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.
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.
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…