Monica Rich Kosann

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This past January on a Connecticut estate, I shot my first print ad campaign with my creative collaborator Kelly Framel for a luxury jewelry brand I have been a fan of for many years now: Monica Rich Kosann. As you know,  I have been collaborating with Kelly for close to five years now. She knows what I like, what I gravitate towards, and what will make a good photograph. I feel lucky I get to go to work with one of my best friends and have clients I personally love such as Monica. This time, however, was a bit different. When Monica approached us last year about creating their campaign images for 2015 it wasn’t just digital as we’ve done so many times before. This would be mine and Kelly’s first print ad campaign.

So it was a little different…

They wanted Kelly and I create the entire thing from concept to final selection. Kelly spent a ton of time researching photography books and british magazines and would come to meetings dragging a suitcase full of them. A lot of visual inspiration came from Bruce Weber’s Blood, Sweat and Tears and Peter Lindbergh’s Untitled 116. For me, the story was all about heritage and balancing the timelessness of Monica’s jewelry. The way each piece is something you collect (or dream of collecting) and becomes a part of your life until ultimately being passed it down to a loved one. Monica is also a photographer so there was an element of her photographic spirit I wished to capture in the images, the way she finds these quiet and intimate moments so beautifully. I wanted to shoot in natural light, as Monica chooses to do in her own body of work, and I wanted to give elements of a place or home but never be literal. To feel like a life being lived shown with a delicate simplicity.

We casted two women for the shoot to make it multigenerational, something that is integral to the Monica Rich Kosann brand which we also felt represented the storytelling quality of her jewelry. Though I worked closely with the ad agency, I handled all post production in-house from color grading to retouching. I was very adamant that these would not be overly beauty retouched and aside from a very small few blemishes the women were left as beautifully natural as they are in real life.

When I was growing up it was a pre-digital world everything lived and died by what was physically printed. I dreamed of seeing my work in magazines, on billboards in Times Square (back when they were still billboards), window displays and in mailers. I’m very happy about my career and how things have changed through technology but there is a small piece of me that feels really proud to be able to check off an old fashioned goal of making it in print. When the first ad came out it was so thrilling to see it on the shelf and comb through the pages looking for the shot. If you follow me on snapchat you’ll remember the tears of joy I had sitting there, holding it. I hope I am lucky enough, talented enough, smart enough, to make this the first of many more.

So here are the series of photographs we made on this winter day. Though these are the final four you’ll start to see in Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Town & Country among others, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite moments, and fill you in on what exactly they are wearing these chic creatures and a few behind the scenes stories to some of the shots below…

To Monica & Rod, thank you for believing in Kelly and me.

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The above shot of Deborah was the first in the series of ads to come out in this month’s Town and Country. The call time in Manhattan for the crew was 4:30am in order to get everyone up to the house in Connecticut by early morning light. As the models were in hair and makeup, the styling team were steaming the clothes preparing for the fist shot. I was standing in silence watching the light come up minute by minute. I knew I wanted to shoot in that soft delicate time before the sun comes up just over the horizon so I told Kelly she had ten minutes to have them ready by the dock. After we finished the shot just in time, the sun arose and that quiet moment had passed.

Above~ Marissa Webb navy button up dress | Primary funktional stockholm sweater coat | Monica Rich Kosann carpe diem necklace, gold locket, link chain with diamond pave bracelet, planet cocktail ring, cat’s eye stud earrings

Below~ Jill Stuart peach top | A Piece Apart white pants | Monica Rich Kosann earth charm necklace, suppose you love me posey ring, octopus charm necklace, short poesy rings necklace 

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The above shot of Ira was taken toward the end of the day. This is the 2nd ad to come out in this month’s Harper’s Bazaar. This photo is really special to me for a variety of reasons. First, I personally own this charm. It was an anniversary gift, a nod to all the world traveling and memories I’ve collected around the world. At this particular moment in the day I was feeling a little worn down from having so many people talking at me while I was trying to shoot. I felt like I couldn’t hear myself think! I told everyone we got the shot and they all started heading back inside. But I pulled Ira back and asked her to hang on for a moment. It was just her, my assistant and this quiet moment on the edge of the ocean and I asked her hold up the earth in front of her eye, like she has the whole world on a string.

