agreed and even went so far as to create an entirely new piece based on this project!  Its colors mimicked the dress and spirit of the May Queen, harbinger of Spring.
Lastly to cast our model, our storyteller.  I wanted a natural beauty with long brunette hair and who would be truly interested in the project and of course fit the wardrobe.  I found Sara and she agreed to play our Queen.  She also happens to be studying Landscape Architecture and is quite familiar with many of the plants in the Arboretum where we shot this. Squeal! Perfect.
Team Set.

some mood board or inspirational images. thanks to the original artists for the inspiration!

I did however end up creating one thing from scratch.  I wanted her to have a tall walking staff to hold as a prop piece.  As I see it she walks through the end of Winter and brings Spring at her heels, at the hem of her dress… So a walking stick would certainly be appreciated by her, no? 
I mentioned to my friend Taylor I was planning to walk the forest to find the perfect staff for one of my photo projects and I believe his exact words were “If you need a tall stick I can help you with that.  I have that freaking hedge remember?”  oh yeah!!  He has a ginormous Laurel hedge on his property that he has to stand on rigging to trim the top of.  Next day he brought me two selections.  One shorter and knobbier, the other taller and skinnier.  Two because he wasn't sure of my models height and wanted to be sure I had something to work with. he's cool. J
We shoe-horned them into my tiny car and I drove off.  The weekend before the shoot (which ended up being rescheduled) I went to the location to scout the exact spots we would be shooting and to collect the very last of the cherry blossoms.  I wanted to capture one image with tons of flower petals in the air and I needed the petals to be small, not large like rose petals, which would've been easy to get of course but..  no, they needed to be small so they wouldn't run the risk of blocking out large portions of the models face when they were tossed about.  Cherry blossoms it is.  At this point there are only a few left on the trees because it’s mid-May.  I picked up every last blossom that wasn't already crushed into the ground and saved them in a small bag I brought.  I misted them and put them in my fridge when I got home but they only lasted a few days. Poo. Anyway, I also grabbed a few pieces of moss to ornament the staff with.  To make it “Springy”.  I spent an evening hunched over a Laurel branch with green moss and lichen and a glue gun sipping a cider and trying to keep my dog away from my creation.  

all the blossoms I collected...

building a queenly staff in my living room.

I used the dried cherry blossom petals as decoration on the staff.
After all the prop building, wardrobe procuring and team assembling it was time to schedule the shoot.  truth be told, this was the most difficult part.  I found that the bigger you make your team the harder it is to pin things down.  everyone has their own schedules and coordinating can be a logistical challenge.  This shoot was rescheduled four times and I had to recast both the model and MUAH twice due to scheduling conflicts.  It can be terribly stressful but so worth it in the end when you get an awesome team like I had here.  Once we had a date that worked for all involved things came together quite nicely.  

Well, I can honestly say I poured my heart and soul into this project and while it had some difficulties such as arranging a working schedule and a short seasonal time frame it came together in the end.  No lie, this was a hard one. The weather was sunnier than I wanted and all the grasses had grown by at least a foot and a half since I was last there to scout.  No matter, I’m making this work.  I narrowed the shooting locations to just the best ones and didn’t snap away forever, just got it done.  I improvised with colorful trees for backgrounds as almost all the flowers were gone by this point because it was now June and Summer was arriving.   And I took my time composing each shot,  perfecting the focus and adjusting the model so the light was most flattering.  I even remembered to shoot some film!  Scouting the location five times actually paid off.  :)  All in all it was a wonderful shoot and I hope the rest of the seasons turn out as well as this first one has. I learned a lot and will apply it all in my future shoots.  

parking lot lash application~

I even had flower petal nail tips for our Queen.

yes, I learned a lot with this shoot and I will finish this year long seasonal project.  Wasn’t that me who said I’d never do another year long project?!  I know I may need to shoot them out of order but I will finish them when all the pieces are complete and I know the final images will be perfect.  This is definitely a project where detail and imagination are far more important than meeting a deadline.

I want to thank all of the wonderful people that helped me create my vision of the Spring May Queen.  My wonderful team; model Sara, MUAH Allison, and designer Willow.  Also everyone else who assisted or inspired me for this shoot. 
Now a couple of weeks break and then move on to the Midsummer Maiden Shoot.  or maybe a I'll take the rest of the summer off~  ;)

one of the final images from the shoot.  :)

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