The beauty of Punta Cana was not limited to the just the resorts, but I found the island people of the Dominican Republic mirrored what nature had created. From their charming personality to beautiful warm skin color I found them intoxicating. A strange hybrid of latin culture mixing with European elegance, most of the people we met spoke multiple languages, lived abroad in Europe for a time and had a history of world experience. Being a photographer left alone on a island with her best friend (a stylist) and all these beautiful locals, we decided to focus our lens on Ana Nicole, another one of the Dominican Republic’s beautiful island girls, before she sets out to university in Holland… but for now, she’s just hanging out in Elle Sasson, letting the sun warm her skin, getting guys to open coconuts for us.
After we wrapped our Hamptons Magazine shoot, we decided to play around on digital and on film with our model muse Vita Sidorkina. There are whispers in the industry that she is the next “it” girl, and it says a lot that she just signed a contact with Victoria Secret PINK. I’ve shot a lot of people through the years from models to artists to friends and business folk so I’ve felt the differences in front of the lens. I do my best to make the sitter feel comfortable, beautiful (or handsome), and safe, even if that means helping them pose down to their pinky toe to get a balanced and aesthetically pleasing shot for both yourself and them. However, sometimes you have someone who truly knows how to move in front of the camera. You start a dance and dialogue together both giving to create. Vita does that and as a photographer, it’s my favorite way to photograph someone. It feels like watching a flower bloom in high speed through your camera box.
This was my favorite shoot from summer: I love the simplicity, I love the styling Kelly did on Vita that she picked up from how some of the “cool” guys in the Hamptons had been wearing their sweaters in the chilly night air, and of course, I LOVE Ralph Lauren which is all she needs to wear out East…
I‘ve been thinking about Earth Day coming up tomorrow and how much more conscious we are of the globe now thanks to air travel, digital technology and the speed of communication. When I think about the Earth, certain words or earthly elements pop into my mind: Water, Plants, Animals, Wind, Earth, Sound, Gravity, Light, and Humanity. I wanted to put these earthly words into a visual photographic story while also telling the story of one of the most “GREEN” luxury brands and conscious companies out there.
John Hardy, the sustainable luxury jewelry brand based in Bali, thinks about their approach and place in the world in a 360-degree way. For example, all the silver jewelry is made from reclaimed silver which can come from a variety of places, such as old jewelry, computers and refrigerators! They believe they can produce a luxury product that is in harmony with our environment; instead of pulling more out of the earth and continuing to strip our natural resources, they want to use what is already out there.
In Bali, the jewelry is handmade by local jewelry artisans, who have centuries of passed-down knowledge and expertise in craftsmanship. The company knows how important these people are and goes to great lengths to take care of them, providing organic meals for their artisans and a single mother initiative that allows women to work from home in order to care for their child. Together the designers and artisans collaborate to make what ultimately is the distinct look of John Hardy.
When I was interviewing them at their New York City offices about the company philosophy, the passion simply poured out of the team. The pieces I ended up shooting below are all from the Bamboo Collection – this is significant to point out, as these pieces are part of an initiative. For every piece purchased from this collection, one or more bamboo trees are planted with help for forest management and water preservation. This year to date, John Hardy has planted 900,000 bamboo seedlings, which is 6 times the size of Central Park. In honor of Earth Month in April, John Hardy will donate 20% of all Bamboo Collection sales made on JohnHardy.com to support Trees New York which goes to funding a project where the John Hardy team will plant evergreens in the middle of West Harlem with the idea of creating a canopy effect to help filter the air and, in winter, add color to our gray days.
We are all beginning to become conscious consumers. I talked about that a bit in my personal style post: supporting brands that give back. John Hardy is all about what they call “Sustainable Luxury” which breaks down to Culture, Community, Commerce and Care.
Care – Giving back and especially giving back to nature for a “greener every day“.
Culture – the John Hardy Family. Supporting the collaboration between designers and artisans and the preservation of the Balinese art forms and traditional french jewelry making processes.
Commerce – Creating a profit to sustain their initiatives and give back while connecting with consumers and educating them on what their products do beyond the monetary exchange.
Collaboration – Taking care of their the employees either through organic meals, enabling single mothers to work, providing amazing health care to supporting the local orphanages and communities of Bali.