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Above~ Tibi blue trench | Monica Rich Kosann sugar loaf bracelet, posey bracelets, gate collection hoop earrings, stacked collection of posey rings necklaces

Below~ Karen Millen white tshirt | Zimmerman pinstripe suit | Monica Rich Kosann hoop earrings with scroll detail, collection of poesy ring necklaces,  poesy ring bracelets, & stacked poesy rings

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The sports car… that was a surprise. When Kelly and I arrived at the estate the day before the shoot to location scout the grounds keeper took us into the garage were we gasped at the sight of four amazing sports cars. It made for quite the hysterical Snapchat show. On the day of the shoot we had Ira in the previous photo on a yellow couch with a blue jacket on and it just wasn’t sexy or cool enough. The jewelry stayed the same but Kelly put her in a power suit and white tee shirt, we pulled out this little red sports car and that was the right moment. That’s the girl I want to be. This image will also make it to print.

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Above~ Tibi sweater | Monica Rich Kosann “I just adore you” poesy ring, “Secret” message box charm, & mosaic bracelet

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Above & Below~ Demylee sweater | Gerard Darel skirt | Monica Rich Kosann minature pocketwatch key necklaceCarpe-Diem necklacepocketwatch key neckacerose cut sapphire braceletmoonstone poesy ring, & “my sister, my friend” square poesy ring

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Below~ Gerard Darel grey sweater | Monica Rich Kosann Passion cocktail ring, Marilyn pave link chain bracelet with diamond pave link, Elizabeth link bracelet with Vine half locket charm, “Dream” moon charm, hammered half locket charm, & “wish” genie bottle charm

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Above~

On left, Deborah wears Jill Stuart dress | Monica Rich Kosann hoop earrings with sapphires, “style” charm necklace with diamonds, four photo locket with diamond border, & carved prasiolite cocktail ring

On right, Ira wears Jill Stuart peach top | A Piece Apart white pants | Monica Rich Kosann earth charm necklacesuppose you love me posey ringoctopus charm necklaceshort poesy rings necklace 

The image below was the first shot of the day. I love how glow-y, dewy and soft the light is over the ocean wrapping around her this time of day.

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Above~ Gerard Darel coat | Monica Rich Kosann miniature oval pocketwatch key necklace, miniature travel compass key charm necklace, & rectangular locket with blue sapphires

Below~ Josie Natori top & pants | Monica Rich Kosann petite snowflake locket, petite mother of pearl locket, “dream” moon charm necklace, double stacked rosalind link bracelet, starburst rock crystle drop earrings, & vintage watch

The following image will be one of the other printed ads. Stalled by the high harsh sun of afternoon light we couldn’t make it work with the locations we previously had planned. Kelly and I walked around the house taking a moment to regroup together when I looked in this guest bathroom and loved the angular shadows the window panes were casting. Ira is actually sitting on the edge of the bathtub here, leaning back on to a shower curtain. What I love most about this image is that the starburst off the diamond in the “dream” moon necklace was real.

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Above~ Tibi button up shirt | Pamela Rolland white pants | Monica Rich Kosann mosaic triple row bracelet, stacked Marilyn link bracelets with small baby feet charm, cat’s eye engraved prasiolite stud earrings, cat’s eye engraved prasiolite cocktail ring, oval sunburst locket, & pocketwatch key necklace 

Below~ Gerard Darel grey sweater | Monica Rich Kosann cusion bezel-set earrings

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Above~ Josie Natori top & pants | Monica Rich Kosann petite snowflake locketpetite mother of pearl locket“dream” moon charm necklace, double stacked rosalind link braceletstarburst rock crystle drop earrings, & vintage watch

Below~ Jill Stuart peach top | A Piece Apart white pants | Monica Rich Kosann earth charm necklacesuppose you love me posey ringoctopus charm necklaceshort poesy rings necklace 

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Above~ Gerard Darel coat | Monica Rich Kosann miniature oval pocketwatch key necklaceminiature travel compass key charm necklace, & rectangular locket with blue sapphires

Below~ L’Agence dress | Lookast sweater | Monica Rich Kosann curiosity telescope charm necklace, travel compass charm necklace, & 4 image starburst locket with white sapphires

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Below and on the cover~ Tibi sweater | Monica Rich Kosann oval initial locket with rose cut diamonds, “suppose you love me” beaded poesy ring“I just adore you” poesy ring, & mosaic bracelet

The next image in black and white and again in the cover in color were the last shots of the day. Just as the sun had slipped back down under the horizon we had those remaining few minutes of beautiful, soft, glowing light. Ira and I crouched down on the ocean’s edge together and found this place of effortlessness. To me, these two moments represent a dream of a woman I want to someday get to be.

