What happens if a bunch of photographers capture the same dress independently from one another? How different or similar will the images be?
A few years ago I stumbled across a project called The Traveling Dress Collective that asked these exact questions. I loved the idea, but I must admit that at the time I didn’t have a lot of photographer friends yet and didn’t even know where to begin with getting a group together, so I eventually forgot about it. However, when a friend of mine mentioned she would love to do a Travelling Dress Project last summer, I jumped on the occasion.
I knew I wanted to organise a session with a model and animals, using a different style from my usual edits. I also knew just the person for the human modelling job already. Charley is a previous client of mine, I photographed her with her two horses about two years ago. She has since then gone on to work on her modelling career, was crowned Miss Northamptonshire and made it all the way to the Miss England Finals! At the same time, she’s so down to Earth and easy-going that I knew it would not be an issue if I asked her to get wet and muddy for an outdoor shoot on a cold and rainy December afternoon.
Finding the animal model was a little harder. I had a vision of holding the photoshoot in a field with alpacas (or llamas) as I’ve grown to admire these animals when I travelled through Peru a few years ago. However, I was quickly brought back to reality when I realised that commercial owners/breeders of these animals charge a hefty fee for the privilege to photograph them. While this is of course well within their rights, this was simply not in my budget for this type of photoshoot. I was a bit disappointed, but Charley came to the rescue. She knew Lisa from Freelance Equine and her wonder cob Sparks. Lisa teaches trick training for horses and was so kind to let us use her Sparks as part of “time for pictures” trade deal. We met at Sparks’ home, not far from Kettering, Northamptonshire.
The afternoon turned out to be muddy and wet as expected, but Charley, Sparks and Lisa (behind the scenes) were total troopers and carried on through the increasing downpour. I have to admit the conditions ended up not quite easy to photograph in as the raindrops started to collect on my lens and made the images slightly blurry. I would have rescheduled a client session on that day, but I protected my camera and I actually love the slightly grainy and dreamy effect in this series of shots taken in the field, which came as a result of the wet weather.
As we were shooting in the field, it came to a point though at which we decided to take a break as the rain became a heavy downpour. As it is the case with English weather though, we didn’t have to wait for too long until the sun broke through the clouds. We made our way to the second location, a small stream just off a bridle path. This series of images looks like it was taken on a different day, with the weather suddenly being so lovely!
I previously explained, how I wanted my editing of the images to set a different tone for the first two sessions that I photographed. My self portraits are cheery and colourful, the breast-feeding protraits soft and tender. This time I wanted to go for a moodier theme – not in the subject as I found it important to show Charley and Sparks were just enjoying themselves – but in the tones, inspired by how gloomy British winters can get! If you look closely, you will be able to spot heavy textures that I used as an overlay on top of the natural background.
[And no, I’m not missing the irony when I’m looking out my window right now, in Leicestershire and the daylight is not all too different from that December afternoon - although it’s now the middle of July…]
This was the final photoshoot that concluded my time with the Travelling Dress. I’m glad I had the opportunity to put my three different visions of the dress into practice. I’m completely overwhelmed with the diverse range of interpretations that our group came up with. It truly proved to me that photography is about so much more than just the technical side of how to take a shot. Every photo we take contains a little bit of ourselves, too.