Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Swiss Alps: Soaring through landscapes

I was lucky enough to be asked to meet Jim Furness in Switzerland earlier this month for a two-day adventure into the high-altitude glorious vistas of the alps! This was my first visit to Switzerland, and I have to say, the country is just utterly beautiful. I really hope to go back sometime. You'll be able to see from the images how idyllic it really is. I couldn't believe how fresh and vivid everything looked.

(First, I have to mention that I had a bit of a 'life affirming' moment on the way to the airport for this trip, when I forgot that I couldn't pay for a bus ticket to Heathrow by card after noon and didn't have enough cash. Before I even had time to panic, a helpful member of staff at the park and ride (Pedro from Portugal) simply GAVE me £20. I couldn't believe it. I asked him how I could pay him back, wondering if I could do a bank transfer there and then using my phone, but he just shrugged and said 'take it'. Of course, when I arrived back from Switzerland and saw him there again, I was able to pay him back in Scottish money, which he was fascinated by. For those of you who might be thinking 'I bet he likes to help out all the pretty girls...' or something along those lines: firstly, he wasn't flirting whatsoever, though we had a good conversation about his life (he was a successful artist working with metal, keen to find his way back into that field now that he lives in the UK), and secondly, he told me that he frequently gives money to passengers in a rush who realise they can't pay by card. I asked him, 'don't you go broke just giving your money away so often?' and he said he often finds stray notes around the car park. I thought he was brilliant.)

We stayed in Jim's friend's cabin, enjoyed fondue and Rösti, and spent the days riding up cable cars (which ranged from the commercial and modern to the more... well... 'wooden box' variety, being little more than a crate used by locals to transport milk!) and walking around the mountains for the best views. We got the best of both worlds in terms of weather - it was warm and sunny, with snow-topped peaks! I also got to practise my German a bit, despite initially thinking it would be a French speaking part of the country (duh!). As Jim had described to me beforehand, the sound of cowbells is almost omnipresent, as the four-legged wander around the hills.

Here are my favourites:




















...You can see a full screen slide show with music: click here

I've also got some 'behind-the-scenes' shots, courtesy of Wendy, Jim's friend and host....





....as well as my own photos, taken while snap-happy-journeying into the sky or while Jim set up his own shots (just a few here, but if you wanted to see more, I've got a 'Nice People, Places and Things' album on facebook which makes me very very happy to look back through):




(It's OK, if the wooden box falls apart halfway up the mountain, simply press this red button...')



(Wendy and I)

Last but not least, one idea Jim had prior to the shoot was the idea of possibly doing some video while out in Switzerland. I was a bit unsure. Having done nude video before I wasn't new to it, but also feel strongly that it's something that can easily become a little too 'erotic' for my tastes. Often video becomes all about the model, which can be very indulgent, and when nudity is added to the mix it can be difficult to control the mood of the output... Stills, on the other hand, while hopefully portraying plenty of narrative, are miniscule captures of fleeting moments; videos are so much more substantial (literally). There is a lot more responsibility as a model and perhaps a lot more scope for misinterpretation. Then again, I knew that Jim saw things exactly the same way, and wanted a result that was in line with what I would be happy to do, and I'm so glad we decided to just go for it. As such, despite the deliberation beforehand, the video below was completely spontaneous.

Having listened to the music, we did it in just two full-length takes (the one below is the first, and our favourite), and just moments before the camera started rolling I was saying 'I have no idea what on earth I'm going to do, by the way.' Jim is completely new to video work, so we are extra grateful that this came out so well! I think we succeeded in making a piece that is not necessarily about 'me', but about the glory and beauty of nature, and the innocence of a nude woman within that.

Jim's portable 'JamBox' blasted out the dream-like sounds of Hildegarde von Bingen's 'Veni spiritus eternorum alme' (lyrics beneath the video). The only plan I had was to begin by walking on set, but following the music felt easy, with soft, flowing movements that expressed the splendour of the incredible view and the gravity and beauty of the lyrics.


video

Here are the words:

Come, kind spirit of the ages,

visit the hearts of your people, casting out ill conduct;
fill with supernal grace
each earth-born heart.

