beauty

Fabergé woman

Last year, I shot some imagery for Fabergé's social channels, which was one of the more fabulous experiences of my life! Nothing quite like a table filled with sapphires, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and gold to get you inspired. Of course, I absolutely had to try all the jewellery on in order to get inside the head of the Fabergé woman - all in the name of research! This is what ran through my mind... 

1) Valentine's day is coming up so TREAT YO SELF because you gotta love yourself first riiiigggghht? 

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2) SMILE because, hello? You're dripping in Fabergé and what could be better than that?  

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3) Nothing, nothing is better than that. You're a Fabergé woman. Go forth and conquer the world. 

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It was a real pleasure to work with Fabergé on this shoot with a wonderful creative team: stylist Kristine Kilty, MUA Joanne Reyes Pidlaoan, hair stylist Evan Huang and models Nancy from BMA and Kirsty from MOT. Thanks for having me! 

How to light a beauty shoot

A couple of months ago I shot this beauty editorial with MUA Gem Tyler and the gorgeous Ishika from M&P. We focussed on 6 hot beauty trends for SS16, perfectly executed by Gem and beautifully modelled by Ishika. 

In my apartment I have big white walls and lots of natural light so I often use it as a studio as well, especially for something like a beauty shoot where the frames are quite focussed and tight. 

After feeding the team homemade soup (What can I say? I’m a feeder, just like my mama) Gem started prepping the make up looks while I set up the lighting kit. For this shoot I used the Elinchrom Quadra Pack or ELB 400 super kit from The Flash Centre, which I’ve told you all before, is my favourite place to rent equipment in London. The Quadra Pack is a battery powered, 400w lightweight pack made by Elinchrom. It’s really portable and perfect for location lighting due to the light lithium battery. The recycling speed is fast, you can attach any size light shaper such as a snoot, beauty dish, or soft box, to the head using their small adapters. It has an inbuilt sky port so you just have to attach the partner to your camera and you’re away! It’s one of my all time favourite kits.

Desert rave glossy orange eye

Beach party yellow liner

Squeaky clean spa skin

Custom colour lip

The pack is asymmetric (meaning the output of power is not equal) when two heads are plugged into one pack but you can shoot symmetrically by plugging one head into each pack. With the super pack you get 3 individual packs so for this set up I used 3 heads and plugged them into each individual pack; thus ensuring the light from each head was symmetric. I started with my key light and attached a deep octa box to create an even flattering light and a nice catch light in the eye (the devil is in the details!) Then I placed 2 fill lights either side of Ishika, attaching rectangular, Rotalux soft boxes. There was some natural light coming in as well, which I had to consider when setting the output for each pack. As you can see, I’ve also cut up some tennis balls and put them on the feet of each light stand so I don’t scratch my, or anyone else’s, floors. This is a great tip if you’re shooting on location somewhere swanky.

As any photographer will know, there is lots of trial and error in shoots, especially with posing. This shoot was no different. With each new make up look we had to try lots of different poses, expressions and hair styles to differentiate between the looks. Ishika was a brilliant model with lots of creative input and suggestions for how we could change things up. I love a good wind machine but in the absence of that on this occasion, Gemma wielded her trusty hair dryer to great effect. And Ishika proved herself to be a consummate professional despite the fact she was surrounded by crazy women - see the video below!

Surf school skin

Hyper glow

I’m thrilled with these photos and the work we did as a team - hope you like them too. If you have any questions or would like to see more how-to’s let me know in the comments below. 

    

On being a feminist fashion photographer

 

I love my industry. Fashion is an exciting, dynamic, billion pound industry that employs thousands and gives millions the choice each morning to make a statement about who they are, through their clothes. But as a card-carrying feminist there are facets to the biz I would like to change. 

I read an interesting quote in an interview with model, Abbey Lee, in the Sunday Times Style this weekend (8/5/16). She says ‘I think there is a lot that is wrong with the way that fashion is run. It’s young girls working with, for the most part, grown men. The treatment, protection and care taking of models could be better’. So firstly, there’s the imbalance. A lot of the models on runways and in editorials are very young, sometimes only 15. Girls too young are often cast inappropriately. So then, there's the sexualisation of girls. The beauty ideals we see time and time again in magazines and on billboards are pedestrian: young, slim, white.  And then, lest we forget, there’s the lack of diversity. 

Bo Gilbert, British Vogue's first 100 year old model

Bo Gilbert, British Vogue's first 100 year old model

These are troubling issues and only begin the scratch the surface. However, there is an upside. The industry is changing and undergoing an exciting time at the moment. Winnie Harlow, America’s Next Top Model contestant, brand ambassador for Desigual, runway model for Ashish, cover model for I.D. and Dazed has vitiligo. Ashley Graham, ‘plus-size’ model and body activist, has appeared in campaigns for major brands such as Levi’s and was recently the first 'plus-size' model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. (Incidentally, plus-size is a term I hope to see eradicated before the end of my career). Linda Rodin, business woman and model approaching 70, recently appeared in a campaign for The Kooples. Last year, & Other Stories used transgender models for their campaign. And just last week Harvey Nichols created a special campaign in celebration of Vogue's centenary issue, which featured 100-year-old model, Bo Gilbert.

