Back in September I shot my Dust Up series in collaboration with art director Rebecca Cohen of Co. We've worked together before, and after a project this summer fell through on the client side, we decided to do a portfolio piece together.
This was a concept I've been thinking about for a couple years under the working title of Dust Bowl Chic.
The current economic landscape has brought a lot of reflection to the America of the great depression, so it seemed like the right time for this project.
After I wrote up a treatment, Rebecca and I spent some time refining the story and narrowing in on the look of the piece.
We brought in Lindsey Avenetti for hair and makeup--besides being a generally great MUA, she excels at natural looks, which were key to our shoot. We've got girls living out of vans--it ain't exactly runway here.
Joey Talalotu is a stylist I've know for a while, and I was glad to finally have a personal project with which to work with her.
Besides doing all the wardrobe and props, Joey also rocked a pretty mean reflector.
One of the key aspects of shooting several hours outside of town on a *cough* 'limited' budget was to keep the crew small enough to fit into two vehicles. One of which being our prop car. So I didn't get to bring an assistant along.
My work tends to the narrative and cinematic, which is usually something accomplished with money, but Robert Rodriguez's book Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player has given me useful guidance on making it look good for less . . .
. . . Like writing a story around resources you have. Such as a Eurovan in a very , um, 'distinct' color. And an adorable little blonde child. We decided our main model needed to be blonde since the kid we had access to was blonde. and so it went . . .
Our day shooting in the Columbia River Gorge wrapped up successfully on time, which just left our in-town day to shoot.
The venerable Mercedes Rose came in as Macy's mother the next morning.
So Mercedes is an actress, while Macy and Alicia are models . . . and Annika's just a four year old girl. Mercedes was great, but I haven't worked much with real actor-actors and I am not used to their energy first thing in the morning. Whoo, boy!
The emotional range of actors is great to work with, though--there's no worry whether they're gonna be able to' bring it' or not.
Besides the challenge of a two day shoot with multiple locations and models, this was also the first large, narrative shoot I've done without the use of any strobe lighting.
I usually use artificial light--day or night, inside or out--so it was something new for me to go without it. But of course, natural light is beautiful, so I'll probably be going that route more often in the future.
OK, so the house above is two blocks from mine. My house is nice, but heading over a couple blocks, the houses get much larger and nicer. The week before the shoot I went for a little walk , till I found one that had the right look and was lined up correctly with the sun. Then I just range the door bell and asked if I could take some photos. Portlanders are cool when it comes to stuff like that.
The other new challenge of this shoot is working with a child. When it comes to the Kids & Animals rule (i.e., don't work with them) I'll usually err on the animal side. This was my first shoot with a kid, but it went about as well as could be expected. Annika is a real trooper, luckily taking pretty quickly to Macy.
So that's a bit of the behind-the-scenes action. There were also a lot of snacks out in the Gorge, and a nice bagel platter in town. Food's the one place you can't scrimp on . . . a photo shoot marches on it's stomach.
[all images courtesy of Rebecca Cohen and Joey Talalotu, except the close-up of Joey in her shades, that was me]