You who are the gift of the most high God, perpetual fount,
balm for the spirit,

promised gift of the almighty, you merit our faith.
Upon the holy apostles
you poured forth fiery tongues.

Give light to hearts, strengthening the wretched
with abiding courage.
Impart true love
and the manifold gifts of charity.

Drive away the envious foe,
grant the joy of heavenly peace.
Thus lead, going before us,
that we may have the strength to climb up

to the vault of heaven.

Translation: Susan Hellauer

So once again, a big thank you to Jim for this opportunity to visit Switzerland, the images and great conversations, and the chance to push boundaries!

PS. This is the book I mentioned a couple of posts back, for those of you who've been asking. I'd recommend it! 

Saturday, 22 June 2013

A Horse, a Cosmic Skirt, Mints & Buttercups

I was going to serve up some mountainous goodness next, but instead, I have been distracted by yesterday's longest day-ness, such that I'm going to quickly squeeze in a few sunny shots from a recent leisurely afternoon spent once more with Karen Jones. We've worked together many times (and will be doing so again soon), and she's another photographer who's great at coming up with different ideas each time, throwing new props at me and even letting me pose with a horse again (this time it was the rather pretty-headed Joss, who Karen's husband kept reminding me was 'just a big dog'.). Joss loves mints. And grass. :-) I was at the same time having serious befuddlement over whether or not to keep a recent purchase, my 'cosmic skirt' (so called, obviously, because it has planets and stars on it, as all good skirts must..), so I thought I'd put it on and see how it photographs for some gypsy bohemia, avec a bunch of Karen's lavender (and then I thought I'd imagine how that might translate to some hot beach somewhere someday..). We then found a little moss-covered nymph perch, for which Karen covered my head in a wreath of rose buds for a few quick shots... And then, it would have seemed a real shame not to dunk ourselves amidst a field swimming in buttercups.
















Any favourites?

Now, today, I WILL master my plans for Iceland and Germany next month. I will I will I will.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

La Source, River Adur

After an exciting full-day shoot in a studio with a Norwegian photographer and four other dance models, all posing en pointe and together in various tangles, I met up with Jeremy Howitt for our three-thousandth shoot, a quick themed piece by the River Adur in Sussex.

Jeremy had attempted a version of Ingres' painting, 'La Source', once before, but wasn't completely happy with his results (I personally quite liked his earlier version, but it just wasn't exactly as he'd intended), so he wanted to have another go at it using me as the model.

Here's what I'm talking about - 'La Source', by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres:


As seems to have been a recurring theme in some of my recent shoots (though I don't take credit for it) the weather was drizzly and required wellies, so I took my pink polka dot ones, bought in the Scottish Highlands (a lot less cool than the red hunter wellies I was gifted by a photographer once after a shoot, but nevertheless, pretty cheerful), out for another airing, having slung them readily in the back of my car.

It might look easy and serene, but holding a fairly heavy jug of water over one's shoulder and controlling the angle best suited to photographic purposes while not soaking oneself and turning one's hair into wet, lank waterweeds, while standing in damp, sinking ground is not the simplest of tasks. Blood (from a mysteriously cut finger) and a lot of mud went into this image, too. I thought you should know that.

Seriously, though, I absolutely love this first image, which is shown here in wonderful sepia, a process I think should be flaunted much more, as well as in a 'vintage' colour toning. Feeling like we'd possibly nailed it just a bit too quickly, I insisted that we do a few variations of poses with the jug afterwards (though they aren't quite as strong, probably), and then, on the way back to the car, Jeremy suggested we do a quick 5-min set on the little wooden bridge we'd walked over on the way there. I love the effect of the lens.






All hail the English countryside!






You can read Jeremy's forum post on purpleport about this shoot here: http://purpleport.com/group/share-a-shoot/16936/la-source/. Hopefully we'll be working together again soon - it's always a pleasure and I love the fact that we always do such completely different styles and distinct themes each time.

In other news, I'm reading an absolutely amazing, though-provoking and mind-opening book at the moment, that left me wandering around London yesterday in a total dream-state of awe at all the things and people around me. No, I'm not on drugs. Will maybe talk about it in my next post...