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Monica Rich Kosann collections 2015 modeled by Ira Sumbaeva & Deborah Greer | Styled by Kelly Framel | Makeup By Christine Cherbonnier | Hair by Andrew Fitzsimons

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The Female Nude

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I am a woman. I am aware of my body like any normal human being. It’s not a surprise, just look at the images served up to us. Everyone is beautiful, happy, young, thin… they have the perfect (insert your own personal thoughts here) stomach, eye brows, waist, legs, hips- sometimes it feels like an impossible treadmill of perfect we will never really achieve because of genetics, because we have real life and real work and can’t spend the amount of time it takes to achieve “perfection”.

But really, what is perfect?

I’ve always be interested in shooting nudes. I started in college. The body is one of the most beautiful, natural things about life. The way it changes, the way it gives life, the way each is our own and that is what makes us special. I wouldn’t take my grandmother’s wrinkles away, or Dad’s loving soft hugs, or seeing my sister-in-law’s body change carrying the amazing twins my family adores. I would not say that I have had body issues all my life, but as I’ve gotten older I had to learn to look in the mirror and teach myself to stop judging the way I look compared to other people.

As a photographer I look for what is photogenic from people to places to the design of a still life. I’m not going to lie, I love tall beautiful thin fashion models. They are like illustrations of illusions of an idea of who we think we are or could be. Fantasy is part of the fun, photographing that fantasy is one of the things that I love most.

However…

There is a place for curves too. Curves are incredible. When our model Jourdan walked in I was honestly first taken back by her personality. Her confidence. Confidence is the one of the greatest quality anyone can possess. She was cool, smart, comfortable in her own skin. She was one of the least self-deprecating models I’ve ever worked with. When we started making photographs a lot changed for me. Not only as a photographer but as a woman. Maybe even more importantly as a woman. Here was a human, not afraid to let me photograph her with nothing to hide behind, no character to portray, no fantasy story to tell, it was just her. In the moment. In the light. Just the way she is.

After this shoot I had a mix of emotions. Her body, so beautiful, so photographic in its shapes and contours was in one word: inspiring. She made me realize that the female form in any shape and size is incredible. To have curves, softness, confidence was true beauty. She represented to me what being a woman was all about. I understood why Renior and Matisse painted the way they did and I saw that beauty too. I was so proud to be a woman and in my personal life, more confident about the size of my chest and softness around my stomach. If wrinkles show the hand of time and the life that was lived, curves show the fertility of it and the raw attraction of humanity.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that women come in many fascinating forms and, at this sitting, I saw beauty in a way that should be more often seen.

Here’s to the beautiful form we call being a WOMAN.

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Spring Showers!

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Friday marks the official first day of spring and I couldn’t be more beside myself with joy. It’s a funny thing living in New York. By the time end of February rolls around people have had it with winter. I personally will have had it before the ball will have even dropped on New Year’s Eve!

I look forward to the charming cherry blossoms in Central Park, stopping by the Van Leeuwen truck in Soho, and wearing classic trench coats which immediately has me channeling Audrey Hepburn.

GAP asked us to bring to life our idea of spring into a Cinemagraph for styld.by for which of course, the first thing that comes to mind is that inevitable spring moment of getting caught in the rain…

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Behind the Scenes at SAB

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Last week was a really exciting one for us both creatively and culturally. The past month we have been working feverishly on a series of cinemagraphs we made with the School of American Ballet we shot back in February. It’s always been a dream of mine to shoot ballerinas as I so admire their lines, pose, discipline and beauty of dance. As you saw, the cinemagraphs were displayed in the David H. Koch theater of Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera House. These cinemagraph portraits showed the art of ballet caught at it’s best eternally. The perfect pose, spin, point, there to study and be inspired by its beauty. In addition to the cinemagraphs, on this day we also shot the staged dance sequences for the video.

Just to give you some behind the scenes at SAB’s shoot, we kept the setup pretty simple. The inspiration was based on Eadweard Muybridge’s studies in motion from the history of photography. We wanted to study the ballerina, the form, the movement and motion. We decided to put them on two 12×12 Solid black backdrops and asked the dancers to wear all white. With two large Arri M18 HMI lights we pointed up bouncing the light off the white ceiling illuminating the dancers from above going for an effect of a large skylight for a classic and natural feeling. After tapping down a black rubber floor, the stage was set.

We shot six of SAB’s students in one of their dance studios at Lincoln Center. One of the great things about SAB is how they use live piano players, which we had for our shoot, and hire the most passionate teachers. On this day we worked closely with Suki Schorer who directed the dancers throughout the shoot and tweaked their hands or feet positions with every shot.

It was such a joy to create around a thing of incredible beauty like in ballet. After every dance sequence I would applaud and smile from sheer joy… until Suki told me to stop clapping because that tells the piano player to stop playing and nobody wants that.

Here is a peek behind the scenes shot by our assistant Diana Ola~

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