Doing a beauty video for Elle and Clarins had me thinking a lot about French beauty. In particular, how effortless and tasteful they are when it comes to skincare and how you makeup your face for the world to see. Every time I am in Paris I feel so inspired about the celebrated form of beauty French women have. To me, they are the most beautiful women in the world which I like to think goes beyond lucky genetics and has something to do with yummy french beauty products.
Kelly and I wanted to do a shoot for her sister Erin Framel on her birthday to mark this time in her life and celebrate all our collaborations. Many people go into behind the scenes to make a photo-shoot happen and Erin has produced, styled, and even modeled in many of our editorials and commercial shoots as a way to say thanks. With French beauty and one of my favorite fashion photography books, Woman in the Mirror, as inspiration we capture Erin in this timeless moment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I love to grow them, receive them, smell like them, and photograph them it’s no wonder the rose is considered the “queen” of essential oils. You can imagine my excitement when I discovered Chantecaille’s Rose de Mai line of beauty products made extraordinarily with a very special rose gown in Provence, France which blooms only once a year called Rose de Mai and harvested by hand. I love every morning waking up and applying the Rose de Mai cream which feels as if you are rubbing thousands of rose petals on your skin. What is even more special is that the scent is all natural from the actual roses that make up these products and take care of your face with the power of this floral ingredient.
There is something very calming about the smell of roses. When I’m feeling very stressed from a long day of editing and deadlines or after an intense photoshoot, it’s nice to spray Chantecaille’s Pure Rosewater on my skin not only to re-hydrate it but lift my spirits. Rosewater has an interesting history dating back the the Ancient Romans who not only drank Rosewater but bathed in it… obviously I wish I had more Rosewater baths in my life, right?! Aside from just being incredibly luxurious, Rosewater fights depression, insect bites, inflammation, sunburn, and signs of aging. I guess this is as close as we can get to the “fountain of youth”.
Sometimes we are incredibly fortunate enough to get clients we are personally fans of. Last December we were brought into the Chantecaille offices in Soho and briefed on their top secret newest member to their rose collection, Rose de Mai Face Oil, which was just released a few weeks ago. They asked us to come up with an idea, some visuals, on what the Rose de Mai line means to us and how we would visualize Chantecaille into a body of work. You can imagine, I was beside myself- a total dream job! We got to work right away concepting everything from stills, to videos, to cinemagraphs. Later this spring the work we created will be rolled out around the world in Chantecaille’s in-store displays, website, social media channels and in press such as WWD.
After the creative was signed off on by every member of the Chantecaille family(this is a family run business) we got to work. First step. Find the perfect roses in the middle of winter which we did through Rose Story Farm and had as many as possible shipped overnight. The studio has never smelled so beautiful! There were roses everywhere, in the windowsill, refrigerator, work table, kitchen counters! Over the course of a three day shoot we made beds of roses, flower crowns, flower hats, flower petal showers, you name it. It was a pure delight.
Visual storytellers Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg unfold tales of fashion, travel, truth and beauty. Through photographs, videos, and their own invention, Cinemagraphs, they create new worlds — from their New York City workspace, Ann Street Studio. May you find something here to inspire you.