Earlier this year I collaborated with the team at Downtown Magazine to produce and photograph a number of projects for the Spring/5th Anniversary Issue. The first of those projects was the Beauty Spread.
Ananda Khan is definitely a name you’ve heard before if you’ve checked out any of the other stories on this blog. Ananda and I have been working together on shoots for the last two years on both commercial and editorial projects. Her work has always been impeccable and I knew that she was the right person to bring onto this project. I wanted to make something beautiful and worthy of the publication and as this was the first beauty story I’d shot in years I wanted to make sure it would be a success. I think she did a pretty fantastic job. One of the surprises from this shoot was the level of detail that absorbed us during the shoot. On a fashion shoot the beauty evolves with the story and while it is an integral component it is not the only one, and there is considerably more movement to contend with in the maintenance of a look throughout the day. However on a beauty shoot the devil really is in the beauty details, the range of subtle adjustments and alterations that comprise changing a look have a magic of their own and Ananda was not only patient with me through this discovery, but she was also indulgent of my directing when we’d pause while she was adjusting the hair because she’d built something potentially unintentional and simultaneously breathtaking.
Dawn Nicole was a suggestion from the publisher. Dawn had collaborated with Downtown Magazine in the past and Grace Capobianco trusted her to deliver high quality work and fit in with the rest of our team. After several phone calls, text messages, and pinterest mood boards I understood all the hype, since she’s the real deal. Dawn has an incredible eye for detail and the kind of personality that allowed her to fit seamlessly in with Ananda and myself (who at this point have a kind of telepathic shorthand, with lots of facial expressions that ranges from the comical to the intimidating). She is very open as an artist and a person, willing and eager to contribute new ideas and expanding on concepts in ways that I wouldn’t necessarily have considered based on her individual wealth of techical knowledge and differing creative inspiration. She was also willing to work organically experimenting with color and opacity within the theme, and by the end of the shoot the three of us were shooting and spinning off so many different ideas that the model had to remind us that she had a schedule to keep even though we were all getting trigger happy.
Speaking of our model, for this project we were lucky enough to book the stunning Vero Ulianova from Q Models. In the week or so before this shoot I was pouring over model books comparing the girls and searching for someone who I could imagine working for this project. This city is full of incredibly beautiful professional models (in addition of course to regular women who do not spend their life in front of a camera lens), and the decision to work with one person over another often comes down to logistics and personality. However I think that one of the biggest qualifiers for me is if I can believe that the woman looking back at me from the portfolio, which is in itself a collection of her pretending to be any number of vastly different characters with the styling to match, could also be my next story’s specific character. I kept coming back to Vero’s book and was thrilled when I spoke with her agent and he said that she’d be available to join us.
On a rainy afternoon in February Vero showed up to my door. Did I mention that we shot this story in my deconstructed living room? First shock was that she was a redhead (the images from her book led me to believe she was a blonde with shorter hair). Second shock (and a great one) was that she just as stunning standing with no makeup in my badly lit hallway as she was in the beautifully styled and curated portfolio. This is not always the case, but that’s a story for another day. Pleasant surprise: she wasn’t overly surprised my the state of the apartment, the team, or the fact the styling tools and makeup were carefully organized (which looks to the uninitiated like strewn) across every flat surface in the room except where the french press was brewing, because well coffee. While Ananda and Dawn were getting to work and we were all chatting Vero showed herself to be an intelligent and well traveled woman with interesting insights into living abroad and the culture shock of this crazy city we all call home. On set she was responsive, unafraid to try new things and offering a range of subtle variety through each look to make sure that we were on track to have a full and well developed story, in short she was a joy to work with.
Here are some of my favorite images from our afternoon shooting together.