Once upon a time…
Collaboration in the arts is so inspiring and yields such unexpected fruit… Images and sounds and visceral reactions you would never have encountered on your own. Depending on your personality or sense of control, there’s also some small piece of anxiety, some loosening of your grip that has to happen. I’m so excited to share my latest experience with my favorite photographer, Kat St. John, a project that turned out to be all of these things… motivating, energizing, a little nerve wracking, and just… fun. So fun, and I’m so pleased with the outcome!
I’m pretty sure it started with a tutu. Or maybe a drawer full of pins I’ve been collecting for years. In either case, there were definitely Princesses. The 12 Dancing Princesses, actually. Kat was ready for another shoot, and I had one my favorite faery tales suddenly filling my head with images of twilight secrets, passages and cloaks, wandering strangers, midnight walks into glimmerlit gardens, and the shoes worn thin each night with secret revelry.
So we started a pinterest board and I got to assembling wardrobe options (many thanks to friends and family who loaned shoes for props, and especially to the fabulous Erin Weathers of Fair Weathers Clothing for her advice when I hit some roadblocks—one of these days I WILL be wearing her clothes…). The image collection was my first jolt that collaboration is… well, collaborative.
I was focused on certain elements, like clothing and poses, and Kat began posting pictures with lighting effects, some makeup looks, locations and longshots…. Some I would never have pulled but which really complemented and enlivened my own images. It was the same concept, but through her lens.
I’m coming to love my shoot days with Kat so much… it’s kind of a roller coaster I just get on and put myself in her hands and we just fly through the day. But for this one… because I had been planning and thinking about this shoot for so long, it was honestly a little nerve wracking at first… we started with looks I hadn’t planned for! We didn’t pull out a wardrobe piece I’d been obsessing over, and we didn’t even talk about this one make-up look I’d posted at least 5 images of, and aaaahhh, where are we going with this!?!
But then I just… calmed the hell down, I guess. Kat got me dressed and through hair and makeup and we got into the shoot and she set up this beautiful lacy backdrop and whipped out a little photography trick of focusing through a little diamond cut into piece of wax paper and I relaxed and I realized, again—sometimes I’m slow—this was a collaborative project. One concept, but two imaginations angling and filtering it.
From the first shot she showed me, it was so clear she was absolutely heading in the same direction in terms of tone and story… it was just a very different path. I had been focused on the golden forest, and she brought the diamond woods.
And that’s when it got really exciting for me. I just threw out all my expectations. I had brought my ideas, I brought my fabrics and laces and spikes and fringe and chain, and not it was time to just let the actual creative act of creating and shooting the photos to take over.
After that unanticipated (by me) first look, I leaned into the story. We brought in something new at the last minute, a fur scarf I wore as a hood that brought a feral, wintery feel to the faery tale.
We spent an hour with this gorgeous headpiece by Boring Sidney (you’re welcome) and the afternoon light through this one little window in this one little room in Kat’s house. We got crazy with photoshop. (I’d been wanting a headpiece, and I knew it had to have something tough and hard, but something natural. I kept thinking driftwood or stones or… I don’t’ know. Then I walk in on shoot day, and Kat has this gorgeous, edgy, sparkly antler headpiece… it was exactly what I’d been trying and failing at envisioning.)
We took the rock and roll feel I’d been wanting into a mohawk and drove to a wooded park and chased the shifting sun at breakneck speed.
And seeing the finished images, they are just what I hoped for… a little strange and dark, full of shadows and light, graceful with a hardness, and with a faery tale lurking in there, ready to be drawn out.
So, this is a story of letting go, of handing over, and falling into something extraordinary.
I can’t wait for the next time.