 
Ashley Graham, first plus-size model on the cover of  Sports Illustrated  swimsuit issue

Ashley Graham, first plus-size model on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue

When I’m involved in casting for shoots, I try to encourage diversity, work with models that sit outside the stereotype, and cast age appropriate.  

What makes me especially angry is how the media, particularly women’s magazines, bombard us with articles on subjects such as ‘toe contouring (yes, really)’, ‘knee contouring’ (yes, REALLY), ‘bum contouring’ (YES, REALLY) ‘strobing’, ‘clumpy lashes’ and a whole host of other things that make women wonder if their appearance is good enough. I follow a lot of magazines on social media because I need to know their visual identity for my work, but when I see tweets about the topics mentioned above, it makes my blood boil because it feels like an assault. Let me explain my position. 

My issue isn’t with articles like this existing. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of the fashion and beauty industries. I like to look my best. I wear make-up most days. I take time to consider what I’m wearing. I always make an effort to leave the house feeling good.

My issue is the urgency and insistence with which these articles are communicated. These are verbatim tweets from media sources I otherwise, enjoy: 

  • Here's why you need to try this *green* blusher
  • Time to start wearing lipstick on your eyelids? The internet says yes... 
  • The summer wardrobe staple you NEED to know about
  • If you wear glasses, you NEED this genius makeup trick
  • Everything you *need* to know about Dyson's supersonic hairdryer
  • Want an instant healthy glow? You *need* to try this product
  • You've been washing your hair wrong your whole life

What’s with the 'need'?

I’m not so naive I don’t realise these tweets are click bait.

I’m not saying other women don't realise this.

I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy articles about vagina steaming if that's what floats your boat.

I know magazines can say they’re simply reporting on a beauty trend and it’s one article among hundreds of others that may be more interesting to its audience.

But, if you hear a message enough times, you’ll start to absorb it.

When I was growing up, I remember being instructed by the media that as a woman, I needed to worry about cellulite. Fast forward to 2016 though and I’ve lost count of the amount of things the media tells women they 'need' to worry about. Cellulite feels positively antiquated in the archives of ‘areas of physical appearance women should worry about’. Nowadays we’ve got to worry about thigh gaps, HD brows, teeth whitening, lip injections, chin implants, waist trainers (though this has definitely been revived from the archives) THE LIST GOES ON. My Spotify ads are all about pregnancy tests and cool sculpting, ‘a non-invasive treatment for fat removal’. So what message does this send? I should be thinking about getting pregnant and making damn sure I lose the weight afterwards.

It just feels like we’re being manipulated to have our money, our time, and our self esteem sapped from us. Because here’s the rub: pick up a men’s magazine and there is nothing in there suggesting a dozen ways men can improve their appearance. No suggestion they could be spending their time preening and perfecting their bodies. This is all time men gain to continue ruling the world. I recently read an issue of The Gentleman’s Journal and was struck by the volume of articles on politics, success, investment, and finance. Yes, there were articles about fashion but there wasn’t any tone that men needed to know about a new product that would transform their appearance.  

Another term I have an issue with is ‘investment piece’. A Céline hand bag is not an investment. Do you know what is an investment? A house. An ISA account. I love Céline and their handbags are beautiful. Buy one if you want - buy 10! But don’t be duped into thinking it's an investment. As Sophia Amoruso says in #Girlboss ‘Money looks better in your bank account than on your feet.’   

It may not bother or affect you, and that’s great. But I find this communication aggressive and obscene. It makes me grind-my-teeth angry when tweet after tweet on these topics appear in my timeline. I feel stifled, upset and frustrated. I should just curate my timeline and mute the accounts I find distressing, but this is a status quo I wanted to challenge and start a conversation about. So if you have any comments, please let me know, I’d love to hear from you. I’ll conclude with some wisdom of jaw-dropping clarity from Caitlin Moran in her book How to be a woman: “You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.” 

Pour one out

 

I've written before about the necessity of being ruthless with my portfolio. That doesn't mean I like it or find it easy not to include all the images I love. It's bloody hard. However, instead of throwing a tantrum I simply share these images on my blog or Instagram (or Twitter or Facebook - let's connect!) in what I like to think of as pouring a libation for images lost. So I'll pour one out for this image from a gorgeous floral beauty shoot I did at the end of 2014 (2014!!!). Although, I can't complain too much, one image from this shoot has made it into my portfolio - see if you can spot it!

 

New face, new werk - Alicja

WHAT a pleasure it was to shoot with this beauty, Alicja from Storm. She was the sweetest, smiliest, and most polite model I've worked with. Such good manners! Plus a beautiful face and she took direction fantastically well to boot. Even though she hated her braces, I absolutely loved them. They added a little je ne sais quoi to the imagery...je pense. 

Getting excited about LFW

London Fashion Week is just around the corner and my schedule is almost finalised. I'm really excited about some of the shows I'm going to be shooting backstage at this season (always am to be honest!) Thought I'd whet my/your appetite by sharing a small selection of my photos from last season, enjoy!