Every now and then, I do Creative Sessions. These are strictly Just For Me. I don’t do them for customers, I don’t do them for commercial gigs. These are my personal learning opportunities, where I want to try new ideas, fail at them (most likely), and edit the images in ways not traditional to my overall look. These sessions keep me inspired, keep my soul happy, and make me try harder.
But I also like to work with other artists in my shoots. I’m a huge fan of collaborations with other like-minded people whose work reflects my style of shooting. I have worked with other photographers, make-up artists, beaders, jewelry artists, clothing designers, hairstylist, and clothing companies. I have worked with people where I act all professional in the session, then go home and giggle about what just happened, because I can’t believe I got to meet them.
Yeah, I’m not cool. We all know this.
But how do I start working with others? How to I get them on board?
I try to start with a mood board. I use Pinterest. It’s free, it’s loaded with inspiration, and it’s easy to add other people to the board as well.
A mood board will help me cultivate the look I’m going for. Colours that attract me, theme I’m aiming towards. Moody. Vintage. Industrial. Edgy. Bare. And so on. The mood board helps me shift through and pull in features that will speak to me – do I want a heavy eye and nude lip? Do I want a statement piece of jewelry or do I want the shoes to have the glory?
Once I figure that out what I want, I generally contact people I want to work with or have worked with in the past. I am lucky enough that I have a solid body of work behind me – people know what they’re getting with me, but creative sessions allow a group of us to play, to try new ideas.
Kacey Beaudry is a Saskatoon-based Indigenous Make-Up Artist that I currently like to work with. She and I share a sense of humour, she is always cooking something, and the room is filled with laughter, the sharing of ideas and storytelling as we get our model ready. And for me, this is important. I have to trust and like the energy in the room before a shoot.
I showed her an earlier version of this board, and she was hesitant. Which meant a nice way of saying “hell no, Tenille,” so I revamped and updated it. We discussed details of the makeup – colour, accents, lips, eyes, and when it came down to it, I let her do her. She is the expert here, not me. I gave her all the details I could, and now I had to trust her to interpret it as she would. The makeup has to reflect her abilities and design as well, as collaborations are a two-way street.
So once the hair and makeup were done, and outfits chosen, off my model and I went. I first met Jo when I photographed her headshot for the Circle of Voices youth program at the GTNT. It turns out we have people in common, and her image was at the back of my mind when I started planning. She had impressed me with her confidence in front of the camera, as well as her personal attitude – she was open and friendly and it left an impression.
This session was about movement. My model, Jo, is a pow-wow dancer so she brought along her shawl and was game for some images. She spun and danced, and I shot in a multiple of ways.
Now, the thing is, I don’t know if I love it.
But I’m glad I tried it.
I have ideas for another way to shoot something like this, and now I also have a model who is willing to work with me again, who trusts me to honour both her regalia, and her image as an Indigenous woman.
Another thing I was shooting for was details. I was trying for a tight shot with hair and shoulders and eyes, as I generally shoot further back, not wanting to get into the client’s space.
And again, still not exactly what I was aiming for. I feel so good about these images, don’t get me wrong, but I really wanted to push myself into her space and I kept pulling back to a comfortable distance. It was really interesting to see myself revert back to what I was used to, even in a session created to expand my horizons.
But in the end, I showed the back of the camera to Jo and she smiled, laughed and loved what she saw. I sent images to Kacey right away and she sends me back all these heart smiley faces. I send a snap to Tara of Beads, Rhymes, Life showing her how we used the earrings she made, and she was pumped. The learning is part of it, yes, but it’s also about the community you’re creating around your work.
– tenille campbell