It was sitting up there, grass below and sky above, that I had a moment of utter joy: joy in modeling, in collaborating, in doing vaguely ridiculous things to secure a good photo. Joy in how incongruous I was, but also how natural it felt to be scrabbling for footholds whilst ensuring the thirties bias-cut fabric sat just right. Joy in the adrenaline hit of wind, skin, fabric and a great(ish) height.
To me that enclosed moment points to all the best aspects of shoots. They are first and foremost a collaboration. One in front of the camera, one behind, both working together to produce something exciting. (Obviously there are also those shoots involving a whole team. Different dynamic, just as interesting). More than that though, there’s a sense of working together for the sake of adventure. Take a rough idea, a location, a hastily assembled set of clothes, perhaps throw in a set of interesting weather conditions, and you’ve got some proper fun.
That interlude of perching, standing, lying down and scrambling around also reminded me of the spontaneity I had as a young teen – where, on a weekend, I’d shove some items in a rucksack and head outdoors with a friend and a camera. I had the time to be imaginative and silly, to jump across streams in very impractical heels or hang out in bluebell woods. I dressed up in vintage swimsuits to traverse fields of flowers, skulked among trees at twilight, and jumped across waves wearing chiffon. Those last three were all thanks to Flo, back when we lived in close proximity and had the hours to spare.
During adolescence I sometimes took the pictures, sometimes was in them. Now it errs more towards the latter (though I hope the balance isn’t permanently skewed), and even that is a rare treat now. Although something similar is achieved in most shoots with one of my parents wielding the camera, they’re usually done in quick succession during the holidays – a morning of sun yielding three different outfits to sustain my blog over several weeks. Wonderful in their own way, but less immersive.
What I guess I adore most is the play: playing outdoors, playing dress up, playing with imaginative concepts, playing at being someone else. More sophisticated storylines, maybe. Definitely a better application of red lipstick than I could achieve aged five. But similar principles.
Models are often denigrated, as though their role involves nothing more than standing around and pouting. That’s definitely the case on occasion, but if the shoot is dynamic, it will require skill - plus a willingness to be open and experiment and respond to what’s in front of you.
These are the types of creative collaboration I want to return to more – working on things like this where it’s two-way, whether that’s professionally or just for the thrill of hanging out in the park in ridiculous garments. That reciprocity between subject and photographer can be exhilarating. You may get so cold your fingers go numb. You may have to put up with people slowing to stare or comment as they wander past. But these are minor inconveniences – and besides, at times I really quite enjoy causing a stir.
I'm wearing a thirties dress that belonged to a relative of mine's-friend's-mother, named Moonyeen (see the first outing on the blog, complete with scoliosis scar, here). These photos were taken by the fabulous Paulina Choh. We first got talking after she spotted me leaping around while a friend took a snap of me for Instagram (I am vaguely shameless about these things) - and she recognised me from my blog! It's the biggest/ oddest/ best thrill whenever this happens, and I'm so pleased in this instance that it led to such an exciting creative opportunity. Watch this space for more from her...