Editorial content here on the blog has been lacking as of late, which is why I'm thrilled to finally be able to share these images from my latest shoot with everyone. After a long time working with similar themes and concepts, I wanted to try out new ideas and create something a little different to my usual aesthetic. It's a subtle change, but baby steps, right? I tend to feel comfortable repeating similar styles or ideas when it comes to photography, and it's good too to have your own signature, but it's when you step out of your comfort zone that you really grow and learn more about yourself.
Over the last couple of months I've been proactively exploring new magazines, websites, photographers and artists, in order to expand my views not only on fashion (which can be very luxury-oriented and pretentious a lot of the time) but also on culture, society and our current generation as a whole. Now I'm not saying that I've done a complete 360° in my photographs to reflect all of this - far from that. I'm still at a stage of processing all the information and making connections. I'm still learning and how to incorporate and reflect them through fashion photography.
For this set of photos, I've reverted to my old practice of being a one-man-crew on set. I enjoy collaborating with other people, like stylists and make-up artists, but I felt like this shoot needed some form of intimacy. I wanted it to feel like a whisper. Although you can't see what it's like on set, the mood and vibes are still somewhat evident in the photos. The inspiration for this story comes from the idea of leaving a soirée in the early hours of the morning. Rather than feeling melancholic that the party is over, our muse continues to dance and be filled with life, choosing to begin a new day.
Sorry to break this to you, kids - contrary to popular belief, no matter how blessed you may be in the genetics department, modeling isn't just about good looks. Ok, maybe it is a little bit, and you may land a commercial or editorial job here and there, but is that all you want? If you plan to be in the game for the long run, if you really want to be remembered as a person and not just as a living mannequin, what you need is personality. Repeat after me, kids. It permeates through the lens and shines off the pages of a glossy magazine. Or a computer screen. Or most probably from a smartphone if you're living in 2016.
Personality is exactly what Layla here has - and not in a loud, boisterous, "look-at-me" sense. She's soft-spoken and she's quirky, but she isn't afraid to strike up a conversation and put her best foot forward. She's got that 90's laidback, IDGAF attitude, but without coming off as pretentious. In fact, she was eager to learn. Layla possesses a strangeness and charm that's both infectious and intoxicating. And guess what? This particularly humid morning was the first time Layla was on the set of a shoot. For someone to make such an impression on their maiden journey into the world of modelling, the future looks hella bright for her.
Between stressing out over shifting gears on uphill roads and getting lost from our over-dependence on technology, it's a miracle Melody and I made it to Sussex and back in one piece. The agenda for the day was to gawk at one of the most glorious natural landscapes in England - the Seven Sisters Cliffs. And to create some beautiful imagery. It was a success on both counts. Lots of oohs and aahs were involved.
This little road trip was a timely reminder to always follow your heart. When you do what you love, you will love what you do. Cheesy, eh? But it's so true. As with any kind of plan, even when things don't necessarily go wrong, we somehow end up face to face with some kind of obstacle. And there were many itty bitty hurdles we had to jump across that day. But when I finally got home late that night, exhausted in bed, I just smiled to myself. I was happy. I wasn't thinking about the difficulties we faced. I was thinking about our accomplishments, about the breathtaking sights we saw, about how much I enjoy taking photos.
When you're investing effort into something you're passionate about, something you love, it makes it all that much easier to focus on the positive, rather than the negative. In turn, you'll be welcoming more positivity into your life. Instead of complaining, you'll feel grateful and #blessed. I'm no expert, but I think that's how we should all live our lives - happy. Is that too much to ask for?
I'm a little late on this, but I'm so excited to be (finally) sharing this editorial I shot for our friends over at Estela. Aptly covering the Muse Issue is my own muse - Chawntell. We somehow met in a mad rush of people during London Fashion Week last year and I was a little starstruck. Super gorgeous and super smart with a super personality, I thought she was already a supermodel and for some strange reason I hadn't heard of her before. How this girl doesn't have a million dollar contract with a top modeling agency baffles me. Completely.
On a cold Tuesday morning, I explained my back story for this editorial to the rest of the team and everyone got it immediately. Five hours passed in what felt like five minutes and I didn't want to put my camera down, despite the lack of sunlight and exhausting every piece of clothing, accessory
accessory and prop. It was pure bliss. Despite the copious amounts of positive energy and Beyoncé beats on set, we dug deep into our souls to create a narrative with a darker undertone.