So here is to our Mother Earth and all the gifts she gives us. May we have, as John Hardy says, a Greener Every Day and be the example of a new kind of balance. While photographing the concepts of these earthly elements, I asked our model to come completely barefaced, non-styled hair and bare nails. I wanted this to be about natural beauty, the natural beauty of us… the natural beauty of earth ~
Below Silver Rope Necklace
If you’re ever looking for a good time, walk with Lucky Magazine’s Market Editor Laurel Pantin down Canal Street in head-to-toe Chanel and listen to the guys try to sell the fakes to the girl in real. I have been wanting to shoot Laurel in a fashion story for almost 2 years now. Though we bonded over our Texas roots (she is from Austin), our paths to fashion were quite different. Studying Art History and writing from NYU, she originally wanted to be a scientist who never touched the idea of fashion when a twist of fate led her to a chance meeting and into the Condé Nast building. I love running into her at events or fashion shows just to see what she’s wearing…and though she is a constant subject of street style photographers, she always stays true to her own personal look, be it wearing men’s jumpsuits, socks + sandals, or looking like the subject of a 90s rom-com…. oh, and she kills a red lip. Aside from all these god-you’re-so-cool traits, Laurel is super down to earth fun, a major tomboy and between her and her bestie John Januzzi, has the best cynical sense of humor in the industry… to give you a good idea of just how cool she is, in the middle of this shoot she said, “I guess I shouldn’t have drank that entire bottle of Champagne yesterday.”
I did a quick little interview on Laurel’s favorite things about New York while we walked the street in head to toe Chanel Spring / Summer 2014 collection….
Chanel to me is…
the thing that makes you feel like the most special, beautiful, luxurious, pampered, ridiculous, frivolous, wonderful girl in the history of girls.
Favorite trait of New Yorkers is…
the ability to act like nothing fazes them while secretly freaking out.
ALL THE PIZZA!!! But if I had to choose, maybe Motorino.
…flavored ice cream? Blue Bell from Texas. I don’t think I understand what is good coffee and what is bad coffee. Like pizza, all coffee is good coffee!
As an artist there are some people who I LOVE photographing. I could photograph them everyday. There is something about their beauty, bone structure, and spirit I love to capture, that my eye finds fascinating and wants to study them over and over. This is the case for jewelry designer Caroline Ventura who is one of (along with Heather) my muses. I first met Caroline on a shoot for Cup of Jo three years ago and we have been friends ever since. Did you know she was the first cinemagraph we ever shot? We just never tired editing it until AFTER our first public one. She was the first person I photographed at our old studio and this shoot is our first together at our new one.
We are both artists and we have known each other as photographer + subject for sometime now. I’ve shot Caroline beautifully, I’ve shot her COOL, but as we have been getting older we are looking to find more depth in our work. I’ve been wanting to focus less on the clothing in my personal shoots these days and more on the beauty of the female form. Caroline and I were going to meet up for dinner and I said, hey, let’s do a shoot before we head out, which eventually turned into a night of film photographs, margaritas, girl talk, and these moments below.
… and just for fun I asked Caroline a series of fill in the blank questions just for a new take on an old friend.
I am most inspired by…
My friends. I’m so lucky to have an incredible circle of talented friends who all support each other and push one another to do/create beautiful things.
An ideal day for me is…
When I can see blue skies. As long as the sun is shining, anything can be thrown my way.
My favorite artist is…
Lia Chavez, who is doing really beautiful things in the art world right now. I am so fortunate to call her a friend. Her solo show, Carceri, just opened at Two Rams on the LES. She is one of the gentlest and most humble humans and a huge inspiration to me.
The best way I express myself is…
With my mouth. I talk a lot.
Home. No matter where I go in my life it always pulls me back.
We are all flowers in the garden of the world, but she –
she is an orchid, pure and white and lovely,
a small blossom on willowy stem.
she blooms, and I am lost
in her delicate lines.
She breathes life into me –
I was adrift in winter;
she gives me the promise of spring.
Youthful yet wise,
elegant and profound,
I dream of the day I may see her again.
For what other flower can there be?
What other love?
None but my orchid.
Only a few weeks ago, we were preparing for our epic #onlyinsouthamerica trip (which we are in the middle of right now!), while at the same time, Kelly was readying herself for her incredible adventure through Asia. We were getting so excited about all the things we would see for the first time: new types of vegetation, wondrous natural colors to feast our eyes upon, and new beauty routines from women who walk in different parts of the world, all awaiting our discovery in the coming weeks.
To celebrate and channel our excitement, we collaborated with our friend Bess (remember this romantic shoot?) who always comes over to the studio with the most amazing and exotic flowers you have ever seen. Together, we started our adventure at home in the studio with a color explosion of natural wonders…
We shoot a lot of beautiful women here at the studio. The funny thing is…as I get older they seem to always stay the same age. What is it about youth we are so attracted to? When Kelly texted me images of these three incredibly beautiful, real women, women with businesses, with a history of past love affairs, and with a real friendship out in Montauk as a casting option for our Beauty + Truth story, I was in love.
Their grace, their confidence that only women who have lived a little can possess, their intelligence and peace were so inspiring I could have shot them for days. I could do a photographic study around the lines on their faces…the lines of life are signs of living, and isn’t life a beautiful thing?
