Sunday, 16 February 2014

Creative Shoot Styling

I had a very interesting meeting with a great London based creative hair stylist this week - he also happens to be a shoot stylist, though that was not the reason I got in touch, indeed I was not aware he had this role.  We discussed a possible collaboration, and typical me, although I always have ideas for what I want to create/achieve, took nothing but a notebook and pen with me.  

My collaborations do not base on preconceived ideas.  I listen to the people I am working with and try to understand what their strong points are and what their goals within this collaboration are.  Sometimes, during this initial conversation, I push people a little bit as I want to find out not only what they want to and can do but also what they won't and can't. This is important for me, as I would never want to push a collaborator too much during the creative process. in both the prep just before the shoot and also during this, knowing very well that if I wanted to I could go too far and upset the delicate balance of what is essentially, a group of people who are coming together creatively for the first time.  

Even when you work with your own established team, you are likely to be introducing different models, therefore it is essential to maintain this fine balance till at least the end of the shooting.

Diva behaviour is not something I enjoy very much so people with attitude don't make it to my short-list, which is why I always try to meet with the people i will be working with.  If my gut feeling says no, then I will think about whether to take this forward...

Back to the shoot stylist.  We mostly talked about ideas for hair but he also talked about his role as a stylist.  I then just suddenly realised that up to now I have never engaged one, maybe because I worry that they may take over most of the creative process pre shoot and that the resulting imagery would have less of my imprint only.  

I had not realised that I am doing a lot of extra work some photographers don't do.  I have always stylised my own shoots and that all the timeline and planning always falls on myself.

My process is usually quite meticulous and unless I am pressured, I will not propose a date for shooting until everything is sourced and available.  Everything beyond the model turning up, and the MUA and hair stylist doing their bit, is usually up to me.  this includes location scouting, deciding timing of shoot for best lighting, planning transport of kit, clothing, purchasing/modifying props and getting all the team organised and with a clear idea in mind.  
It just struck me how lucky some photographers are to have a stylist assist and take a little of the planning and execution.  or am I the lucky one as I retain more control over the execution of my vision?

I spend my "free time" (really and truly I don't even know what free time is!), going into charity shops, vintage stores and all sorts of random places, from B&Q to gardening centres scouring for and sourcing items for a shoot.  I have a small collection of items that are readily available and stuff that I have hunted for instinctively that is waiting for the right moment to me used.  Being Maltese, I am immensely resourceful and practical and can usually come up with a quick solution if things get a bit complicated or too expensive to take forward.

My personal baby blanket, all of 46 years old, has appeared, complete with tatty ends and holes in a photo that is published on the Vogue Italia Website.  old coats, bustiers and bits of my old wardrobe have been used, and I have created interesting backgrounds out of curtain bits, odd drapes and even my bedsheets on occasion...

This is a tedious process but at the end when the images are complete I am left feeling as if I have completed a body of work, rather than having been part of it.

If you are a photographer reading this, I would love to hear your opinion about this subject...

Do you work alone, or do you use stylists, and if so, do you always use the same person because they have become part of the creative team and understand your vision and way of working?
Let me know what you think by posting a comment at the bottom of this posting...

In the meantime I am looking forward to planning the shoot with the creative hairstylist, hopefully very soon :)

Best wishes X

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