Growing up, my interest was always piqued by powerful, badass characters - particularly women. It's no surprise that Charmed was (and still is) my favourite show ever. As I got older, I noticed these women were no longer restricted to the television screen and they traversed into real life as well. They all fit a certain profile - they were fragile. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. In fiction, some of my top picks include Jane/the Wife (The Yellow Wallpaper), Blanche DuBois (A Streetcar Named Desire) and Nina Sayers (Black Swan).
IRL In non-fiction, we have the likes of Britney, bitch. Need I say more?
Now I've come to understand that these personalities highlighted our vulnerabilities as a species - the dark side of human nature where our own mind could turn on us. That's what intrigues me and I think it's a topic that should be discussed in the line of creative work, more openly, more often. Especially considering the fact that creativity is even believed to be a catalyst for depression.
Deepika Padukone recently spoke up publicly in an attempt to shed light on this matter, after which I was further inspired to explore the idea of duality between internal realities and external perceptions from an editorial perspective. As much as I love story time, I'll refrain from going into detail and let the photos speak for themselves. In the meantime, I'll go back to being flabbergasted as to why Chawntell isn't #1 on Models.com.
A few days ago, after reading this article by Hans Ulrich Obrist, it struck me that I needed some time out to do something new, immerse myself in it and just be. A mini tech-detox, if you may.
Technology is an incredible thing. As time goes by, the rate at which we advance keeps increasing. And what is the biggest technological achievement by man, you ask? Well, the internet of course. In modern societies, we've almost become completely dependent on it. I wouldn't be writing this, nor would you be reading this without the intervention of the internet. Privileged children today are no longer being born with a silver spoon, but rather a silver iPad. Or something like that. The internet has changed us forever, for both the better and the worse. I'll be the first to admit that I love the internet and my life today would be shaped very differently without it. However, in recent years, studies are suggesting that it's altering our biological makeup. As a new generation of people who were born into the omnipresence of the internet are starting to enter adulthood, its impact on the human psyche is becoming apparent.
For one, it's becoming harder and harder to hold our attentions. If you pick a movie, be it from Hollywood or Bollywood, from about 50 years ago and compare it to a movie from the last 5 years, you'll find that the average length of a single shot has dropped from 9 seconds to 3 seconds. It doesn't sound like a huge difference, but it's clear evidence that we're losing our patience. The internet has allowed us to become efficient in so many ways that we're so used to getting as many things done in as little time possible. Case in point - I eat my meals while catching up on TV shows, edit photos on the tube, update social media while walking to class, plan what to wear in my head as I shower and reply e-mails on the toilet. In satisfying this strange urge to multitask whenever I can, I realised that I barely ever get the chance to really experience the present. Perhaps that's why as we get older, we feel like time passes too quick. I mean, it's already mid-February. Last I checked, it was April 2015 and I was enjoying the magic of London's spring. And before you know it, we're going to be celebrating 2017.
Another problem that the internet is causing is the fact that it's narrowing our access to realms of knowledge. It sounds counterintuitive, but it's true. Do you remember the lumpy, blue sweater scene from The Devil Wears Prada? It's similar to that. When you're online, from Google to Facebook, as random or thoughtless as your surfing habits may be, everything on your screen has been chosen specifically for you. Creepy, isn't it? Take a look at what Eli Pariser has to say, for a clearer explanation if you didn't get my odd analogy.
At its advent, the internet was a beacon of freedom. It held the promise of breaking barriers and transcending borders, to connect individuals to one another and make information accessible to all. Yet we've ended up trapped in filter bubbles, underexposed to all the possibilities awaiting us. This is definitely not good for individuals or societies. And especially not for someone involved in the creative industry. Creativity is said to flourish when ideas and cultures from different people are allowed to intersect - this is why more often than not you'll find that artists, musicians, actors, designers, entrepreneurs and so on tend to be based in a close-proximity cluster. It could be a neighbourhood (like Shoreditch), a geographical region (like the Silicon Valley) or even an entire city (like Mumbai). As our dependence on the internet snowballs, rather than integrating us with new knowledge, it's isolating us. If we're repeatedly being fed with recycled types of information, how are we expected to grow as individuals? It can only be done with proactive action.
And for these reasons I decided to spend a day in Hyde Park, away from the internet, collecting branches and visiting the Italian Gardens, Serpentine Galleries and The Magazine Restaurant. While it probably is beneficial to be efficient and streamlined in some aspects of our lives, we shouldn't forget to be mindful of the present moment, whether it's by meditating, enjoying a bath or simply focusing on the meal we're eating. And neither should we lose our thirst for experiencing new things outside of our comfort zones. So go pick up a few books you never thought of reading, or visit a place in your city you've never been to, and see how it refreshes you. I can tell you it's certainly more satisfying than hitting the refresh button on your browser.
Photos of me by Claudia Naomi