I am a complete sucker for a bit of thematic contrast in a photograph. If you have an interesting but crumbling location, sometimes adding a beautiful model in a nice dress can help to bring a little counter-balance to a photograph. This has been my thinking for some time although it can take some planning to get all the required gears in motion for a shoot like this.
One of the very first abandoned locations I visited in the name of urban exploration was a lunatic asylum with a beautiful chapel complete with church organ and stained glass windows. Though the site is currently in the midst of redevelopment, the contractors seem to have largely left the chapel alone, thankfully.
With the location decided, I endeavoured to find a suitable model to pose for me. I look forward to the day I am commissioned by Vogue or Calvin Klein to construct these photographs but, until that day, I am faced with limited resources and a paper-thin budget.
That being the case, I was very lucky for fellow photographer Jessica Bell to offer to step in and model. After planning the styling and obtaining a modest wardrobe for the shoot, all that was left was arrive at the location. More specifically, drive to a field in the middle of nowhere before sneaking myself, a model, countless bags and equipment, and one heavily pregnant wife onto an active building site protected by heavy-duty fencing, CCTV, foot patrols and who knows what else.
Having recently invested in some lighting equipment, and having dragged it across muddy fields and through holes in fences, I hoped to construct elaborate arrangements which would elevate the photos above simple snapshots.
As with the very best laid plans however, it transpired that nothing I was able to construct was a match for the beautiful late afternoon light. As it poured through the stained glass surrounding us beautiful soft hues illuminated Jess subtly. This shoot gave me a palpable new respect for what can be achieved with natural light.
I did use a little of my lighting set-up – but it was far from the dominating factor I had planned. It’s funny, I wanted to use the shoot to expand my lighting know-how and that is what I did – though now in the way I had expected.
I hope you enjoyed the post even a fraction as much as I enjoyed the shoot. More of this, please – I’m talking to you Vogue and C.K. 😉