One portrait photography shoot with no specific brief, one model-slash-make-up-artist looking for some fun and distraction from daily life (if only for a couple of hours!), one hair stylist needing competition photographs and one photographer up for it all. Sounds like fun disguised as work but really, it was all fun!
To set the scene for this creative portrait shoot and group project we need to go back a step to, “one hair stylist needing competition photographs”. My talented friend and colleague, Shannon Van Praag, got the ball rolling with the decision to enter a hair competition on her return from a holiday abroad. With our dear friend Gena Bagley-Konia at the forefront of her mind, Shannon launched headlong into her Creative Gap (see my facebook page for further explanation!) and the Three Amigos were at it again: Shannon on hair, Gena on make-up and modelling, Nadine on photography… and all three of us bouncing style and direction ideas around in facebook messenger like a ping pong ball in a wind machine!
Gena starting out on our adventure all smiles and snug-as-a-bug in her fur trimmed hood!
Unfortunately, I can’t show you any of the competition portrait photographs we created. They have to stay under wraps until the competition has been judged and the results made public. But what I can show you is the images we created AFTER and the story surrounding them. With a change of hair style, clothes and location this was the part of the day all three of us had been looking forward to. The day had started out grey, cold and raining and all I could think about was getting outside in the lowered cloud and moody light to photograph Gena! By the time we made it outdoors the rain had stopped, the wind had picked up, the clouds had lifted but it was still beautiful light…and still cold!
Going for the wet look and seeing the funny side…phew!
What is that about to escape your lips Shannon van Praag?!
Creative cogs are starting to turn, moods are settling and a portrait shoot is beginning…
It’s about here that I need to bring you up to speed with the “direction” of our creative shoot, other than having fun splashing around in an ice cold lake! It all came about during one of our evening ping-pong-ball-in-the-wind-machine sessions in messenger. Gena and Shannon had decided that Gena would wear a long black skirt for our first shoot. The skirt reminded Gena of a favourite New Zealand movie The Piano and her comment was “You can take me to the lake afterwards and let me sink in the water like Ada did!” That’s all the encouragement I needed!
We may have got a little over-excited, gone out too deep too quickly and lost the billowing effect of Gena’s skirt like Ada’s in The Piano but that’s when this shoot started to take on a life of its own.
Below is one of my favourite portrait images. Gena isn’t in focus, the water in front of her is. She has just started to turn around to make the walk back through the water towards me, it’s cold and she has a full length skirt dragging at her legs under the water. It’s not the easiest walk she’ll make but I know she’ll do it and she’ll do it with strength and grace. I also know she has her 7 year old daughter Scarlett by her side in spirit, her daughter that she lost ten and a half weeks ago. Gena says of this moment “the Arctic temps were such a controlled and superficial pain compared to the last 10.5 weeks of my life”. At the time none of us thought of the figurative and literal connotations of this shoot for Gena until afterwards. We just let our joint creativity sweep us away on a magical journey.
Gena strides with feminine stealth through the water…
Oh, oops! No she doesn’t! Water-weighted skirts are easy to stand and trip on! Sh@*…I think that’s what you’re trying to say Gena?!
Recovered with a gorgeous smile…
…and straight back into portrait mode! Legend!
In Gena’s own words: “The mind’s voice was the driving force in this watery-collab, “The voice you hear is not my speaking voice, but my mind’s voice.” (Quote from Ada in The Piano). Brought together by Shannon and a love of beauty, we all braved the icy temperatures to express our inner womanly voice.
The voice of power.
The voice of art.
The voice of an individual journey.
And the voice that strong friendships create.”
And with that last walk out of the water we knew our portrait shoot was a wrap! Either that or we’d be treating Gena for hypothermia anytime soon! Within seconds, wet clothes were flung onto the beach, towels and jackets were piled on Gena and we bolted for the car! (I didn’t realise until after I’d taken this candid shot that I was actually in it as well, that’s one way around a selfie!).
And like any photographer addicted to their craft, I stayed on to shoot the fading light and to finish the story we had started.