The last few months have been going really well, in that I’ve started to move a bit away from Fashion Week work and into more editorial work. This past year, I’ve shot for some smaller magazines, as well as some bigger names like Glamour, L’Officiel and Elle. But of all of the photos taken in 2016, I’d have to say this is by far my favorite shoot: shooting Haute Couture for L’Officiel Switzerland.
This shoot, from the start, had stress surrounding it. The location I used for this shoot was at Axe Majeur, which is a huge architectural compound in Cergy, just north of Paris. I’d shot there twice before, with the first shoot being an absolute disaster (I didn’t pick the models, and the stylist showed up with things I didn’t like at all… – all of this I’ll chalk up to being my fault, I’m cool with that), The second being much more interesting – but not being picked up by any magazines for whatever reason. So I went into this shoot with a bit of stress and pressure to make this one absolutely beautiful, especially for a location like this.
The other part of stress was the model: Elena Melnik. In putting my mood board together, I used two photos from Vogue and Numéro magazines, respectively, to illustrate the ambiance and the movement of what I wanted to convey in my images; I had NO idea that Elena was the model in both of these photos! So this was cool because I knew that she could pull it off, but also nerve-shaking in knowing some of the photographers she’s used to shooting with – and now shooting with…. me… I don’t have a problem with confidence, but I also know where I stand in the overall photography game, and I’m not (yet) shooting for Numéro.
The last piece of stress was the fact that we’re shooting dresses and pieces valued well over $5k – on a day where it’s heavily overcast and strong possibilities of rain. Each of the brands let us know they weren’t too happy to be giving pieces on such a bad weather day, but this was our day and we had to stick to it – after all, the make-up artist (Piia Hiltunen) flew in from Helsinki to Paris, and Elena was leaving the country just after for another job.
The morning of, everyone met at my apartment so that we could get the bulk of the make-up and hair extensions done. Since we were shooting on location without a permit, there was a sense of urgency from the beginning to get the shots we needed without wasting a lot of time away from the vehicles (the police drove by twice, but it was a French holiday and they didn’t want to be at work, so they didn’t say a word).
We had amazing clothing from tons of brands, from Ashi Studio and Armani Privé, to Versace Atelier, Alexandre Vauthier, Valentino and others. I really wanted to capture the model in movement in these photos, so I told the stylist, Simon Gensowski, to make sure we had pieces that allowed Elena to really move.
Simon was constantly stressed because of the weather, but what they were worried about, I saw as a way to make a much more dramatic series. The entire day, we didn’t get one single drop of rain – just a ton of clouds and strong winds. In total, we shot for 5 hours, which isn’t really that long. The morning was, again, saved for hair and make-up. The rest of the time, we plowed through 11 looks with a model who had a motor that went non-stop from start to finish.
What was funny to see were the couriers from each brand and showroom. Normally, you have the different couriers who come and go to bring clothing and take pieces away – sometimes they’re under deadlines so they sit and wait while you shoot. It was different this time, though, because the shoot was 45 minutes outside of Paris. So we almost looked like drug dealers unloading kilos of drugs, with all of the vans coming and going! They came this far just to sit and wait while we shoot, as some pieces had to go back to Paris for Vogue and Harper’s shoots just after we shot them. Shooting outside the city is already a stretch for insurance purposes and availability, but Couture is another type of beast in that there’s only one of everything, and what you see the model wear is all that’s available – so everyone needs that one piece. There was a dress, for example, from Versace Atelier that the model, who was already pretty thin (healthy thin, I might add), couldn’t fit into. So to think of how small the runway girl is (Kasia Struss – the dress is here) just blew my mind.
The Mood Board used for The Shoot
The only frustrating part of this shoot, was the fact that it was shot in mid-July, and wasn’t release until recently, December 8th! It was originally set to be in stores in October, then November. The editor decided, however, that they liked the series so much (and the fact that it was the Couture collection) that they wanted it to be out in the December/January issue – so my frustration turned to excitement, as our series was published for two months of advertising my work and our beautiful series!
The response has been great on the shoot, with lots of reposts on the shoot, and the most important thing, more exposure and more contact from other magazines wanting to work together. Those things are only due to an amazing team, and a model who really worked our shoot!
Photographer: DeMarcus Allen
Stylist: Simon Gensowski
Make-up: Piia Hiltunen
Hair: Olivier Henry