As a photographer you have all the control. Whoever is put in front of your lens has to put complete trust in you: how you light them, how you make them feel when you’re shooting them; the crop, what you show and what you leave out; the direction, mood and feeling you set.
Our story began with three women, three mythical beings: Maat and her handmaidens, Beauty and Truth. In mythology and Egyptian heiroglyphics, Maat was represented by an ostrich feather. The equal-sidedness of the feather, with its division into halves, rendered it a fitting symbol of balance.
Feathers recur as a sacred talisman in many cultures, from the Egyptians to the Greeks, by Mexicans and by Native Americans, who used them in headdresses and in dreamcatchers. Just as Maat was trusted to control the daily path of the sun, so the moon controls the tides ~ and so people have believed for centuries that we can control our dreams.
Dreamcatchers originated with the Ojibwe nation, who believed that, when hung above the bed, only good dreams would be allowed to filter through their sinewy webs; they would pass through and slide down the feathers to the sleeper, while bad dreams would be caught and trapped in the net. The tides of today bring both nightmares and dreams, for along the shore we find countless cigarette butts and plastic bottles mixed in with natural treasures like seashells and driftwood.
In ancient Egyptian mythology, Ra was the sun-god, the creator of life, and Maat was his beloved daughter. She was one of the original goddesses, and when the boat of Ra rose above the primeval waters of Nu for the first time, she stood regally at its bow.
She sailed with Ra in his celestial barque, the ship that daily carried the sun across the skies, for it was she who had plotted its eternal path at the time of creation. She brought great joy to Ra, and thus to the world, and her presence was thought to be vital to the daily regeneration of the sun-god. The tides waxed and waned according to her measured axis, and there could be no tomorrow if one did not ‘live in maat‘ today.
The tides of our present-day tale began with three women, three real-life goddesses, three beautiful beings whose lives are lived in a very genuine pursuit of beauty and truth. Our central figure is embodied by the nurturing aura of Kumi Sawyers, our own modern Maat. I first met Kumi on the beach in Montauk, and was immediately transfixed by her staggering but unassuming beauty. As the summer wore on, I kept running into her, almost always with one or both of her friends Sian and Heather. The three were this bewitching little tribe of enchantresses, and like all really cool people they terrified me at first. All yoga teachers with gloriously siren-like hair and serious surfing skills, they’re those too-groovy-to-be-true kind of dream babes you usually only see in movies.
Fortunately, Kumi and her consorts harness their powers only for good. Her professional practice is focused on creating equilibrium and unity inside the body ~ a powerful, modern manifestation of the principles of maat. Exuding a confident grace and an insightful sensitivity, hers is an energy that quickly encourages trust. She is a skilled and sensitive healer specializing in massage therapy, yoga instruction and nutritional counseling. Deeply intuitive, she possesses an innate but fine-tuned ability to contact the deep muscles of the body, to create space and allow for freedom of movement.
In the ancient world, myths were used as a means to understand the inexplicable, as a way to make sense of the great wonders and mysteries of the earth and to give meaning to humanity. Inspired by the cycles of nature, the mythology of ancient Egypt still holds our imaginations in its sway today. Ancient Egyptians saw time in the present as a repetition of the linear events of their myths; to them, this mirroring served to renew ma’at (or mayet), the fundamental order of all existence.
Myths were a way of passing down behavioral expectations, codes of conduct, and moral obligation. They were reminders that the actions we take today create the context for tomorrow. Today’s decisions are the gifts and curses we bestow upon our descendants.
Ma’at was the Egyptian concept of truth, balance, and order. Ma’at was personified as the goddess of the stars; it was she who conducted cosmic harmony out of the chaos of creation, she who maintained the equilibrium of the universe ~ the setting of the sun, the rising of the tides. She was justice and she was reason.
Ma’at was the central principle of Egyptian cosmology and ethics, and so the primary duty of an Egyptian king was to be the champion of ma’at. All the daily rituals and sacrifices would be deemed meaningless unless the king and his people were living righteous, balanced lives. The word itself indicated ‘that which is real’, and so for the ancient Egyptians, ma’at came to imply anything that was true, genuine or harmonious.
I have been thinking a lot about love affairs: my great love affair with photography, and how something that can bring you so much joy can cause so much pain. The thing about love affairs is that there is always a beginning and an end. Summer, for me, is the greatest love affair of all. The way its beauty and light hurt in your memory on cold winter days. How much you look forward to it when it blows in through the window and how sad it is when the light of day ends and golden leaves begin to fall. Summer is love. Summer was made for love.
Leilani Bishop knows the bittersweetness of summer. She makes perfume oils that entrap the florals that dance through the long, hot, sticky afternoons. The single note scents of a delicate flower that rub off on summer lovers and reminds them of you long after the last petal falls. Here Leilani plays our muse who is trapped forever in an impossible love affair as the end of summer prepares to turn the page into fall…